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Paris Arrival

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Hotel Lancaster

It’s a little before 8:00 AM local time here in Paris, Tuesday morning, and we arrived at the hotel an hour ago. So far so good.

Yesterday, in the few hours we had on Long Island before it was time to head back to JFK, we did some family-related things. We hit the road at 3:00 PM. Let’s see. That’s just 12 hours ago. (France went off daylight savings two days ago, so for this week there’s only a five-hour difference between eastern time and the time here in France.) Got to JFK, returned the rental car, took the AirTrain to the United/British Air terminal, checked in, went through security, and had two hours until our flight time. We took Open Skies, at my sister’s suggestion. She has taken this route in her recent trips to New York. It does only one thing — flies the Paris-New York route — with three flights a day between Orly and JFK/Newark. It’s kind of a discount business class service, much much cheaper than business class would be on, say, Delta. And as we found, it’s not quite the level of service or comfort that we remember getting on Delta in their business elite or United in business. It’s plenty good, but the business seats are more like what you’d find in a first class section of a domestic flight. Which is to say, they’re wider than coach, and the space between the seat in front and your seat is more than in coach, though not much more than we had on JetBlue on our flight two days ago. The seats do recline a lot more, with a leg rest coming up. And since it’s an old plane with the old video screens in the ceiling over the aisle rather than the personal video service you get on the major airlines (even in coach sometimes), they hand out handheld video players. Plus, you get a hot dinner. We had a pate with fig, chicken breast slices in mashed potato, rolls, a little plate with three grapes and some brie, a wee bottle of salad dressing whose purpose I couldn’t figure out, and a parfait sort of dessert. And drinks. Wine, beer, after-dinner drinks, etc. When the trays were taken away, each of us was given a little box with two chocolate truffles in it.

There’s also a premier class on the plane, a small section in front. Our “biz” class seats occupied what would ordinarily be coach. The premier class people had special seats that lie flat to make a bed, plus linens. Back in biz class, it was pretty empty. Maybe there were 10 of us, or 12. We were all in the first five rows, beyond which were rows and rows of empty seats. Soon after takeoff, I headed back a few rows so both Gail and I could have a pair of seats to ourselves and so when the person in front of me decided to go to sleep, his seat wouldn’t be lying just over my legs.

The odd thing about taking off at 6:00 PM, rather than 8:00 or 9:00, is that we landed in darkness. At about 4:35 AM Paris time, they started serving breakfast — yogurt, croissant or roll, coffee or tea, juice. Once they cleaned up, I moved forward to my original seat by Gail and looked out the window as we came over Brittany and on into Paris. We landed about a half hour early, 6:00 AM. We taxied for 10 minutes, got off onto an old-fashioned ramp onto the ground, got on a bus drove a few more minutes, were deposited at the terminal, and all 20 of us — if that many — crowded through passport control. Our bags came pouring down the conveyor belt just 3-4 minutes later. And they poured. That belt was moving fast. By 6:30, with dawn still not in sight, we were in a taxi. I’d been worried about taking a taxi and spending forever on the Périphérique in traffic, but it turns out that that’s not a problem at 6:30. There were lots of cars, but traffic was “fluide.” We got off by La Défense, came around a corner, and the Arc de Triomphe was straight ahead. Even l’Etoile, which has had some of the craziest traffic I’ve ever seen, was flowing smoothly. A half kilometer or so down the Champs Elysées, a left turn onto Rue de Berri, and we were at our hotel at 6:50 AM. The Hotel Lancaster.

We got to the front desk, the woman asked if we had stayed here before, I said yes, in August 1999, and after a few seconds she found us in the computer system. That made check-in faster, and they even had a room ready. The man who was also helping with our check-in brought us up, showed us around the room, and to our astonishment we were settled just after 7:00 AM. Our expectation had been that we would leave our bags here and head off to my sister’s. Instead, here we are in our beautiful room, with Gail asleep and me blogging. It’s bedtime in Seattle, a natural time for us to sleep, but the sky finally started lightening as we got off the Périphérique and now it’s a lovely morning, so I’m feeling revitalized and ready to explore. Maybe I will.

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