Craig Patik’s Blog

France Travelogue

This is a collection of every mundane detail of our trip to Paris on March 13/14-18, 2005, for future reference. There will not be any mention of what we did in Paris or anything fun at all.

Overview

We flew on United Airlines, coach class:

  • Albany [ALB] > Washington (Dulles) [IAD] _(322 miles, 1hr 35mn, seats assigned at booking)
  • Washington > Paris (Charles de Gaulle/Roissy) [CDG] (3845 miles, 7hr 20mn, seats assigned at booking)

Arrived early on the morning of the 14th

  • Paris > Chicago (O’Hare) [ORD] (4142 miles, 9hr 40mn, seats assigned upon check-in)
  • Chicago > Albany (715, 2hr 6mn, seats assigned at booking)

Arrived around 9pm the evening of the 18th

€1 = $1.33, or $1.50 in tourist areas

Albany Airport

The check-in was done by an automated touchscreen. I had to insert a major credit card to verify who I was and it automatically brought up my itinerary. Despite this, I still had to enter all of my info, including passport number, name, address, birthdate, etc. The interface was slow and you could not go back; I misspelled my middle name and had to start the entire process over again. This took way too long and seemed unreasonable as the computer clearly had all the information for my entire trip before I arrived. We got our boarding passes (for both flights) printed on cheap flimsy receipt paper. We checked one bag and each had a carry-on. We immediately moved to the metal detector/x-ray area. I had to show my passport first. People wearing non-sneakers had to take them off, and all items (coats, etc) passed through the x-ray. After this short venture we were free to peruse all of the shops/restaurants of the airport (even a meditation room) while waiting for the plane.

Flight to Dulles

We boarded an Embraer RJ145. The jet was tiny; only three seats wide with a very narrow aisle. Leg and elbow room was almost non-existant. People with full-size carry-on bags (such as mine) had to have them checked into the cargo of the plane to be picked up on arrival in Dulles. The flight was outsourced to a small regional company called Chautauqua. There was only one captain and one flight attendant, and I found them to be both very unprofessional and unconfident. I didn’t feel like they had a control on the situation, which was a loaded plane of cramped people and not enough room for baggage. They were having trouble getting the plane weight properly, so some of the checked carry-ons had to be put inside the cabin. The flight attendant threatened to kick people off the plane if we didn’t make room in the overhead bins. My bag was one of the ones to come into the cabin, so upon arrival I had to wait for the plane to empty before I could go look for it. No galley and therefore no drinks or snacks. The flight was uneventful, though the seatbelt sign was only off for about five minutes. Never use Chautauqua again.

Dulles

No additional security was required. We just walked to our new gate to wait for the next flight; it was pretty close and didn’t require a shuttle. Our checked bag was automatically routed to Paris. We had access to a lot of shops/restaurants. Boarding time was 45 minutes prior to scheduled take off.

Flight to CDG

Boeing 777, 9 seats across (2-5-2). There were monitors on the back of each headrest showing movies controlled by the crew (they paused it to make announcements, but we had no control other than volume and channel). There were 5-6 movies, each in English and French, as well as a couple TV stations. There was also a map ‘channel’ that cycled through altitude/time and a map in English and French and English and metric units. Headphones, pillow, and blanket were given, though the headphones were collected at the end. Armrests could not be pushed all the way up. The crew was very confident and professional, which put me at ease. Acceptable leg room, tolerable elbow room. Dinner was beef and tomato sauce with potatoes and peas. Drink selection was excellent and unlimited, alcohol was $5/€4 each. Breakfast was decently sized.

Charles de Gaulle

We were immediately sent to the baggage claim area. I called the shuttle while Kim waited for her bag. We then passed quickly through customs, getting our passports stamped and handing in an immigration card that we filled out on the plane. No intimidating questions like in 2000. No xrays or metal detectors. It took us some time to find the right gate for our shuttle because of the various levels of the building. We shared the minivan with another group of 4. Our Senegalese driver spoke good English as he darted cooly from lane to lane in the dense traffic. We got to our hotel in about an hour, being the last to get dropped off.

Gare du Nord and Chantilly

The metro dumped us directly into the station. Exchange rates were high. We went to an English-speaking counter and she very helpfully gave us a train schedule and left the return time unspecified. Tickets were €10 round trip. Our train left within 10 minutes and took about 25 minutes to get to Chantilly. It was smooth and there were only a couple people on each car. At the station in Chantilly there was a free bus to take us to the Chateau. On the way back it didn’t go to the station, and the driver had a hard time expressing this to us (most people in town didn’t speak much English). We had to get out and walk the last half-mile or so.

Metro

The metro is safe even up until closing time (12:30-1am). The longest wait time was 5 minutes at 6:45am; otherwise it was always under one minute. Much cleaner trains and less-sketchy people than in 2000. People openly carried shopping bags and iPods at all times without much concern. The recent addition of line numbers helped immensely.

Charles de Gaulle, again

We had another fast and daring (but calm and smooth) shuttle driver who got us to the airport in under an hour despite picking up another person. The line was pretty short to have our bag checked and to obtain our boarding passes for both return flights (real cardboard tickets this time). We walked through the shopping areas and eateries. The xrays and metal detectors were specific to our flights, right next to the gate. Once we passed through there was no more access to food or shopping. Boarding time was 40 minutes before departure.

Flight to O’Hare

Boeing 767-300, seating 2-3-2. We were in “Economy Plus” or something, and the leg room was excellent. Same monitors, pillow/blanket, headphones, etc. as flight to CDG. Different movie selection, but still accessed and controlled in the same manner. Armrests could not be pushed all the way up. We got two snacks (beginning and end) and lunch. It was a surprisingly comfortable flight with a professional crew. Landed in about 8 hours.

O’Hare

The first thing we did was walk what seemed like a mile. We had to pick up our checked luggage and re-check it. The line for U.S. citizens/residents wasn’t long, but it was for non-citizens. We had our passports stamped and handed in a statement to customs that was given out during the flight. We had to take a shuttle to another building to get to our next flight. There we and our carry-ons were rescanned. We were then free to peruse a very large shopping and eatery area, all accessible from our gate.

Flight to Albany

Boeing 737-300, seated 3-3. Two flight attendants; drinks and small snack. Headphones were left in the pouch and each middle seat had an old-looking phone that required a credit card to use. One of the audio channels was the transmission between the captain and the ground, which was available from taxi to taxi. Armrests completely disappeared between the seats; tolerable leg and elbow room. Nice view of the Illinois/Lake Michigan line soon after takeoff. Uneventful flight; landed 20-30 minutes early.


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