Sunday, May 20, 2007

Paris to Glasgow via London Heathrow

The trip home was, hmm how should I put this.... eventful.

The folks ordered a cab to pick us up from our apartment to take us all to Charles de Gaulle Airport. My flight was leaving 2 hours after theirs, but splitting a cab 3 ways helps with the budget.

We seem to be going opposite to rush hour traffic so we're making good time. We get to the airport and can see the departures area of the terminal but traffic has come to a dead halt. Interesting, we're waiting, waiting, waiting and no one has budged. I'm looking ahead and there seem to be groups of people just standing outside, and now that I'm paying attention there also seem to be barriers blocking access to the vehicles. The cab can't move, not even to turn around as it's all one way traffic. We're very close to another door of the terminal so we just pay the cab, get our bags and walk amongst the stopped cars to get to the terminal.

Once inside there is an announcement being broadcast alerting us that due to the National Strike of the Security personnel there will be delays. Perfect, a strike. Not sure what the instigator was but I'm sure it has something to do with the recent election results.

We wander to the British Airways desk and can see what used to be a soft sided briefcase or book bag. But it's looking a little tattered with all the contents strewn across the floor. The guy behind me said that earlier they had blocked off access to the terminal as the bag had been left unattended and the police (?) came in and destroyed it. What I found amusing was that once destroyed, they just left it there. I could see pieces of medication bottles and pills scattered about, and then later the cleaning ladies came but to clean it up. Sadly I was just not quick enough to whip out the camera. My Mother was horrified that I was even attempting to take a picture, but Dad was right in there with me trying to help me get my camera out of my bag. Oh well, another lost opportunity.

So back to the strike. Because the regular security personnel have walked off the job it's up to the others to take over. Two words.... mass chaos. Once you get through passport control you are hit with a wall of people and queues the entire length of the terminal. While waiting in line I could start to hear a commotion outside. I walked over to see what was going on and there was a protest march in front of the terminal. Then the riot police came in with their shin guards and batons (how exciting). But no blood was shed and no bones broken. Things seemed to be under control once the march had gone by and then I could see cars and taxi's driving past.

Needless to say everyone's flight was delayed. By the time I got to Heathrow my already short layover was even shorter. I ran into the same problems I did before in getting to Paris, I needed to change terminals, get through security and passport control/immigration and there were massive queues everywhere. But the nice staff once again allowed me to go through the 'Club World' fast track security queue and I ran like I've never run before to try and get to passport control to get to my gate. Luckily there was only one couple in front of me. But not so lucky, they also had massive paperwork that got hauled out of large envelopes and needed to be reviewed. It's right about now I realize I haven't used a washroom in almost 5 hours, I look at the time and my flight is due to leave in 3 minutes. I get a sympathetic look from the lady controlling the flow of traffic and she tells me not to worry. I go up to the counter, advise the officer I have an ancestry visa, yes my Grandfather on my Father's side, yadda yadda yadda. I'm trying to be pleasant but also show some urgency. My passport gets stamped and I fly around the corner. Another long hallway but my gate is the first one on the left.

There is no one there except one BA staff member at the computer. He sees me running and says "Miss Leman?", yes I breathlessly reply, "Ah yes, we were waiting for you". He takes my boarding pass and I jog down the ramp to board. There is another BA staff down the ramp and she also confirms my name and then smiles "You made it". They literally shut the door behind me.


I arrive in Glasgow, go down to the baggage claim and am confused as to which carousel I should be at. #2 has my flight number, but then #3 says for all baggage coming transferred via Heathrow. I'm not sure so I walk back and forth between the 2. It's about now that my stomach is telling me the coffee and pastry I had in Paris at 8AM was not enough now that it's 5PM. I grab some change out of my pocket and hit a vending machine to get some crackers. At this point I don't care that they are double the cost at 70 p.

No bag.

I can't say that I'm really surprised as I barely made my flight as it was. I hear my name being paged and am asked to make myself known to the BA counter. My suspicion is confirmed, and my bag missed the flight but is on the next one and should arrive in the next 2 hours. I smile, no worries - it just means they get to deliver it and lug it up 4 flights of stairs. I have no problem with that at all.

There's along queue for a taxi an I've been informed there is a big football match on tonight with lots of out of town fans arriving. Which would explain all the identically clad people singing and clapping on my flight. But the line goes fairly quickly and I get a really chatty lady as my taxi driver which is a nice change to all the non-conversationalists I had in Barcelona and Paris. There is still construction going on the M-8 plus it's rush hour traffic so the drive home seems to take forever.

Home sweet home.


Peggy said...

I always take the Metro/RER to and from CDG. It is so much cheaper! Maybe someday I will feel flush enough to go into the city by taxi.

Did you get your suitcase?

Chris said...

Yes, my bag was delivered later that night. This was my first trip to Paris so I had no clue where the apartment was that we had rented and how the train thing worked. Now that I'm oriented I would definetly do that next time. Plus as I was with my folks it was just easier for us all to share a cab as they had 5 weeks worth of baggage and Mom's not so good with stairs.

Colleen J said...

Wow, Chris, I think I have been mighty lucky in all the travelling I've done (so far), because I've only really had terrible travel adventures when I was back in Canada flying from Vancouver to Halifax for my birth mom's funeral and another time when I was flying from Victoria to Winnipeg to see the folks. Other than a few delays, I've (fingers crossed) not experienced too much like what you just described. Phew!