Orly Airport Gong Show

I normally fly home out of Roissy (CDG), but on this trip to Paris I flew out of Orly. I arrive with my car at AVIS at Orly Ouest and there is not a soul there to to take it away from me. The “Rapid Retour” is anything but rapid. I end up walking over to the office to find someone to come and take the car. That done, I take the train to Orly Sud and as I am about to board the train to the South terminal, a boy runs off the train with his bag while his mother yells for him to get back on, “Vito! Vito!”, and a bunch more in Italian I couldn’t make out. Vito is eight years old. The boy realizes what he is doing and runs back on the train, rolling his bag over my feet in the process. I get to the South terminal and look for the check-in desk for Corsair. I find it, but then I am told that the flight to Montreal checks in downstairs. Down I go. I wait in line for 30 minutes and with only two groups ahead of me, the kiosk is shut down because the computer is toast. I change lines and wait another 30 minutes. They make me check my luggage. I hate that. I am a died-in-the-wool carry-on only guy having lost and had damaged luggage way too many times.

Having checked in, I go upstairs and look for a place to get a sandwich before going through security, and hear an announcement for someone who forgot their bag and to go to door B to retrieve it. The area is roped off. I go the restaurant to get a sandwich and the guy in front of me is being served. The girls behind the counter handles money and open sandwiches without washing or even using a napkin. A piece of chicken fall out of the baguette and she picks it up with her fingers and pops it in her mouth, serves the rest of the sandwich to the man who is not paying attention, and turns to me. I opt for the chicken wrap that is sealed in a kriptonite-proof vacuum pack and a bottle of sparkling water. 8.50 euros. I go outside and sit to eat at the little cafe-style seating outside the terminal. Nice and sunny, and comparatively quiet after the cacophonous clucking in the terminal. I can finally relax for 10 minutes. Then the police comes by and tells us all to clear out and a cop tapes off this area too. I guess nobody came back for their bag. The tape perimeter is widening… So I head into the terminal and it is now jammed. Jeez, it wasn’t this bad a few minutes ago. I push my way through the crowd and discover that the only access route to secutity and border control is also roped off.

The departures board starts to flash delay after delay. I think I am doomed. Okay, Raj, remember, patience…breathe…

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Lousy Hotel Service and a Win for this Consumer

Om my last trip to Paris (the marathon volcano trip) I spent two weeks at a favourite hotel in Montparnasse. Service was less than acceptable. I drove back from work one evening, exhausted, and was looking forward to a quiet room service dinner and a good book. I picked up my phone and it didn’t work. I went down the hall to the phone by the elevators and picked it up. It didn’t work. I went down to the lobby and asked them to fix it, ordered my dinner and went back to my room. The next day, the phone still didn’t work. Back down to the lobby again. The shower couldn’t hold a constant temperature. Two of the table lamps didn’t work. The day before I was to leave I went down to reception, confirmed I would leave the next day and paid my bill in advance. I got back from work to find my key didn’t work. I called down and 15 minutes went by until a security guard came up to tell me I was checked out. I told him I went down in the morning to pay my bill for the next day and offered to show him the invoice. He declined as I was fuming. He opened the door and gave me the key. When it came time to fill out the customer satisfaction survey, I was direct with my displeasure. Fast forward to last week…

I am back in Paris tomorrow. The only hotel I could get was my favourite (not so much anymore) and the rate had jumped from 120 euros a night to 299! I tried in vain to get another hotel that was relatively close to the office and not a dive. I needed HS internet and parking. No luck. The hotel sent a very apologetic e-mail and offered me VIP treatment on my next trip when they read my feedback. I replied that there was no way I would come back at a rate of 299 – not for the level of service I experienced last time. They replied back in 30 minutes with a new rate of 120 Euros a night with breakfast and free internet access. Score one for the consumer. I am about to leave my house for the airport. I am off to Paris and looking forward to seeing how serious they are about cleaning up their act.

Home at Last!

The flight home was an interesting route. The Ash cloud is sitting in the Atlantic forcing flight paths either North or South around it. Delayed departure by nearly 3 hours. The flight path led us North-North-East from Paris, over Amsterdam and then veered North-West just before Bergen and then North of Iceland, across Greenland, and then south over Northern Quebec, coming awfully close to James Bay – probably 500 kms east of it. It was funny seeing the gate sign indicating that the flight was on-time at 1330. Then people were coming off a plane and we had to wait until they cleared the corridors before we could start boarding. On the flight I slept for a few hours.

Hmmm...flight on time, eh?

We landed in Montreal and I learned the last flight to Ottawa was full and I was booked on the flight Sunday morning to get home. It was raining and I was tired so I first decided to stay at the Marriott hotel near the airport. I got as far as the reception desk and realized that after nearly 40 days straight in a hotel, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I rented a car and drove home, getting to my house just before 10 PM. The car will get returned in Ottawa on Monday. Today is a rest day…sort of…lot’s to catch up on here at the farm.

What I learned spending 5 weeks in Paris

If you followed my blog over the past few weeks you know that the volcano grounded me here. I have been here 5 weeks and finally will leave tomorrow. I have become very good at washing clothes in a sink and have my room service menu almost memorized. I am mentally exhausted and looking forward to getting home, seeing my family, and eating a home-cooked meal. I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and cook something.

So what did this experience teach me?

  1. Mother Nature rules. Period.
  2. Oysters and Pouilly Fume ROCKS!
  3. My friends in France care about me. And for that I am truly grateful.
  4. I have gotten extremely good at squeezing between cars on the roads.
  5. Patience is a wonderful thing.
  6. Canadian beef is better than French beef.
  7. Keeping in touch with family and friends back home keeps you sane.
  8. Hotels are as good as the people who work there.
  9. When hotel staff go out of their way to help you, you’ll likely come back.
  10. Eating alone a lot really sucks.
  11. I can tell a good bread from a bad one.
  12. Bordeaux is still my favourite French wine – St. Emilion rules.

I love Paris and will be back next month. To all of you who took the time to call, send an e-mail, and spend time in person, THANK YOU!

Stuck in Paris – Can’t whine – Day Nine

At this point, there’s no point in flying home as I was supposed to be back here anyway in a few days. I missed two weeks at home and Battle of the Bands in Toronto – which was supposed to be today. Missing family and friends. I took a drive to Beaune yesterday. Lot’s of great to wine to taste, but I didn’t have a drop – had to drive back to Paris. I could have stayed overnight but wasn’t feeling all that great. So decision was a simple one, get back to Paris and get a good night’s sleep.

Beaune is gorgeous. A small town but packed with visitors touring the wine shops and other sites. Here are a couple of pictures.

Tourists in Beaune

Just outside of Beaune, this beautiful Chateau

Stuck in Paris – Accept my Fate – Day Eight

Still here. The sun is out, and today is road-trip day. Heading out of town with a non-tearable Michelin map of France, my car, my Mac, and sunglasses. Destination, a secret. I’ll report with photos tomorrow. One thing though, it’s not too far out of Paris. And no, it’s not Euro-Disney. Bummer I can’t be in Toronto today for Battle of the Bands. I was so looking forward to pounding on drums for a few hours with my bandmates.

Ok. TIme to hit the road. See you later!

Stuck in Paris – No Jet – Jour Sept

It’s sunny outside, and I am indoors. The hotel this morning in the breakfast room was full of American tourists looking forward to a day of sightseeing and other frivolities. I’m thinking about airplanes. Come Monday I will be starting my 4th week here. I ran out of clean clothes a week ago but I changed hotels last night and have access to laundry services so some of my clothing will get cleaned up, and I might look a little more professional at the office. The MET Weather Office in the UK has been publishing these cool simulations of the path of the volcanic ash. You can see it here. Looking much better.

I was at Gare de l’Est this week. Although busy, trains appeared to be moving and no serious bottlenecks. Except for trying to buy a ticket, which could take up to a half day in line, not too bad. Click on the photo for a better view.

Gare de l"Est - Busy but civilized

I have no confirmed flight, and the weekend is upon us. Iceland just closed two airports and British military suspended some flights as well. It’s not completely business as usual, but better. CNN Travel has an update here.

Stuck sipping wine and eating those crescent roll things they like so much here. I’m thinking seriously about getting out of dodge, but have not decided where I should go. Somewhere where I can drive because I am not ready to rely on trains or planes just yet. I’m open to suggestions!