Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Departing Pensacola for Bordeax and Nothing Goes Smoothly

OK. I am NOT a control freak. I roll with whatever comes along, well, sort of.

 

I am a planner. I strategize. I research. I seek alternatives. I check with my husband, to insure that the trip will please him, too. I choose the exact flights, and then I choose the seats. Hmm. When I say it like this, I sound like I am a control-freak, but  . . . as a strategist, I realize I am not in control of all the variables. I plan, and then so often, I have to be flexible.

 

The night before we are to leave Pensacola for the Bordeaux, a wildly windy tropical storm in forecast to blow in right around the time our flight is due to take off. I talk to my husband, I call the airlines. They COULD change our flights, but they can’t, they aren’t allowed to, the flights were booked by Viking, our cruise line, and they are not allowed to change anything. My husband knows me well. He drives me to the airport (nearby) and I try to sweet-talk the desk agent to change us to an earlier flight. I am close to success, I can feel it, but as she tries and tries, without success, my hopes fade. She makes a call, and gives me the same information – that she can’t change the flights because they were booked by Viking. But, she says, if we show up the next day for the earlier flight, we are likely to get on.

My husband is a good sport. The next day, we go to the airport early. Actually, it worked out well, our son was able to drive us and we got to have a good chat with him before he dropped us off. We went up to the desk and the clerk said she couldn’t change our flights. Aarrgh.

It wasn’t that bad. We checked in, got rid of our bags, went through security. We had lunch at the airport and it wasn’t bad. I can’t remember what we had, but I remember having a conversation about how it wasn’t bad for airport food.

Our flight boarded quickly, thanks to a flight attendant with a hilarious sense of humor who patiently, endlessly directed passengers entering the plane to put their large bags overhead, wheels in first, and their smaller bags tucked under the seat in front, and please, please, take what you might need out of your bag before stowing it so that other passengers might not be delayed in boarding. The delivery was perfect, utterly hilarious, and the passengers did what he said.

As we were departing, the storm was moving in, and we were warned that there would be about 15 minutes of turbulence as we avoided the clouds. It was bumpy but not bad.

When we got to Atlanta, we headed for our Paris flight, and it looked like 600 people waiting to get on in different lines – all on the same flight. We found the right line, which was moving slowly. It took us about 40 minutes to actually get on the flight and get to our seats. This was a plane with an upstairs and a downstairs; we were on the upper deck. We turned to the left, and there was business class.

It was the biggest business class section I have ever seen. It was also a little chaotic. There was one thing I really liked, and that is that toward the front, where the toilets were, there was a little lounge kind of place where you could stretch and walk around and not have to worry about being in anyone’s way. You could look out windows and take your time, which was really nice.

This was the Airbus 380, “the biggest airplane in the world.” There was a compartment next to my seat where I could stow all my gear, as well as in the luggage section overhead. Having all that space was nice.

The meal service was not smooth. It felt like maybe there had been some last minute changes and people were trying to deal with some changes. Finally, however, all that was past, and the lights dimmed and most people went to sleep. The seats went flat, and the mechanisms were very quiet. You could get a good night’s sleep.

Overall, given my choice, I will never fly a plane that big again. Even in business class, you feel like cattle. The cabin crew did their best, but they had a lot to do, a lot of people to look after, and they seemed stressed and overworked.

We dreaded Charles de Gaulle; transiting CDG is always a nightmare, but for some reason, early this Saturday morning, it went smoothly. We headed for our gate and tried to pick out which of our fellow passengers waiting for the flight were Americans, and who might be on our ship, the Viking Forseti, with us. We were right about a few, and wrong about others.

Across the aisle from me, on the flight to Bordeaux, was an American going on a bike trip, chatting with a man who lives just outside Bordeaux. The man who lives in Bordeaux was groaning that since Bordeaux has been modernized, with great public transportation and public spaces, other French people are retiring and moving to the Bordeaux area, “snapping up properties at ridiculous prices,” causing taxes and prices to rise. “The newcomers are ruining Bordeaux,” he added, “Bordeaux is being gentrified! We can’t afford to live there anymore! Every thing is changing!”

Bordeaux is not a large airport, our landing went smoothly, soon we had our baggage and were loading up onto a Viking bus. I am guessing that Viking may be a part of the gentrification, paying for expensive, accessible mooring positions, buying and maintaining their own bus fleet rather than chartering, and supplying their ships in bulk with all the advantages that bulk purchasing might bring. As we were leaving the airport, I saw something very strange;

It was at a different hall from the one we came into, and we think it might be one of the budget airlines. The line stretched out several hundred meters, and only inched along. We hoped that we would not face a similar fate upon departure. (As it turned out, our departure had its own, radically different anomalies.)

December 15, 2019 - Posted by | Adventure, France, Paris, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel | , , ,

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