Wednesday, July 16, 2014



I had it in my head that I should wake up in my tiny hotel room in Paris at 6:30, which would give me enough time to shower, do a final pack and walk over for the 7:30 train to the airport. I had been sent a message from Air France that everything must be charged or subject to confiscation, cameras and kindles included and so I was sure to top it all, just in case. And I gave myself time for the expected prolonged security check. The flight is the 11:05 to Washington D.C. -- even with added layers of waiting and long lines, I should have enough time for a coffee and a croissant at the airport.

That was the plan.

Here's the reality (it's going to be different than you think):

I woke up earlier. That's predictable. I always wake up earlier than I have to. Then I hear a ping on my computer. Email message. I want to ignore it. Probably junk.

Just thinking about whether to check that email wakes me up sufficiently so that it's pointless to try to sleep again.

The email, it turns out, is from Air France. Flight is delayed. But just an hour. At this point.

Damn. Could have slept more. 

All this means is that I go about everything in a more leisurely fashion. I stare out the window and think trivial thoughts. About whether Paris is more fun in the dead of winter or the height of summer, for example. It surely is wonderful to have light stream into the room just after 6 (as opposed to after 8 in wintertime). Even if there still is a moon up there in the morning sky.


Packed, ready to go. Suitcase has the addition of several books I picked up at the airport in Edinburgh. (Would you believe it -- childrens books! As if my grandchild, who is yet to be born, can follow the complicated story of the smart giant, as only the English can tell it!) Still should be within weight limit, but the suitcase is getting to be extremely stubby and fat.

Leisurely. Think leisurely. Okay, I'll walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. They're open now, though only the joggers' rhythmic stomp breaks the stillness at this hour. It's beautiful and empty and I am just in love with this early morning walk, just minutes after 7.


This will be my one glance at the Eiffel Tower...


But truly the star attractions are the chestnuts and the empty chairs and benches...


Satisfying. Very satisfying. A fitting ending to my short stay here. Sun is up. Time to get going. Just one last glance and I'll be on my way.


Done. I carry my lumpy suitcase down to the RER station. (The one fault of the Luxembourg stop is that there is no down escalator. Over the years, I've cursed every single purchase that bloated my suitcase and made my walk down these steps awkward. This time, I take it in stride. You get a lot less excited by trivial things when you get older.)

At the airport, they move the check in for the Washington DC flight to the (mostly) European terminal F (to ease the burden on the screening in terminal E, which has mostly intercontinental flights).  How will this work? It's the transatlantic flights that are doomed to have the additional layers of screening.

Well now, there are practically no lines at security. Even my (hard earned by frequent flying) fast pass is pointless -- it all moves quickly. And nothing extraordinary happens. No one asks me to power on any device. Most people don't even remove shoes. It just feels very normal. And fast.

And so now I have more than three hours at the airport. I'd say that's quite enough time for this breakfast.



It is my first time on the new double decker Airbus 380 and after very complicated machinations, I find myself on the upper level (still sardine class, but fewer sardines up there).

paris and d.c.-2.jpg

It's a mighty big plane and I'll happily return to my lesser ones now that I sampled the flying giant. The downstairs section is too crowded and the upstairs sardines have to sit in the back, which is sort of like hanging onto a dolphin tail in the ocean: there's a lot more flipping and flopping back there when the air gets choppy.

Still, I had the only empty seat on the plane next to me and so I offer no complaints.


No sane person should ever pick connecting flights that arrive and leave from different airports. But what am I to do -- it's all I could get with my piddly miles. In D.C., I arrive in Dulles and leave from Regan (UPDATE: I'll leave that spelling for you, Regan, even though I ought to be a better proofer!).

Now, on the up side (or down side, depending on your spirit of adventure), I have a huge layover. Seven hours. Ed tells me -- go to the museums.  Tempting!

But the plan quickly develops rips and wrinkles. First -- the DC weather just doesn't jive with Europe's cooler temps. And I'm wearing my hiking shoes because they no longer fit in my wee suitcase. So that's a bummer.

Then there is the matter of the suitcase. Did you know that even if you send your suitcase through to your final destination, if you have different connecting airports you have to lug it from one to the other yourself? Well you do. And wishing to save money, I take public buses and metros. During rush hour. Whisky is heavy. As are the slabs of slate I picked up on the beach. And don't forget the chutney. So all this presents new and fresh challenges.

And one last little glitch in the "I'm going to have a fun few hours in DC" plan:  my Paris flight comes in late. Going through customs, catching that bus, connecting to the metro -- it takes forever. So by the time I drop off my suitcase at Regan Airport, my seven hour layover has just been whittled down to 2.5 hours -- not enough to motivate me to go back into town.

So here I am, sitting at Regan spewing off all these tedious travel details which would put anyone to sleep. Without even a photo from D.C. to add color to the post. Well, one: of the Capitol, as seen from the airport. Because it really is quite beautiful, even at a distance.

paris and d.c.-1.jpg

I'll be in Madison late tonight. I expect to do just one thing before crawling into a comfortable bed in the quiet of the farmhouse summer night: check to see if the bottles survived their long and complicated journey.