Monday, September 24, 2007

My Spanish Vacation

I'm back, and it was an interesting time. I would post some photos, but we forgot to take the digital camera. I'll be posting from the disposables once we get them developed.

All in all, it was enjoyable. We spent a lot of time on foot roaming the Barri Gotic and seeing sights in southern Barcelona. We spent way too much time on the subway (mostly because it was stuffy and hot), but we appreciated the mobility. Saw a few great museums, spent way too much to see the aquarium, but otherwise had a god time. The not-so-fun part of the trip occurred on the return flight. I'm sure this will be funnier to me in the future, but today, it's only mildly so. It wasn't the least bit funny on Saturday.

We arrived at the Barcelona airport at 7:30 AM, earlier than the recommended 2.5 hours prior to leaving. That decision turned out to be fortuitous because the flight one hour earlier than ours was backed up, and the kiosk would not allow me to check in. We waited in line for about 75 minutes. When we did get to the front, the agent was confused because the reservation had my nickname (Bill) instead of my given name. That was due to Travelocity's odd reservation process. She let me go ahead (for which I was grateful). Off we were to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

For some reason, the fine folks at Travelocity thought there should be no problem on an international flight making a connection between two terminals in 40 minutes. Of course, they'd forgotten a little thing called security. They also forgot to take into account the complete dearth of maps in CDG airport. Under the best circumstances, we probably would've missed our transatlantic flight because the gate closes nearly 30 minutes prior to takeoff. In this case, the narrow connection time was irrelevant. That's because the terminal was closed.

Yes, closed.

We arrived at the escalator to find French police officers and military (armed with automatic rifles) blocking the escalator. At the time, we were still holding out hopes of making the flight (probably naively). As we waited for something to happen, the hope melted away. No one knew what was up (or at least no one announced it to the travelers). However, after about 25 minutes, a whistle blew twice, and all the police officers and military personnel covered their ears. I saw one traveller do the same, and I told Kellina and Gina to cover their ears.

Nothing happened. The police and military folks relaxed and went back to chatting. Then about 45 seconds later, there was an explosion. That made even the police and military folks jump, but they went right back to chatting afterward. I calmed my daughter's fears and pointed out that the police hadn't sent us for shelter or anything, and after another 10 minutes, we were allowed to enter the terminal.

We got to the terminal entrance and were sent off to the reticketing agent. The Air France agent was great. She rebooked us on a flight the next day (no more available for Saturday) and gave us meal and lodging vouchers.

Now let me just add that te French seem to have a very different set of standards for hotels than we do. We were put in a triple room at the Ibis Ville (in Roussy en France, a charming little village very close to the airport). I should've know that a triple room would not be quite the same as we'd find at your average US aiport hotel. We caught the courtesy shuttle and a short time later were standing at the desk of the Ibis Hotel. I said in my weak French, "Je ne parle pas de français. Parlez vous Anglais, s'il vous plaît?" The clerk jovially said, "I speak everything."

No worries.

Until we get to the room.

It was the size of my home office, with a full bed and an extra trundle bed. The trundle bed had a lock on it to prevent people from sleeping more than they'd registered. Fortunately we were promised a triple, so the bed was available for our use. The orange indoor/outdoor carpet had a few stains, and the sliding door to the restroom (sans ventillation) left rather large openings.

The air conditioner didn't appear to be functional, which was not good. The air was warmer inside the room than it was outside. So we slept with the window cracked.

Did I mention that Roussy en France is really close to the airport?

There were upsides to the stay. The village is very charming, and we spent some time in the little church there waiting for Mass (which unfortunately didn't happen because the priest supported several parishes). The meals were very good. However, by 9:30 AM, I simply wanted to put the Ibis behind us. So we did, and we arrived early for our flight home (rerouted through Atlanta). After a lovely 15 hours in transit, we were home—a little worse for the wear, but home, thanks be to God.
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