My senior year in high school I was accepted into a 3 month study-abroad program in France. I was placed with a host family in Toulouse and at first I was a little disappointed I wasn't placed in Paris or Nice, but I quickly got just as excited about spending the fall in Toulouse! Around June my mom used her credit card reward points to book my trip which ended up giving me a somewhat interesting intinerary: CVG-IAD-CDG-TLS and the same way going back. The whole summer before I couldn't wait to go and I kept getting more and more excited as my August 31st departure date approached. Finally the day came.
FLIGHT: DL 5304 (operated by comair)
DEPARTURE TIME: 8:00pm
ARRIVAL TIME: 9:30pm
I hardly got any sleep the night before and the day of my flight I was running around saying goodbye to family and friends. My family and I finally headed to the airport around 4:30pm. The gravity of it all didn't really hit me until we got to the airport. My stomach knotted up and I became very anxious but still excited. I couldn't use the automated kiosk at the time because I had an international itinerary and had to check-in the old fashioned way at the counter (which I didn't mind doing at all ) My one large bag was over the limit so I had to pay the fee which was fine. The lady at the check-in counter was very nice and processed everything quickly and before I knew I had all 3 of my boarding passes.
After many hugs and good-byes, my family and I parted at the security checkpoint. The line wasn't too long and things moved along smoothly even with the evening rush. I took the bus over to concourse C and found my gate. Feeling lonely already, I called one of my friends and we talked until boarding began at about 7:30ish. The CRJ-200 looked a little worn on the outside but had the new leather-covered seats inside. The flight was relatively full, maybe just 1 or 2 open seats if any. We took off on time and jetted off towards Dulles. Inflight service was adequate for the flight, a snack and beverage service with those amazing biscoff cookies. It had gotten completely dark by the time we made our decent into IAD but we landed on-time and got to the gate just a little after 9:30pm.
FLIGHT: AF 27
DEPARTURE TIME: 10:20pm
ARRIVAL TIME: 11:50AM
Without a moment to catch my breath, I saw my flight to CDG already boarding at the gate just across from where I arrived. As I headed over, I heard my name being paged to come to the gate counter. The Air France employees were polite but very rushed and overwhelmed as the flight looked to be almost completely full. She re-issued the two boarding passes for the AF flights along with one of those cool AF ticket jackets with a map of CDG. I got in the long line for boarding and the line moved fairly quickly. There were flight attendants at the door of the plane greeting people with 'bonsoir' and 'bienvenue a bord' which psyched me up more about going to France!
I was in a window seat on the left side of the plane in the last section. There were two people already in the aisle and middle seat so it was a tight squeeze to get passed them. The seats were comfortable, had decent leg-room and even a foot rest, which was nice. All the seats had PTV's but weren't AVOD, entertainment choices were played in a loop which I didn't mind too much since I brought my lap-top but it definitely would have been nice to have that AVOD. The flight pushed back on-time once everyone got seated. After a bit of a taxi, we finally roared down the runway and lifted off into the night. Not long after take-off, amenities kits with eyeshades and earplugs were distributed along with a small menu which was a nice touch. It had the standard chicken or pasta choices but it was still cool to have them offered on a printed menu none-the-less. I opted for the chicken which was actually very good, even restaurant-quality I would say. Several drink rounds were made along with multiple bread runs which was cool, really filled you up. All the flight attendants spoke both english and french and very attentive the whole flight.
cabin just after boarding
After the meal service, I settled in to watch Oceans 13 but my PTV was being buggish and kept shutting off a few minutes into it, so I just pulled out my laptop and occupied myself for a bit before trying to get some sleep.
After a short amount of awkward sleep, I woke up over Ireland. The flight attendants soon came around with breakfast. A croissant with yogurt, juice, fruit and coffee was on offer which was just enough to fill you up. Before I knew it, we were beginning our decent into CDG. We made a smooth landing and taxied to one of the available jet-bridges. It took some time before we in the back could deplane which just gave me time to look out see all the exotic airlines and planes i'm usually just reading about.
just after we pulled up to the gate
FLIGHT: AF 7786
DEPARTURE TIME: 3:55pm
ARRIVAL TIME: 5:15pm
With a long layover ahead of me, I had plenty of time to navigate notorious CDG to my next gate. It actually wasn't too bad as there were signs everywhere pointing to where to go. I took my time, spotting and checking out the terminal, before entering through security again to get to my gate.
When boarding was finally called, I was so tired I just wanted to get to my seat. The flight was fairly full again, with only a few seats open. Seats and seat pitch were comfortable enough and I managed to stay awake till just after take-off when I zonked out and didn't wake up until we were descending into TLS. Another smooth, on-time landing quickly followed and I anxiously looked out my window while taxiing, checking out Airbus territory, truly an aviation enthusiasts dream.
Once at the gate and deplaning, the flight attendant called my name. When I approached her, she told me there was an AF representative I needed to see at the gate. Sure enough, an AF agent was waiting right when I got off. I told who I was and she told me my luggage had been lost and that I needed to go to the baggage service office not the best way to start a trip like this.
I met my host family for the first time in the baggage claim area and told them, in the best french I could muster, that my bag had been lost. My host father was very nice and went in with me and helped sort things out. Apparently it never left CVG and they were shipping it out the next day, so I was given a SkyTeam amenities kit and told to come back tomorrow.
The next day, my host father drove me back to the airport and, true to their word, my bag had arrived!
All flights were on-time, gate agents and FA's for both AF and DL were courteous, polite and really knew how to do their job. AF inflight catering did not disappoint and they really do an excellent job conveying the french culture from the moment you step on the plane. Except for the blip at the end with my bag, everything went smoothly and SkyTeam seems to do an excellent job, at least in my experience here, of taking care of their passengers.
The next three months were truly incredible and I learned so much, met a lot of great people and hope to return to Toulouse very soon. I would encourage anyone to study-abroad if they get the opportunity. I think for sure one of the highlights was, while waiting in line outside for lunch at my lycee, seeing the A380 circle in really low, roaring across the sky
Below are some random pics from my trip. I hope you all enjoyed!
the early morning flight leaving TLS it was an A321 to CDG, just in case you were wondering
me and my host family
my last day at school before heading home
me, my brothers and sisters, just after I got back