After decades of yearning and months of planning, we are at last in Europe. Paris to be exact.
We left Vancouver at 1:35 on a flight to Frankfurt, where we were to connect with our Paris flight. I watched three movies on the plane, ate three meals, and rested (although not slept) with the knowledge that we had lots of time to make our next flight, as we were scheduled to land at 7:45 and the flight did not board until 8:55 so we just had to make our way from one gate to another.
But of course I had not reckoned with the nightmare labyrinth of Frankfurt airport and their “system” to move travellers to their proper gates. We had printed off our boarding passes at home and knew our gate was A16. When we deplaned we hit the washrooms then started off confidently, following the signs to gates A, C, D. I knew the path would not be simple — few airports are — but worried a bit when the signs led us to what was obviously a security area where people were having their luggage scanned. However, the two friendly, English speaking uniformed people with the “May I Help You” buttons confidently glanced at the boarding pass and directed us out a door. Out of the secured section of the terminal. Into a large low-ceilinged room where flocks of equally confused elderly passengers bleated in several languages and scurried out of the way of golf-carts who shouted contradictory directions to them. Luckily I spotted a familiar face, or rather, back of the head, of a lady with bright blue hair who had been on our flight and had found an information desk. The man at the desk told us that no, we were not going EVEN CLOSE to where we were supposed to be, we had to go back through security to gate B53 where we would get a shuttle to another terminal where we would find gate A16.
Frankfurt airport security seemed to be staffed with brusque, blond ladies who were disgusted with our confusion and lectured us on the foolishness of trying to hide dangerous electronics (my Kindle) in our back pack rather than placing it in the tray, and now they had to test if for explosives and they were very disappointed in us. Rather like short-tempered nannies speaking to slightly slow toddlers. I also received a thorough frisking.
Following our blue-haired guardian angel we dashed through the airport to B53 and literally hopped onto the shuttle just as it was leaving. It took us on a circuitous route around the tarmac and then just stopped, where everyone got off. So we did too. The minutes were ticking off, but we could still make our flight.
Naturally we got stuck in customs, but the line was moving quickly. The young man in the Polizei uniform looked at my passport and at me, then at it, then asked me how long I was staying in Europe. Not in Germany of course, I was leaving Germany, but on the continent. Until June 21. And where was I going? Paris. And THEN? Barcelona and Seville. Soooooooo, on HOLIDAY, then? (At this point I must compliment the drug smuggling rings who are obvious employing such canny drug mules that they appear to be an elderly woman, exhausted after a ten-hour flight, who has a pristine Canadian passport with no stamps in it). Yes, on holiday.
All right, I was duly stamped out of Germany. Then I had to do that distinctive tourist trot, rapidly moving through a crowded airport, passing people on the walkways and zig-zagging my way through Asian tour groups, until I reached A16. And found it deserted. But the flight should still have been boarding. Back to an information board where I discovered to my horror that the gate had been changed to A30 and confirmed that yes, it was boarding NOW. My husband, who had by this time fallen behind me, caught up to me as I (apparently wrongly) kept moving through the terminal. I explained the gate change and we both then put on a last burst of speed and got to the gate. Just as the last few stragglers (like us) were being loaded. We found our seats and opened the air vents above us to dry our sweaty faces. And waited on the tarmac for 30 minutes while they off-loaded the luggage of passengers who had been unlucky enough to miss the connecting flight. They were likely still milling about back by that information desk dodging golf carts.
That made us late into Paris but we did see the Eiffel Tower for the first time while we circled waiting for the control tower to give us a new landing time.
Because my daughter (and grandchildren) had already landed, they were able to text us very handy information on how to get the bus to our AirBnB in Paris. It was unfortunate that when you take the CDGVAL shuttle it travels to the different terminals in a 1 – 3 – 2 route. So we got off at Terminal 2 rather than at the 2nd terminal. But we got it straightened out and got some tickets and got to the bus stop and got on the bus and had quite a lovely drive through the countryside and the outlying suburbs into Bagnolet.
Found our AirBnB which is quite delightful and the Carrefours supermarket is right around the corner. Got our dinner, and went back to shower, eat and sit quietly enjoying the fact that we are in PARIS and staying in a lovely little place and there is good food to be eaten and good wine and scotch to be sipped, and we are going to have the best vacation of our lives and we are exceedingly glad and grateful for it.
Our daughter took the kids into the city to see the Eiffel Tower and tire them out on a carousel there because children are remarkably bad at sitting and contemplating their blessings.