It's 4am on Tuesday, July 27, 2016. My alarm just went off. I quietly slipped into the bathroom for a refresher shower closing the door so the dogs would hopefully stay asleep in their crates. Getting dressed I decided I needed to hug them, and let them pee since I would be walking right by their crates and I could see them watching me.
I moved my luggage out to the garage last night, but I know my older pup Punkita (Pumpkyn) knows something is up. I had brought it inside a month ago, for the same reason- to fool the dogs. I managed to get everything into a carry on bag plus a pushing-the-size-limits "personal item.
Luring the dogs back into their crates with a treat, I turned on the radio for them as I normally do when I am leaving the house, and closed the door into the house then opened the garage door to move outside and keep an eye out for the shuttle.
Great timing! It was already coming up the street so we were on the road by 4:30 headed for Lindbergh field. I was on a standby list to fly out to Chicago at 6:45am then on to CDG Paris. I got to the airport and had a Phil's BBQ shredded pork burrito for breakfast, then into Peet's for a latte wake up.
I had managed to get a reservation for lunch at the Michelin Star rated #25 restaurant in the world "Arpege" in Paris on Wednesday July 28th- so I had to get to Paris on the 27th to settle in and actually arrive for the reservation. They charge $200 euros for no show or cancellations - which increased my stress level in the San Diego airport and my need to be on my way to Europe (anywhere) on the 26th.
The airport was packed, and every United flight heading out was fully booked, and most overbooked. My decision to not check luggage, and to obtain a Global Entry pass got me into the TSA Precheck line, and quickly to the gates. By 5am, it was obvious that my free pass didn't get me close enough to actually board the 6 or 7 flights I booked, then cancelled as seats disappeared from the load and passholders with higher priority than me were doing the same thing on every single flight through 10 am. Around 10am I "bit the bullet" and paid for a first class seat on a flight to Houston- only 3 revenue seats were left, and the standby list showed I was #10. I still couldn't get to Chicago for my overseas flight- or to any of the other US airports that had flights to Paris today- so Houston seemed to be my best bet to get out of the US to somewhere relatively close to Paris, and then I'd have a day to figure out how to get to the city of lights from wherever I landed.
Of course with all the chaos at the airport, my online purchase was "in the queue" and I still didn't have a boarding pass as boarding began. But luck was with me and I got the OK a few minutes later and boarded. I was in the front row on the aisle seat. Right now I couldn't tell you a thing other than that since I was so stressed out changing my flights at least 10 times since arrival at the airport. My United.com app was full of boarding passes and reminder alerts for flights I had to cancel to try to get on another one where the odds were greater I would actually make it on the plane.
Well, maybe one or two more things. I did get a free glass of red wine at 11:00am once I was in my seat. The young girl next to me was talking on the phone or texting for the last 30-40 minutes before we took off. I also remember they fed us something, but it was forgettable. That same young girl had at least 5 more wines during the flight- which I probably might have done also if I was her age- but I needed my wits about me. A lady around my age put on her compression socks, which reminded me to do the same so my ankles upon arrival in Paris wouldn't look like I had elephantitis.
Once we got to Houston, it was easy. I was #8 on the standby list for Frankfurt and there were 6 first class seats and something like 18 business first class seats so I knew the odds looked great. My phone battery was pretty strained after the last few hours, so I found a plug high up on the wall, and spent my last hour on the ground entertaining everyone who passed and say me sitting with my phone in the air to keep the cord attached.
15 minutes before boarding I got by boarding pass, thanked my friend via text who has given me air priveleges by air this year, and I was first in the queue to board. Met a nice couple headed for Prague in line. Finally into the plane and into my large comfy padded Business 1st class seat that turns into a bed! The flight attendant got me a glass of wine, and a "Olympic tin can" full of amenities like toothbrush/paste, moisturizer, lip balm, socks, etc. I did manage to shove it in my carryon, but won't bring it home. Takes up too much room.
Just before we took off, my seat partner on the other side of the divider arrived and we chatted for a few minutes. Steve is the CEO of Rand McNally. He asked me if I knew who they were and I said "Maps" which was my only frame of reference. Steve has been with them for 3 years after other jobs at HP and Apple. He told me all about what they are doing now, and that they have products for long haul truckers and are developing noise cancelling earphones. I told him what my plan for this trip was and that I would be visiting friends from Clermont Ferrand I hadn't seen in 20 years. I explained I had met the husband on a flight between Sydney Australia and Noumea New Caledonia during my working residency in Sydnay 1989-94. He was a young man heading there to teach for a year as an alternative to mandatory service in the French military. We had exchanged contact info at the end of the flight, and then we parted ways- me on my way to a Club Med (lol) and he to his new job. A year or so later when he was headed back to France, he wrote that he was passing through Sydney. I picked him up and brought him back to the house I was living at in Lane Cove, and we went to a party with all of my girlfriends who adored him! Then he was off, and headed back to France.
Steve has never been to Australia but really wants to go. He showed me that whenever he can't sleep he listens to Bill Bryson's Sunburnt Country audio book to get to sleep. I encourage him to go, and told stories of my five year stay there and how much I loved it. I also mentioned to him the Map & Atlas Museum of LaJolla where the SD Press Club had an event a few years ago, and he is going to try to visit on his next business trip to San Diego. He also made a note to read "A Fortunate Life" by Fahey- that I recommended which is an awesome book about Aussies and Australia.
When my working visa was up in Australia, I decided to use up all of my savings and travel for 4 months. I bought a "round the world" air ticket and took off. Before I left however, I knew I was going to England and France for sure, so I wrote to this young French guy and said, hey I'm passing through on my way to Spain- would be fun to catch up. He responded letting me know he was now married, but "come on down". When I arrived in Clermont Ferrand in 1994 I had an amazing time with Didier and Anne, her sister, their friends and I was there I think for maybe two weeks. They took me all over and I had so much fun and met so many people.
Over the years since, we lost touch, but I reconnected through facebook with Anne a few years ago, and Didier & Anne invited me to join them on their holidays this year. I was overwhelmed that they extended this invitation, and decided to take them up on the invite. They gave me the choice how long I would stay- from one to six weeks, and I told them I would come for two weeks. I am old enough to know that was long enough to catch up and still be welcome. They said we would meet in Lyon and stay at a relative's home for a few days, then to their country home, and eventually to their home in Clermont Ferrand. A few days before I flew out however, they added two nights in a 2 bedroom apartment in a castle through airbnb near Chateau de Chambord! I said "oh yeah!" and so we have added this to the trip.
Finally arrived at Charles de Gaulle around 2pm Paris time. Stopped to buy and install a sim card in my phone and text my friends I was in the country, and Arpege confirming my lunch reservation. Got my ticket and on the train to the city, getting off at Gare du Nord. Of course, being really tired didn't help and I walked up and down stairs hauling my very heavy carry on and my personal bag, and couldn't find the exit for at least 15 minutes. Eek, was I tired or what. Made my way to the taxi rank, texted my airbnb host, and relaxed for the 10 minutes it took to get a cab, and the 10 minutes to the airbnb.
After checking in, I let all my friends at home, including my dog sitter, and got organized. Around 5pm I finally took a shower, changed my clothes and went to the supermarket next door and looked at my choices for some food- deciding on chocolate pudding and raisin bread since I had been eating constantly during travel and wasn't really hungry. I crashed out by 8:30 after screwing up the cable TV in the airbnb so I get no reception, and finally accessing the wifi here. I was just brain dead and needed rest.
Woke at 3:30am EU time, but laid quietly till around 4:30. Decided to get up and write about my trip so far before I lose more of the details. This morning I'll make a nespresso in a few minutes, and make reservations for the train to Lyon on Sunday so I can let my friends know when I will arrive to meet them. I'll get dressed and face the day- after figuring out how to get to the restaurant by 12:30 for lunch and head out for breakfast, and maybe the Bastille Market before I head for lunch. After lunch I may check out the Marais neighborhood. I got some great tips from San Diego's own Catt White via email yesterday, and I'm going to try to fit them in around my planned activities in the city.