Friday, August 28, 2009

Germany Trip... Part 8 - Continued Airport/Hotel Monotony

Tuesday 8/18 (The day I was to return to work)

Wake up well rested and ready for day three.... We took the shuttle bus to the airport. We got some nice views of the front... Nice looking airport. There was a large arm holding a Samsung cell phone. (and another Euro symbol)

We get to the gate, sit down... you know the rest of the story. So we wait for the next flight(to Cincinnati). The day before we tried the JFK flight, but they were asking for volunteers to give up their seats. We thought we should try for Cincinnati today because it "looked better" the day before. We could only try for Atlanta then chose between JFK or Cincinnati because the later two left within an hour of each other and there wasn't enough time for our bags to be rerouted. Some other standby's were arguing with the gate agent about this the day before. We wanted to get home too, but we stayed out of it. The Cincinnati flight was at the same gate, so we got closer to the window and read for a few hours...

As the gate started filling up with people, we heard those heartbreaking words yet again, "This flight is oversold. If your travel plans are flexible..."

(audio is terrible on this...don't know why.)

We just hung our heads. "Friendly Lady" looked over at us. We were both thinking the same thing. The CA couple were upset too. (They had a young baby and a boy about 10 or so-and LOTS of luggage) We began to discuss our options. Friendly Lady befriended another guy (who wasn't a standby, but gave up his seat) and used his laptop to look at hotels and flights. We found out that there was a much better chance to cross the ocean if we left from Paris. We first asked the gate agent to look at Dusseldorf and Berlin (which would have been impossible because the World Championships were going on there). We even thought about Amsterdam and Brussels. We decided on Paris because there were about a dozen flights to the US throughout the day and at that point, we would have flown to Canada or Mexico...anything to just get over the ocean. We would have sat in the Toilet! Really. We headed for the Last Minute ticket counter to see what we could do. I learned of a 12 HOUR train ride to Paris for real cheap(One standby lady-Big Curly-haired Lady had taken advantage of it). 12 HOURS on a slow train to Paris! UUGGHH! I went and got our bags while Wes talked to the ticket folks. I mentioned the cheap train ride to him, but he had already bought tickets for us on Lufthansa. (We learned when we got home that a bullet train would have cost hundreds less then the plane tickets. Hindsight..again. We didn't have access to the internet to search for anything though.)

So we got our tickets on Lufthansa, headed out of the International Terminal. We had several hours to kill before the flight to Paris left. We said at least we knew we were getting on this one... We planted ourselves near the window and read some more... I continued my notetaking for our trip...

Lufthansa is the major airline for Germany. It's like Delta is to Atlanta.

We had to take a bus from the terminal to the airplane. There were dozens of planes lined up away from the terminals like this.

The flight was relatively short. Maybe an hour or so. We land in Paris. We didn't see anything but the usual from the windows. (No Eifel Tower). Our standby friends in Frankfurt said that Charles De Gaulle airport is the worst place in the world. We were somewhat skeptical about this. Since we weren't getting on a connecting flight that day (we landed late afternoon), we weren't to worried about it. When we taxi'd in, we saw this spaceship looking thing with "orbiting" gates around it. It was rather strange looking. (Here's a map.. the spaceship is top left. Here's an aerial view). It was real strange. We got off the plane, went down this long moving sidewalk that went underground and then back up into the "Mothership." I really felt like I was in another planet or maybe in Star Trek or something. (Mom, you would have loved it!)

Here's a sign to prove we weren't on a different planet... (It was just France)

(The " information board" for flights and trains.)

We found an information desk and ask where we can find a hotel. They direct us to another information desk. The man gives us a list of hotels and French. We had gotten pretty good at reading basic German, but this was truly another planet! Neither of us had any idea what we were looking at. (I took one semester of French in high school... Sorry Mrs. Dunnam, I don't remember a thing!) We decided to go find the train station thinking their might be someone else we can talk to. We find the lovely TI sign (Tourist Information) with a friendly multi-lingual lady who helps us. She deciphers the list and makes us a reservation. It's the cheapest place on the list. (We welcome the cheap places at this point... starting to get worried about our money situation...I did't get paid again until Friday and we had nearly depleted our vacation account. Wes's job still issues paper checks.) Anyway, she shows us the way to the hotel shuttle bus area and we get on the bus. The shuttle bus take people to a number of hotels. We are looking for Premiere Classe. We see it and get off the bus. It's seems small but nice. Kind of reminds me of the small Comfort Inn near Sams in Meridian. Several other people got off the shuttle with us. We wait in line to check in. We get to the counter, the lady looks at our reservation (also in French) and says, wrong hotel. Wha?? (Luckily, she spoke good English.) We tells us to get back on the bus and get off at the "next stop." So we do. We get to the right hotel and realize, yeah we weren't at the cheapest one on the list... THIS is the cheapest one on the list. (Even the staged pictures on their site are bad...) It truly was a roadside motel. We were a bit worried at first. The lady at the desk wasn't real friendly. She didn't speak English that well. (There was a man that was nicer). We got whats called a Triple room (three persons). We were expecting much more than we got! (hotel reviews)

The bathroom smelled like pee. It was nothing but a fiberglass enclosure with a normal looking door on it. (The shower floor was the floor to the whole bathroom!) We felt like we were in a prison cell! There wasn't even a closet. Just a few hangers hanging on the ladder to the top bunk! We were so tired and ready to get home, we didn't really care at this point. I began cleaning out the carryon bag to rid of the junk we didn't need anymore. I piled up most of our train tickets and itineries, airplane seat requests and tickets, baggage tickets, hotel keys, etc... This isn't all of it! (Lufthansa airlines gave each passenger a gold token worth 2 euros off any purchase at the duty free shops in Frankfurt's airport. We didn't use them.)

We get settled in the hotel and look at the area map for our dinner choices. (It's 8:30 pm by this time) We saw an IKEA sign nearby, so I ask the desk lady where it is. (Not much help) All I got from her was "left." We give up on it because we were tired and we thought they closed at 9pm (The one in Atlanta does). There was a restaurant next to the hotel called the Hippopotamus. We decided to take our chances. Our waitress didn't speak hardly any English. Luckily, the menu had pictures. (No English menu) We both ordered a hamburger and fries (French Fries! Haha), but we had to chose how we wanted it cooked. There were four choices. We went from right to left and chose the third one, think it was medium well or something similar. The burgers were barely warm! I couldn't eat it! It was awful. I scrapped the raw meat out of the middle and ate the outside part. It still tasted bad... It wasn't satisfying... Anyway, we headed for bed.
Wednesday 8/19
We got up and got to the airport on time. (We were in a different terminal this time). It was really long area. Wes learned later that after this terminal was built (in the early 2000's) the roof collapsed near gate E50. Several people were killed. They closed it down and rebuilt the entire roof. It looked pretty cool.
Here's a big Air France jet...

So, we get to the gate and hang out for a while. There's a screen with a list of people that need to "see a Air France ticket agent immediately." So we don't pay any attention to it. They begin to board the plane (everyone waits in line on a long ramp). We sit and wait. No announcements. We get a little nervous. The line drops down to nothing and still no announcements. So we decide to go ask. (We've heard they do things differently in this airport) We stand up and the screen shows our names on the list. So we go to the counter and show our passports and they point us toward the guys checking tickets... (progress). We give him our seat requests and he gives us..... (drumroll).... A SEAT ASSIGNMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I started crying. I really did! And guess what... We had seats up front!!! Even better. It was a gift from God! Truly a miracle!!
Here's a picture of us smiling and goofing ATLANTA!!! We had 7 hours of layover time in Atlanta. We walked around the whole place looking at the confiscated items (you know endangered animal byproducts, wierd stuff...) We also looked at satellite photos from space. Then we ate at Qdoba. (our favorite burrito place) We made it home around 9pm... All is well.... :)

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