The Hawkins Family

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Adventures at Charles De Gaulle, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.  Hang in there, I am almost done...

I head to the customer service desk...I know the system by now and wait in line. Only this time the line is INSANE. I have never seen so many people with the same issue. I met some very nice travelers and we kept each other company in line. For three and a half hours we witnessed a whole new type of social experiment. People would cut in the line and in the beginning it was no big deal, but after an hour, people started to care. They would gang up on the cutter and force them to the back. A man met his wife in line after she had been waiting for both of them and they had to call security on this other guy in line after it got so out of hand. It was crazy! When I finally made it to the front, I was booked on an over booked flight to Naples in the morning (there is only one a day), got me a hotel, a "survival kit" (they held my luggage hostage over night), and a meal voucher. (The kicker on the meal voucher was that by the time I was done it was 8:00 pm and the shuttle for the hotel was coming at 8:30 at a different terminal and most of the eateries were closing.  Only one place in Terminal F is open past 8:00 and it didn't take the voucher.  What was the point.)

I made it to the correct terminal, bought some chips and water, and went to wait for the shuttle. I wasn't pushy enough for the first shuttle and had to wait for the second. I was determined to make it on the next one. So, after much pushing, I made it on the shuttle and immediately fell asleep. When I did wake up it was to find out that not only was the hotel that they stuck us in an HOUR outside of Paris, but that the bus driver was lost and couldn't find the place. Seriously. When he did find the place, by the time I finally got up to the counter they were out of rooms. We flagged down the bus and got him to take us to the next hotel. We got there got a room and I sent out an email to update on my current status.

By the time I got settled into my room it was 1:00 am and I had a cab coming to get me at 5:30. I slept lightly because I didn't want to miss the taxi and there was no alarm in the room. I rode in the cab to the airport for a low fee of 100 euro (translated into $140) and walked into the airport to board my plane. I stopped to look for the gate number to discover that my flight was cancelled. (It was 6:45 am local time.)  While I wait in line to find another flight...again, the police and Military started yelling at people.  Now, obviously they are yelling in french.  Unfortunately, I have NO idea what they are yelling.  All I know is that people are moving away quickly.  After following like a cow to slaughter and clearing the entire terminal, I find out that they have found a bag that has been abandoned in the terminal and they are bringing in the bomb squad to check it out.  Are you kidding me?  Not the best start to the day.

After about an hour they start to let people back in the terminal.  I head to the first line and am told by the rep to go to section 3 (Groups and Unaccompanied Minors...strange, but whatever).  After waiting in line for 45 minutes, I am told that I am in the wrong line and they get an Air France rep to come and get me.  I explain to her that I was told to come over here and she tells me that it is just, really?  Instead of putting me at the front of a line, she just drops me at the end and tells me to wait.  (I am usually very nice to customer service people, but I just waited patiently in a line that I was told was correct only to find out that they were wrong and my punishment is to wait in line again?  I am REALLY starting to hate Air France at this point.)  So, I wait in my three day old clothes, dirty hair, and aching feet for two hours.

I finally meet my savior, Juliana (she is from the French West Indies).  I explain my three cancelled flights, the fact that I am trying to get to Naples not Bologna as my baggage claim tickets would suggest, and my held hostage luggage.  (I am supposed to be starting my vacation with Taris Rome.)  I ask if I can just get to Rome...I will take a train.  She asked if it was OK to take a two leg trip.  Um...YES since there is only ONE FLIGHT A DAY that is direct to Naples.  She books me on a trip to Rome and then to Naples.  The Rome flight doesn't leave until 2:00 and I will get into Naples at 7:00.  All I can think is, who cares at this point, I just want to get there.  I ask for another phone card...I have to call my parents and get them to update Taris for me.

It is now 9:30.  I head to Terminal F and pick a gate and wait.  I can't call home because it is way to early there...3:30 am.  So I try to sleep a little in the chair and hold tight to the only possessions that I have left.  Finally at 10:45, I get up to call my parents.  It is 4:45 and my mom should be getting up in a little while any way.  I use up my entire phone card chatting with her and giving her an update on the latest saga.  She says that she had a lovely time chatting with Taris yesterday and that she would send an email with an update.

I go and find a drink and a sandwich...first meal that day and find the correct terminal.  It is smooth going from this point on.  We board the plane to Rome, smooth flight (I slept the whole time), wait in the terminal, board the flight to Naples (slept the whole flight), and land.  The smooth sailing ends here.

I am sure you can guess what I am about to say.  I get to the baggage carousel and wait...and wait...and wait.  I waited until the entire place has cleared out and no bags.  Wow.  Because Air France didn't have like ALL day to find my bags and get them on the right plane.  So, I wait in line at the baggage claim service desk.  When I finally make it up there, the man starts to doubt my story.  1. He doesn't believe that my bags would be going to Bologna if I came through Rome.  2. He doesn't believe me when I tell him that I am staying at the Hotel Santa Lucia down by the water.  and 3. When he asks when I will be leaving Naples and I tell him March 27th, he questions if it really is that long, am I really staying in a hotel, and if I am wealthy.  Really...non of your business!  When I finally ask how long it will take to find my bags he gives the standard answer of tomorrow.  I asked what I was supposed to do in the mean time since I have been in the same clothes for THREE DAYS.  He said I don't know and asked for the next person in line.

I get out side and can't find Taris.  Come to find out, he was getting ready to leave the airport because I never came out.  I started to cry from shire exhaustion and frustration over the entire thing.  We rode the bus home...well to within a mile of the hotel and proceeded to hoof it all the way my agonizing shoes.  We made it to the hotel and I called my parents to let them know that I was OK.  So glad to be at the hotel, with Taris, and hating that I am having to take the same journey home, with the same company.

By the way, just so you know the forces working against me on this little journey.  There were hurricane force winds coming through France (up to 95 MPH and 45 people died along the coast), it was a full moon, the Air France pilots were on strike (it ended on March 1st), and it was the Ides of March.  When you look at it that way...I guess it was a miracle by God that I made it at all.

Enjoy the pictures below...if you are still reading.

The crowd behind us.  I was about to be called.  I can only imagine how long some of these people waited in line!

The Novotel in short stay comfy bed

The bathroom...very european

Waiting to get on the plane to Rome...too tired to care about old clothes and nasty hair


Kathleen said...

That is why you must wear comfy shoes on the plane.

Estee said...

Oh my goodness! Have you been talking to Taris! That is all I have heard from him. He also said that he was going to make me wear them on the way home.