I stayed my last week in Los Angeles at an Extended Stay America in Woodland Hills. On the Sunday I had my flight, I awoke up at 7am and got into the airport shuttle at about 8:50am. The airport was only about 20 minutes away. I didn’t know if there would be traffic, so I was leaving about 4 hours before my flight was supposed to take off. For this flight, I was using an airline I had never heard of before called Air Tahiti Nui because they happened to have a relatively inexpensive one-way ticket – although they do charge $75 for the second checked bag.
Going through security was fairly simple, although opting for the pat-down over being irradiated by the x-ray machine like a non-organic chicken and the security drill the staff held as I was putting back my electronics probably added a few minutes. I got to my gate at 10:12am, so the whole thing took just about an hour. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a 1:10pm flight flight was delayed to about 2:30pm, and I didn’t find out until about 1:15pm so it was a long wait for me.
While I was sitting around at the gate, I struck up a conversation with a French lady who had been visiting her mother in L.A. She and her husband run a pizzeria in Paris and one of her nephews goes to UC Irvine to study biology. It was fun to chat a bit, but we ran out of conversation after a half-hour or so because we knew too little of each other’s languages to continue.
The flight itself was long, but pretty nice otherwise. We were served dinner a couple hours into the flight and breakfast a couple hours before we landed. Each seat had a little screen and there was a choice of a replaying cycle of movies, a few arcade-style games, and music as entertainment. I listened to language tapes a bit, but I also watched the movies Wrath of the Titans, Man on a Ledge, One Day My Father Will Come, 21 Jump Street (although I kept switching away because it’s not very good), and I re-watched The Incredibles. Dinner was the airline-food version of coq au vin (chicken cooked in wine with mushrooms), steamed broccoli and carrots, a salad with lettuce/bell peppers/corn, a roll with butter, and some kind of cheesecake thing with a gelatin layer on top. Sorry I forgot to take a photo.
Breakfast was a choice of apple/cheese crepes or omelette (I chose crepes), croissant with butter and/or jam, mixed fruit (pineapple, red grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew), a choice of hot cocoa or other beverages (I chose cocoa, but it was the watery kind), and fat free raspberry yogurt. I decided to go crazy and use both jam and butter on my croissant. I was pretty tired, but breakfast food always seems best when I would normally eat dinner after a really exhausting day.
I’ve never been able to sleep on aircraft, but I think I managed to make my self dose off for a few minutes a couple of times before being startled awake by the screaming infant a few seats down (through earplugs yet).
The area right around Charles de Gaulle Airport looks like farmland: all patchwork.
When we landed, I followed my fellow passengers through customs and down to the “bagages sortie” to get my checked (or “oversize,” as they call them here) bags. The baggage carts were free, but as usual I got one with a sticky left wheel. I then spent a couple of hours being misdirected by info booth people while looking for the shuttle service. Oddly enough, at the very second I was about to give up, the shuttle service guy came up and asked me if I was looking for him. There was supposed to be a “VEA desk” for me to find, but it turned out to actually be a wandering guy with a blue necktie holding a clipboard. No desk or signs. After one of my bags leapt from the cart into a rain puddle (and a nearby lady fortunately saved my jackets) the shuttle took me to the correct address at the street near the entrance for the area wherein the ACCENT center is located. It really isn’t obvious. There’s a little passageway under the address of 89 that leads you there, but it takes some guesswork to find it after you’re plopped onto the curb with your bags. Although the email they sent out said the front entrance from the street was a courtyard, it’s actually the entrance to a little alleyway that leads to said courtyard.
The guy at the ACCENT desk gave me an envelope with my key and some instructions. He said to ignore the map and follow the written directions instead. I shouldn’t have, as they were so confusingly written that I and everyone else to whom I’ve spoken since got lost following them, but I did. A few minutes into my search for my apartment at Daumesnil, it began to rain a little. It was annoying because I had left my umbrella back at ACCENT with my big bags, but I couldn’t help think of that line out of the movie Sabrina where Audrey Hepburn’s character says everyone’s first day in Paris should be a rainy one – and that one shouldn’t carry an umbrella. I saw that movie just before I left L.A.
After almost an hour, I decided to do the sensible thing and use a combination of the map for general directions and asking one or two passersby for more specific directions. Then I had to get into the building. Still foolishly trying to follow some of the written directions, I stood around trying to find the red electric “eye” that my keychain was supposed to activate to open the outer door. Fortunately, another student who had already gone through some of this experience came over and we mutually figured out how to get through both airlocks.
The whole thing had taken so long that it was already time for the program’s mandatory walking tour of the neighborhood, that I wasn’t informed of until after I arrived and checked in. I was already pretty tired, but I resigned myself to be social anyway. We walked around for a bit, then had cookies, sandwiches, and soda at the ACCENT center. It was nice to meet everyone. A couple or so were even from UCSC.
After snacks, I emailed my parents to let them know I got here okay (since my cell phone had no service in France) and took my two big bags back to my apartment and went food shopping so I’d have something to eat for dinner and breakfast the next day. After I took a quick shower, I wanted to rest a minute before cooking dinner. It was only about 6:30pm so I figured I could stay awake a few more hours, but I must have fallen asleep the instant I lay down because I blinked and 8 hours had gone by. In retrospect, I should have closed the window even before lying down, but it was 86 degrees and I didn’t think there were mosquitos in the middle of a city. When I visited Switzerland with my family almost a decade ago, I made the same mistake and woke up with half a dozen really inflamed mosquito bites. When I got up at around 6:45am on the 21st, I smashed a skeeter I found in the bathroom that was filled with blood; but I didn’t know it was mine until I came home at the end of the day and found four or five badly swollen bites on my toe, ankle, and thighs. The use of Benadryl cream and Neosporin seems to be helping, but they’re still pretty awful looking/feeling.
As difficult as some aspects of travel can be, that’s just part of the experience. The first day or tow are always somewhat difficult, I’m in Paris for the next four months so weeeeeeeeee! (or, perhaps, ouiiiiiiiiii! (?)).
As a final note, don’t use just any source of free wifi you come across. I merely opened a browser on my phone after connecting to one and, despite doing nothing else, I got an email from Google the next day saying that the source of that wifi had attempted to hack into two of my email accounts a couple hours later.