Flying on an international flight for the first time

My first big flight out of Australia was to Paris, in the 1980s. Paris! I was beside myself with excitement, about both the flight and the destination. At the airport, the check-in attendant was very concerned, because my suitcase was virtually empty. "But I'm going to Paris!" I said. "Why would I take clothing to Paris, when I can buy French clothing?"

I didn't even take toothpaste or shampoo, because I wanted to buy French toothpaste and shampoo. I had no spare undies, because I wanted to buy French undies, all satin and lace. I had the one dress I wore on the plane, and I wouldn't let my husband pack a jacket – because, yes, I wanted him to buy a French jacket.

On the flight, I wriggled in my seat and drank champagne, too excited to eat anything. I made constant notes in my new journal – the name of the plane was Sriwanna; the pilot in command, P. Kadem, the air purser, B. Chairoj and the distance travelled 7485 kilometres. The champagne was Heidsieck '75, the wines a 1980 Macon and Lindemans 1981 H.R. Riesling. There are no notes about the food. The (one and only) film was Clint Eastwood in Firefox.

At some point, the chief steward dropped by and encouraged me to eat something.  "But I'm going to Paris!" I said. "Why would I want to eat aeroplane food, when tomorrow I will be eating French food?"

We landed in Paris – me with a blinding headache and a duty-free bottle of Cointreau – and spent the evening in our romantically cheap room at the Hotel des Arenes, picnicking on three different types of goats cheese, a bunch of grapes, and warm Cointreau.

The next day, due at La Tour d'Argent for lunch (having reserved by writing a letter to them requesting a table on that date, good god) it sank in that I had nothing to wear but one very creased dress. Excellent. That meant I had to buy something French.

Straight to the Galeries Lafayette department store, to buy undies, combs, shampoo, toothpaste, a jacket and a very sweet, very Parisian silk frock with tiny black dots on white. Straight to American Express, to cash a few more traveller's cheques. (Heavens, this really was a long time ago). We made it to lunch just in time, feeling like true Parisians, and ordered the famous pressed duck, so rich it was like eating liver.

I have been to Paris many times since then, but I will never forget the first time, nor the flight there. And to this day, I never take enough clothing.

Read more of our writers' most memorable first time experiences.

See also: Twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to France

See also: Hour by hour: My epic trip on board the world's longest flight

Comments