Dec. 23 is her birthday, an important one. Won’t tell you which one. Let’s say “29”.
In the summer of 2012 I asked her what she wanted to do for this special event. “Travel and take cooking lessons,” was her quick reply.
So last April I cashed out 520,000 frequent flier miles (I’d accumulated over 9 years) on United Airlines and booked an adventurous around-the-world trip for the two of us in Business Class. It took nearly 3 hours on the phone because we’re traveling during the holidays, one of the busiest travel seasons (when award seats are very hard to grab). God bless Jacqueline with the United RTW desk.
We made a slight change last June to this pretty complex itinerary (dropping hard-to-get-to Israel), and are now spending at the end of the trip a whole Christmas week in Paris, my favorite city and one of Rebecca’s too.
Starting with Asia first, we head West across the Pacific. Mixing airlines on the Star Alliance system, we connect through San Francisco with stops in Osaka (overnight), Hong Kong, Singapore, down to Perth (for a day while in transit), then across the Indian Ocean to Johannesburg (transit) and Cape Town (just after Nelson Mandela’s funeral it turns out). Then it’s overnight north across the breadth of Africa to Cairo (transit), with a morning flight to Paris. We journey home to the USA (and California) via Toronto on Saturday, Dec 28th.
Around-the-world in just 19 days. It’s my 15th time (lucky me) but first for Rebecca. In all, 29,861 air miles, 12 flights, 5 continents, 4 hotels + 1 tiny Parisian apartment near Notre Dame. Flying us are United, ANA, Singapore, South African, Egypt Air & Air Canada. Seats were reserved long ago.
We are thoughtfully packed for two different climates – hot & cold – which was a challenge: It’ll be 93 degrees in Perth, 39 degrees in Paris.
Truth be told, I tried valiantly (and secretly) to arrange for my two kids, Anneke (22) and Andrew (28) to arrive in Paris as a special surprise for Rebecca’s birthday, but while I walked away from my phone one moment last summer my wife read my daughter’s text messages to me about the quiet plan. Poof! There went the surprise. No worries. Anneke arrives from San Francisco (where she studies), Andrew & a close friend from Berlin (where he lives). It’ll be a blast to see them again, share Rebecca’s birthday, then celebrate Christmas together.
Close, dear French friends “The Lucero’s” are arriving from distant Lyon to help celebrate Rebecca’s special birthday too. I can hear the wonderful laughter and conversations already. Taste the food. Feel the hugs.
On her part, Rebecca has marvelously arranged a series of challenging cooking classes, Asian and European market tours, a trip to the vineyards of Stellenbosch outside Cape Town. She skillfully booked all the hotels, which we paid for in advance with our frequent flier points from other travel plans. We’re set.
The departure day has finally arrived.