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Cathay first, and the highest French temperature since records began

Cathay first, and the highest French temperature since records began

Old Dec 14, 19, 1:20 am
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Cathay First, and the highest French temperature since records began

Back in summer 2019 the S.O. and I took a 13-day trip to France. This was our first long-haul trip together and let me tell you it is quite stressful during the planning stages. He is frugal and plans to save all his income for retirement at 35, while me being the happy-go-lucky practical person, values sleep, quality time, and unique experiences. It took several squabbles and negotiating about where to visit and the price range of our accommodation. On top of that, work had been extremely stressful in early summer for me. The S.O. had been very busy taking his CFA, too. Hence, counting down the days to our departure and finally performing OLCI on t-48, we were more than ready to escape the heat and humidity of Taipei in June.

As mentioned, he values money while I value sleep, and I wouldn't get a winkle of sleep in Y from all the high schoolers taking their first trip abroad. So I forked out quite a sum for a J seat while he found a relatively good deal in Y, on the same flight. During Chinese New Year, a friend from FlyerTalk needed some help with concert tickets in Taipei, and finding international money transfers troublesome, we agreed to exchange a bookable upgrade from J to F for the tickets.

Itinerary
TPE-HKG in J
HKG-CDG in F
Paris for a few days
TGV from Paris to Avignon
Ouigo from Avignon to Marseilles
HOP by AirFrance from Marseilles to Rennes
Local trains from Rennes to Paris
CDG-HKG-TPE in J

Cathay Pacific CX 565
Taipei TPE to Hong Kong HKG
A350-900
19:30 - 21:30
June 26, 2019

Basically an uneventful routine flight across the straits. I was famished from not having lunch and skipping the lounge as we were cutting it close. I remembered I found the food to be quite palatable for once



Oui, time to start practicing moi Français, which is limited to please, thank you, and bonjour.




On arrival in HKG we went to the Pier F. The S.O. joined me as I can guest one in. We had a sumptuous dinner, showered, then idle our time away until boarding. I'm not sure if it is due to the start of summer vacations, but the Pier F was very packed that evening with hardly a seat available. The poor attendants were quite exhausted clearing up after guests.

Back in June there were some indications of unrest in Hong Kong regarding the extradition bill, maybe a few large scale peaceful demonstrations, but no violence or airport stress tests as seen later during the year. I would say we were quite fortunate not having to face these disruptions during our trip. The crew we met were highly professional and hardworking as well.





Cathay Pacific CX 261
Hong Kong HKG to Paris CDG
B777-300ER
00:05 - 06:55
June 27, 2019

The F cabin was completely full today, with a young Caucasian couple taking their honeymoon trip (they were quite loud) and another seemingly highly seasoned couple who ate their caviar and went straight to sleep. It seemed like a race for attention at first as the crew were slightly overwhelmed by various demands and requests for pictures. However, nobody beats an emergency department pediatrician who stays awake at ungodly hours for money, and soon everyone went to bed.
Dan, a hunky Hong Kong SP took care of me. I had a light dinner and had approximately 5 hours of sleep, waking up well before others to have my breakfast of scrambled eggs. I think Dan must be laughing inside as none of the other 5 passengers wanted breakfast.

Amuse bouche and champagne right after take off.



Caviar which everybody is having. Pardon the poor picture quality as the cabin was quite dark by then.



A Cantonese soup which I forgot what went into it. It was sublime as far as soup goes.



Supper is US pork rib with strawberry sauce. Interesting choice for supper. As I don't eat beef, this is my only option besides the vegan pasta. It was very greasy. I never had strawberry sauce as a Chinese dish before, and I don't think I will ever again.



Cathay First in bed mode. Thanks to all the alcohol and food I fell into a deep slumber. I'm sure I did not snore.



Paris here we come.



My senile Chinese gastrointestinal tract needing hot jasmine tea to kickstart the morning.



But breakfast is still best with eggs, bacon, and sausages



When other people finally woke up, the shades open to reveal a beautiful carpet of clouds at Western Europe.



Bonjour France!



And the First flight comes to an end.




Next up: Paris in the heatwave
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Last edited by jysim; Dec 14, 19 at 1:56 am
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Old Dec 14, 19, 2:07 am
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Lovely pictures. Very fun!!
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Old Dec 14, 19, 7:38 am
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Looking forward to the next installments ^
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Old Dec 14, 19, 9:57 pm
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Paris in the heatwave

Until this day, the S.O. would always say we went to Paris on the same flight albeit him in Economy and I was in First, which made me appear like the tyrant born with a silver spoon. However, as all you good people of FlyerTalk would know the massive difference of both cabins and the effects it had during the journey and on arrival. I can tell you I was so glad I flew F: as it was the S.O's first trip to Europe, he was full of excitement right after landing. Charles de Gaulle airport!! The Paris metro! So sophisticated! The French language sounds so melodious! I literally had to hold him on a leash lest he run off with some Parisian teenager.
To be honest we live in Taipei, one of the most livable cities in the Asia with clean and efficient public transport. But of course, this is Paris - where even graffiti looked like something out of the Louvre and chewing gum stuck on floors appears like artwork by Pollock. So after a while I just let him be.

Goodbye Cathay F. Till we meet again!



At one point the S.O sent me this to remind me to bring him some ice cream from First.



Century-old Parisian metro.



On the way to our hotel at the 19th arrondissement.



After a short break we went out exploring. The S.O. said the Sacré-Cœur was within walking distance from our hotel. 30 minutes of ghetto and railway tracks later, we were greeted by this.





Picking up some French pastries on the way. These we don't have in the most livable city in Asia.



It was getting warm as the day progressed. By noon it had went up to nearly 35 degrees Celsius and quite unbearable outdoors. We went for a quick tour in the Opera to escape the heat.



Excited as he may be, the S.O. did quite a lot of research and studying on places to visit. He was the walking Google Maps and talking historian, albeit not a very efficient one.





As soon as check-in time at our hotel, we went back, turned the AC to full, and slept for a good 12 hours.

On our second day, hot as it was, the S.O. insisted we have to visit all the outdoor spots including Pont Alexandre III.



My parents recommended the Esplanade de Trocadero for Eiffel Tower viewing, instead of right beneath the metal asparagus itself. All the while the S.O. was paranoid about pickpockets. He would stash his cash in a bag under his shirt, and whenever he needs to pay it would take 15 minutes of fumbling and checking while exposing his back and belly. While I gently reminded him no pickpocket would want to steal from two young men wearing T-shirt and shorts like us. There were plenty of Balenciaga-clad, Givenchy-stepping Mainland tourists carrying Hermes Birkin bags around us. We were not worth the effort.



Soon he relaxed a little and we continued our walking tour in 37 degrees heat.



According to the S.O., this was the bridge they filmed one of the scenes in Inception.



And finally the Notre Dame, which just suffered a fire a few months prior.



Admiring all the suntanning fair-skinned ladies as we soak ourselves with sunblock and carries an umbrella wherever we go.




Next up: Taking the TGV to Avignon, a drive to Nimes, Roussillon, Pont du Gard, and Gordes.

Last edited by jysim; Dec 14, 19 at 10:11 pm
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Old Dec 15, 19, 4:28 am
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Great trip report especially that last picture of the champers and the blue sky!.. Thanks...
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Old Dec 15, 19, 8:36 am
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Great TR - I love Paris and the TR is so lovely.
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Old Dec 15, 19, 1:37 pm
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I'm with you in flying (at least) J for long haul flights now!

Great TR so far
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Old Dec 15, 19, 11:50 pm
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Driving in Southern France

I had been to France 10 years ago for a one-month laboratory exchange in Bordeaux. As a first timer it was definitely a memorable experience, something akin to your first true love. 10 years wiser older now I could just see the effect of Paris on the S.O. I even had to stop him from eating a plain baguette he bought out of excitement when seeing a mademoiselle carrying the foot-long white bread across the street. It was flour, water, salt, and yeast after all, full of carbs with no fiber or protein no matter how you romanticize it. I was only glad to leave Paris a few days later. We will be taking the TGV to Avignon followed by a 2-day driving tour around Nimes, Gordes, and Roussillon.
Now both of us have our driver's licenses. However, the S.O.'s last experience behind the wheel was back when he qualified for his license which was almost the same time I first went to France. Confident that driving skills, like swimming, is firmly embedded in one's cerebral cortex until the day you die, he offered to drive certain portions of the trip. After buying a 3 million dollar insurance, I suggested he had some practice in Taipei before leaving. In the most livable city in Asia, we millennials don't use such a carbon-emitting ozone-penetrating mode of transport. The only car our relatives have was the S.O.'s father's minivan. When confronted asking for a practice ride, he simply laughed, threw a glance hinting me to buy another 3 million dollars of insurance, and walked away. So at the end I got to drive the entire trip, while he tasked himself to navigate and criticize my driving.

"Which exit at the roundabout?" I would ask.
"That one," he pointed, but obviously I couldn't see as I was looking ahead and did not have peripheral vision of a goldfish.
"Which one? Which one?" I panicked as we entered the roundabout.
"We just missed it. You drive wayyyy too fast!"
"I'm driving 30 km/h in a 50 km/h zone! And a good navigator would say, take the first/second/third exit, or exit at 6 o'clock!!"
"Aaaannnnd you just missed the alternate route as well..."

This was before the entire saga of driving in Southern France began.



I "accidentally" booked TGV Business Premiere. But I was so glad I did



On arrival in Avignon we got our rental car from Hertz and off we went to Nimes. The Arena of Nimes on the hottest day since records began in France - 45.9 degree Celsius. And we said we escaped Taipei for this!



For the remainder of the day it was a game of finding shade and hiding within the shadows of some monument or trees.





Couldn't tell you how happy I was when we went back to the hotel to find a Daikin air conditioner.





In the evening (although the pictures felt more like afternoon), we went for a short walk around Avignon before dinner.



The unfinished Pont d'Avignon.



Palais de Papes.





The next morning we continued our suicide drive along the narrow roads of Provence. I felt the roads in France were narrower compared to where I come from. In some occasions I was freaking out because it certainly felt like a collision was on the way. Seated next to the driver's seat, the S.O. definitely did all his best to fan my fear and frustration.
"You are driving too close to the curb! Aaarrggghhh!!"
"If I don't the car on the opposite lane is going to collide with us!"
"Now you're too close to the truck beside me. The side mirror is like two inches from the wheels of the truck!!"
"Did you know Grace Kelly died driving in the south of France? They need to build their roads wider," I commented.
"Who?"
"Never mind, now which exit at the roundabout?"
"That one, that one!"
(repeat conversation above)

Pont du Gard, another bridge.





Gordes from the hill beside the rustic town. Parking was a challenge.



And next we head to Roussillon, which was all about the color ochre.



A street scene in either Gordes or Roussillon.



At one point the S.O. aka the traffic police made me stop in the middle of an expressway to photograph lavenders.



After an exhausting day of texting our final goodbyes to friends and families because we thought we might end up like Grace Kelly, we miraculously ended up on time at Avignon TGV station to return our intact car. 30 minutes of Ouigo later, we arrived at Marseilles to finally call it a day.





Next installment: Marseilles and a domestic flight in France by AirFrance Hop

Last edited by jysim; Dec 16, 19 at 12:02 am
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Old Dec 16, 19, 8:12 pm
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Marseilles

We stayed right across Marseilles St Charles Station. On arrival reception told us we were upgraded to a corner room with view of Notre-Dame de la Garde.



During the planning stages, the S.O. had left Marseilles to me as I told him I had visited the city a decade ago. Well, I fondly remembered the tram ride up the hills to Notre-Dame de la Garde and strolling along the harbor. I did not remember the heat to be so intense, however. I also remembered not having bouillabaisse because I was a single traveler and the dish is usually prepared for at least 2. Regardless, I won't be having the dish again this time, because the S.O. does not eat seafood, or beef, or dragonfruit, persimmons..... In the end we had Shin Ramen we brought from Taipei, because the baggage is running out of space after we bought too much Provence soap and cookies.

Taking the ferry to Chateau d'If, which I did not visit last time due to choppy waters









Chateau d'If, for those unfamiliar, is a 16th-century former prison and the setting for The Count of Monte Cristo. The ferry to Chateau d'If is quite infrequent, so make sure to time your visit and leave plenty of time for sightseeing. During our visit most of ferry passengers went to the Frioul island for a picnic, understandable for such a wonderful day.



Without electricity and heating the island must be quite a torture back in the times. Prisoners' carving on the walls to pass the time.





We get to explore the various prison cells on the island previously inhabited by (mostly) political prisoners. Depending on your wealth and status one could pay more to enjoy the luxury of a fireplace.





I felt like it was a magical place. And for the first time the S.O. and I were free of minor squabbling for at least 2 hours as we stopped and admired the sea, the walls, and the general ambience of the chateau.



After a short ferry ride back to the mainland, we window shopped along the harbor for souvenirs before taking the tram up to Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde.







The basilica is situated atop a hill on the southern end of Marseilles. In Feng Shui terms it "sits on the south overlooking the north" which was ideal for businesses (something like Hong Kong island overlooking Kowloon). As we can see from the crowds it certainly attracts lots of locals and tourists alike.



Soon our time in Marseille was up. We took a morning flight on Hop by AirFrance to the Normandy city of Rennes. The plan was to spend a day at Mont Saint-Michel. You might be wondering our crisscrossing journey seemingly being planned by a 5-year old. This was to compromise for the S.O.'s insisting we visit the Mont but unwilling to take a day trip from Paris. In retrospect, given the heat we were under, I was so happy we stayed 1 night near the Mont as it would be unbearable with the traffic nightmare.
I think I must have spent several days in total researching about how to get to the Mont from other major cities. While information is abundant if you're leaving from Paris, or if you're driving, details on transfers from Pontorson railway station or Rennes were sparse and some dated as far as 2006. At the end, we figured after arriving at Rennes airport:
1. take the airport bus from airport to Rennes bus stop
2. take the metro from bus stop to railway station, which was just opened a few days prior during our visit (see pic below)
3. take a long-distance bus from Rennes to Mont St-Michel, but stopping before that for our B&B
4. Call B&B to pick us up.

All in all the Hop flight was the understandably the most enjoyable part of the entire trek to the Mont. The crew were very pleasant and even offered us extra financiers with our coffee.
The S.O. was slightly overwhelmed that morning because we had trouble understanding whether or not to check our baggages in. Fortunately they did not scrutinize our hand carried baggages which would be over the limit. The domestic flight was slightly over an hour.









After what felt like a marathon, we finally arrived at the brand new Rennes railway station to begin another bus ride.



On the next post: Mont St-Michel, and meeting up an old friend in L'Aigle
Thank you so much for still following this.
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Old Dec 18, 19, 9:05 pm
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Le Mont Saint-Michel, Caen, and L'Aigle

We stayed at a quaint little B&B called Ferme Saint Joseph in Beauvoir with views of Le Mont Saint-Michel. The hostess of the B&B had asked me to call her on arriving at the bus station so she could pick us up. She must have so nearly hung up on us as we speak through a French vocabulary of about 10 words expressing that we are now, currently, at this moment, at the bus station. When Marie-Brigette arrived in her Volkswagen truck with her Golden Retriever, she quickly apologized (she had nothing to apologize for) and got us started on our one night stay. It was a lovely B&B which we just hope we could stayed a few more days in.

The rooms are simple but the view is to die for.



Exterior view.







A street scene in Beauvoir. As you can see the sun is on full blast still but it had felt much cooler the following days, possibly because we were at a higher latitude and also the heatwave had receded slightly by then.



After applying half a bottle of SPF80 lotion, and armed with an umbrella capable of shielding an entire family, we started the long walk to Le Mont.







Low tide at the Mont



Later that day, we rented 2 bicycles from Marie-Brigette and went to the local Carrefour to replenish our supplies of suntan lotion.



Breakfast the following day was also a pretty simple affair, we were joined by other guests at the B&B. When we told a group of Belgian retirees we thought the roads in France are too narrow, they joked and laughed amongst themselves for a good 15 minutes before uttering something to the lines of 'we don't build our roads for gigantic gas-guzzling American cars'. Another 20 minutes of laughter followed which must have been Marie-Brigette telling them how she thought we were phone scammers and how she almost had to change all her banking passwords.
When asked how are we to leave the B&B, and upon knowing we are taking another train from Pontorson, Marie promptly offered to drive us there. We were so grateful for her help during the stay and wished we would be back soon. The S.O. and I agreed that we should spend at least 2 days here on our next visit.





We took a local train to Caen, a quaint town in Normandy, which we would be staying for 1 night.



The interior of our hotel. Saw the manager bought rolls of baguette from the baker downstairs the following morning when we ran short for breakfast.



Some sightseeing and swimming later the day to work off all the excess calories. Needless to say we ran out of suntan lotion, again.











I mentioned being in France a decade ago for a month-long exchange program. Back then I stayed with the Nocarts, whose youngest son was likewise taking an exchange program in Taiwan. The Nocart matron, like Marie, spoke only French while I spoke about 8 words of the language. Through food and internet translation apps, we became good friends to this day. So when the S.O. wanted to visit France I made plans to visit the Nocart family. The mother lives in L'Aigle, a small town with only 3 daily train services; while the brothers live in Bordeaux, which sadly I won't be going this time.
Although transport was rather difficult for L'Aigle, the S.O. had been very supportive of me visiting. When the train schedules were still not updated a few weeks prior to our departure, he even suggested we drive there, which was rare for his frugality, and looking back it would be best we do not drive ever again on French roads.
All in all it took 2 hours of train to L'Aigle for us to meet about 3 hours with Claudie, then another 2 hours of train back to Paris Montparnasse. It was all worth it to meet an old friend.



Thanks to Google Translate for keeping communication open between us.



When it was time to leave L'Aigle the S.O. was feeling melancholic, saying he wouldn't know when will be the next time Claudie and I would meet.

Back in Paris: Le Bourget for Concorde
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Old Dec 18, 19, 10:51 pm
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Hi! I also was thinking about taking a trip to Europe. But my friend from Paris told me that the European migrant crisis became a complete disaster, and thousands of refugees changed Paris, not in a good way and rarely you can meet a native Parisian. Is that true?
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Old Dec 19, 19, 6:09 am
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Originally Posted by RTW4 View Post
Great trip report especially that last picture of the champers and the blue sky!.. Thanks...
To be specific it was a seasonal special Amour de Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2009 instead of the usual Krug they serve in F. I personally prefer the Krug, feeling it being more masculine and solid in flavor, but I guess they both did their jobs well enough (the picture, hehe).

Originally Posted by gaobest View Post
Great TR - I love Paris and the TR is so lovely.
Next time we plan to visit in spring instead of summer. I think Paris would be so much nicer under a more humane weather.

Originally Posted by nequine View Post
I'm with you in flying (at least) J for long haul flights now!

Great TR so far
As a responsible partner in crime I'm teaching the S.O. about miles and FF statuses, upgrades and higher cabin classes so that he will head down the path of no return like me. Right now he has a few credit cards churning some miles. We'll get there eventually.

Originally Posted by Z_Thomas View Post
Hi! I also was thinking about taking a trip to Europe. But my friend from Paris told me that the European migrant crisis became a complete disaster, and thousands of refugees changed Paris, not in a good way and rarely you can meet a native Parisian. Is that true?
I would not presume I'm qualified to tell you how Paris changed before and after the migrant crisis as we only spent a few days there. However, I'd like to think it is not a problem unique for Paris. Globalization is inevitable as people move around to find employment and better living, and as the social fabric of any large city is changing day by day our definition of native may vary by person.
I would say just go visit to get a feel for the city with an open mind. It is, after all, a moveable feast according to Hemingway.
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Old Dec 19, 19, 6:10 am
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Originally Posted by Z_Thomas View Post
Hi! I also was thinking about taking a trip to Europe. But my friend from Paris told me that the European migrant crisis became a complete disaster, and thousands of refugees changed Paris, not in a good way and rarely you can meet a native Parisian. Is that true?
It certainly isn't true and in any event, IME if you meet migrants they are the most friendly people you could wish to meet. I've seen plenty on travels particularly in Southern Italy and had no problems whatever. Paris is as Paris always has been, an amazing city to visit.
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Old Dec 19, 19, 1:27 pm
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Some fantastic scenery in those pics you posted
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Old Dec 19, 19, 11:25 pm
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Paris Le Bourget

Like any aviation enthusiast, I had a fascination for Concorde and had made plans to visit the grand dame for several years. There were a few places you could see the supersonic bird - Bristol, Manchester, Toulouse, Paris Le Bourget. The S.O. wasn't too keen on visiting, saying the tickets were too expensive and the tour takes up half a day including transport.
"This is Concorde you silly hardheaded workaholic. People pay an entire year's salary to fly Concorde back in the day," I said.
"They did? And after enjoying all the luxuries they chose to slap us with carbon tax and ban us from using plastic?"
After agreeing to join him and the entire population of Paris to queue for free entry to the Louvre on the first Sunday of the month, he reluctantly agreed to visit Le Bourget with me.

Le Bon Marché to pick up some wine.



Le Bourget is such an architectural beauty.





We booked a Concorde + Boeing 747-100 tour online. After meeting up with our guide, we were brought into a hanger holding not one, but two Concorde. I was leaping with joy by then, but the S.O. was complaining about the heat and lack of air conditioning. Who cares about air conditioning when you have these two beauties in front of you?











Some close-ups of the Olympus engines and Michelin tires.







In terms of comfort, Concorde in the 80's will never be the lie flat seats or suites we enjoy today. The posh seats were certainly reminiscent of days when smoking cabins were the norm. The AirFrance cabin was designed in shades of grey and white. I personally prefer BA's blue leather interior.



Everyone had to bow to the grand dame upon entering the aircraft.



The 90's interior.





I told the S.O. that initially France and the U.K. had some squabbles with 'Concord' or 'Concorde', and that with a stroke of genius, Tony Benn said the 'e' stands for excellence, for England, for Europe and for the entente cordiale.



It is hard not to notice the S.O.'s astonishment. I caught him snapping his iPhone away and questioning me about various details regarding Concorde. After we returned to Taipei, I even found he looked up some documentaries about Concorde from YouTube. I guess with enough persuasion we could be visiting Aerospace Bristol and Toulouse soon.

Our second visit was the Boeing 747-100. The museum had stripped the interiors of part of the ex-AirFrance jet to reveal the skeletal structure of the queen.



A lounge on the upper deck of the Boeing, back in a time when exclusivity and passenger comfort take precedence over seat count for airlines.







After a wonderful afternoon at Le Bourget our tour came to an end. The S.O. was admittedly quite amazed and gagaing over the machine marvel capable of "skim[ming] the edge of space, the edge of heaven, the edge of dreams"; but wanting to emphasize the fact that this 2-hour tour cost him 14 Euros, dragged me into the bus to head here:

Look at the crowds!




Next and final installment: Paris, guided by the romantic S.O., and the flight home.
Happy weekend everyone!
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