Friday, May 31, 2013

tSH goes to Paris!

And within 24 hours of landing at Heathrow I was back out the the door again after a full day at the office to go to...Paris!

Such is my life. Really. I didn't even plan it this way intentionally this time it just ended up being this way. I had the weekend in Copenhagen planned, then Paris was planned because of the conference I would attend on Monday to ensure my manager's ticket would not go to waste (she was presenting on the weekend but had parents in town so needed to return to London by Monday) and then Helsinki ended up getting planned in the middle of it all. It was the only time I could squish it in before I yet again, in a few days, jet off to the States for another business trip, so well...that's my life.

...to be honest I'm starting to wish I could be in London a little bit more consistently. But I'll talk about that some other time.

For now let's talk about Paris.

This was the first time I would be flying through a different terminal of Heathrow since I was, unlike most times I was flying, not going with my platinum status alliance (which is One World and has airlines like British Air, American Airlines, and Finnair). Instead I was going with Air France, which is part of the Delta alliance, otherwise known as the SkyMiles alliance.

So, terminal 4 it was for me, instead of terminal 3 or 5.

And it turned out on the day I was to leave that there were a bunch of a problems with the track signals going in and out of Heathrow, so everyone was in a mad rush getting from terminal to terminal (since the trains also use the tracks to get to and from the terminal, and while you can also use the underground to get to and from terminals it is not free, unlike the train).

Luckily, having heeded the advice of my intern I had left early enough to get to my gates early, even with the delay and skipped to my gate with all of the proper time.

...just to find out that my flight was delayed anyway.

Sigh. Well, I guess this would give me proper time to shop for a gift for my couchsurfing host, since I was going solo for the first time and in my haste hadn't had time to buy anything (as always).

So I did some duty-free shopping and picked up some nice yummies from the Harrod's branch that was there and called it a day.

What felt like ages later we boarded, flew, and landed.

Unfortunately what the delays had caused (unbeknownst to me, otherwise I would have been a lot more pissed off when it happened), was that by the time I landed, all of the trains and buses had already stopped for the night. Yes, Paris is like that sometimes. Apparently. And then the airport started closing down and scary armed guards with dogs and huge semi-automatic rifles started patrolling the hallways. I have no idea what that was for, but whatever it was, I wasn't going to stick around and find out.

My host was frantically texting me trying to figure out ways to get me to his house but eventually I found out there was a shuttle bus that would take me to the center (or close enough). It would basically get me to Paris, in some form or another. It was my only option other than a really expensive taxi (like 50euros), so I jumped on it, not knowing where it would drop me off.

Turns out that it dropped me off on the northern most part of the ring (around Paris). This is not a terrible position to be in. As I was getting off the bus though, everyone and their mother was running or walking toward the nearby train station, so I followed them, assuming I would be able to orient myself (more than what I could already see on my phone) and then map myself a route accordingly. Or just taxi from there.

However as I was approaching the station someone who worked there was basically screaming "last train into the city center!" and everyone started panicking. So I jumped on the train with them, not knowing where it was going or what line it was. This was probably my first mistake (of many).

I still had reception though, and a fairly good idea of which line I should be on to get to my host's house, so I plotted my course and figured out where I would transfer.

Awhile later (like 20 minutes) I got off and made my way to the appropriate line...

...which led me outside. Ah crap.

Once again my navigation skills failed me.

At this point (past 1am I believe) I was willing to just pay the price to taxi the way to my host's house, so I attempted to see where I could hail a taxi. Incidentally I bumped into a group of drunken American girls (from the east coast) and they offered to take me to a taxi hub that was one tram stop away.

Good thing I found them because I found out from the only sober one among them (the other ones were trying to chat up young French guys on the tram with things like, "This guy just came from playing with his band!" Uh, no, I just play in a band. "His band's name is Panama!" Uh, actually my band's name is the Burning Monkeys. "He plays the guitar!" Actually I play the drums... etc) that you can't hail taxis like in most normal cities. There are designated hubs where you are supposed to wait and get them. Luckily though, since they had taken me to the bigger street where they stopped most frequently, I was able to call one over anyway and get to my host's place. I think I was fairly lucky in this since this is not customary.

Anyway, around 1:30am I finally got to my host's place. Safe and sound.

But anyway, yay me welcome to France (again).

And that's how I entered Paris.

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