An Evening in Paris
Returning from Chicago proved to be more exciting than going there. The United Airlines airplane was late: about one hour and a half. This was worrying, but not unduly so as we did have about 3 hours in Paris to catch our Malaysian airlines flight to KL. Then I saw something in the display that scared me. Arrival time in Paris: 11.55 a m . Our connecting flight was at 12 Noon! But why? On enquiry we discovered that the Iceland Volcano had struck again. Instead of flying in a convex curve over Canada, and then over the Atlantic and Ireland and England, we would have to make a dip to the south over the Atlantic, and then fly north again to Paris. This would add a couple of hours to the flying time and unless Malaysian Airlines was flying late, it looked like we would have to stay overnight at the Charles de Gaulle Airport; unless we could manage to get a visa of course. The transit area at Paris had not really looked too exciting on the way out. We have been spoiled by KLIA and Changi, the CDG was a very poor cousin to their magnificence.
As expected, we reached CDG at 1155, just in time to see, as we deplaned, the MH Boeing taxing out to the runway. An apologetic United Airlines official took us to the Airport Police office and we sat there while a strict looking lady took our details and took away our passports. “Could we pay for our Visas? “she asked. We assured her that we could. There was a young man of middle eastern appearance waiting to be interviewed. It transpired that he had a Spanish passport but did not speak a single word of Spanish. His photograph also did not seem to match his face. Unsmiling policemen took him away, no doubt to a fate worse than death!
The lady was kinder to us. She issued a visa (for one day) free of cost. United Airlines arranged to put us up at the Hilton hotel and also gave us vouchers for lunch dinner and breakfast. We sent an sms to our secretary in KL and got our tickets changed to the morrow and then we were free to enjoy Paris.
But not yet. What about our luggage? It had been booked through, so on to the Swissport Office where we demanded our bags. Madhu’s suitcase was retrieved; but there was no sign of mine. I saw visions of my suitcase revolving endlessly at a carousel in Dubai or perhaps Lima airport. Fortunately a few phone calls tracked the suitcase down and it came to me a little late but in good shape. The efficiency in Western airports is so poor that when flying from the better Asian airports one is surprised at the appalling levels of service. No wonder so many pieces of baggage are lost in Europe and America: it does not happen half as often in Asia
The Holton had a shuttle which got us there in double quick time. After checking in we rushed to have lunch. The restaurant had closed down, but we had lunch in the bar. It was a lovely lunch in three separate courses, as usual in France, the service was slow, but the food was heavenly. No wonder people praise French cooking. It gets my vote too!
The Railway station was close by and we took a one day ticket and went off to see the Eiffel Tower. As expected we got mixed up between the Metro and the railway systems .Anyway finally we were at the station concerned and it was a short walk to the Eiffel Tower. It was a lovely evening to walk the streets of Paris. The temperature was just right, the sky was blue, though with some dark clouds and the girls were unbelievably pretty. The Eiffel tower was crowded, long lines snaked to the lifts. The hawkers were African as usual but this time we saw a large number of Punjabi lads. Hindi was spoken largely by the tourists and Hawkers!
A short distance away was the Seine. The lights were just coming up and the cruise shops were all lined up, waiting for customers. We decided to have a cup of coffee at a café. Drinking at a table on the pavement is so quintessentially Parisian, at least in my imagination! The cruise was wonderful. The superb buildings on both sides, the lovely bridges, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, all came together to make it a magical evening. On the way back, the Eiffel Tower was lit up adding to the effect.
Rain played a spoilsport late in the evening and forced us back to the hotel. The next day we had no time except to have a leisurely breakfast and then to the airport to check in. Walking to the departure terminal we met up with the crew of the MH flight. Their smiles were really welcoming. As we sank into the comfortable seats in the MH 21, and the pretty stewardesses helped us put away our gear, we felt at home, albeit KL was still a 12 hour flight away