Our European Adventure: Summer 2016 Edition! Part 5: The Return

After four glorious, restful, magical, quiet weeks in rural France, how on earth could we go back to our busy, crowded, city life?  We tried to plan our last days in France so that our departure was smooth and relaxed and in line with the rest of our vacation.

First, we did NOT have a flight to catch on the 30th.  We were flying out of Paris-Orly on the 31st, so we had plenty of time to get to Paris.

Second, we did most of our cleaning and packing on the 29th.  The chateau did have housekeepers coming in every week, but we didn’t want to leave it in a complete state of disarray.  So we made dinner reservations for the night of the 29th (no dishes to do that night!), packed almost everything (except for the kittens!), took care of the recycling and garbage, and tidied up so that we could leave the chateau with a clear conscience.

That last dinner was amazing.  One of our friends, Rhea, had asked if we were up for a 3-Michelin star dinner experience.  I was initially worried, as I knew Parisian prices of such restaurants.  But there are two 3-star restaurants in Burgundy, one of which was 4 km away from us in Chagny: Maison Lameloise.  And while not cheap, Maison Lameloise was not insanely expensive like many Parisian restaurants of similar quality.  Sadly, I got too full too quickly and watched three people clean their plates while I unwillingly picked and pecked at my last few courses.  If only I could carry a spare stomach when I eat out…

Third, we had arranged for a late check-out.  We were supposed to leave by 10 a.m., but we had friends who needed a ride to the train station in Dijon, so we arranged to leave by noon.  Chris drove our friends to Dijon while I finished packing, walked through the chateau to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind, and popped the kittens in their cat carrier.  We enjoyed one last lunch in the chateau (goodies picked up from the boulangerie), locked up the chateau, and bid adieu to Puligny-Montrachet.

Fourth, we chose a hotel near the airport.  Since we were flying out of Orly at 7 a.m. on the 31st, we stayed at the Hilton Orly, which is right next to the airport terminals and had rooms available for points.  Fortunately, Orly is a bit closer to Burgundy than Charles De Gaulle Airport, so our drive was simple and quick.  We arrived at the hotel around 3pm, checked in to our room so that we could let out the kittens and settle them in there (as well as unpack the car with all the wine we were bringing home!).  Once all of our luggage, kittens, and wine were all safely tucked into our hotel room, we dropped off the car at the drop-off point, which was also at the airport, before heading into Paris.

Fifth, we took the time to unwind in Paris.  We’ve visited the city quite a few times in the past, so we decided to revisit some favorite spots instead of seeking out something new.  Again, the goal was to relax, unwind, and slowly re-enter “real life,” so going from idyllic, rural France to familiar Paris was the perfect first step in transitioning back to rough-and-tumble, sweet-home Chicago.  We walked around the Luxembourg Gardens, strolled through Saint-Germain Des Pres, visited Shakespeare & Co., did a little shopping, and enjoyed dinner at a favorite restaurant on Ile Saint-Louis (Mon Vieil Ami) before heading back to the hotel and the kittens.

Sixth, we flew home in business class.  We had had just enough airline miles to travel one way in economy class and one way in business class.  I had originally thought we should fly to Europe in business class so that we could get some sleep on flat-bed seats, but Chris argued for traveling home in business class even though it was a day flight so that we could take more luggage (=wine) home and so that our trip ended on a lovely note.  He was absolutely correct!  We had more luggage coming home (we had 4 Wine Checks with us and bought 2 more while in France) and after eating so well in Burgundy, decent food and wine on the flight home was quite nice.  And with unhappy kittens stuck in their carrier, access to the shorter business class lines at the airport helped tremendously.  And the service in business class was top-notch.

We boarded our first flight (from Orly to Madrid) via shuttle and stair car.  Unfortunately, on the shuttle ride, one kitten urinated while the carrier was on Chris’ lap.  Fortunately, we had both kittens in one carrier, so we had a spare carrier.  Also, the bottom of the carrier was lined with a doggie pee-pad.  Still, while the pad absorbed most of the kitten urine, it didn’t get all of it and some ended up on Chris’ jeans.  He was not a happy person!  After getting off the shuttle and settled into our seats, we found that Iberia’s intra-Europe business class seats were regular economy seats with the middle seat EMPTY.  The extra space was so helpful: we popped the kittens into the spare carrier (which had another pee-pad) and the flight attendants provided Chris with wet napkins to clean his jeans and the soiled carrier.  By the time we took off, the kittens were settled into the clean carrier, the soiled carrier (and the used pee-pad) was packed away, and Chris’ jeans were as clean as possible.  By the time the plane landed in Madrid, we had enjoyed a hot breakfast and Chris’ jeans were dry and remarkably odorless.

Upon landing in Madrid, we considered visiting the business class lounge.  However, we were concerned about moving the kittens around too much and we wouldn’t have had much time in the lounge before needing to make our way to our gate for our flight to Chicago.  So we headed straight to the gate and settled in a few seats so that the kittens were jostled around as little as possible and we could open the expansion compartment for them.  When the gate opened for boarding, we were among the first to board and had a little extra time to settle the kittens into our seats and enjoy a glass of cava.

Iberia’s transatlantic business class seats are perfect for a couple: there are seats in the middle of the plane called “honeymoon” seats that are right next to each other and perfect for the occasional kiss on the cheek or holding hands or just grinning like an idiot at each other.  And we did grin like idiots quite a bit: clinking glasses of cava, enjoying the food and the in-flight entertainment, sipping each other’s wine, and just marveling at how we pulled off this incredible vacation.  In addition, the seats are flat-beds, so after take off I turned my seat into a twin bed and let the kittens stretch out on my seat in their carrier by opening the expansion compartment.  So I had kittens at my feet, my spouse at my side, and lots of good food and wine.  This was not a bad way to end a vacation!

Seventh, we splurged one last time when we arrived at Chicago O’Hare by getting a Lyft Plus car ride home.  We had so much luggage (6 Wine Checks, 2 backpacks, 1 duffle, 2 cat carriers) that we were worried that a normal car wouldn’t hold everything.  So we went home in a large SUV (a Ford Expedition, if I recall correctly).

Taking two days to leave, and doing so as comfortably as possible using airline miles and hotel points, made coming home to Chicago less jarring than it would otherwise have been.  We returned home and the kittens happily leapt from their carrier and easily slipped back into their usual routines.  We quickly readjusted to the crowds and the noise of a major city and embraced being back… but we’re trying to figure out how to return to Burgundy as soon as possible.

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