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The Plane Without a Destination

Ever been up in the air and not know where you are going? Well I was in that state this weekend.

I was quite excited this weekend.  It was going to be my first true weekend excursion since arriving in the Côte d’Azur.  I had a dear and close friend of mine coming into Paris for his birthday weekend.  He had asked me to come see him but I publicly declined the offer.  Yet secretly I bought an Air France ticket to Paris in order to surprise him.  I can’t fully explain the feeling of having Paris so close.  It is similar to going to Pittsburgh from Philly back in the States.  There is a low-cost airline, Easy Jet, that does Paris-Nice route keeping the price of the tickets low and affordable.  The route isn’t long as you are in Paris in little over an hour.  Consequently doing a weekend run of leaving Friday night and returning Sunday evening is very feasible.  Paris truly has something in the air that energizes you and I believe I so needed this escape to be re-energized.

Within this oasis is a little dirty water. The strikes on the retirement reform in this country are still occurring.  The unions have demanded for continuous and sporadic striking instead of just one unified day of it.  I felt the sting of a French strike on my Friday night flight to Paris.

 

New meaning to an open-ended ticket . . .

New meaning to an open-ended ticket . . .

 

I got home from work, quickly changed clothes, hoped the #23 bus and zoomed to the airport full of an adrenaline rush.  Once I reach Terminal 2 of the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, I went straight for the security line as I had already printed my boarding pass at work.  Paris was so much on my mind that it did not register that the ticketing lines were abnormally long for a Friday evening.  I was too excited to be surprising my friend in a few hours.  After getting through security (which is breeze compared to what American airports demand of you) I looked at the monitor for my gate number.  The keyword annulé was all over the place followed by the word en retard.  The air traffic controllers in Paris were at it again and not letting anyone land in the airports.  Flights were either cancelled or delayed.  I lucked out because my flight was still scheduled to leave as the vast majority of the Paris bound passengers needed to be rerouted, hence why the ticketing lines outside were so long.  My plane was scheduled to leave at 8:00 p.m. sharp but was listed not to leave till 9:25 to then only get delayed further to 10:10.  Sitting there at the airport eating my vacuum sealed chicken rôti sandwich, my spirits were slightly dampened.  It was clear that I would not see my friend to surprise him that night.  My presence to him will have to be postponed to the following morning.  Not the end of the world.

Finally, 10:10 approaches and everyone is hovering around the gate in order to make this flight happen.  Then right as the attendant announces boarding for the flight, she makes it clear we are going to Charles de Gaulle.  Everyone paused with a slight expression of being dumbfounded.  Our boarding passes clearly state Paris Orly, the other Parisian airport.  It was clear if we wanted to get to Paris tonight, we had to adjust and go to CDG, Orly wasn’t taking any more planes.  sigh.  Well, okay let’s go!  It was amazing of the French reaction to all this disruption – they were surprisingly cool and calm about it.  They weren’t happy but they weren’t viscerally agitated either.  These strikes are supported in theory by the majority of the population but the French are smart enough to recognize that something needs to be done.  Everyone is taking this moment in French history in stride.  We board the plane and the pilot promptly reminded everyone to be respectful to the staff because they weren’t the ones on strike.  In any case, shortly after take-off the pilot makes another announcement that we are now back on route to Orly, a change in direction.  Several passengers applauded.  In the midst of distributing beverages among the cabin, the pilot came back over the intercom and concluded that we are rerouted back to CDG, not Orly.  It wasn’t till the beginning of our descend that pilot announced with conviction that we will be arriving in Orly as scheduled.  Again, more applause.  In spite of my record of traveling sagas, I have never been on a place that did not know where it was going like this one.  Finally I was curbside and hailing a taxi at 12:30 a.m., 3 hours overdue.

To make this epic a short story, the rest of the weekend was terrific!  I surprised one friend, saw another old friend, dined with new friends and said rebonjour to my friend Paris.  Surprisingly my flight back to Nice was uneventful.  I am home safe and sound and still smiling.

So when is this strike going to end? I am not sure but the big talk everywhere is the potential fuel storage.  The unions have taken French refineries hostage and the French police are having to get involved to release the trucks.  The CDG airport claims it only has enough fuel for the planes through the end of this week.  The Orly airport is in better shape projecting it has enough to last several more weeks.  If you want further information I encourage you to check out Michael Barrett’s blog for the informative BBC article in English.

So tonight I will sleep in my bed still smiling. You could say it is because of seeing wonderful friends.  You could say it is because of Paris.  You could say it is because of good food and wine.  But you are better of saying it is because I will be getting in a car tomorrow where I am in full control of my destination . . . with a full tank of petrol!

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Categories: Everyday Life, Travels
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