Lounging around Charles de Gaulle airport
Trip Start Jun 10, 2009
10Trip End Jun 22, 2009
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Marjolaine drove me to the airport yesterday for my 2:15 pm flight to Boston. This time there were no problems, and I left as planned. Boston Logan is a cobbled-together airport like many major US airports are. The older terminals were designed before terrorism had to be taken into account, and all the enhanced security that goes with it. So to get from terminal A where I arrived, to terminal E from where my next flight would depart, I had to leave the secure zone, head outside to the sidewalk and either walk or take a shuttle bus and then pass security screening once again (pull out all liquids – in 3 ounce bottles or less, all of which must fit in a one quart bag, pull out the laptop and camera equipment, remove shoes etc.) I had 90 minutes to do all this, but by the time I jumped through all the hoops, the Air France flight was boarding.
The 747 was and not too full, I was pleased to have two empty seats beside me, which is getting to be very rare experience flying these days. The pilot welcomed us over the intercom and among other things informed us that we would likely encounter turbulence over the Atlantic.
Shortly after takeoff health information cards were distributed. They were marked A/H1N1 Influenza Virus Prevention and underneath: passenger locator card. We were asked to give our contact information: phone number and e-mail address. This was so that if a passenger on the flight came down with the swine flu in the following 10 days, we could be notified allowing us to take precautions and/or seek treatment. That must be a WHO protocol for pandemics.
About an hour after takeoff dinner was served. Air France cuisine is superior to most airlines I know, and they still don’t charge for cocktails or wine with dinner, so I had a glass of Jacquart Champagne with dinner and a small cognac with coffee afterward. The flight was only 5 hours long, not enough time to sleep much, especially after the time it took to serve and clear the dinner service. I was tired and thought I would sleep at least a few hours, but shortly after dinner, we started hitting patches of strong turbulence, enough to keep me from sleeping. I thought of the Air France flight from Brazil that mysteriously went down in the Atlantic recently, probably weather related, and was thankful we only had turbulence not storms to navigate.
07:00 local time. Since I couldn’t sleep, I read. I finished reading Audy Murphy’s To Hell and Back, his memoir of WWII fighting in Sicily, Anzio and France. He was America’s most decorated war hero, and told quite an amazing story. It’s amazing that he survived the war. Among other places he fought in Alsace, along the Rhine River. My wife and I lived in Alsace for six years, so I was quite interested to recognize the names of some little villages where he fought that were very near our former home. The book is well written and worth the time it takes to read it.
We arrived shortly before 06:00 in Paris, which was midnight back home. I quickly got my boarding pass for the Nairobi flight, but then met a huge back-up at the security checkpoint. Hundreds of people were waiting to reach a security check-point in another room that wasn’t even visible to us. The line was moving at the speed of cold molasses. The wait would take at least an hour, likely more. While thinking over my options, I heard several varieties of French being spoken, as well as English, German, Spanish, and Arabic.
I decided to try what I hoped would be a short cut. From where I was standing I could see that that the passport control/immigration line was short. So walking over, I had my passport stamped, officially entering France. Then passing customs, and walking out of the secure zone, I took the elevator up one level and walked passed the business-class check-in counters and went through the security checkpoint there that had no line at all. The whole process took less than 10 minutes instead of at least an hour. It’s no big deal, but since I travel so much, one of my small pleasures is to find ways to beat (or at least find shortcuts through) the system.
Now there should be a four-hour wait here in the Air France lounge, and then a nine-hour flight to Nairobi, another four-hour layover and a 90 minute flight to Kigali where should arrive around 2:00 am tomorrow local time. Hopefully I’ll get some sleep on the way to Nairobi.