Friday, February 6, 2009

There and back again.

Our trip to Spain began in Salt Lake City, Utah. Delta, in partnership with Air France, has direct flights to Paris. The flight out was long, with hard bumpy jolts. The winter weather is rough, with a ton of turbulence. The flight was almost empty, and we had a middle row to ourselves. The food was passable, although you cannot order a non-nightshade meal; we got lucky and one of the entrees was edible for us. Hint: pack power bars. The screens were up above and the earbuds were free. Hint: bring your own. The free ones hurt my ears to no end, and you can get an adapter if you ask. Between movies and TV shows and advertisements, the GPS tracking was up; we had a tailwind of over 200 mph. We got to Paris early.

We made a three point landing under cloudy skies. At Charles De Gualle, they do not taxi the plane up to a breezeway. You deplane down wet steps, in a cold wind, and get on a bus. It seems as though they drive forever, crossing runways, circling the terminal. Finding immigration wasn't too bad, and if we cleared customs, I did not notice. There are not many signs; I read French enough I would have spotted them. Immigration was empty, we were about the only passengers transiting. They barely glanced at my passport and only stamped Larry's. Head of hosuehold or some such. We were at the top of the escalator when the guard called us back. What? We had that moment of panic, but it was alright. They were simply curious about Larry's full beard, and wanted to know if he were Amish.

We wandered into the airport and found a place to change our dollars. Next hint: change only a minimal amount at Charles De Gualle, and do not use the American Express kiosk. We managed to find the worst rate and a fee on top of that. Change enough to get by until you hit Madrid. We finally found our gate after a long trek and another pass through security. It is much the same as security in the States. We marvelled at the airport prices, ouch. Saw a designer baby sweater on sale for Eu90. What's that? $120?

Our gate was tucked a level below the nice gates on the concourse level. A cold little room with hard seats and $2 bottles of water in a machine. I felt like we were in some type of ghetto. I'd planned plenty of time between flights, it was January after all. We tried to nap, but it wasn't happening. We were the only ones down there for quite a while, until a lovely young woman from Lebanon came and sat near us. She was headed for Nice, to study and work on her PhD in advanced mathematics and special mechanics. Or the other way around. She spoke English, French and Arabic and shared a very delicious chocolate wafer sweet from Lebanon with us. Hot and smart and kind. I could see the papers she was studying, wow, just like the white boards on big bang theory.

Eventually it was time to board the bus, they double-checked our boarding passes and passports. Out to a plane in the rain and up the wet steps. The flight to Madrid was not full. The attendents were lovely and stylish, as was every gate attendent in the terminal. I felt overfed and under-dressed. I was greeted in German repeatedly, I guess I look more German than American! The lemon cookies we were served with our beverages were yummy; the coffe was instant Nescafe. That'll make you sit up and whistle Dixie! More turbulence, and clouds below, the landing in Madrid was rough too. At least it was notably warmer.

Next stop: the Madrid airport, domestic flights, smoking rooms, and renting a car in Malaga.


archersangel said...

very interesting trip so far. i've never been outside of the u.s.

Tess said...

Tee-hee, I love the part where they asked Larry if he was amish :)