Travel nowadays is relatively easy and cheap, yet we love to complain about it as much as we do talking about the weather. I do find it’s best to set low expectations as a good way to ensure that we’re not basket cases after a single day in an airplane.
Our flight is from San Francisco to Lyon and the connections should not be hard. We booked the flight with a travel agent (remember those?) who finds inexpensive business class tickets. The neat thing about this travel agent is that it is a person, not a website, and thus someone we can call with our problems, abundant as they may be.
We were, for our standards, surprisingly ready on time for the limo to the airport, and started our trip off with a schedule mix-up since they thought we were going to San Jose. After straightening that out, we were off to San Francisco. If you’ve flown from San Francisco recently, you’ll know they do a terrific job of ensuring scheduling delays, late luggage arrivals and providing an airport ambiance that is about 15 years behind the times. They did not disappoint since the security line was similar to a depression-era bread line- and it’s not as if they didn’t know the planes would be taking off.
We boarded the plane on time, in this case an Airbus 380. This Airbus is massive— you have the joy of flying with over 500 of your best friends. We were on the top floor, which felt like an entire plane itself. Of course we were delayed by 90 minutes before departure, which was attributed to having a passenger in a wheelchair. I wonder how he felt being rolled aboard when it was just announced that this delay was due entirely to him! It was an interesting yet uneventful flight to Paris to make our connection to Lyon. I was able to watch a couple of French movies, subtitled, which somehow all seem to have two required scenes– an argument in a smoke-filled bar and also a journey through the French countryside in a beat-up Peugeot.
We had a reasonably scheduled connection in Paris to Lyon which of course was a flop since we left so late. We arrived at the gate exactly two minutes too late and missed our connection. In contrast to flying domestically, we were then scheduled for the next flight that same day and each given a food voucher for 26 Euro for our trouble. Hard to imagine any of that happening in the U.S.
France- some first thoughts
It’s been a while since I’ve been to France and it was interesting to see what’s changed. Driving seems no different, with an apparent national pact known only to the French that cars have to be really small and driven with high velocity. Smoking has, on the other hand, visibly decreased, with national bans in bars and restaurants. That said, it’s still at a higher rate than in the U.S.
France has had a great ability to be part of Europe and still remain distinct. There has always been an effort to protect the French language from foreign invaders (that’s us, anglophones) and it is the only country that I can think of that has three domestic automobile makers, i.e., Renault, Peugeot and Citroen, which principally serve their own domestic market. The British tried to defend their auto industry as well, but we know how that ended with any remnants of British auto manufacturing now being foreign owned. Under De Gaulle, keeping France separate but part of Europe reached its apex with France’s withdrawal from NATO, closure of all U.S. bases and then his push to not allow the U.K. to join the Common Market— maybe he was ahead of his time on the last point.
Any discussion of France needs to lead with food. It’s excellent, abundant and highly regarded. Even the local discount supermarket has a large cheese and wine selection. Eating is something that is to be enjoyed and not rushed through. We gladly adapted to that. Art, architecture and style are also highly appreciated.
Relative to the language issue, which has always been a challenge for the visitor, there are now a lot of English speakers here, although it’s really helpful and polite to start with some French if you can. So far, we’ve been very well treated, and people are polite to the visitor. Patience is not in abundance for drivers, though, so be prepared for some tense moments in traffic.
This remains a great country to visit and well worth the trip!