Seoul to Paris
&BDay 2 Thursday 23rd September 2010
Depart Seoul (Incheon) 9-30am for Paris (Charles de Gaulle - CDG) –flight duration 11.5hrs.
Bus from CDG to Gard du Nord, then metro to our Bed and Breakfast at Malakov
Chatter – she says (Day 1 comment)
Left Wellington into the face of a freezing wet southerly and after a quick connection at Auckland it was a long and surprisingly tiring flight to Incheon airport near Seoul. ‘I watched Letters to Juliet’ which I thought was pretty banal until I watched “Sex in the City 2” which was so bad that when a meal was served near the end of it and I turned it off I never turned it on again so I still don’t know whether Big and Carrie resolved yet another one of their spats and I don’t really care. After crashing into bed at the Hyatt Regency at Incheon, I went to sleep revelling in the wonderful feeling of being able to straighten my legs out fully again and wondering if the ache in the calve on my right leg could be a DVT developing.
Chatter – he says (Day 2)
Well rested, and up at 6-30am local time. Our room had 5th floor view of Incheon airport.
After our short trip from the hotel, we experienced the true size of the place. It is so big they have underground tubes for transferring passengers between concourses.
Our flight was via Air France – code sharing both plane and food with KAL. Korean jellyfish noodles and French crayfish being the choice of meals – not exactly what non fish eaters like us would have in mind.
Seoul is close to the North Korean border. Our flight path took us out to the west just below the Korean dmz, over the Yellow Sea and into China near Beijing. Things look so orderly, straight training walls on the rivers etc. Our flight then headed inland across the Gobi Desert to Mongolia and over Russia. Its great with the individual in-flight screens showing maps of where you are, and being able to look out and see the points of interest below. It’s a pity we can’t do the overland trip as well.
The flight continued over Siberia, across the Urals and on past Moscow and St Petersberg to the Balkan Sea, before veering south to Paris where we descended directly into Paris without any delay. I wondered why there was no queue of planes at the time.
Chatter She Says (Day2)
The next morning after being fed and whisked back with Korean efficiency to Incheon Airport, which was sparkling immaculately under a beautiful blue sky, we soon found ourselves approaching our second 12 hr flight with a little less enthusiasm than the day before. It was a bit like when I went into labour with my second child. I knew exactly what I was in for and even though I didn’t want to do it, I knew I had to, to achieve my aim.
As we were flying Air France to Paris we said goodbye to Korean efficiency and hello to the infamous French “laissez-faire”. As we boarded the plane Kevin pointed out that the plane was a 777. This seemed a little creepy to me as this is the internal emergency code for wellington hospital. As I squeezed myself into the allotted 2ftX2ft that was to be my home for the next 12hrs, my right leg throbbed ominously and I wondered if I was feeling a bit tight in the chest.
I decided to ignore the fact that I might die of a pulmonary embolus and both Kevin and I spent a good deal of the next two hours watching the landscape of North Korea and then China pass clearly below us as the bevy of male Air France stewards gabbled non stop to each other in the service bay in front of us. After the stewards served our meal which had obviously been loaded on at Seoul (jelly fish salad) the stewards disappeared and it was basically self service from then on as every one just helped themselves to packages of sandwiches , pot noodles and drinks from the service bay. This worked quite well as you got to get up and mill around there chatting as you waited for your turn to get at the hot drinks. During the flight, I tuned into a lovely French documentary called “Bebe” which had no dialogue but was film footage of four babies from 4 different continents for the first 12mths of their lives. It was fascinating and entertained me right over the Gobi dessert which is only slightly more interesting to watch from the air than clouds or the sea. 2 hours prior to landing the stewards emerged and served us another meal which we ate as we watched St Petersburg and then Western Europe pass beneath us.
We eventually landed and as we staggered squashed and exhausted to our feet ,the jolly head steward thanked us over the intercom for flying Air France and added that he hoped the strike was not going to delay any one from catching on going flights. You could see everyone looking at each other with a startled “what strike ?”expression. We were about to find out.
As we arrived in the passport and immigration hall we tacked onto the back of a massive queue . Only 3 of the twenty desks were manned and soon every one was aware that the airport staff were on strike. To make matters worse after about half an hour of this, when we were just starting to believe that the end was in sight , they suddenly shut up shop and one of them starting blowing a whistle and yelling excitedly at us all in French. A testy Pom yelled back to speak English as we didn’t understand and we were told there was a security alert and we had to all move to the back of the arrivals hall. Another half hour passed when every 10mins they would request over the intercom “could the owner of the small red suitcase left unattended just past the passport checking desks, please come forward and claim it. “ With the English part of the announcement being done with a heavy French accent it was all very reminiscent of the Pink Panther film when Inspector Clouseau “findz ze bombe”. After another half hour, crazy passport lady suddenly got even more excited and blowing her whistle again sent us even further back into another area and then they must have removed “Ze lettle red suitcase “ because everybody was allowed back into the massive queue again and eventually we were allowed through to the luggage hall. Here, to make our day perfect, we found that because so much time had elapsed since our plane landed, they no longer had its flight number up on any of the twenty or so luggage carousels. We asked a bored looking official where the bags from the 220pm flight from Seoul might be and he said that luggage was at another terminal and we would have to go over there. This was a total wild goose chase as they sent us back to the original terminal where of course we could not get back into the luggage hall. So we queued at the one Air France information desk where every one who had missed on going flights were being rebooked and eventually the man there said go over to the door and he would press the release button and we would be able to get through to the baggage hall. However when the door release light went green the door wouldn’t open so at this point I had had enough and when the doors opened next to me to let someone out I marched through them, with Kevin following. This set off an alarm bell and four security guys yelled at us that we couldn’t come through there. I said very firmly that we wanted our bags and I wasn’t leaving without them. The look in my eye must have shown them that I had had enough French crap for one day and they calmed down and looked at our luggage receipts and directed us to the far end of the hall where eventually we spotted our bags on a nearby carousel grabbed them and headed for the exit.
But the day wasn’t over for us yet. With deceptive ease we caught the Line 4 airport bus to Montparnasse Station where we were to make a metro connection to Malakoff where our B&B was. This seemed ok and we settled back into our seats as the bus crawled along the ring road through a landscape of concrete and tagging graffiti that looked just like South Auckland. Does graffiti have a universal language? After about an hour and a half of creeping along surrounded by equally slow moving Peugeots, Renaults and Citroens, we spotted the Eiffel Tower in the distance so our jet lagged brains knew for sure that we were in Paris and not Manukau City. As the landscape turned into a more attractive vista of tree lined streets and cafes (by now it was about 7pm) the traffic worsened and all the intersections became manned by police with whistles just like the lady in the baggage hall. They blew their whistles, and, gesticulating wildly, seemed determined not to let the traffic go down the streets that it wanted to go down. As the bus manouvered down tiny sidestreets to try and get round all this to Montpanasse Station no one on the bus seemed disturbed by any of this and they all just stared resignedly ahead. We wondered if the “leetle red suitcase “had now made it’s way to Montparnasse. Eventually after two and a half hours the bus pulled up and we made our way onto what was to become one of the delights of our short stay in Paris ‘Le Metro’. Perhaps it was designed by a Korean, but we always found the Metro fast,efficient and well sign posted. (excellent buskers as well). Never did we wait more than 2mins for a train and for 1.70 Euro each we could travel any distance on it with one ticket.
At 830pm we rang the bell on the garden gate at La Guinere B and fell exhausted into the arms of it’s owner Michellene. Everything looked as charming as it did on its web site and after a meal at a restaurant around the corner and some negotiation on the time of our breakfast with Michellene (who needs to have the fresh made croissants ready to eat) we fell into an exhausted sleep (24hrs since we woke up in Seoul).
At 400am my eyes opened as my brain said “It’s time to get up!” As I rubbed my aching right calve I thought so this is the infamous jet lag.