Monday, June 09, 2014

Fly by night

Well, if all has gone well – and there’s no reason to believe that it would be otherwise – I am in Ireland. With me are my nieces Molly and Caroline, and a tiny bit of my husband’s ashes, which I’ll be scattering into Galway Bay at some point, and maybe on Inishmore, as well.

As Jim had long wanted to introduce the girls to Ireland, and as Jim and I had made so many trips here over the last three decades – I’ve lost count, but we’ve easily been here 15 times – this will be a bittersweet vacation. 

But I’m sure we’ll have fun.

Our flight will have been steerage, which is always fine with me, as I’m someone who is content to read-drift-read-drift-read-drift a long flight away.  And Ireland is, by overseas flight standards, a short hop.

But if I were rich, and if we had been gong from London to  Abu Dhabi, and if we were traveling next January (and believe me, if I were going to head to Abu Dhabi, it would be in January, not June), and if only two of us were going (or if I were willing to fall on my steerage sword and let the girls lap up the luxury), and  if we were flying Etihad Airways, well, we could avail ourselves of a 125 square foot three-room suite, niftily dubbed The Residence:

The space, which costs about $43,000 for some flights, is priced to include two travelers and comes with a butler, chef, and shower. (Source: Business Week)

Plus a Swarovski crystal jewelry case for the ladies, and a cufflink case for the fellows. (Not the fellahs, however, as they are not likely to be flying Residence class.)

Just think: a chef to prepare vegan fare for Caroline while the butler made sure that the temp was just right for Molly’s shower.

The Residence actually reminds me a bit – just a bit – of the decidedly less luxe yet similarly contained roomettes that we took a couple of times on our family trips from Worcester to Chicago.

When we first took trains en famille to Chicago, we were in the regular old sit up all night cars. My parents would pile the suitcases up on the floor in front of the seats to create a little sleeping platform on which to stretch out their sleepy kids. There were three of us at that point, and we were all pretty little.

I don’t remember it as being comfortable or uncomfortable, one way or the other.

What I remember was the frigid cold water that was dispensed at the front of each car, and the conical paper cups it was dispensed into. I also remember that the window shade extended across two rows, and that, as a four year old, dying to see out, I one battled a soldier in the seat in front of us to keep it open a crack so I could see out.  I’d slide it up a bit – just enough to peep out - and soldier boy would slam it down as, apparently, even a half-inch of light prevented him from enjoying his nap. (Gosh, I forgot to thank him for his service. Oh, wait, in those days we didn’t thank anyone for “going in.” Everybody – i.e., every able-bodied young man – spent a couple of years in the military, like it or not. There’s actually something to be said for that approach...)

Next trip out, we drove, which must have been a real treat for my father as he was the only driver and there were no interstate highways, just Route 9 wending it’s way from Worcester to Chicago. Not to mention that some of us got carsick.

And then there were four kids, and my parents were apparently flush enough to get the roomette, with their scratchy-covered seats that converted to a bed, the teeny-tiny toilet cum sink, and the fold down second bed that came out of the wall. On the next trip, when there was another baby on board, we got a couple of other little sleeping compartments to augment the roomette. My brother Tom and I slept in one, sharing a bunk, and I remember seeing my mother in some sort of sleeping chamber the size of a mortuary drawer, with a canvas web hammock slung about six inches over her head, in which slept the baby.

I imagine the travelers in The Residence will get a bit more rest than the Rogers family did as we swayed across the rails on our way to Chicago.

We also didn’t have a personal chef.

We always traveled on Fridays, leaving Worcester late in the afternoon, and my mother packed tuna sandwiches Kids Menufor supper. We did eat breakfast in the dining car – ooh, aah – I even remember what the menu looked like. Which was this, only turquoise.

But that was going from Worcester to Chicago.

For The Residence, we’re talking London and Abu Dhabi. (Am I the only person who sees “Abu Dhabi” and thinks “yabba-dabba-doo”?)

So, given that we’re traveling now, and supposing we weren’t going to Ireland, but somewhere more exotic, albeit less woman-friendly… Anyway, absent the availability of The Residence until next winter, we could hunker down with plain old vanilla first class, a relative bargain at $15K, which provides a 6 foot 8 inch perfectly flat bed (with dupioni silk covered duvet), personal chef, mini-bar, wardrobe, and furniture covered with Poltrona Frau leather.

Aer Lingus, it almost goes without saying, does not have anything that even remotely resembles Etihad first class, let alone The Residence.

Thanks to frequent flyer, Jim and I did fly first – or was it business? I don’t even think there’s first any more on Aer Lingus – to Ireland a couple of times. It was comfy enough, especially when we got to fly up in the bubble of a 747. And we got a little swag bag that included a pair of cheesy light blue socks with a shamrock on them, and a tiny little Parian china dish with an ornate Book-of-Kells style letter painted on it.

What I couldn’t tell Etihad about traveling in style…

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