26 hours in Charles De Gaulle

June 17, 2017

You know, sometimes traveling just sucks. This post is a ‘quick’ synopsis of the worst travel day either Walt or I have ever experienced ever – on this trip or otherwise. If you prefer not to hear a rambling rant about how god awful the Charles De Gaulle Airport is, I would not be sad if you decide to skip over this post. No, seriously, please, be my guest. Just keep scrolling by this one.

You still here? Well, I warned you.

Commence rant:

Today we woke up early after a fitful night of nervous I’m-not-forgetting-anything-am-I? sleep to finish packing our bags. We scanned and rescanned our apartment for forgotten items before checking ourselves out of our AirBnb. After a quick and painless ride to Charles De Gaulle we accidentally hopped off at the wrong terminal. Whoops. No matter, caught the next train and continued to the E Gates. Disembarked, found ourselves in a train station… weird. Stood in line at an info desk to get pointed the right direction. No big deal.

Tried to check into our flight by standing in the wrong line – the booking desk, not the check-in desk. Oops. Proceeded to the check-in desk. Oh, we don’t have our boarding passes. Let’s go stand in line at the self-service kiosk to print those passes out.

Hold up. What’s this? A massive crowd of angry and startled travelers shuffling like a lumbering wave being herded toward us by a security guard yelling in French: ‘Terminal E is being evacuated for security measures and you are all required to leave’. Easily four-hundred people pressed in around us now, with their luggage carts and baggage squishing closer and closer together, resisting the urging of the guard. Walt and I are the next in line at the kiosk at this point, but the guard doesn’t seem to care that we stay in line to get ourselves checked in.

Tickets in hand, we wait as twenty, twenty-five, thirty minutes before finally they re-open the terminal nearly 45 minutes after its closure. People take off running, in some cases dragging children and their carry-ons behind them. Hmm, red flag maybe? No matter, we still have an hour and a half before our departure. Let’s check that bag in, shall we?

Bag checked. Headed toward security, only to find nearly twelve-hundred people (I’m not exaggerating, we spent about 15 minutes trying to estimate, and this was a conservative guess) waiting to get through a passport check. Oh, god.

We wait. Jockeying for our position with a handful of Japanese travelers that have no understanding of how to queue properly, and trying to fend off the dozens of people ducking under the barriers to cut the line. I kid you not, flat out cutting in front of hundreds of people. Undoubtedly, they felt entitled – they’re going to miss their flight!

Just like we were bound to do.

One hour into waiting in this effing line, and I’m pulling my hear out. But Walt looks at his watch — “We have 15 minutes, we might just make this plane.”

We bolt through security (the line is non-existent, praise be) and literally sprint to our gate… but uh. Where is it? E30, E34, E35… where’s E31? OH DOWN THOSE STAIRS WE JUST RAN PAST OK.

I’m about to pass out. We fly down the escalators, skidding to a stop – right as the doors close to the bus bound for our plane. The gate agent turns to us with apologetic eyes, and says “Sorry, you just missed it.”

Fantastic.

Can you book us on the next flight? No, ok. Head upstairs to Gate E29-A to re-book. Alright.

Back upstairs and there is a cue a mile long off of E29… but E29-A? I ask some folks in English, “Are you hoping to rebook your flights?” Wide eyes look startled at me, then followed by quick nods. Mmmk.

NOPE. Turns out they were waiting to go to Panama City. We spent 20 minutes in the wrong line. LOVELY.

Find E29-A (the A was important, apparently) and then wonderfully unhelpful agent says she can’t re-book us. Head to the gate on the other side of customs.

Wait. What?

You guys, it takes us an hour and a half, plus waiting in two more wrong lines before we find the ticket desk we need. The very first desk we in inadvertently waited at at the beginning of this shit-filled day.

They try to re-book us for a flight later that day, but the only available itinerary only has a single seat available. No thanks, we’re sticking together on this one, so they begin going through the motions of booking us on the first flight out tomorrow morning. One of only two highlights that came from this awful day was that we didn’t have to pay for this re-booking. Because we were checked in a full two hours before our departure, and the fact that the terminal closure was in no way within our control, we didn’t have to pay for it! Yay! A genuine thank you to Flybe for that one.

Ok, I’m half listening to the booking agent, half focused on my phone trying to book a hotel for the night. Being a huge international airport, there are a ton of options, they’re all just pricey as all get out. It’s fine, it’s fine. We’ll make it work. Last thing we need to do is to collect that pesky bag I checked earlier so we can bring it in with us tomorrow morning when we attempt once more to leave France.

We go down to the baggage claim area so we can retrieve my bag. The staff at this desk are particularly awesome… even though they have no power whatsoever to help me find my bag. They can guarantee it was removed from our flight, but even four hours after that scan – yeah, we sat around for four hours – they have no idea where the bag is.

We decide to let them try to figure it out. We head to our hotel in hopes of getting some food and, hey, look! our hotel has a hot tub! Let’s do that! Turns out the food at the hotel is crazy expensive, and the hot tub is lukewarm. Grouchy and hangry, we decide just to relax in our room and durp around on the internet for a while… OH THE INTERNET DOESN’T WORK. AWESOME.

Later that evening we head back to CDG to attempt to retrieve my blasted bag. We walk in at 9:10pm, perfect timing because they just scanned my bag in for the first time at 8:55pm – just shy of 9 hours after it was removed from our flight. We end up waiting for another hour and a half for my bag to finally slide down the oversized baggage claim carousel.

I mentioned two highlights during this god awful day? The second of which was that our carousel was the same one that all of the high flying pups come through. So we got to watch three dogs be reunited with their owners after what must have been a terrifying airplane experience. I thoroughly enjoyed providing hushed dog voices narrating the reunions to Walt as the pups squiggled with excitement when they saw their people.

You guys. I to find joy in little things. The dogs! The dog reunions were my ‘little things’ today. I really try to not get too low in a shitty situation such as this one, but dammit. The universe had it out for us today. We couldn’t help but think, if we hadn’t gotten off the train at the wrong station this morning, if we hadn’t chosen the wrong desk to queue at, if those horrible trash people hadn’t cut us in line could we have made it just before those bus doors closed? Would we be hanging out in our flat in Edinburgh right now instead of sitting in a weirdly American Hyatt hotel with shitty internet? I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t want to bring myself to think about it too closely.

I think I just need to go to sleep… because we’re getting up extra extra early in hopes of successfully leaving Charles Effing De Gaulle tomorrow.

 

 

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