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Trip Report: JFK-LHR-CDG-SFO-JFK (Part 3)

Trip Report: JFK-LHR-CDG-SFO-JFK (Part 3)

Old Feb 8, 00, 9:12 pm
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Location: Miami Beach, FL
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Trip Report: JFK-LHR-CDG-SFO-JFK (Part 3)

Frankly I was dreading the flight from Paris to Los Angeles - at 5,669 miles and a scheduled duration of 11 hours 55 minutes, it just seemed like too long to be sitting on an airplane. I decided to use the Metro and RER trains to get to CDG. Just a few stops from my hotel to the Gare du Nord station on the Metro and I transferred quickly and easily to the RER train, which went non-stop to CDG. From there, it got a little more complicated. After exiting the train and dragging my bag up a flight of stairs, I entered a modern and bright terminal I thought was the airport. After noting from the monitors that my flight was leaving from Area 2A and following the signs up another flight of stairs, I suddenly found myself standing outside! After a little confusion, I realized that I still had to take a shuttle bus to the actual terminal. Once there, I proceeded to the American Airlines desk, which was a complete zoo at first look, but no one was in the 1st Class line so I was in luck. After the usual security questions, I checked in, did a little duty-free shopping, and went to the Admiral's Club. The club at CDG is quite nice, since it doubles as an international club, and offers free liquor, wine, beer, and snacks. Not long after, boarding was called and I headed for the gate. This aircraft was a 767-300 and I had my usual favorite seat in Business Class, 7J. This plane also didn't have the new seats in any of the cabins. We weren't quite as empty as the flight coming over, but there were only 12 of us in Business and I had an open seat next to me. On a flight this long, I thought, thank goodness! It turned out one of my favorite flight attendants on my frequent transcon trips had just transferred to international and she was working the flight. While we caught up a bit, another FA took my coat and brought me a mimosa. We pushed back right on time at 1:05, but the captain informed us we had an ATC hold of 45 minutes. The time passed quickly, though, and before long we were taking off. It was interesting how long the plane took to get off the runway - I imagine with the amount of fuel needed to fly to LAX we were probably close to capacity takeoff weight. Soon after, drinks were served and the luncheon menu presented. Again, for those interested, I'll list the details:

WINES: Pommery Cuvee Madame Louise 1988 Champagne; Laboure-Roi Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1996; Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Fume Blanc 1998; Chateau Cantemerle 1994; Sokol Blosser Oregon Pinot Noir 1996.

APPETIZERS: Warm roasted nuts; lemon shrimp bruschetta with artichoke butter; salad greens with red wine vinaigrette or creamy roasted garlic dressing; sourdough and whole-grain rolls.

ENTREES: Filet Mignon, complemented by porcini mushroom and shallot demi-glace, served with a parmesan potato diamond and haricots verts almondine. Seared filet of salmon seasoned with dry mustard, enhanced by a chanterelle mushroom vinaigrette and offered with orzo pasta tossed with spinach. Farfalle pasta served with a three-cheese sauce, complemented by prosciutto, asparagus, and parmesan cheese. Herb-roasted chicken served with cornbread dressing, braised apples, and a Kentucky bourbon sauce. Seasonal vegetable plate including lemon-scented potatoes, wilted spinach, and grilled balsamic tomatoes.

DESSERT: Fresh fruit with cheese and crackers. Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Godiva Chocolates.

I chose the Filet Mignon, which was actually cooked to perfection and quite tasty. The Chateau Cantemerle red wine was fantastic, as the flight attendant promised. This crew of flight attendants was fun and informal, calling everyone by first names rather than the usual "Mr. and Ms." routine. I know some people don't like that, but I actually prefer it. On the 767-300, in addition to the main movie screen selections, Business Class passengers get Sony Watchmans to view a variety of films. With the majority of the flight still ahead of us, I chose 3 movies and loaded the first one up. Somehow the A/C adapters hadn't made it onto the flight, so were using battery packs for the Watchmans. I went through four by the end of the flight, as they either never get fully charged or they don't hold the charges very long.

As customary, the flight attendants turned off the lights and asked everyone to close their window shades. I kept one shade about 1/3 open; it just doesn't seem healthy to sit in the dark for an entire ˝ day! I was glad I did, because the northern route our flight took was quite interesting. We flew north from Paris over England and Scotland, crossing a piece of the Atlantic to Iceland, then another short stretch of ocean to Greenland. Greenland was an absolutely amazing sight, with beautiful mountains, ridges, valleys, and lakes all completely white with ice and snow. No sign of humankind for hundreds and hundreds of miles - it was really breathtaking. From Greenland we passed over the Cook Inlet and then through Canada, hitting the US around the Wisconsin / Canada border.

All in all, the time was passing quickly. I suffered a slight setback when, 2 hours before arrival time I discovered I had reset my watch incorrectly and we actually had 3 more hours to go. But I started my third movie and shortly the afternoon lunch was served. We were offered a choice of spinach salad with smoked trout or a sundried tomato tart with salad, along with something called apple buckle that vaguely resembled an apple pie. After my movie I spent some time working on my laptop, and before long we were arriving at LAX - actually right on time despite our late departure from Paris.

American is making major renovations at their LAX terminal and the work has made things a bit chaotic. We arrived at Terminal 5, actually Delta's terminal, to go through Customs. After a very long walk, I passed through Passport Control and proceeded to Baggage Claim. Though my bag had been tagged Priority, it wasn't among the first to be delivered. There were several Immigration officers in the baggage claim checking passports and the one who spoke to me took particular interest in my itinerary and occupation. I didn't think there was anything unusual about a 4-day trip to London and Paris for a computer consultant, but he perused my passport for several minutes and asked me lots of questions. That's never happened to me before, and I thought it a little odd that this took place after we had passed through Passport Control. After a bit he shrugged and sent me on my way, and so I was thus granted access to my home country.

LAX-SFO (AA2862)
Picture this: You arrive in Terminal 5 because AA doesn't have customs facilities in their own Terminal 4. Your connecting flight is in Terminal 3 because AA hasn't yet incorporated Reno Air's operations into their own. But the only lounge is in Terminal 4 past the security checkpoint. You have a 3-hour layover. What do you do? I decided, based upon this information provided by a very sympathetic AA employee assigned to greet passengers in Terminal 3, to bite the bullet and drag myself and my stuff to the Admiral's Club in Terminal 4. Up the stairs, down the sidewalk, into a Terminal 4 that looked like a construction site, through security, down the concourse to the Admiral's Club located, of course, at the very end. Lots of sweat. Whereupon I'm confronted by a sign at the entrance that reads, "Admiral's Club members connecting to flights in Terminal 3 are invited to use the TWA Ambassador's Club located above the American gates." Oh well, I just worked off that Filet Mignon….

At the Admiral's Club, I notice that the 4:45 flight to SFO is running an hour late. The nice woman at the desk agrees to put me on the flight, thus saving me the 3-hour layover afterall. Now I just have to high tail it to Terminal 3. There is, apparently, a bus to shuttle passengers, but the woman advises me I'd get there faster if I walked. She also advises me I should get there faster if I want to make the flight. So off I go, back down the concourse, through the construction zone, across a little bridge into the LAX parking garage, winding my way through row after row of cars but urged on by little blue signs pointing the way to Terminal 3. Across another little bridge and I'm there. Again, through the security checkpoint and I'm off to the last gate in the concourse, hearing my name called over the loudspeaker to report to the gate "at once for immediate departure!"…. Well, I made it, dropped into seat 1F, and the very nice FA handed me a cup of water and a few napkins to wipe my brow. The plane, an MD80, was one from Reno's fleet and it certainly showed the signs of much use. The seats were very well worn, the carpets dirty, and my knees nearly touched the bulkhead wall in front of me. Not to matter, I thoroughly enjoyed my cocktail and little bag of cashews as we took off for San Francisco. It was a very short 50-minute flight and the lead FA apologized, as he handed me my drink in a plastic cup, for the quick service due to the quick flight. I told him that after an 11-hour trek from Paris, a drink in a plastic cup was a small price to pay for a flight lasting less than an hour!

Though departing from SFO on AA can be trying due to the crowds, their seemingly constant understaffing, and an Admiral's Club that's been in renovations for as long as I can remember, arriving at this airport is always a treat. For some reason AA can deliver luggage here faster than anywhere else they serve - don't ask me why. But after the short walk to baggage claim my suitcase is there waiting for me, as it almost always is here. Another 50 feet to the taxi line and I'm home free. And as I usually do, I marvel that in such a short time I could travel across the globe from a beautiful city in France to another beautiful city on the coast of California.

Enough traveling for a few days! I'll be working in San Francisco until Friday, when I return home to New York. I'll post the last segment of trip this weekend. Au revoir and bon voyage!
jAAck is offline  
Old Feb 8, 00, 10:25 pm
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Great first trip report!
QuietLion is offline  
Old Feb 8, 00, 10:52 pm
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Hey, JAAck, I really enjoyed your trip report, all the details.
richard is offline  
Old Feb 9, 00, 2:29 am
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Great trip report. I felt like I was traveling with you.
TropicalFlyer is offline  

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