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  • Day2

    The Long Day's Night

    August 22, 2019 in France ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    There is no getting around the fact that it is a long way from Melbourne to Europe. A really long way. There is also no way of skirting around the fact that, unless you are comfortably ensconsed up the pointy end of the plane, you are probably going to absolutely hate the interminable time spent in transit. In spite of that I have also discovered time and time again that the pain is worth the pleasure that follows when you have arrived.

    We left our home in the middle of the night and also in the middle of a miserable Melbourne winter. The only advantage of having a 5 am departure is that the drive to Tullamarine can be achieved on relatively quiet roads. It is a strange and wonderful feeling being able to drive on the Monash Freeway without feeling that you are about to be tail ended by a huge speeding truck sitting about 10 cm from your rear bumper.

    In spite of the terrible weather, the drive was actually surprisingly easy and we arrived at the long term parking about an hour after leaving Pakenham. We were the only ones there and were met by a rotund young fellow who seemed grateful to have something to do. He explained where to park the car and then ushered us to a large shuttle bus to take us to the airport.

    About 10 minutes later we were dropped off at the Departures section and our adventure was about to begin in earnest. As our small group of travellers started to assemble, we passed the time happily chatting and drinking coffee - we will be doing a lot of that over the next few weeks.

    By 2 am the checkin was open and we were soon on our way through security and immigration. In spite of Carol's persistent requests for an upgrade, none were forthcoming. Apparently such airline largesse is no longer practised. You have to pay for anything. Actually we had already paid for something - exit row seats.

    If I am going to sit in a steel sarcophagus for 14 hours, I might as well at least have enough room to straighten my legs from time to time. It might not be business class, but it really does make a little difference to the level of discomfort.

    The plane took off right on time and soon the combined effects of a very long day and a slightly rocking plane sent my eyelids in the downwards direction. When I awoke I was a little surpised to find that 4 hours had passed by. It was a great start and I was also pleased to find that a DVT had not formed in my leg while I had been asleep.

    After a few hours of watching movies and listening to audio books it was time for the next major challenge of the flight. Eating your meal from a rickety foldout table about the size of a postage stamp is never easy. There is always the ever present danger of watching your fork disappear out of sight into that bottomless abyss between the seats or knocking your glass of juice right onto your lap.

    I thought after many long haul flights I was at last getting a little more skilled at eating and staying sane. My self confidence might have been a little premature. Somehow I managed to finish the entire bowl of beef ragout (or something like that) without any major catastrophes. It was only when I stood up that someone pointed out that most of the beef and gravy had somehow deposited itself on the front of my clean shirt. What followed next was a lengthy time spent in the dwarf toilet trying to launder my shirt with water and tissues. It almost worked.

    After fourteen hours we finally touched down in Dubai, to be immediately welcomed by the furnace like heat and dust haze that makes this place one of my least favourite locations on earth. Forunately we only had a 90 minute transit and we were soon ushered onto the second A380 which was to complete our journey to Paris.

    Although six hours is better than fourteen hours, it is still a long time. A problem with the headphone socket meant that I had to hold the plug in the socket if I wanted to hear anything while I was watching a movie. It was a relatively minor inconvenience, but it did irritate me. I decided to watch the flight animation instead. Watching a little cartoon plane slowly crawl its way over Iraq does not make for gripping viewing so I tried to sleep a little longer.

    It seems to be a requirement of modern long haul flights that the shutters are kept securely closed for the entire flight. This means that, even if you have a window seat, you cannot even amuse yourself by watching the clouds pass by. Instead you are locked inside a black prison where time seems to stand still, punctuated at regular intervals by additional food spills on various items of clothing. Flying really is fun.

    Finally, after about 24 hours of travel, we touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport. It was 8 pm local time and the outside temperature was a delightful 25C. That was the rotten bit over, now we could look forward to the enjoyable bit.

    It took another hour or so to clear immigration and collect our baggage. I had booked one night at the Ibis Airport hotel and they promised that a free shutle would collect us from terminal 2C. It was just a shame that we waited at the wrong pickup point and missed the first bus. After a bit of research we discovered the correct bus stop and finally crowded onto the bus for the short trip to the hotel.

    Although it was supposed to be only 2 km away, the bus trip seemed to take forever. By this time we were all at the edge of exhaustion. Fortunately the hotel was expecting us and the friendly young man directed us to the phone box that was to be our room for the evening. Actually the room was smaller than most phone boxes, but it was clean and the bed worked. There are few things in life more joyous than the feeling of being able to lay your head on a pillow after such a long time of turmoil. It is like going to heaven.
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