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Reflections on the Trip
June 07, 2015 07:18
I have already somewhat explained my impressions of flying First Class. This was mostly in contrast to the last time I flew economy. I always flew economy, but the last flight experience was sufficiently uncomfortable to make me consider cross-country driving as an acceptable alternative from that point on. It wasn't just the several hour wait in a hot and extremely crowded airport. It wasn't the seats that were an inch and a half narrower than the ones from the previous flights on that trip. Not the fact that we were assigned the last row on a 737, with an underseat storage area that was smaller than advertised and therefore wouldn't properly fit my briefcase. It wasn't the baby across the aisle that DID NOT STOP WAILING for the entire 2 hours of the flight. It wasn't really even the fact that I realized that from the time we left the hotel to the time I drove into my driveway, we could have driven the whole way faster than flying ultimately took, and even with gas prices as high as they were, and as much of a gas guzzler my truck was, and despite the Q coded class pricing of our three tickets, it would have still come out a couple hundred dollars cheaper.
What ultimately unnerved me is realizing that the experience was ultimately what I always had to look forward to. More importantly, in leading up to this long trip, I was not looking at 2 two hour flights with annoying layovers, but 3 five hour flights with either very long or very short layovers, and absolutely no reasonable options to sleep during that time (although I probably could have managed it anyway... maybe). No matter what, I wasn't looking forward to it, and it was certain to make me moody as a storm cloud for a significant part of our trip, and we would almost certainly waste at least the first day trying to catch up on rest. Oh, I wasn't looking forward to that AT ALL.
The First Class experience changed all of that. It took every aspect of air travel that was barely tolerable and changed them into experiences that were as positive and memorable as all the rest of our trip was. I still wouldn't pay full price for it... probably, but I can certainly see myself preferring to do anything it takes to earn the necessary miles to book premium cabin seats to avoid ever touching economy again.
It took us very little time to adapt to this higher class of living. We found ourselves comparing the quality of the product on the two different American Jets we flew on this trip (MD80 vs 737). Seats were more comfortable but narrower on the MD80. The crew on the first flight was somewhat less stuffy than the last one. We were one of the last people on the first flight, but I was the first one on the last one. Also, I had intentionally booked the return flight expecting IFE systems in each seat instead of only a few mounted on the ceiling to be shared. I had no such expectations on the first flight, but I didn't have the options either.
Feet on the ground in Paris, and one of the first things I noticed is that there are security forces EVERYWHERE, starting with the group of them that yelled at me for having the nerve to take a picture of the plane I just walked off of. Soldiers were patrolling everywhere and maybe it's a city thing or a population density thing, but I was always hearing and seeing police vehicles running full code. And they do NOT want their pictures taken.
Paris (London too) is very cramped. Personal space is just not a thing, it seems. Getting on and off the Metro and busses is chatoic and seems to have no real organization whatsoever. I didn't have too much trouble, as huge as I am. The Red Sea WILL part for me if I want it to badly enough, but there's no doubt that a certain aggressive attitude is required to successfully navigate the crowds.
And don't get me started on the traffic. Lanes, signals, signs, and sidewalks appear to be little more than suggestions. Compound that with the fact that there are a lot more motorcycles, bicycles, and busses than typical on American streets, and nobody seems to watch where they're going and will change lanes without signaling or even looking. Offensive driving is clearly the norm. Parking also seems to be an issue. Smart cars and other small battery operated vehicles are commonplace there, and it's a good thing, because nothing larger will fit in the parking spaces. And once each side of the road is completely filled with cars, they start parking on the sidewalks. I GUESS this is allowed and/or tolerated, although it seems somewhat rediculous, but I guess there's really no other options. There don't seem to be any parking garages around. There is no way I would ever try driving there.
I also noticed that there is a lot going on under the streets. I wasn't exactly looking to fill up my camera with pictures of the ground, so I don't think I have any pictures, but I recall everywhere we walked, the sidewalks were covered with numerous manhole and other utility access ports for at least telecommunications, and likely a lot of other things. I suppose all the electrical lines and such were underground as I don't recall much in the way of overhead wiring. Of course, there are several layers of city under the city when you consider the metro and the catacombs and who knows what else is down there.
Hotel security was more pronounced. In the United States, frequently the outer doors will be locked after a cerain hour (accessible only to those with a room card, otherwise requiring paging an employee at the desk to unlock the door). But although I'm not certain about the main door being secured as such, the elevator was. We had to insert our card to select our floor, and then we were ONLY allowed to select our floor (or the lobby). I didn't check the stairwells to see if we could access other floors that way, but I'm guessing not.
Pickpocketing was a constant concern. We weren't a victim of it, but there was one close call. We both noticed the guy going after Gertie's purse and turned to face him head on (while she turned her purse away from him so it wasn't in reach. It seemed at that moment he noticed that we were not only together but that I was about 3x his size, and he turned on a dime and walked off without bothering us. There were several other individuals I spotted targeting us, and all of them took off after I made eye contact with them. I was worried about pickpocketing before going there. After the fact, I am far less worried about it, but constant vigilance is NECESSARY to prevent it, and while I was successful in that regard, it's exhausting to constantly be looking around instead of enjoying the experience. Still, no regrets. :)
Paris has an odor in the air. An atmosphere if you will. I can't really describe what it was exactly, something like a combination of bread and smog. It wasn't really unpleasant, but definitely noticable.
Everybody was dressed as if we were in the middle of an arctic storm. I dressed accordingly the first couple of days before I realized that they were bundled up for winter in weather that I would have to seriously consider wearing shorts in. I was definitely sweating to death while in the metro and buildings and found myself carrying my coat around more often than I was wearing it. Sweating as much as I was also caused issues to my camera as it seemed to get some moisture in it and the quality of the pictures degraded slightly as a result throughout the trip. Not a huge deal, but still annoying.