Friday, March 30, 2018

Paris – Arrival and First Day - 3/28/18-3/29/18

We left the house at 4:45 p.m. when Bob & Bernie Schwenck’s grandson, Clayton, picked us up. We arrived at the airport (LAX) at 6:15, after fighting rush hour traffic. Online check-in with Norwegian Air Shuttle wasn’t available, so we first had to get our boarding passes. Then, the TSA location nearest the airline was closed, so we had to schlep our bags to the other end of the terminal to go through security. We were traveling on Norwegian Air Shuttle, and they don’t have TSA pre-check. So, we had to remove our shoes, open up our computers and tablets, and go through the full security check. No issues, but it all took longer than we had planned for.

When we finished, we had to get to our gate. What a convoluted route. Through two terminals, up and down stairs, and around and around. When we reached the final area, our gate (which was the number following the previous gate) was at the very far end. Instead of our gate number, 36, the first gate we came to was 46. From there, they were in reverse order. By the time we neared out destination, we realized we didn’t have time to eat as we had planned.

We finally reached our gate and found a huge crowd waiting…and waiting…and…waiting. Boarding for our 8:00 departure was supposed to start at 7:00. Finally, at 7:20, boarding began. We were on the B787 Dreamliner. It’s a huge plane, so about 300 passengers had to go through the boarding process. But, aha, we didn’t board the plane. Instead, we had to get on busses out to another building, where we had to climb a couple of stories on a ramp to get to the boarding bridge. Then all 300± of us had to board, stow our luggage, and settle into our seats. The good news was this was a large plane, and all the carry-on luggage fit.

Our seats, assigned when we booked the flight, were in row 8. Good location. They had Larry and I together, however our friends, Bob and Bernie, were in seats on either side of us. We changed seats when we got on the plane.

When I booked the tickets, this particular flight had a good rating, and we got a great rate—less than we have paid for tickets to Hawaii. It was also a nonstop flight from LAX to Charles de Gaulle, instead of Orly. It was only about 15 minutes farther from Paris than Orly. Definitely worth it!

The cabin crew were very attentive. The in-flight entertainment was better than most. A choice of a large number of movies—some recently released—at no charge, along with games and TV shows. They announced you had to have pre-ordered a meal at booking, or you could order a snack from their menu. Our tickets said we would get their “So Tasty Menu.” I asked if that were the actual meal, and the flight attendant said it was. I told her I wasn’t asked about a meal when I booked the tickets. She said some of the third-party sites booked meals automatically. Guess it’s what happened because we got hot food. Not great, but adequate, especially since I hadn’t eaten since 10:30 in the morning.

This was a long flight (eleven hours). I slept for a couple of hours, and then watched four movies: Goodbye Christopher Robin (good), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (didn’t care for this one—too much swearing, which they overdubbed making the whole thing distracting), Eat, Pray, Love (pretty much followed the book), and Murder on the Orient Express (the same convoluted Agatha Christie plot, but with a great cast and beautiful direction). We always travel with our earphones, so we are prepared for whatever is offered. However, most domestic airlines now charge for entertainment. This was much better.

The flight didn’t seem as long as many we have taken in the past. The seats were much more comfortable, and this helped as well.

We arrived at de Gaulle at 3:45 p.m. the following day but had to wait in an extremely long line for passport check. The line for their domestic passengers was relatively short, but the one for foreigners went halfway through the terminal, and it wasn’t moving. After what seemed like forever, they started diverting some of us in the foreign line to the domestic one because all the French passengers had finished. (I suspect several planes may have arrived at close to the same time.) After our long flight, the time spent in these lines felt excessive. We found out why the line was so long. Although there were six windows for foreign passport control, only two of them were open. With the addition of the domestic window, there were still only three to handle a large number of passengers.

Fortunately, we had booked our hotel transport ahead of time, so as we exited baggage check, we saw a sign with our names on it. A nice Mercedes van waited outside to whisk us away to Hotel Le Littre.

We only spent one night at the hotel in Montparnasse. What a lovely place! It has obviously been remodeled recently. The bathrooms are nicer than mine at home.

Since it was now evening, we set out to find something to eat. The concierge recommended the Café Montparnasse. It was about three blocks away, a simple walk. It had started drizzling, so we set out with umbrellas and found the restaurant.

I spotted the croque monsieur on the menu. I adore this glorified grilled cheese sandwich. This one was served open-faced on a large slice of beautiful French bread with a thin slice of ham, and the cheese was creamy—rather like a fondue—and placed under the broiler. The menu suggested sharing, this, so we did. Bob & Bernie made the same choice. Our large sandwich arrived with a small salad and pommes frites (French fries). The meal was a perfect introduction to French food for Bob & Bernie. Of course, we had to finish our meal with crème brûlée. This was also perfect.

We took the short walk back to the hotel. Bernie stayed there while we made another short trip to the neighborhood supermarket—at least the French version. This was smaller than our 7-11 stores at home. Bob found the tonic water he wanted, but they didn’t have the distilled water he needed.

On the way, we had noticed the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels on the corner. As we returned, we passed half a dozen young people (perhaps college age) singing in parts. We realized it was Maundy Thursday and assumed they had just come from the chapel after a service. What a nice surprise and a terrific ending to our first day in Paris. I discovered I am still in love with this city.


  1. Glad you arrived safely, and enjoyed your flight. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  2. And the description of getting to and on the plane is exactly why I no longer fly. I can't handle it anymore.

    1. I used to love to fly, but now, it's such a hassle. I kept reminding myself Paris awaited. It was enough motivation. 😁

    2. This is the reason 'they' say we should do these far away trips before we are 80. The airport hassles get harder and harder as we get older. I think we have a few more of these kinds of long distance plane trips under our belts! The end result is worth it..for now!

    3. I agree. It is getting harder, and we are getting older. Long gone are the days of hopping a plane and taking off on an adventure!