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Trip Report Paris encore: Nikki's trip report

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It is 3:30 in the morning, and I think it's 9:30 because I returned home from Paris yesterday. So I am awake and will begin my trip report before I forget what happened, although the story begins over ten months ago. There was a little drama surrounding our departure, so I apologize for the lengthy introduction to our travels. Those who want more concise and informative reports (the kind I usually write and should probably stick to except that it's the middle of the night and all) should probably skip this first part.

Let's Make a Deal, Part I: Last May, after reading about an Air France promotion on the Fodor's message board, I called and bought two tickets from Boston to Paris for $750 for the February school vacation week. This is way earlier than I have ever bought tickets before, but it seemed like too good a deal to pass up. It would be our first year as empty nesters and followed our twenty-fifth anniversary, so this seemed a perfect opportunity to travel with my husband Alan, a teacher, for the first time since 1990 without our children.

I tried to make reservations from Saturday to Saturday, but those dates were already sold out. School vacation week is an almost impossible time to get good fares and get plane tickets from Boston because everyone travels the same day. In a previous life, when I used to go to travel agents and tell them we wanted to go to Florida that week, they'd laugh at me. However there were seats available at the promotional rate from Friday to Friday, and I bought them. I figured my husband could come home right after school and we'd drive to the airport to catch the 8 PM plane.

Around the same time I bought the tickets, our daughter decided on her college. (Yippee, we'll never have to go through that again! Now if only I could bring myself to throw out that big box of catalogues in the dining room...) We had no school calendar yet, and when we did get one, we learned that she would be having a vacation the same week in February. It is an odd week for college vacations, and I hadn't anticipated this, but she decided not to come with us (yes, we offered).

As the time approached, we came up with this plan: we would drive on Friday to our daughter's school, which is in the Boston area, and pick her up. We would then drive to the airport, she would drive the car home, and the following Friday she would come and get us at the airport. So far so good.

Then suddenly the Tuesday night before we were to leave, I got an alarming e-mail from my daughter, who had been sick and seeing the student health clinic. She was feeling much worse, couldn't lie down, couldn't sleep, was in great pain in her throat and ear and couldn't talk at all. So at midnight I went to pick her up at school and brought her to the doctor the next morning. Turns out she had an abscess on her tonsil. She was treated right away, and the doctor thought she'd be better enough that we could still go to Paris as planned. Next day, Thursday, she wasn't as much better as had been hoped, she was treated again, there was a question of whether she needed her tonsils out, and the doctor suggested we call the airline to see if we could change our reservation from Friday to Saturday so we could see whether she would improve or need surgery before making our decision.

I called Air France, and to my surprise they did say they would refund the price of the tickets if we had a medical certificate. However, at the price we paid, the tickets were not changeable, so there was no way to leave Saturday without buying new tickets. New tickets were available on Air France only in business class at $5,000. That didn't work for us. My husband left for work on Friday not knowing whether we were going to Paris or not. His bags were packed, though.

Friday morning our daughter was much better, to everyone's relief. We took her to the doctor, who smiled and said all was well, no need for surgery, and if it was her daughter she'd go to Paris. I called our older daughter, who agreed to come stay with her sister for the weekend and to drive us to the airport. A bit worn out from the drama of it all, and still worried about our daughter, I was wondering if this might be the trip which wasn't quite as great as the anticipation.

Let's Make a Deal, Part II: We arrived at the airport, our daughter drove off, and we got on line. The flight was overbooked. They were offering volunteers $500 apiece cash or $950 apiece in flight vouchers plus business class to fly the following day, Saturday. The imaginary audience is yelling, "Take the cash!" "Take the plane!" "Take the vouchers!" I'm hearing the magic words "Business class".

We took the cash.

Now we had $1000 that Air France was paying us to fly business class on the flight they wouldn't let us change to without paying $5,000 for two days earlier. On the date that wasn't available when I wanted it in May. Go figure.

We declined the offer of a hotel and called our daughter, who turned around and came back to the airport for us. Spent a more restful night, saw our younger daughter getting so much better that we could leave with much less anxiety, and went back to the airport on Saturday. The flight was overbooked. They were offering the same deal again, but we didn't want to be greedy. And by this time we did want to go to Paris.

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