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.
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:
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!
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:
Look, my chicken has a red mustache.
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.
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).
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:
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