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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Caviar and the Concorde


We love to travel. We have to travel. So we make the best of it.

We travel when we work. We travel when we play. And no matter how many passengers feel perfectly fine traveling in jeans and jogging suits, we believe in dressing for the occasion.

Which brings us up to caviar and the Concorde.

The two of us (BC – Before Children) had planned a three-day get-away to Venice. A midweek sabbatical with nothing but good food and the gentle sway of boats beneath us. It was late autumn, so the crowds had thinned out, only locals and “acqua alta” (high tidal water) taking over the jewel-like, Renaissance city.

The goal was to fly into Boston, and then on to London and Venice. On this timetable, we would waste the least amount of time. It might be a quickie, but a much needed break from work, and our usual whirlwind schedule. In other words, a multi-flight, multi-continent trip undertaken in under 72 hours, to help us relax from a harried schedule.

By the early evening, we arrived in Boston, and a deep fog had set in. The pilot considered diverting, but we were, at last, able to land. Only then did the bad news set in: no evening flights to Europe in this type of weather. The incoming Euro flights had been diverted to Bangor, Maine, so even if we had decent weather to fly, there were no transatlantic aircraft available in Boston. This was the risk of late autumn and winter travel. We had gambled and lost. If we left tomorrow night, it would result in maybe a day and a half in Venice– hardly worth it for the time and expense.

Stuck in Boston, we headed to the ticket counter. Mind you, this was the time to look good and carry oneself well. Several reps listened to our tale of woe until one took a personal interest in us. Flashing our platinum-plutonium frequent flier card, the clerk took us aside.

“It’s your honeymoon, right?” he nodded. “You’re such a nice couple. It would be a shame to spoil your honeymoon.”

Benedetto and I looked at him, the universal “Huh?” phrase spread across our faces.

“I have a proposal for the two of you, how we can save your trip: the Concorde,” he enthused.

“The Concorde?” we echoed, leaning across the counter.

“I’m putting you on the Concorde, but it’s going to be tricky,” he said. “Here’s what you’re going to do: Stay at our expense in an airport hotel like all the other stranded passengers. At 5:00 am tomorrow morning, you come back to the airport and fly to New York’s JFK Airport. At JFK, you collect your bags and fly the Concorde to London, and then take a regular connecting flight to Venice.”

“No!” we gushed.

“Yes!” he raved back.

We were not going to say no again. Our thanks knew no boundaries as he slipped the tickets across the counter and pointed silently to the printed price: about $10,000 each, exchanged in a matter of minutes with no sleight of hand involved.

“The only tricky part: I cannot get you seats from to JFK tonight. You must arrive early in the morning and do that yourself. Then your time in New York will be very tight to get the bags and run to the Concorde. Think you can do it?” he asked.

“Absolutely!” we assured the man who was going to be nominated for Employee of the Year if we had any say in the matter.

The shuttle bus brought us to the airport hotel. Mediocre-minus in amenities, they said there would be a light buffet for the passengers. Since we were understandably held up at the airport longer than anyone else, light it was. One piece of greasy ham sat on a platter. Nothing else. The place was picked cleaner than bones at a barbeque.

“After you,” my husband gestured, knowing full well that I did not eat pork.

We’d rather starve. And so we did.

Going to bed hungry, we remembered that our big suitcases were being held at the airport. No pajamas, no hairdryer, I have a toothbrush, Benedetto does not. No gift shop open for toiletries or snacks. This was no way to begin our “honeymoon”.

We sleep fitfully for all of four hours and awake disheveled. The two of us try to rearrange ourselves for the journey ahead. We are used to looking good and today is not the day. Standing outside in the cold, damp air does nothing to help our appearance or mood.

The immediate goal is to be optimistic. Airport shuttle after airport shuttle take pilots and crew to the terminal. We try to push our way onboard the third free minibus. If we don’t get there soon, there will be no seats to JFK.

Boston Logan is packed before it’s dawn. Everybody and his uncle are in line. We take our places in the queue. The clock ticks closer to our departure time. There is no way. Hardly any airport personnel to assist, they are combining lines at this early hour. Rather than growing short, the lines multiply before our very eyes.

At last a ticket agent calls our flight, pulling us from the crowd, and finding us seats. We are on our way: sleep-deprived, looking like we just crawled out from under a rock. We ask about our bags and they say that they will try to get them onboard, as well. I can’t imagine spending three days in Europe in the same clothes and not washing my hair, changing my clothes, or having a fresh pair of underwear. Have you priced underwear in Europe? Visit La Perla. It’s either that, or the mortgage. Your call.

Hurrying to the gate, we discover that none of the airport eateries are open at this hour. Wonderful.

The runways are packed this morning. It should be a short hop, skip, and a jump flight. Instead, we sit on the runway. When we are at last airborne, we heave our sigh of relief. At less than an hour, there’s no real time to sleep, and they do not offer any snacks.

Once at JFK, we wrack our brains with different plans on how to collect our luggage and lug it to British Airways in split-second timing. As it stands, the Concorde looks poised to leave without us. Staring at the empty luggage carousel, we ask an employee to call ahead to the Concorde and let them know we’re coming. The voice crackles on the other side.

“Sir,” she remarks rather disdainfully, “the Concorde is held for no one.”

Consequently, Benedetto runs ahead to throw his body under the pointy nose of jet, or the pointy head of employees, while I will have to grab and roll two large suitcases over broken sidewalks next to construction sites. But there are no bags. Strangely, I am the only one left to wait at the belt. It goes round and round, with nothing on it, save a few straggling suitcases from long ago. No one is manning this part of the baggage claim. I am on my own.

The Concorde! I think. And here we will miss it because of some stupid bags. I fidget. I stand on one foot. I pace. I pray. It is currently twenty-five minutes until take-off and I cannot imagine how far Benedetto has gotten, or what else I can do.

And with that, two bags plop out on the belt.

I chase them down, haul them off the merry-go-round, and race to the automatic doors. Out into the crisp air I run, having made a similar transfer trek many a time at JFK, just not on my own with two suitcases the size of Manhattan in either hand. I roll, I push, I run-walk. They flip over a couple of times on the rough pavement. I can see British Air looming in the distance. I am almost there, when I spot Benedetto running toward me.

“Alexandraaaa! Hurryyyy!” he shouts, as though I were lolly-gagging and taking my time. “They won’t hold it, we have to run!”

He sprints full out, two suitcases in hand. I run, and eventually hobble-walk, after a full city block, when the sprint turned into a marathon. My husband arrives first. The Concorde clerks start to process the luggage and then turn to him when they spy two tickets.

“Sir, where is the other passenger?”

“My wife is on her way,” he gasps, perspiration running down his temples.

“Sir, we hold the Concorde for no one. Unless you can prove that she is actually here in the airport.”
“Here she is,” he says as I round the corner, another sweaty sight for sore eyes: windblown hair, rumpled clothes, but high heels and makeup intact! I feel that I may need medical attention, my lungs ready to explode, my legs twisting like overcooked spaghetti.

“Right this way, we will have to hurry,” they grab our tickets and walk briskly toward the gate.

We pass through a private VIP club so posh as I have never seen. Regular airport clubs pale in comparison. Breakfast danish and delicacies are piled high, along with every type of juice, tea and coffee imaginable.

“Food,” I murmur wistfully, as they pull me along like a ragdoll. Even a bathroom would be a luxury at this point.

At ten minutes until takeoff, it is a miracle that we are crossing the threshhold. Nowadays this would never happen. Those were the golden years of plane travel–little security, few delays, customer service that didn’t ignore… the customer.

We are ushered onboard by a flight attendant and surprised to find a cabin about the width of any regional jet: two seats on either side of the aisle. Most every one of the 100 seats is full. The height is also not impressive and we wonder how in the world this is going to be a comfort class flight to London. I have to place my purse in the drop-down bin above our head, there is so little space anywhere. We squish into our non-luxurious, $10,000 seats, tired, hungry, and thirsty, having no doubt that any of these top-drawer fellow passengers would be thrilled to have us as their cabinmates. Did I mention that our deodorant was in the big suitcase, too?

This is a time when one wants to enter the highclass upper echelons of society with a Vuitton bag, an Hermes scarf, and a strong dabbing of Clive Christian perfume. As a matter of fact, glancing around me, there were obviously travelers who adhered to the notion that less is more. They were not dressed for the Occasion, you might say. How dare they not groom themselves appropriately during my induction to the Society of the Big Spenders?

“Good morning, and welcome aboard,” comes the soothing voice of the stewardess. She hovers above us, bearing gifts. “Your own complimentary CD holder and Concorde stationery,” she presents.

The CD holder is leather and displays the Concorde logo, as does the stationery–paper, envelopes, and pen. Very impressive. Hmmm… just the thing to jot off a note to a friend when we hit supersonic cruising speed. Have you ever noticed that only those of the proper uppercrust breeding are able to take pen to notepaper and write a proper letter any more?

Flight attendants bring out the caviar and champagne. Benedetto, ravenous as only a man can be after the combined effects of stress and mental exertion, stuffs the caviar-laden toast points into his dry, parched mouth, and gags. He is about to pull a Mr. Bean move and spit it all into his white cloth napkin, but I elbow him. I also make a valiant effort to choke down some fish eggs, however, I cannot. At this point I would eat a Pop Tart and Pepsi if it were an option. My kingdom for a cup of water, but alas, we are taking off.

And away we go, right on time. After all, they don’t hold the Concorde for anyone, I’ve been told.

After we hit a certain altitude, the pilots let it rip. We feel a slight surge as though one were changing gears in a manual car. The jet moves into Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. Which begs the question: What does speed have to do with sound, anyway, unless you mean screaming your head off while flying down a fastmoving rollercoaster? Or, better yet, in this setting, if I speak, will my husband now have a real reason for his inability to listen? If a tree falls in the cabin, will any of us hear it? Will the sound arrive to our ears more quickly, or more slowly, when traveling at double the speed of sound? Will my voice suddenly sound like a chipmunk’s? Obviously, science is my expertise, with a major in aerodynamics to boot.

I need food and I need sleep. I may be hallucinating as my imagination ramps up in speed.

It takes a while, but a fairly normal lunch is spread before us. For me, the tiny bits of nouvelle cuisine might as well have been a Thanksgiving feast. I am very thankful and try to sleep during what remains of the three hours of flight.

We make it to London without further international incident, and transfer to Venezia, city of golden domes and glassy seas. Our bags, naturally, never arrive from London, but the airlines promise them later that night. We are ensconsed in our private carriage house getaway-in-a-garden as a chill sets in over the lagoon, and as the heat and hot water make it nice and toasty inside.

Benedetto heads out to the airport, taking a bus overland since so many of the under-bridge passes are closed with the high water level. I sink into the deep bath, warming up and washing away the cares of the past 24 hours, preparing for a wonderful first dinner out in the misty, mysterious city, where ships pass in the night, and where couples create new memories. We had arrived by the Concorde, crowned with caviar, the unexpected upgrades coming from a kind stranger.

Always remember: Destiny could strike at any time. Best to be well-dressed.


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