I Feel Like I’ve Been Living In Transit.

No Süss Freitag today, so apologies for that. I am finally back in Germany, but it will be short-lived as I’m heading to Rome tomorrow for a few days. This trip was planned and paid for prior to the last-minute flight home, so I had to make sure to get back in time to go on it! It should be interesting… it’s my first time to Italy, my first time traveling with a non-American, and my first time couchsurfing. I’m going with one of my tandem partners from Sprachduo, and I haven’t done anything for my German in the recent past, so I’m not-so-secretly hoping we can spend the four days focusing on her English.  

*Pay no attention to the girl behind the curtain who has been steadfastly avoiding her German homework!*   

But she’s been the strictest tandem partner by far, so my hopes aren’t high. I blame the fact that she’s Russian. They don’t mess around. Either way, hopefully next week I’ll have some amusing anecdotes and photos to share. 
But before I get to that, I have to tell you about my “Isn’t It Ironic” plane ride. In the previous post I had mentioned that there were very few people waiting at the gate for our trip from Cincinnati to Paris. Well, people slowly did start gathering, but it was no-where near the crowd that usually hangs around the gate for an international flight. When we finally boarded, it was clear that this plane would be maybe half-full. Maybe. I had suspected it, but my previous experience with this airline had taught me that if a plane isn’t full enough, they would just cancel the flight and blame “mechanical difficulties.” 
*coughChicagotoDenverfiveyearsagoyoujerkscough* 
So where’s the irony? Well, it was about seven hours earlier when I decided to upgrade my seat in Milwaukee to ensure I had a window. Goodbye, forty dollars for no reason, since I could probably have just picked up and moved my stuff like other people did. Grumble.

Honestly though, it was worth it to me. My previous seat was a few rows back, and those were the only rows that were almost completely full. I’ve been stuck in the middle seats for the last few flights I’ve taken, and I was not dealing with that again. Being jammed between two guys who hog the armrest and sprawl their legs into my space for the ENTIRE eight-hour flight is not my cup of tea. Trying to keep my elbows tucked in (especially while eating) and knees together for that long, resulted in my body being seriously messed up for a couple of days. So I wasn’t having that again. I was going to have a window seat so I could lean against something, and hopefully be able to sleep without having to worry about getting nailed in the elbow with the drinks cart every hour.

Airlines should really consider only half-booking international flights as standard procedure. It was glorious. I had two seats all to myself, which meant I could spread out, and do basic things like have my purse easily accessible on the seat next to me, rather than having to contortionist bend to reach it because the jerk in front of you has their seat back and the two guys on either side haven’t put their knees together in five hours. 

Ginger ale and Mindy Kaling go well with plane rides.
And look at me, all not having to use my own tray table! Spreading out on a plane is amaaaaaaazing.
Note the head to seat ratio here.

Later in the flight a couple moved into the middle row of seats above, and proceeded to drink about 10 beers. I’m sitting there thinking, “did no-one ever tell them that one in the air is worth six on the ground??”* The guy eventually fell asleep in a really awkward looking position, and upon waking, jerked around and knocked over a bunch of partially-full cups that the stewardesses hadn’t collected yet. The cups got all over their carry-on luggage that they had on the seats and the floor, and I then got to listen to the wife quietly chew him out for the last hour of the flight as she tried to sop Miller Lite out of her carry-all. Dinner and a show. What more can you ask for?

The only real complaint I have about this flight is regarding the entertainment. Every international flight I’ve been on in the last few years has had the personal screens with all sorts of options. As you can see from the photos above, this one didn’t. They showed decent movies, but I had already seen one and a half of them. And I have the ADD and like to make my own decisions, darn it. 

Where I do have a complaint comes in Paris. I haven’t been to Charles de Gaulle airport since our France Trip in 2001, and unless I’m going to Paris specifically, I will be avoiding this airport like the plague. 

It started off normally, we deplaned, and came to the boards that showed all the connecting flights. There are big signs everywhere, and announcements that say “check the departure boards for your connecting gates.” Normal, right? Nope. I would say that less than half of the departing flights showed gate numbers. So there were a whole lot of confused people standing there looking around like they were missing something. There were some kiosks to check your connecting info, so I tried that with no luck. I wasn’t in a hurry because we landed 45 minutes early and I had scheduled two hours between flights, so I figured I’d sit down and watch the boards for a while and see if my gate popped up. I have no patience, so that plan lasted all of about five minutes.

Then I noticed a lot of the confused-looking people had gotten into an information line. I figured “what the hell,” and joined them. I went through menopause in that line. Seriously. It was absurd. Finally it was my turn, and this is how it went

Airline lady while writing (what I thought was the gate) on my ticket: “Oh you’re in terminal G2. You go out then to the next level somethingsomethingsomething your gate is there. You didn’t have to wait in the line.”
Me: “Well there was no gate on the board so I didn’t know where to go.”
Airline lady: “G2. Next.”
Me: “Um, the gate was…? ok, merci.” 
I take the ticket back, start walking away, look at my ticket and notice that there was still no gate, she just wrote the terminal.
Me: “Oh for the love of… dammit.” 

I figured I’d just head for the terminal and the gate number would probably appear on the boards on my way. I still had two hours so I wasn’t really worried about it. Following the lady’s instructions, I went out, then down, then around, then through passport control, then around baggage carousels, then through a terminal, then up again, then through an enormous terminal where I finally reached the end of the G2 signs. It pointed outside with a bus icon. What. The. Fuck. She didn’t say anything about a bus, did she? Alright, outside. Hm, signs everywhere for terminal E… that’s where I just was. Where is the bus? I don’t see any bus stop signs anywhere. Just then a frantic looking guy came flying out the door, did the same glance-around that I just did, a tour bus pulled away and we saw the shuttle bus on the other side with a G2 on it’s front. He flung his arm up and ran over to it and I followed him. At this point I was 95% sure I was going to be driven to the wrong damn place, but I was hoping for the best.

At terminal G2, we got to go through security yet again, and afterwards I found myself in a huge waiting area that was packed with people. Hundreds of chairs in brown and lime green filled a waiting area across from the duty-free shops. There were about three departure boards in this whole area, and upon closer inspection, there were still no gates, but there was a notice underneath that explained this:

Waiting area two hours after my arrival when it had thinned out significantly.
20 minutes = Lies!

AHA. So that explains the mystery of no gates on any of the damn departure boards. Because you don’t go to a gate… you just hang out in this huge terminal area full of people in stylish footwear that make you acutely aware of the fact that you’ve been traveling for 15+ hours. To be clear and in my defense: when we deplaned, there was no terminal listed for my flight either. So even if I had known about this cockamamie arrangement, I still would have had to ask someone for my correct terminal. But now I know. And knowledge is power!

Our flight was almost an hour late boarding and leaving, and that whole thing about “boarding gate will be communicated 20 minutes before departing” is complete hooey. It changed about 15 times while I sat there. And as we all know, sometimes flights are delayed. But when you’ve already been traveling for that long and this is the last step, it makes you want to throw yourself out the window. I will be avoiding CDG in the future, and from some of the Facebox comments I’ve gotten today, I’m not the only one that was less than impressed. Oh, and you only get 15 minutes of free Wi-fi. Forget that.

For now though, I’ve got to get to packing. We’re flying Ryanair (yes, Alicia, I’m risking it again), and they’re pretty strict with the baggage guidelines so I get to play the “what clothing is the most compact for the backpack,” game. We’ll be there Saturday to Wednesday and it’s supposed to be in the 60’s and sunny, which sounds pretty much fantastic.

*To be honest, I have no idea if one in the air is really worth six on the ground, but that’s what our French teacher told us on our France Trip flight.  And my friends that drank a few beers were pretty ridiculous when we finally landed. So I’m thinking there’s some truth to it.  

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4 thoughts on “I Feel Like I’ve Been Living In Transit.

  1. Ooooh, can't wait to hear about Italy.

    And come on, French people. Get serious. 🙂

    Also, so love that you had 2 seats on an international flight! When does that happen??

    – RZ

  2. next time you go home, you should check out Icelandair. They fly from Frankfurt which is easy to get to by train, and they go to Minneapolis with a stopover in Iceland (a very small, efficient airport). You don't have to pay for window seats either, and they have the personal screens with good movie selections.

    I TOTALLY hear you on the CDG thing- Every time I've gone through there in recent years has been misery, and always misery in a new way. Don't know how they manage that.

    Finally, I thought of you yesterday because we had Süß Freitag- rhubarb cake that was so yum.

  3. I've never been through Charles de Gaulle, but every time someone mentions it in conversation, it's always paired with the word “sucks” or the phrase “is incredibly horrible.” I have yet to meet a single person with a *good* tale of CDG.

    My flight over here from Miami was on AirBerlin; it was a no frills flight- no seat-back entertainment screens, etc- but it was a smooth and inexpensive flight, so that was pretty keen.

  4. @RZ: Right on all counts. 🙂

    @ECS: I will definitely look into that. I have no problem going to Frankfurt, but since I flew out of there at Christmas and had JUST gone through the hassle of hauling my grossly heavy luggage all the way there, I really wanted to fly out of Nurnberg this time. And taking a taxi 15 minutes was much easier than dragging myself across the country again. But next time I'll check out Icelandair, especially if that means avoiding CDG. I think next time I want to visit Paris I will be taking the train!

    Is it rhubarb season already?

    @Steven: I recommend skipping it. I've heard good things about AirBerlin flights as well, but as I mentioned above, I just really wanted to fly straight from Nurn. So at the last minute, you pretty much get what you get. But will check them out in the future!

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