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I mentioned in my last post that I’d write a future installment with commentary on specific airports that have caused me headaches (and blisters!). What was mostly meant as an off-handed comment actually brought some very specific requests for these posts to take place. So, much like the deconstructed baggie post, away we go!

L’Arc de Triomphe, safely taken from the center of traffic by my father.

I bet you thought I’d start with ATL but honestly, some of the most poignantly awful experiences I’ve had in an airport reside at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. I know that this has the propensity to sound like a White Whine submission, but it’s the truth. Here are the top three memories I have from disasters at CDG:

  1. The time that kid threw up. E spent a year at LSE getting a Master’s so after I graduated undergrad, we thought a European jaunt would be the perfect celebration. Since he was in London, we decided to meet in Paris. Très romantique, n’est-ce pas? After landing at CDG, I was surprised/not surprised to find that we couldn’t pull up to a gate. I was surprised because we were on a HUGE plane filled with hundreds of passengers (I had connected through Detroit) and not surprised because CDG is always a hot mess of construction. On the Tarmac, we were loaded into a tram/bus thing to get to the main terminal. I wasn’t wild about this, but what are you going to do? Unfortunately, one of my fellow travelers, a little girl who was probably about six years-old, was even less excited. No sooner had she uttered “Je me sens mal” to her mother and she was throwing up all over the back of the tram. It was not awesome. Everyone just kind of looked at each other with grimaces and edged away from the mess. Exactly the kick-off to vacation I was hoping for!
  2. Notre Dame by night.

    The time the baggage carousels were closed. As repeatedly mentioned, I usually carry on luggage. However, when I was traveling to Paris in 2004 to study abroad, I needed a few more pairs of shoes than I usually bring on vacation so I had checked luggage. Upon arrival we were, of course, routed to Customs. I was 20 years-old, completely alone, and not really at a point of mastering my French skills so you can guess how terrifying this was. After clearing Customs, I went to baggage and looked around frantically for a monitor that would tell me which carousel held my bag. As CDG is perpetually under construction, all the carousels were closed. I kid you not. Every single bag was coming out of ONE hole. The chaos was palpable. I still do not understand what travel gods were looking out for me, but the second I deduced what was going on and edged my way to the hole of baggage, my bag came through. I know, it’s a mystery to me, too. Let’s all pause to say a prayer of merci.

  3. The time that new KLM agent lost my luggage. At the end of my study abroad session, my dad came over to visit and we flew home together. When we got to CDG, we queued for check-in at KLM and had an agent who was clearly new on the job. Although a supervisor was theoretically helping her, she still managed to get everything wrong. We were connecting home through Amsterdam and NYC and she booked our bags all the way to Minneapolis. Imagine our surprise at JFK when our bags never showed up and we had to explain to Customs that we weren’t doing anything untoward. Considering the amount of precious cargo I was bringing back stateside, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Not to mention that when we got to Minneapolis, one of the bags was missing altogether (naturally the one with all the expensive wine), and wouldn’t be located and delivered until the following day. Don’t worry, the wine survived.

I should probably note at this point that Paris is my all time favorite city. I could/would/probably should live there.

Still my favorite tourist attraction.

I should also probably note that I flew to CDG about a year ago and everything was running much more smoothly than when I encountered the above situations. Regardless, a million disasters at CDG could never diminish my love of Paris.

If they run out of wine, we may have to reassess.

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