Note: I’ve already posted some of the aviation pictures I took from this trip, but I thought it might be a good idea to write a full trip report as well. So here goes:
It had been coming up on three long years since I had last been in Europe. Yes, I had plans to get back over there during that time, but there was always an excuse that popped up and got in the way. So, on September 10, 2001, I decided to quit the excuses and just book a trip. I was so happy when I did it. I went to bed a happy man, glowing with glee that I had some international travel coming up in my future. Then, the next morning, all hell broke loose. September 11 changed things, and I was almost thinking about canceling the trip due to all the chaos and confusion. After a few days of cooling off, I decided that there was NO WAY I would cancel. No damn terrorist is going to stop me from doing what I love.
Here’s the full itinerary:
12/22/01 Delta Connection economy class South Bend to Atlanta – CRJ-200
12/22/01 Delta Airlines economy class Atlanta to Paris – MD-11
12/25/01 Delta Airlines economy class Paris to Atlanta – 777-200
12/25/01 Delta Connection economy class Atlanta to South Bend – CRJ-200
The months went by in a flash, and I found myself packing for the trip. I had actually worked myself up into such excitement that I began to worry about catching a cold and being too sick to travel. I had waited three years for this, and the pessimist in me knew I was doomed. The fear was so intense that I was actually starting to get sick a couple days before the trip. Nothing serious, just a sore throat and a mild cough. “Screw it” I said, as it would have taken a lot for me not to travel. Funny how I started feeling better right away…
The morning of December 22 came and I couldn’t wait to get out the door. I had an early afternoon flight out of SBN (South Bend, IN), so I had plenty of time to get my things together and enjoy the pre-departure feeling of, “oh yea, I’m going to PARIS today”. It sure felt good, but I was too anxious to get to the airport.
Checking in for a big international flight is the best part things about travel IMHO. I was feeling pretty smug checking in at a small po-dunk airport in the middle of small town USA headed for a global hotspot – and I had to wonder if I made the ticket counter agent jealous. Actually, it appeared that she couldn’t have cared less! Oh well. I was on my way to Europe again after nearly three years, and that’s all I really cared about anyway. Typical me, I arrived way too early, and I found myself sitting around waiting as usual. I eventually found myself on a flight down to ATL, seated next to a very outgoing man on his way to Daytona Beach with his family who turned out to be a really nice guy. It’s just too much fun telling people “I’m headed to Paris” when they ask where I’m headed. Yeah, like I said…I was feeling smug!
I arrived in ATL with a couple hours before the run to CDG, and it was a very good feeling to walk up and down the international concourse. Flights to my left and right to places like MXP, LGW, FRA, AMS, BRU, etc…an awesome sight for someone full of wanderlust like me.
Boarding began right on time, and I found myself in a bulkhead aisle next to a man who I thought was French (his English was weak). I found out later in the flight that he didn’t even speak French, so I’m not sure what nationality he was. Anyway, it was a long 9 hour flight, and I didn’t really get excited until the sun came up and I was looking down on London. That feeling of “wow…I am a long way from home…” came over me, and I loved it. After a quick meal service, we made an on-time arrival at CDG.
Arrival in Paris
The weather, which was supposed to be cloudy and rainy, was actually beautiful and sunny. I was even thinking of doing a little aviation photography maybe. By the time I got off the plane, those thoughts were quickly faded, as gosh darn it, I was in Paris. No way was I going to waste my time in the airport taking pictures of airplanes! A quick blast through customs (the agent didn’t even stamp my passport) and it was time to find some water. I was very thirsty. I stopped at a little Pizza Hut and pointed my way to a bottle of water, but the cashier instantly took me for an American and started talking in English. Hrmph.
Within the hour, I was on a train into central Paris. I never really was quite sure if I was on the right train, as even 45 minutes into the ride, it still looked like we were in the middle of nowhere. I quickly started getting worried when I noticed that my stop was coming up and we were still way out in the suburbs. Or so it seemed. Paris suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and I got off the train and out of the metro station. A quick walk up some steps, zipping up my jacket and donning the gloves, and then it hit me I was in Paris! And yes, it was cold. I walked only 15 feet before muttering something along the lines of “okay, this cold weather sucks”. Luckily there were lots of little tourist shops in the immediate area, and I quickly bought a hat. I felt much better after that.
I quickly found my hotel, and check in was a breeze. By the time I got to my room, I started having thoughts about my first trip to Europe back in 1997. You know…those buzzy scooters down on the street…it instantly took me back to my trip to Spain. But anyway, I had a lot I wanted to see so there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of time for nostalgia at that time. First up, the Eiffel Tower! I was tired, but there was no way I was going to sleep the first day away like I did in Amsterdam. “Stay awake, buddy”, I muttered to myself as I got my stuff together and walked out the door.
It was a very long walk that afternoon. The maps made absolutely no sense to me, and the fact that it was cold and I was very hungry didn’t help things. I quickly took care of the hunger part, stopping at a little café to get a sandwich and orange juice to go. That got my spirits up, and I soon found myself standing in line to get to the top of the tower. What a view. It was brutally cold, but the sun was out and I could see for miles. I actually ended up staying up top for a couple hours. I took a lots of pictures, and felt happy to be there. I wasn’t really looking forward to leaving, as it was getting colder, and my feet were killing me.
I really didn’t have a plan for how to spend the rest of the late afternoon and evening, but in the end, it took me a couple hours to walk back to my hotel. I stopped off at a little café for some pizza and orange juice, and began the long walk back to my hotel. It was a beautiful walk, through the heart of the city, just as it was coming alive – all spoiled by the fact that I needed to use the bathroom really bad and I couldn’t find my hotel. I was getting downright frustrated, so it’s no surprise how happy I became once I figured out where I was. Back in the hotel room, I drank a few from the mini-bar, watched some French TV for a couple hours, and then crashed. I slept like a baby that night.
Day 2: seeing the sights
Christmas Eve morning greeted me with the buzzing scooters on the streets below and cloudy skies. I was in the hotel restaurant by 9:30ish – and out by 10am. The plan for the day? The Louvre! Again, another big landmark that was not so easy to find. I felt really good once I found it and was inside though – it had become very cold during my walk. I ended up spending about two hours inside.
I saw the Mona Lisa, and then everything else seemed so insignificant after that! After losing interest in walking around the museum, I decided to take a train to CDG for lunch – okay, yea, boring for some, but hey. I like airplanes so why not? The sad thing was that I ended up going all that way for…McDonalds. There were a couple nice restaurants in there, but I just didn’t have the energy for the language thing since my French is not very good. With McDonalds, I could just point and gesture my way through the order. Turned out that even the folks behind the counter there spoke English. Sheesh. We Americans are a dumb society.
The rest of the day was filled with more long walks, a trip to the Arc de Triomphe, and one of the most memorable walks of my life back to my hotel that evening.
It was Christmas Eve, and the city was SO alive with people. As cold and tired as I was, I just wanted to stay out and enjoy the atmosphere. But, my feet got the best of me, and I soon found myself back in my hotel and into bed.
Day 3: time to go home
I was up bright and early Christmas morning for the Flight back to ATL, and I was actually a little worried that the metro wouldn’t be running so early on Christmas morning. It was, which made me feel much better, and I was quickly back on my way to CDG. After a 10-minute delay at a station just out of town, we made it to the airport within the hour. That little delay scared me for a minute or two. Sure, I was in a rather large metro station, but I had to wonder. Why was the train stopped? Was I on the wrong train? Does the train I was on NOT go to CDG? Eventually, it all worked out in the end, and here I am. Writing about my trip to Paris.
There were several notable things about the flights home: First, I was moved to the bulkhead row by the flight attendant on the 777 to Atlanta because of a family that needed to sit together in the row I was in. I didn’t mind the move at all – but the flight attendant seemed very apologetic for it and presented me with a full bottle of champagne as we were deboarding in Atlanta. Wow!
Second, my flight from Atlanta to South Bend was on one of the special-livery Delta Connection CRJ-200’s featuring the Blue Bonnet colors. Cool, eh?
I wanna go back. Only next time, it will be in the Spring or Summer!