Thursday, September 6, 2012

Spoiled Forever?

Sitting on the BART station platform at 2:10 p.m. in Pleasant Hill, California, waiting for the train to the airport. A 5-car train in 5 minutes is announced. By the time there are only 3 minutes left, it has morphed into a 10-car train to SFO.

It's the start of a journey involving three airports, two planes, two trains, one bus and one final walk that will take me to a Strasbourg, France hotel.

This journey really started in 1999 when I went on my once-in-a-lifetime Scrap Basket Tour to France with quilter Jeanne Mills. I was sucked in by her little advertising bookmark with a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower on it that I picked up at Asilomar while attending an Empty Spools seminar (quilters), another once-in-a-lifetime extravagance.

Appetite stimulated, neither of those turned out to be just once-in-a-lifetime.

At first I traveled to Paris by cheapest airfare, until I discovered that the vagaries of delayed flights and missed connections to Paris can really mess with a plan. It's rare now that I don't take Air France's nonstop from San Francisco to Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle. I can still try to time the best price on fares.

It took a long time to build up to an Awards ticket to travel from North America to France. Miles don't accumulate very fast on the cheapest fares.

At long last, I crossed the 60,000-mile awards mark last fall and placed the Awards order for the 2012 Jeanne Mills Tour, my 11th (?...can't find my list). It turns out that 60,000 means 60,000+, so I had to buy 13,000 more points and pay tax on the full ticket price, but . . . .

Hardly anyone there except for our flight

All kinds of decorative tiles and I've never read what they're about

Tuesday afternoon I plunked myself into a Premium Economy window seat, surrounded by lots of leg room, space on the armrest for elbows for both seats, a seat-reclining scheme that doesn't intrude into any one's lap, and a slightly larger video screen and on-demand movie choices. Not quite as luxe as Business Class, but enough to make me never to want to fly Sardine Class again. Oh, and a tray-table more than twice as large as the regular-old-tray-table.

When I arrived at my seat, a woman was kneeling in the aisle seat next to me, speaking to her husband a row behind on a center aisle seat. She tells me she doesn't know how they got separated; maybe because they booked at the last minute?

(Tough titties, I think. I'm not giving my window seat to her husband. I booked in November for this trip.)

Eventually, the man who'd been sitting next to her husband appeared in her seat next to me. (Sorry if I don't feel guilty.)

Just a nice spot of color out the plane's window

Zoom Zoom

We departed San Francisco with a fully loaded 777-200 at 6:35 p.m. It makes such sense to sleep on an overnight flight, but with my normal night-owl habits, we were nearly eight hours into a 9 hr, 45 minute flight at my body's normal bedtime, and by then they were serving an enormous breakfast, enough to also count as lunch. Furthermore, I found two movies I've wanted to see but will never find in the Little City Down the Hill: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. (Cute young fella, that Ewan McGregor.)

By the light of the flickering movie screen

It seems like I build something into every trip that's going to cause me anxiety and I did it on this one, too. It didn't seem like a problem at the time. At the time I booked, I believe the flight I chose from San Francisco to Paris was the only one on which the award ticket was offered, but I had a couple of choices to get to Strasbourg from Paris -- one which left 50 minutes after arrival in Paris and one which left 3:50 after arrival.

Fifty minutes can be barely be done with no hitches, as it's long hike, or possible bus ride, from International Arrivals to Domestic Departures, plus an additional security screening is required.

No big choice there. Except that the second flight departed from Orly airport instead of Charles de Gaulle. In the decision at the moment of booking, that didn't seem like such a big deal.

It was later when I was talking to someone at Air France that I found out I would have to pick up my baggage at CDG and take it with me to recheck it at Orly. Okay. That sounded doable as well.

I bought a ticket online for the Air France bus to transfer from CDG to Orly.

Our plane arrived at CDG so on time. Construction is underway at the airport (I think always) and it was a long hike and moving sidewalk journey (through the new terminal where the passenger waiting chairs are deluxe recliners) to the luggage pick-up. I even stopped at les toilettes.

The luggage carousel moved not. I waited as least 45 minutes ate into my 3:50. My bag had a priority sticker, so it was among the first out -- the last of the first out. There is one exit from the area for all the carousels, another hike.

Construction occupied the area where the online map showed the bus pickup. "Information" helped me find the way. The sign said the trip to Orly was 1½ hours away, with buses running approximately every half hour. I must have just missed one. Then there was the stop at another terminal at CDG, with the bus filling with people buying their tickets on the spot. (I did save a wee bit of money buying online.)

An Air France flight attendant now sitting next to me was reassuring. No problem, she said, as long as traffic is light en route to Orly. Okay. That sounded doable.

But, after a fast start, traffic developed.

Orly, as seen from the plane

Cut to the chase. I made it with ample time, once I found where to go inside the airport. (Plopping right into the middle of an unfamiliar airport can be so bewildering.) There weren't many passengers on the long skinny plane (CRJ 1000), and I dozed, to be awakened for my two-cookie snack, my final food for the day.

The plane, as seen from Orly

The sparsely populated plane, as seen from inside

I bought a ticket for the train into Strasbourg from the tobacco shop at the airport and made it to town, walking to the hotel just fine and arriving at 8 p.m. local time.

I crashed for the night and today I'm relaxing  with my extra pretrip day built in before everyone arrives for a greeting get together tonight.

My serene room

Cats looking over me
When I get home I'll show you a pic of what looked over me last time I was here!

See you soon.



  1. I hope you managed to catch up on your sleep. Yes, both movies are great. Did they have better head sets on Premium Economy?

    1. Caught up on sleep my first night, and the headsets were good ones, so I sould hear pretty well. They're coiled up in a slot beside you and you get little sanitary covers for them. It's a mystery on how to get them out of their slots as I really don't think brute force is the best possible.

  2. Your adventures outdo mine, always! I made my connection from Paris to Strasbourg with almost 2 full minutes to spare! Walked into the terminal just as they announced the boarding gate for my flight! But the hotel has been comfortable and the group meeting was fun!

    1. Glad you got here okay. Did your luggage make it with you? It sounds like several people had dicey luggage transfer experiences.