I just got back from a vacation to Los Angeles.  We had a family function out there and I was very, very happy to go.  But, when I first made my reservations, gas was averaging around $4 per gallon, and the airlines wanted far more money than I was willing (and able) to pay.  So, I decided to use some of my saved-up miles.  I had around 60,000 of them in my account, so I planned on using 25,000 of them on round-trip coach seats.

Alas, it was not to be.  My dates were not flexible in the slightest so, when I realized that there were no steerage, er, coach seats available, I found myself making the reservation for first class tickets at 50,000 miles for a round trip.  Ouch.

Anyway, the last (and only) time I flew in first or business class was in 1998, when I was upgraded on the red eye home from San Francisco because they needed my coach seat for someone else.  It was a lovely experience featuring wider seats, better food and the opportunity for an actual nap (normally, I cannot sleep on planes).  But my flight to LA this year was so much better.  The plane I was on is, apparently, used regularly for international travel, and it was the nicest flight I have ever been on.  The seat was in a sort of pod, and it had the ability to flatten out to 180 degrees so the passenger can take a real nap.  We were delayed in Florida by thunderstorms for over an hour, so I got to watch 2 movies on the flight AND take a 2-hour nap.  The food was very good and, even though I slept through the chocolate chip cookies, the flight attendant made sure I got some before we deplaned.  It was a truly memorable flight.  If I’d had the money to pay for this flight, I’d have paid for it in a heartbeat.

The way home was, however, a totally different story.  I spent 5 hours in a seat that was not much wider than that in coach.  The food was ordinary (the menu said “breakfast quesadilla,” yet I was served Rice Krispies), the flight attendants bordered on surly (not quite as surly as your average coach flight attendants, but definitely worse than the flight attendants from the flight out to LA) and the only movie available was “The Lorax.”  The seat itself was better than what one gets in coach, to be sure, but overall, if I’d paid full price for this flight I would not have been happy that it cost the same as the first one.

As for the movies available to me on the way to LA, it was a tough choice.  I ended up watching 2 — The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Midnight in Paris.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.  Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had a lot to live up to since I cannot imagine a movie with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie and Penelope Wilton being anything but wonderful.  Yes, I did guess some of the plot twists, but I still loved it.  When it comes out on DVD, I will definitely watch it again.

Midnight in Paris was terrific.  I admit I was leery about a movie starring Owen Wilson, but I really did like the movie.  I loved Woody Allen’s early work, but his more recent movies have left me cold.  But Midnight in Paris was just wonderful.  The premise, that a 21st-century American man travels back in time to 1920s Paris, could have been weird, but this was not.  We get to meet Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Dalí, Toulouse-Lautrec, etc., etc., etc.  Yes, some suspension of disbelief is required, but I had no trouble accepting the story as presented.  It’s already on my Netflix queue and I am genuinely looking forward to seeing it again.

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