Summing Up (I’m Home) – Pt 1, Travel

The last week was exactly what I needed. Except I didn’t really know I needed it until I was there and in it. I only went online twice while I was there (other than a couple 5 min free wifi connections through the phone), and the second only for 30 minutes to upload an assignment. I did no homework. I did not have constant access to the Internet through my phone and the phone never rang once (because I turned it completely off). It was fantastic.

To prevent posts of excessive length, we will begin with the story of the travelling. It is the longest, it is the craziest, it was the most interesting and also probably the least favourite part of the trip…

My flight into Paris was on time. We arrived at terminal 3, which does not have the walk-on pathways that connect the plane to the terminal so one can just walk on and walk off easily. Instead, they do it regional aeroport style with the wheely stairs and then bus passengers over to the terminal building. I was on the third or fourth bus load and arrived at customs to at least 100 people already in line for the “All Other Travellers” section. Filed under things I do not understand is the fact that there were only two desks open for a flight of 400 people. One for EU residents, one for everyone else. Instantly, I became Dutch and was through customs in about five minutes. It both delights and concerns me that all they do with EU passports is open them, look at the name/picture, close it, hand it back, and say “Welcome.” They do not scan them, they do not put the number into the computer, they do not stamp them (I have been to Europe three times since I got my EU passport and it has not been stamped yet, so it is not just France), they just look at them and wave you by. That was the great part about the travelling…

Travel within France was a gong show. The full train fiasco getting from Paris to Beziers was just the beginning. Although it amused me greatly that the Rail France was completely adamant that the trains were all full, about 2 hours into the trip down, the train completely emptied. Apparently everyone gets off at Lyon. Add to that the train being late arriving in Paris and then experiencing a delay on the way down = interesting train trip number one.

For my return trip, which I had prudently booked before leaving Paris, things were no less entertaining. The plan was 1445 bus from Villeneuve to Beziers, 1609 regional TER train to Montpellier, 1831 fast TGV train to Paris. First glitch, 1445 bus was late. Late enough to cause me anxiety and send Bill running back to the boat for the taxi phone number. Second glitch, arriving at Beziers train station and failing to see my train number up on the display board. Because it was not there. Because there was a 24-hr strike (“greve”) on everything. Because when that happens, most of the TER trains do not run. A very nice man in a red train vest informed me of which TER I could take to hopefully get to Montpellier in time to catch my TGV and reassured me that my particular TGV was still scheduled to run. Unfortunately, all of the other trains were running late, so I spent 45 minutes praying that my new train would still run and be on time. It was.

I got to Montpellier only 15 minutes later than original plan, meaning that I still had just over an hour to wait there. I had thought to walk around Montpellier on my layover there, but anxiety level prevented that. Instead, I went to the McDonalds across the street from the station (remember: free wifi not dietary preference) and remembered that the pop at French McDonalds is the most expensive pop you will ever buy. I downloaded all my emails (50+), tweeted a bit, said a few hellos on Facebook and then proceeded back into the station to stare down the train display board, daring it to show my train late. It didn’t, my train arrived in the station and arrived on time. I got on. I breathed. I started to relax. Finally.

Arrival in Paris was shortly after 2300. Original plan had been to sleep somewhere in the airport overnight, dispite all warnings (though it was not as dirty as this site makes it seem, and I was never propositioned as I walked through the airport), but I decided that after the day I needed sleep. So I stayed in the least expensive airport hotel and showered and slept until my 0730 wake up to get breakfast, check in, and head through security.

Check in went according to plan; I was through quite quickly. My flight was not until 1100, but my travel agent had warned me that with Air Transat I needed to be there about three hours in advance because they do not offer online check in (read: long queues). I think others had a difficult time getting to the aeroport on time because of remnant trouble from the previous day’s greve. Boarding was to be at 0930 so I headed through security just before 0900 and again, a breeze. About half an hour later, I started to hear all sorts of shouting near the security gates. Investigation revealed that no one was coming through security and police with plastic riot shields were going out… I have no idea what was going on. All I can think is that it was something to do with the greve. Boarding did not begin until about 1030, I didn’t get on the plane until about 1100, our scheduled departure time, so we left about 45 minutes late. Apparently the air traffic controllers had been on strike the day before as well, meaning that there was still some confusion going on from that.

Flight = uneventful. Vancouver customs = simple. I became Canadian again and was first one through at my desk. Something Vancouver did right: having all ten customs desks opened and manned. No checked bags and nothing do declare meant I was out of the aeroport within fifteen minutes of deplaning. Then it was a ferry ride and home…

The rest of France to follow…

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One thought on “Summing Up (I’m Home) – Pt 1, Travel

  1. Pingback: Summing Up (I’m Home) – Pt 2, Highlights | gillian's island

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