Cockpit Chronicles: A farewell to Boston

April was my last month flying from Boston. It was also the month that our company chose to eliminate the last remaining non-stop flights from Santo Domingo and San Juan to New England. These were markets where we’d flown for decades.

Fittingly, on the 2nd and 4th of April, I flew the very last flights from SDQ and SJU-not exactly something worthy of a celebration, but noteworthy, nevertheless.

I made sure to take a group shot of the pilots I worked with on both flights.

The final Santo Domingo to Boston pilots:

And the last San Juan to Boston flight:

We’ve been shrinking the Boston base for the past few years, and while many of my friends took the plunge and went south to New York, I had always planned to be the last one to leave. But facing a commute to Germany for a year, I knew JFK flying would be far more convenient. Lufthansa, Air Berlin, and even Singapore Airlines offer non-stop flights to Germany.

But before leaving Boston, I planned to enjoy two Paris trips and revisit my two most memorable restaurant experiences from the city of lights, and catch one major tourist attraction that I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen.
After ten years of flying to Paris, I knew I needed to look around the inside of the Louvre. I’ve avoided it because I’m really not an art museum aficionado, but I suppose everyone should see the Louvre at some point. To be honest, I was more interested in the building that I’d been photographing for years than in the art to be found inside.

After a quick picnic of cheese and wine next to the Louvre Pyramid, the captain, Pete, and a flight attendant, Michelle and I went inside.

So I suppose a brief review of the Louvre is in order:

There are paintings inside.

And a rather large number of sculptures.

Most of the artwork is huge, except, surprisingly, the Mona Lisa. Perhaps that’s why this painting is so popular. People really love smaller artwork apparently. The 50-foot painting opposite the Da Vinci work was largely ignored, I noted.

Afterward, reservations were made for my favorite restaurant in Paris.

Le Hide” is ‘hidden’ just off of the Arc de Triumph in a little residential neighborhood. It’s full of typical French cuisine such as escargot and pan-seared fois gras appetizers and a main course of salmon and scallops that flake off with a fork. It’s the most flavorful food I’ve found in Paris, and yet it’s reasonably priced at €22 ($32) for a two-course meal and 29 ($42) for three courses. Reasonable, at least, by Paris standards.

The same flight attendant, Michelle, was on another Paris trip with me the next week. I sheepishly suggested we eat at Dans Le Noir, which is the most unusual restaurant in Paris. She immediately knew what I was talking about and said she was thinking about suggesting the same place.

In the past, I had been rather unsuccessful in getting others to join me for what is truly a dining adventure.

When you walk into Dans Le Noir, facing you is a small pub where you place your dinner and drink order. After removing any cell phones, watches and purses and placing them in one of the provided lockers on the right, you’re guided into a pitch black dining room by one of the waiters, who happen to be blind.

The idea is to experience food as a blind person would, to take in the senses and try to identify what you’re eating without any visual cues.

I had been to the restaurant with two pilots when it first opened years earlier. Today there are versions of this same restaurant in New York, London and Barcelona.

There was so much laughing during the first visit, especially when a pilot’s foot became stuck in the table as the blind waitress was guiding us out of the place, which left him alone in the dark wondering just how he was going to find his way out.

The second visit was just as amusing. As I was guided to my seat, I felt what I thought was a wall next to me, and my hand landed directly on ‘the softest part’ of the lady sitting to the left of me. I felt relieved when the flight attendant sitting across from me also put her hand right on the gentleman to her right, who was with the French lady I had inadvertently accosted. Many apologies and giggles later and we were ready to explore our meal.

You don’t really choose your meal, since this would ruin the surprise, so part of the dining experience is to try and determine what exactly you’re eating. The three other flight attendants and two other pilots with me described what was on their plates, which may or may not have been different than our own. We just couldn’t tell for sure.

After an appetizer of cheese and fruit, we were served a steak with potatoes, and vegetables. Pretty safe food, for sure, but it did take some touching and feeling to understand what was on our plates.

On the last trip of the month, we had a spectacular view of the Northern Lights. It was a fitting sendoff that I won’t forget.

I’m going to miss my friends in Boston, but I’ll enjoy seeing the ones who have already gone south to NY, and who have jokingly referred to JFK as “South Boston” since half of Boston is now commuting to the larger base.

I’ll especially enjoy seeing the captain and relief pilot that were ‘featured’ in my 2004 ‘Vertigo’ video that depicted a typical Paris trip from Boston to New York. Both of them are now flying out of NY as well.

Maybe I’ll discover a few other ‘hidden’ spots in Rome, Zurich, Barcelona, Brussels, Budapest, Manchester, Madrid, Milan or even Rio de Janeiro, to talk about in an upcoming Chronicles.

Just thinking about the options has given me a renewed enthusiasm that’s sure to make the commute from Germany to New York a bit more palatable. Stay tuned.

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Boston. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the Cockpit Chronicles Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.