Not Martha

My Vacation Slides: Paris Day 11, sunshine and airplanes

Sun shining on the buildings across the street

The next morning it was beautiful. The sun was glorious, the temperature was perfect, everybody was happy. And of course we were off to the airport by 9 a.m. Figures.

my feet on the tiled floor of Charles de Gaulle

We got to the airport too early, the ticket counter wasn’t even open yet. We couldn’t even find it. Turns out, the airlines share counters and so there wasn’t a sign. Instead it shows up on the monitors when the check in gates open. (More of what we learned at Charles du Gaulle below.)

We flew Iceland Air because they were having a special to introduce their nonstop flights in and out of Seattle. It’s about 3 hours from Paris to Iceland, then 7 hours from Iceland to Seattle. It’s a long haul but wasn’t nearly as bad as what I was prepared for. And I think 7 hours on a plane is about my limit so I actually appreciated having that change.

The Iceland airport is small, we never saw it with all the shops open, but they do sell mini bottles of booze at the snack bar. I got some candy as well:

Icelandic candies

Here I have two sorts of menthol licorice, one regular licorice, one salted licorice and, just behind the potato chips, a chocolate egg that rattled pleasingly when I shook it. Inside were two caramels, two menthol licorice pieces and a small fortune written in Icelandic, and which I sadly lost!

broken ice floating on waters, as seen from the plane

Flying back we stayed inside sunshine the whole way, it was far easier to stay awake. We saw a lot of broken ice floating on water below us.

Remember that website that did nothing but collect pictures of airline meals from all over the world? What was that? Is it still around? We got these cold chicken meals:

Iceland Air meal, wrapped

Iceland Air meal, unwrapped

Look, my chicken has a red mustache.

Iceland Air teeny tiny dessert

The tiny dessert was cherry mousse with chocolate shavings.

Later they handed out customs forms on the plane and I dutifully filled them out, adding up my receipts from Muji carefully.

Airline survey saying that no survey was currently running. Agree? Disagree?

Having the movies and tv shows on the screen in front of me was great, but I also loved poking around and finding this Survey. I disagreed.

We landed mid-day in Seattle but had been awake for about 20 hours. And it wasn’t until we’d collected our luggage, insisted to customs several times that, no, we didn’t have chocolate in our bags, made it all the way home and were sleepily unpacking that I noticed I’d left my wallet on the plane. Oy. After much effort on my part I had it back (minus $100, ouch).

peanuts offered at the burger place, it seemed a bit excessive, but fun

We went out for big burgers to make me feel a bit better.

Stuff learned the hard way

Charles De Gaulle airport: The airport is a headache, and I only saw one terminal, but here is what I learned. It’s not worth it necessarily to turn up three hours early. Our check in counter didn’t even open until two hours before the flight. As such when we arrived and figured out what was happening we looked around and thought maybe we were going to have to wait in the hallway. I broke off to explore and found that the terminal we were in was a big round building and an exterior hallway, then a circle of check in desks, and an interior ring of seating and a (glorious discovery!) Starbucks. It wasn’t obvious that the seating and food was back there, I’m glad I checked so that we didn’t end up standing in the hallway for an hour.

After we checked in, we were able to go up one of the hamster tubes, then through security screening to wait outside our gate. This was great because our security screening was fairly quick as it only concerned a few gates. Until I figured out that the only ladies room was on the outside side of the security screening and had to take my ticket and passport and then wait in the security line all over again. There was, confusingly, a cafe on the inside of the gate. Tea and sandwiches? Yes. Wash your hands? No.

There was also a spot for charging devices where, and I wish I had taken a picture of this, several Mac products were plugged in.

Apparently you can take the RER to get to the airport, but I think there is a transfer to a bus at the end and we had too much luggage to make it work out without much trouble. So we used a car service, which I think was worth it. update: Kate reports in the comments that there is a train that goes to Charles de Gaulle which you can transfer to from the Metro or RER. And Karen reports that you can take the RER straight to the airport from Gare du Nord. Kate also reports that long lines at Charles de Gaulle can thwart even your earliest arrivals.

Leaving something important on the plane: I left my wallet on the plane. I’m an idiot, and I know it. But I learned a lot during the process of trying to get it back. Once I realized it was missing only a few hours had passed but that was enough for our airline to wave bye-bye to the very last passengers and pack it up for the day. The airport lost and found office was closed after business hours, but they had little paper slips where I could fill out details. The baggage handling that my airline contracted out to didn’t have a customer service office (though some really kind people in the Delta office went through a whole lot of trouble trying to track down the name of the company).

The next day I went back to the airport (it’s close enough to where we live and I’d rather talk to a human in person than fumble around on the phone). The people at the gate were sympathetic but reported that there had been no found items reported. The lost and found office said the same, but had already opened a case number for the report I’d left in the box the night before. The baggage service point of contact was just as non-existent as the night before. But, later that day the people at the airline desk phoned to let me know the wallet had been found. They double checked with the baggage people who were all “come to think of it, something was found last night”. I’d like to think showing up in person and being very polite helped prompt the double checking.

So, I returned to the airport, got my wallet, chatted with the front desk people, and made it half way back to my car before I notice that $100 was missing from the wallet. Duh. Pro tip: check the contents of the wallet before walking away from the nice people who can help. The front desk people had already closed up by the time I walked back (I think they stayed open late for me). So I sent emails, and while I got responses from companies, I am still going to have to call it a $100 lesson.

But you know what I’d done earlier in the trip that turned out to be smart? I gave Scott half of my cash to carry, just in case. So it could have been a $200 lesson.

One last note, when I returned to the check in desk there was a huge pile of skis, poles, flags and those big screws that use to attach the flags to the hill, and a few official sports manager types standing over it all. Do you think we were seeing the Iceland ski team heading home from the Olympics? I’d like to think so.

Another picture of Paris in the sunshine before I go:

sunlight bouncing off rooftop apartments


Previously: Day One arrival and beating jet lag; Day Two big impressive monuments, unexpected meetings, needing to pee; Day Three The Metro, a museum, and French onion soup; Day Four dogs in paintings, startlingly large arches and towers; Day Five pastries and scoldings; Day Five the bit about the mangosteens; Day Six trains and vegetables; Day Seven, Ye Olde-est Pub in England and a giant space suit; Day Eight rain gods and cake for elevenses; Day Nine accordions and chestnuts; Day Ten McMacarons and not going to Versailles

· comments [21] · 03-30-2010 · categories:travel ·

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Karen // Mar 30, 2010 at 5:41 am

    You can take the RER from Gare du Nord straight to CDG. The only thing to keep in mind is that its a commuter train, so if you have a lot of luggage, its going to be a problem when the train starts filling up. But its cheap and direct!

  • 2 Steffy // Mar 30, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Were you also carrying cards in your wallet, or just cash that got stolen? It always surprises me when I hear stories about wallets and/or purses being recovered but the money being gone, it amazes me people don’t just take the whole thing!

    When I was at the Mexico City airport once, I walked away from my camera bag. We rushed back to the waiting area, and much to my surprise, someone had turned it in to the lost and found. So you never know! But yes, never ever walk away from your stuff!

  • 3 Kate F. // Mar 30, 2010 at 6:24 am

    For future reference, I don’t remember ever taking a bus to the RER from the airport… I always take the train, since it’s so cheap and quite fast. If you’re staying in the Marais again in the future, you can hop off the RER at a stop right by the Seine, across from Notre Dame. Last time I was there the apartment was about a block and a half away; crazy convenient! Plus no worries about being stuck in traffic.

    Charles de Gaulle is my least favorite airport in the universe. We once almost missed our flight DESPITE being there three hours early, because the lines were so insane and unorganized. I love France, I love the French, and I’m even one of those freaks who doesn’t hasn’t had any problems with Parisians, but that airport…

  • 4 Kate // Mar 30, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Is that a picture from Five Guys?? I love Five Guys!

  • 5 Megan // Mar 30, 2010 at 7:55 am

    What a bummer about the wallet – but at least you don’t have the headache of replacing all your cards and ID. I love the photo of the Icelandic snack food. Did you know what was inside all the boxes or were they surprises?

  • 6 megan // Mar 30, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Megan – The candy was a surprise, though I mostly expected them to be licorice.

    Kate – Yup. I had never heard of it but we found it while running errands. Fun place.

  • 7 Natalie Mikolajczak // Mar 30, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Ah man. I’m so bummed your trip stories are over. I was loving hearing about Paris.

  • 8 Jinxie // Mar 30, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Oh lordy, I feel your pain with the wallet thing. I did that a few years ago coming back from Ireland, flying home to SF. I had a layover in Chicago where I not only changed planes, but changed airlines, and didn’t realize until I was clear on the other side of the airport that I’d left my wallet behind on the Ireland-Chicago plane. To make matters worse, I was traveling alone. EVERYTHING was in my wallet: cash, id, credit cards, BART card for getting home from the airport. Luckily I had my passport and my boarding pass in a pocket on my carry on, so didn’t lose them, and could still get on the plane. One awesome, heart-warming moment that came from this: I was “rescued” by a kind stranger who overheard me sobbing on the phone to my parents (wh0 live on the other side of the country from where I do, so couldn’t help me out). This man comes up, says he couldn’t help but overhear and he wouldn’t be able to rest that night knowing I was in so stuck. He handed me $100 cash and his business card, and told me if I could pay him back someday, great, and if not that’s fine too. Amazing, right? That guy totally saved my ass. (And I did send him a check and a thank you card as soon as I was settled back at home.)
    I did get my wallet back after MANY calls to both airline and airport staff (and I too got the “well, we swear it wasn’t there the FIRST time we looked but oh, it magically appeared, right where you said it would be, in the very spot we had ALREADY looked, immediately after you got our manager involved in the search!”), with all cards intact but all the cash gone. Sadly I learned an even more expensive lesson than you did, as I’d been given a hefty monetary present by the auntie I’d gone to Ireland to visit. [sigh] Lesson learned!

  • 9 megan // Mar 30, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Jinxie – Oh boy, what a pain. I’m glad you got your wallet back and feel your pain over the loss of the money involved.

  • 10 Sarah // Mar 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

    When we went to Paris, we took the RER from CDG to the Luxembourg stop and walked three blocks to our hotel with luggage in tow. It was easy and cheap and a great way to wake up.

    We intended to do the same on our return but a transit strike started the night before our departure so we had to take a taxi. The taxi was spendy and we got stuck in terrible commute time + transit strike traffic. And the line at the airport was terrible.

    Anyway, taking the RER didn’t involve any shuttles or transfers for us.

  • 11 kellee // Mar 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Hey Megan, I’ve loved your Paris series – what a generous idea to give really useful, well-thought-out tips for anyone wishing to visit. And your photos have been really gorgeous, as always. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Paris (despite living 2 hours away, on the south coast of England). I should print out your posts into a booklet and use them as a proposal to my other half…

    Thanks again for your brilliant blog.

  • 12 pam // Mar 30, 2010 at 10:24 am

    ACK! yes, the CDG airport is um…interesting. I made the same discovery about the restrooms being outside of the security area once you get to the gate. I found the whole airport entirely confusing.

  • 13 Susan // Mar 30, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I agree that CDG has to be the worst airport in the world! Glad you got your wallet back, but keep a close eye on the charges to your credit card. Sometimes people just copy the numbers & don’t take the cards – they can use them online easily. It happened to me last year.

  • 14 megan // Mar 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Susan – Thanks for the warning, I’m keeping an eye on it. And them I’m going to permanently attach my wallet to my body the next time I travel.

  • 15 Beth Rang // Mar 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I’ve really enjoyed your trip report. I’m curious though about why customs was so concerned about whether or not you were bringing chocolate into the country. I thought meat and unpasteurized cheeses were the things they were concerned with.

  • 16 Tiffanie // Mar 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    You’re posts about your trip have been a treat. My feet don’t hurt, but I feel like I’ve been there and back. Marvelous!

  • 17 Sigga // Mar 30, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Just got back from Iceland this evening (my native country) and it was so difficult to choose what candy to bring back, absolutely love love the green Ópal!

  • 18 Miss B // Mar 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Ugh, yes, CDG is my least favorite airport ever. Total nightmare. I do all of my to-Europe flying through Amsterdam, now, if I can possibly manage it (which is Such A Logical airport, even if security can get a bit involved and the coffee is horrible).

    I am surprised you had to do so much insisting to Customs about the lack of chocolate. I always bring a ton of chocolate/tea/cookies/similar packaged food items back with me, for myself and as gifts, whenever I’m overseas, and I have never been seriously questioned about it. The most anyone has ever asked is “Do you have food in your bags?” and I always just say “Nothing perishable.” and then they give me a very bored wave through the doors. (The humorless security guy in Geneva last May did confiscate my nail file, though. I’m still kind of dumbfounded by that.)

    Also, I’m very pleased to know that Iceland is all about the licorice — I’m planning to go in August, for my birthday (when I will be so so so tired of summer) and that gives me one more thing to look forward to!

  • 19 regan // Mar 31, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I know it’s late for advice, but I found out that it’s easiest if everyone fills out their own customs forms. Jparks and I filled out one together and then he had passport issues and was detained. Because we shared a customs form I was detained too. After a 14 hour flight and a small layover window to our connecting flight I had a total meltdown in the office and that helped expedite things. The officers made a point of telling me to fill out individual forms next time and I would be able to pass through while jparks is held for questions. (ha!) It might seem cruel to leave him but I really just want to get home to a shower after international flights.

  • 20 freecia // Apr 7, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Glad you got your wallet back! $100 isn’t a bad price for the lesson.

    Often I think of left objects on a plane as permanently missing. It is really demoralizing to chase your nice stuff (laptop, keys, SLR camera) across the world and wonder who has it now… And often it does not come back.
    My rule of thumb these days is all carry-ons must zip shut so stuff doesn’t fall out and pockets must also be closed during the flight. And just my observation that LAX tends to be a black hole for my stuff, so I tend to keep everything where I packed it except for possibly a magazine/book ‘lest I forget/misplace/lose yet another valuable item while going through. Mostly LAX though. Don’t know what it is about that specific location.

  • 21 Beti // Mar 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Thank you for the brilliant recap. The Stuff I Learned The Hard Way section is especially helpful.

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