18 June 2007

It’s A Small World (With No Window)

As is usual for me, no flying experience ever seems to go “well,” if you will. Brazil to France was no exception, and neither was my little blip of a flight – Nice to Paris – after four days in the South of France. After my surprise upgrade from Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo, where I basked in the lap of luxury, including a fold-flat bed, my non-reclining, end-of-the-row, right near the toilet, 18 inches of space with no pillow seat was rather depressing. Eleven hours later I couldn’t feel my tail-bone and I was munching on a microwaved croissant. Meanwhile, the woman next to me looked like she had just stepped off a runway. How do people do travel and stay pretty? I look more like I’ve been hit by a truck.

Fast forward to Nice, six days later. The flight to Nice was wonderful: one hour, free chocolate and a short nap. Not so on the return. Of course, it wasn’t just the flight. The Nice Airport is a good, oh, THREE DAYS from the city of Nice and since I’m on quite the budget I decided to take the airport bus. I lugged my enormous backpack up the enormous hill to the not-so-enormous bus station and waited, sweating profusely. The bus pulled up. I went to board. Apparently this wasn’t allowed, as the driver literally “gave me the hand” to which I talked, completely confused. He then explained (in lightning-speed French) that I had to go to the other side of the street to board. So I exited, crossed the street, and waited for him to pull a u-turn, at which point he opened the door and greeted me with a smile, as if our encounter of five minutes ago had not happened. Forty-five minutes later we arrive at the airport. Correction: we arrive near the airport, at the bus terminal. From there, it was a ten-minute walk to the actual terminal.

I went inside and searched the screens for my flight. It was now 7:50PM and I had a 9:05PM flight. Still good on time, I thought. It’s domestic. The only problem was, none of the flights on the screen were domestic. I tromped (I say tromped because my backpack ways about 50 pounds, which makes regular “walking” and even “striding” impossible) to the info booth to get some info. No info person. I had forgotten that it was Sunday. No one works on Sunday in Europe. All stores are closed. Life all but stops, especially when your need concerns info. It’s now 8:05PM and I’m getting concerned. No planes seem to be flying anywhere inside France and my tromp is becoming a sludge. At this point all bets are off and I’m asking any person that passes to help me. Finally someone knows the problem: “This is terminal one. You need terminal two.”

I now quickly sludge out the door with the hope of walking next door to terminal two. Wrong. Terminal two is actually in Spain, or at least it feels that way. I actually have to take a twenty-minute shuttle to terminal two that stops at every parking lot, bus stop and bike rack we pass. 8:30PM. I’m nervous.

I arrive at terminal two and decide to drag my bag while scurrying to baggage check, where an American attendant decides to lecture me on being on time rather than check my bag and give me a boarding pass. I stand there, no energy to argue.

Then it’s a dash (remember, my big bag is checked, so dashing is doable) to security, where I am stopped because of a water bottle in my backpack. Search time! Yeah! Meanwhile, they force me to put my laptop in a plastic bin WITHOUT its cover on, tossing it around like it’s a dodgeball or something. Um, can you please be careful with that, I’m thinking, but not saying. After all, I did try to bring mineral water on the plane…

9PM sharp and I’m walking on the plane, the second time in a week that this has happened. I’m seat 30A, which is nowhere near the front of the plane. In fact, it’s the very last row, and I don’t have any neighbors! The back of my seat is actually NAILED to the wall behind me and obviously does not recline. This time, however, I experience an airplane first: my row has NO WINDOW. Just a white wall. I was the only person on the plane in this situation, naturally.

We land in Paris, I grab my bag and try to follow the signs that lead to nowhere, attempting to get back to Paris. The subway ticket machine is (obviously) broken, so I am obliged to take the bus, which I don’t do. I just get on the subway. The pay-at-the-end machine (shockingly) doesn’t take US credit cards and is currently not accepting paper money, which leaves me trapped between the airport express train and the city of Paris, sludging along with a big backpack.

I eventually made it back to my crash pad, with total travel time at just over five hours. That’s how long the train takes from Nice to Paris…Hmm…

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