Monday, June 23, 2014

France 2014 - Finale

April 22 – Tuesday

Another great breakfast at the hotel. We arrived right at 7:00 a.m. when service is supposed to start. However, the doors did not open until 7:10. All the great choices we had come to expect, including the croissants and bread.

We brushed our teeth and then gathered our bags to check out. Discovered breakfast was included each day, so we had no extra fee for that. A very pleasant surprise!

We had arranged for a shuttle to the airport the day before, and we boarded the van at 8:15 along with five others. Lots of traffic and an accident slowed our trip, but we still arrived at the airport nearly three hours ahead of our flight.

Good thing! The line to check in at American Airlines snaked back and forth in front of the baggage check-in, then continued for a couple of blocks into the next terminal! Yet another long line. A guy who travels often said it wasn’t usually this bad, but we were still in the middle of the spring holiday. Note to self: do NOT plan a trip during that week!

When we finally got to the first staging area, we had to go through a security check—not the last. At this point, they scanned our passports, then asked the usual questions: purpose of trip, who packed the bags, did anyone give us anything to take with us, and was our luggage with us at all times, etc. A yellow sticker was applied to the back of our passports, and we were allowed to continue.

Another line to get to the self-check-in where our passports were scanned in a machine. Mine went through fine, but for some reason, the machine didn’t like Larry’s (maybe because it was bent) and issued us a ticket to take to a help clerk.

After another line, we finally got to a person who was able to process our reservations and provide our boarding passes. He also checked the one bag with our gifts in it. No fee!
Next, we went through customs. No issues there. Finally, we were routed through the French equivalent of TSA screening. Once again, our boarding passes had TSA Pre-check on them. However, they don’t recognize them in France.

So we stood in another line to have our bags run through the machines. For some reason, they pulled my backpack for hand-check. I’m not sure whether it was the tin of mints, my toiletry bag, or my makeup bag which caused the concern, but all were checked and cleared.

By this time, we had to make a mad dash to get to our gate.

Pre-boarding had begun by the time we reached the gate.

The flight was packed, but we had no issues.

Since we left at 11:30 a.m., lunch was served, and the food was quite good. (Of course, it came from Paris!) The entrée was chicken and vegetables in a light sauce with gnocchi. It was accompanied by a salad, roll, cheese, crackers, and a cookie.

Since we’d be flying in the daylight, we tried to stay awake. Two movies were shown, but unfortunately the screens were small and at some distance from our seats. The first film was Frozen. Since we’d already seen it several times, the video wasn’t too important, and we enjoyed listening to the music again. The second was Spiderman, but we opted out of watching and read instead.

We were supposed to be in the air for nearly ten hours, but we arrived forty-five minutes early into Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Customs went fairly quickly, and our TSA Pre-check got us through those lines ahead of the other passengers. What a great perk!

Re-checked our one bag and then took the SkyLink train to the posted gate: C7.

Our tickets were behind one another, so we went to the podium to inquire about changing to seats together. The only ones available were in the last row. Since we both had aisle seats, we decided to keep them.

We were informed the gate had been changed to C8, so we moved to that one.

About half an hour later, we heard an announcement that the gate for San Diego had been changed to C21—in another terminal. Back upstairs and onto the train again. Then back downstairs for the long walk to the gate.

After settling in, we got a pretzel and a soda to share.

But another gate change necessitated a move to C20.

During the time we were changing gates, additional changes were announced for St. Louis, Baltimore and a couple of other cities. We began to wonder how anyone ended up at the right place, but somehow they did.

Nice flight into San Diego without incident. Just ahead of us were a couple of young recruits. For two of them, it was their first flight. They were cute and reminded us how exciting flying used to be. The flight attendants gave each of them some snacks as they disembarked and made an announcement that they were onboard. They received a round of applause. Nice touch.

We collected our checked bag and then walked outside where we had a short wait for Bob to pick us up. He arrived with Rich Zodnik, and we quickly loaded the bags.

I rattled on about the trip all the way home. We still wished they had been able to go with us, but Bernie’s surgery had been the day before, and having her shunt put in was far more important. Bob’s surgery was scheduled for May 1, so once they recover, we may be able to think about doing it all again next year with them.

We were glad to be home, but we certainly had a terrific time and would consider repeating the experience.

We were in bed by 10:00, happy to be back to our own pillows.

Final Thoughts

  • ·         Everything good we’d heard about Paris was more than accurate.

  • ·         We never saw any of the rude behavior we’d heard about from Parisians. Quite the contrary. Shopkeepers, wait staff, clerks all went out of their way to meet our needs—with smiles and friendliness.
  • ·         The reputation for French food is more than deserved. The best ever!
  • ·         The countryside was absolutely breathtaking, and the gardens we saw were stunning.


  • ·         Lorna – The early morning Lauds service at Mont Saint-Michel was the absolute highlight of the trip for me. The whole place far exceeded my hopes and expectations.

  • ·         Larry – The visit to Normandy was inspiring and brought home the significance of D-Day in a much more personal manner.
  • ·         Seeing the chateaux and churches made us aware of the incredible history of the country. We are now reading more about it after having seen these fabulous edifices.
  • ·         Nighttime views of the city from the Eiffel Tower provided an amazing panorama of Paris. Seeing the sparkling lights come on to illuminate the tower felt like we’d been transported to Wonderland.
  • ·         Once we got the hang of it, thanks to our tour guide, the Paris Metro was extremely user-friendly and efficient. What a great way to see the city!
  • ·         The trip itself covered great distances and many locations, some of which we would never have found on our own, and all of which we enjoyed.
  • ·         We were with a terrific group of people. We loved meeting each and every one of them.

  • ·         Our tour guide, Virginie, was perfect in every way. She was born in Britany, but lived in California, Idaho, and Florida before moving to England. She has a superb understanding of her own country’s uniqueness and of the kinds of things which interest Americans. She also took great care to be sure each of us found the experience(s) we had hoped to find during the trip. In our case, she succeeded well beyond our dreams, and I believe everyone who traveled with us had a similar experience.

  • Would we go back again? In a heartbeat.
  • Would we repeat the same tour again? Absolutely!
  • We plan to attend the trip reunion in Edmonds, WA next January where we hope to see some of our fellow tourists and Virginie and her husband, Olivier.

I stole these photos from Dick McConnell who spent the entire trip with a really good camera around his neck. He convinced me to take my good one next time!

Have you been to France? What was your experience like? Would you return?


  1. Got to be there once and can identify with your final thoughts. Found none of the rudeness (except in some American tourists). The churches, art, etc. made me realize how young a country the US is, in contrast to that rich history. We happened to be there the very first night the Eiffel tower lights were changed from steady to sparkling--the city cheered. It was magical. Thanks for letting me relive some of the magic.

    1. Glad you had the same positive experience we did. The country is GORGEOUS, and the people and food are terrific.

  2. Lorna, when you come up to the reunion let us know...we are just a hop skip jump from Edmonds and have attended the reunions before :) Candi Donovan

  3. Great! We plan to land in Tacoma and spend a week before visiting friends. We'll put you on the calendar!

  4. Loved everyone of these posts. I'll never get to France, so it was a real treat to visit through you and all your great photos and comments.

    1. Glad you enjoyed them! Wish you could get there, though, but I know what a chore travel has become for you. And the actual traveling wasn't easy!