Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Needs Paris?

It's the end of June. It shouldn't be freezing in Paris.

And yet, it was. That was my first indication that Paris is not all it's cracked up to be.

Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is undergoing a lot of construction. This is the place where one of the glass "tubes" collapsed last year and killed a few people. In the mean time, they take you from gate to concourse to gate on buses through the back of the airport. It could be really interesting, even in French, but it's not, and especially not on a cold, dark morning at the end of June. Really, it felt like being one of those post-apocalyptic movies, except they don't usually ride around on airport buses - they get cool motorcycles or old cars that miraculously run and there are cool explosions every so often.

Signage at CDG is non-existant. You get off the plane and have no idea where to go. The most obvious place, it seemed, was passport control, except that since I wasn't leaving the airport, that seemed not to be the place to go. On the otherside of the crush of people there was a small staircase that seemed to lead to the street. I had to ask three people where I was supposed to be going. There was not an immediate concensus (hence the third person).

I finally got to my gate. It was about 6:30am. I wanted to change my seat on the plane and waited 45 minutes to be told there was really nothing farther up (because I hate sitting in the back). But then, as the only ray of sunshine on a dark and cloudy morning, the clerk said the seven magic words that I had not expected to hear. "There's no one sittign next to you". That alone was worth 45 minutes and Row 42.

While I was waiting for my flight (delayed!), I noticed a lot of davening (praying) taking place. In addition to the two Jews putting on t'filin, there were also seven African men in robes and fancy hats who put down a prayer mat and started to pray. It was all pretty interesting.

When you are ready to board the flight, you take yet another long bus ride to get to the plane. A long ride, on a crowded bus with people who have already been flying for a few hours and haven't showered or brushed their teeth. You're dropped off on the tarmac facing a huge ramp leading up to the front door of the jumbo jet. Up close, those planes are huge. And the ramps are not escalators, but they should be.

Lastly, you know you're in trouble when get on the plane and it already smells. And in case you're wondering, it did NOT smell like fresh croissant.

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