Thursday, October 27, 2011

We're Not Friends

I can be friends with almost any person: old, young, loud, quiet; and I am friends with many things: books, cardigans, the J.Crew sale rack, coffee.  But there is one thing that after numerous tries I am absolutely NOT friends with:


My close friends, especially Hope, Sara, and Betsy, will either laugh or shudder when they see this post because they have listened over and over to my deep feelings on this subject.

*Mom- you might want to skip this post.  While I am positive your layover next month at CDG will be GREAT(!), I don't want you to be too discouraged going into it.

While thinking about this post I thought I would look up traveler reviews about CDG.  That turned out to be good times indeed.  Probably because when you feel so strongly about something it is nice to be validated.  Anyhow, some snippets online include,"Complete disaster of an airport", "Diabolical, rude and disorganised", "Nothing but trouble", "Terrible, dirty", "The information that is considered basic at most airports (such as departure screens) is entirely lacking at CDG."

On our way to Morocco we had a 6 hour layover at CDG.  This was actually only my third time flying through Paris, after the first two stops there I have avoided it like the plague. But if you want to fly directly into Rabat, you must go through CDG and of course this time I would be avec mes enfants.  I was trying to be optimistic about the trip, knowing they had been doing some construction, maybe making some improvements, giving them the benefit of the doubt.  But if you're wondering why this happened over a month ago and I'm just now writing about word: TRAUMA.

But before we get to the stop that made the others pale in comparison, let me give you a quick rundown of the first two layovers:

1. Winter 2007- on our way back from Christmas in the Middle East.  We wisely ate from a street vendor before leaving that day which led to me spending the midnight flight from M.E. to Paris over the toilet-actually falling asleep on the airplane bathroom floor at one point.  Had an 8 hour layover and when Joe, bless his heart, tried to upgrade us to business class for the second flight, they asked for $2500.  During 8 hour layover we were stuck in a terminal with no food or drink to speak of and the chairs were so bad I slept on the floor on top of a scarf I had bought on trip.

2. Summer 2008- on our way back from Italy and 9 weeks pregnant.  Waited so long in security line without restroom or water in sight that I nearly fainted.  Joe finally made an airport worker find me some water.  After making it to gate went in to the restroom only to find janitor cleaning the toilets and sinks with the same dirty sponge.  Fresh wave of nausea.  To board plane had to get on charter bus and stand pinned amongst other people before being driven out to tarmac.  We waited on said bus for 30 minutes.  Then on tarmac for another 30.  Barely made it on the plane in time to become sick again.

So, yes, you could say that my own personal problems had a lot to do with my lack of faith/sheer terror when it comes to this airport.  But I think this third trip can stand on its own.

First of all, from the time we exited our flight until we made it to next destination- the place we would wait out our layover- TWO hours elapsed.  What on earth happened in that two hours?  Did we stop at a sit down restaurant? Take a jaunt in to Paris?  No.  We merely tried to get from point A to point B- one terminal over- in the shortest amount of time possible.

It all began before we even exited the plane.  We waited until the other passengers left to wrangle our 5 carry-ons, 2 car seats, 2 boys and stroller.  We thought we were being courteous, but the airport staff thought we were taking way too long and proved quite unhelpful and rude.  After making our way into the terminal J and I waited 15 minutes while Joe and G went upstairs and downstairs trying to find the lounge and any gate information.  They finally found out that the first thing we needed to do was change terminals.  A terminal change requires taking a bus for about a 10 minute ride, but before you make it to said bus you have to shlep all your things down 3 flights of stairs- no elevator, no escalator.  It took Joe 3 trips up and down while I waited with our crew.  We had just missed the shuttle and the next one was 25 minutes later.

Once we got all of our stuff aboard the bus, took the ride, and walked into the correct terminal we were thrilled to find an elevator waiting.  We were really looking forward to going through security again, but made it only halfway through.  Joe and J and half of our stuff had been scanned when a TSA-equivalent worker decided to force J's car seat into the machine that was clearly too small to fit.  And it inevitably got stuck....for 20 minutes.  And the inefficiency...oh my, the inefficiency.  It's like the entire security checkpoint stopped and the line of other travelers grew and grew all watching and waiting on US.  (Just imagine the stares pointed our way) While the airport staff scrambled with the machine, Joe and J waited on the other side.  Now here's the good part.  There was one security machine still working, and the lady monitoring it thought J was so cute that she just had to hold him.  So she went and grabbed him from Joe and proceeded to sit with him in her lap while she watched the screen for dangerous things.  Can you hear TSA wetting themselves?  Because I can.

I'm still not sure how they got the car seat out of the machine, but they evidently couldn't spare a minute while it was in there to screen it and after it came out they whisked it off somewhere to do who knows what kinds of tests- an additional 15 minutes.  Once inside we had about a 10-15 minute walk to the lounge (for reasons still unbeknownst to us, we were upgraded to business class for the flight to Rabat)  and panicked once we entered and saw how crowded it was.  Thankfully we were able to find a spot in the back to "rest" with our boys for the next 4 hours. Also, Delta/Air France is in charge of the lounge so the staff and services inside were decent.

The remaining time spent in the airport before departure was about how you would imagine it would be with 2 babies that haven't slept all night and it's now 3 am on the East Coast.  Miserable- but that's not due to the airport.  And I'm going to go ahead and confess that I poured myself a mixed drink at 10 am. Bam.  That just happened.

We went to board the plane and it ended up being one of those lovely situations mentioned above in #2.    So up and down the stairs and off and on the bus with all our goodies.  And then I got yelled at by a staffer for not walking up the airplane stairs avec enfant et car seat et 2 carry-ons quickly enough. (I don't know "carry-ons" in French and I'm trying to keep it real)

And then, thankfully, we were on the place, sitting in business class where the flight attendants treat you like human beings and make everything better.

This concludes my latest CDG tragedy, and if you are still tuned in, BRAVO and God Bless.

P.S.(And don't let this stop you from coming to visit!!!  Really!)
P.P.S.  I know, I know "first-world problems"- but the tale has to be told if for no one else- ME in 20 years.


  1. You are too funny! Did we ever tell you about our Turkey trip and how the lady was so enamored by Ben that she forgot to make us buy visas and stamp our passports. It wasn't until leaving that we got pulled out of line and questioned about how we got into the country with no stamp and no visa! We had to go back, buy the visa, and get stamped before they would let us get on the plane that was leaving that hour! ICKES!

  2. I am glad you finally made it! Makes a great a story! :)