Sunday, July 17, 2011

Je Suis Arivee

I think I’ll get started where I last left off, which was still in the Atlanta airport and hungry. I finally trekked over to the food court area of the international concourse a little bit before 3:00. I had grand plans of sitting down at a restaurant to eat but the only sit down options were TGI Friday’s and a Sushi restaurant. I’m not a TGI Friday’s fan and sushi in an airport sounds a little suspect to me; although I guess it shouldn’t since they probably can get fresh seafood flown in daily. At any rate, I decided on Qdoba, which was once a favorite of mine until they closed the one in Huntsville.

I got my giant queso steak burrito with black beans and a Diet Coke (for which I paid $13 – thanks airport prices) and looked for a place to sit. I found one, only to be outwitted by a pilot who apparently found a more direct route to the table. I spotted another seat close by and grabbed it up before anyone else could. It was next to a player piano which was easily ignorable until…

A lady sat down at the seat cackling quite loudly and I’m not going to lie, I thought she was drunk. Plus she had crossed the ropes around the piano which seemed a little suspect to me. She opened the top of the piano and started playing away. It was quite lovely and a lot louder than the player songs had been. Turns out she actually works at the airport and has for almost five years. I found this out by eavesdropping on a conversation she had with a man who tipped her. She used to be a school teacher in Alabama and now apparently plays piano at the international concourse at the Atlanta airport.

After eating, I looked up the gate for my flight to Paris and went to the gate and found a seat behind a guy who I would gather is in his 20s. I am currently eavesdropping on his phone conversations. The first conversation was with his granny describing what his day of travel been like. He is coming home to Portland from Barcelona and Pamplona where he RAN WITH THE BULLS people! He’s talking to someone else now and don’t think I’m not going to turn around and ask him about it when he gets off the phone because I am. I’ve always wanted to know what that would be like.

So, I asked the guy about his experience running with the bulls and he said it was the most amazing experience of his life. I have no doubt about it. I can only imagine what a rush it must be.

We began boarding the plane at 4:30 for a 5:45 departure and the lady on the intercom said that we were planning to leave early, although by the time everyone boarded, it wasn’t really early. Those planes hold a lot of people. I had the window seat and there was a woman from Rochester on the ailse. I was really hoping that no one would sit in between us but that was not the case. A man with a lot of nervous twitches ended up sitting there. He was nice enough but didn’t stop twitching the whole flight.

About an hour after takeoff, they served drinks. I asked for Diet Coke because it was listed on the menu, but they had Diet Pepsi which I didn’t realize until after it was poured. Why have all Coke products and Diet Pepsi? This was perplexing. Let me tell you, the booze flowed freely on this flight too. Maybe because it was Air France or maybe because it was an international flight, I do not know, but the man in front of me had a small bottle of liquor or two, three small bottles of wine and a beer and didn't pay anything. An hour or so after that, it was time for dinner and I had the pasta which wasn’t too bad at all. I drank Sprite with dinner. I had my one and only bathroom break about three hours into the flight and my plan was to sleep after that. However, my plan didn’t work out too well and I got all of maybe 30 minutes to one hour of sleep. I couldn’t get comfortable, I was hot and the nervous twitches were bothersome. I realize he couldn’t help it but still it was bothersome. So, I kept watching movies. I watched The Tourist – not good and Limitless which was interesting and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. I actually put this one in thinking it would help me sleep because it can be pretty slow in parts but it wasn’t helpful in that regard.

With two hours left to go in the flight, breakfast was served which was a muffin, orange juice, fresh fruit and yogurt. The yogurt was terrible but everything else was good. We landed in Paris a little before 8:00 a.m. local time and I was happy to have the opportunity to get up and stretch my legs. You can actually walk around on the plane but because I was next to the window, that was kind of impossible. I was surprised at how much farm land there is coming in. It’s everywhere. I suppose farming is France’s primary, well, I can’t think of the word I’m looking for right now. But lots of folks farm - you know what I’m talking about.

After a quick trip to the restroom and walking what felt like miles to get to my next gate, I finally made it to customs. I suppose if you are staying in Paris you go through customs in another area, but since I had another flight, I had to go to another terminal which seemed like it was forever away. I think I may have lost a couple of pounds sweating too because it was warm in the airport and I did a lot of walking. Customs was uneventful and took all of about 7 minutes with the wait in line. I finally reached the next terminal where I had to go through another security checkpoint like when you first get to the airport. In other words, I had to take off my shoes, etc. again and the lines were long and it probably took about 15 minutes just to get through this area which caused me to panic a bit because at this point I only had about 40 minutes before my flight to Lyon.

I made it to the gate and even had time for another pit stop after which the flight was boarding. This time I was on an emergency exit row which was delightful and I even got some sleep on this 45 minute flight.

We landed in Lyon a little before 11:00 where it was pouring down rain just as I suspected it would be since that’s what the weather report had said. I headed to baggage claim. Thankfully, my bag made it here too! I had been a little concerned about that and actually carried on a smaller bag with a change of clothes just in case it was lost. I found the information desk and asked about calling the hotel. The lady was very nice and told me where the phone for the hotel shuttle was and where to wait for it. After about 30 minutes of waiting (I was told five minutes), I decided instead to get a taxi which was a very interesting experience.

I went to the Taxi stand and pressed the button. Someone came on the intercom and said they would call a taxi. Everyone has been calling me madame which cracks me up because I am still a mademoiselle, which the folks on the first flight called me. About two minutes later, a Mercedes with a taxi sign atop came flying around the corner as if it was the Indy Car series. I still have no Euros and asked him if he would take dollars. No, but he would take a credit card – works for me just get me to the hotel. My hotel is 800 meters from the airport. I’m too lazy to look that up, but let’s just say it’s about a football field or two away and this guy didn’t know where it was. He drove around the airport like a bat out of hell and I spotted the hotel and pointed it out. He then pulled over and asked a cop how to get to the hotel and we were off again. Also, it was about 100 degrees in the car. I started sweating as soon as I got inside. The driver had on a thick sweater and long coat - it was only in the 60s!!!! I paid with my card and came in to the hotel, thankful to be alive and ready for a nap.

I checked in and soon after discovered there would be no food for another seven hours. The hotel restaurant isn’t open until 7:00 on Sundays. I can guarantee you I will be down there first thing because I am hungry. I luckily had the mind to put some granola bars in my bag before I left home and have snacked on that. When I got to my room, it was kind of warm so I turned down the air and opened the window too. The cold rainy air filled the room and after a quick email to my parents, I laid down for a nap.

My plan was to nap about four hours and attempt to stay up the rest of the evening and so far that has worked. I do not have a travel clock with me and there is no clock in the room but my internal clock did me a solid and I napped for only four hours. I got up and found the Tour on TV and am now watching it while typing this post. I will probably take a shower after today’s stage is complete and then soon after go downstairs for dinner.

Here’s one other funny story for you before I sign off. I had the hardest time trying to figure out how to flush the toilet here at the hotel. There is a panel behind the toilet with a big square in the middle of two smaller squares. I kept pushing on it trying to figure it out and after about three or four minutes I realized you pull it up. Crazy. I had to laugh at myself. I’m pretty sure I would have had a hard time even with sleep.

Tomorrow morning I meet up with my group here at the hotel I’m at. I sure hope that goes smoothly because I have had many paranoid thoughts that I miss meeting up with my group. Maybe I will see some of the people at dinner tonight and it will ease my worries.

Well, I guess that’s it for now. The adventures in France have officially begun. I hope to be back tomorrow with another story or two to share with you. Until then, enjoy your Sunday! Au revoir!

The bathroom

The toilet

My room - clearly I'm all settled in.


Mary McLaughlin said...

I am so excited for you! I hope you have an incredibly awesome time! And I look forward to reading your posts from France!

Jackie said...

Love it! Please keep posting as often as you can. I am living vicariously through you for the next 2 weeks. Love ya!

Erika said...

So glad you had a safe trip. Can't wait to hear more adventures!

Anonymous said...

How exciting-I love the post. We are all with you through your post. I love all the details-keep it up and keep posting the pictures. Keep safe-love,
Jan Bell