It had been in the planning stage more than three months: the careful selection of travel plans, the weaving of a web of agents on two sides of the Atlantic, the subtle campaign of disinformation. And then, on Christmas Day, it was finally time to launch …
Operation “Ninja Claus”
Now, if you’re not already familiar with my story, you’re going to need a little background first. Since I’m married to a Frenchman, we alternate the location of our Christmas celebrations each year: one year in France, the next in South Carolina. Last year, we spent a beautiful Christmas with my parents — you can read about it here — so this year, it was my turn to celebrate with Michel’s family in France. Now, as much as I love and cherish my French family, it’s always hard to be 4,000 miles from my parents, especially on a day like Christmas and especially since I don’t get to see them that often. Just after our last visit in September (when it was so very hard to say goodbye), I remembered that Michel’s family tradition is actually to celebrate on Christmas Eve, and that put a bee in my bonnet: “Why not celebrate Christmas Eve in France … and fly home to surprise my folks on Christmas Day?”
One of the benefits of extensive foreign travel is a really FAT frequent flyer account, and since meeting my French husband, Michel, back in 2009, I’ve certainly racked up the miles. In 2009 alone, I flew back and forth between Washington and Paris four times on Air France, traveling almost 32,000 miles. I added 16,000 more miles to my travel log in February and April of the following year. That’s almost 50,000 miles traveled between Washington and Paris in just one year’s time! Aside from swelling my carbon footprint to shameful proportions, all that jetting back and forth got me a free one-way ticket to Paris in 2010 to begin my French expatriate adventure.
I should say up front that I prefer Air France to any American airline I’ve ever flown. I’m proud to be an American and all, but let’s face it: there’s something infinitely more charming about free-flowing champagne, wine, and cognac served up by French flight attendants wearing foulards than anything you normally get on an American flight … and I’m just talking about economy class, here. In fact, Air France doesn’t even call their upscale version “economy class” or “coach class”—it’s “voyageur.” Just read that out loud and you’ve already got a French accent!