We got here!
I don't ever want to come through JFK again. I remember this same kind of thing happening at JFK once before — we arrive and, to continue our flight, have to change terminals. This meant going outside, walking a half mile or more, and then, at the new terminal, going through security a second time for the same trip. On paper, our itinerary had allowed two hours between planes. But our itinerary was wrong. There was actually only an hour between our arrival in terminal 2 and our departure from terminal 1. This is virtually impossible to accomplish, especially with the back pain I was experiencing. Then appeared at our left an “assistance station.” A pleasant, helpful, uniformed young woman called for a wheelchair. Within 1 minute a young man with a wheelchair appeared around the corner, and she stopped him and gave him directions to take us to Terminal One. Turned out it was his first day on the job, and he had no clue how to do that, so he asked directions of every airport employee we passed. Turned out later that he'd been called to meet a flight and wasn't supposed to be taking us to terminal 1 at all. But he was our necessary first “guardian angel” to get us to the plane on time, and he soldiered on.
It turned out that not only was there a half mile walk outside from terminal 2 to terminal 1, they'd demolished the sidewalk because of construction, and the police officer at the door just said to walk through the construction debris and then up the middle of the road between the lanes of oncoming taxis. It was the weirdest transfer between flights I'd ever experienced. I was in the wheelchair with two bags piled on my lap. Nancy was walking behind us trailing another bag, and we were walking between oncoming cars toward terminal one. However, we found no direction signs in terminal 1. Fortunately we'd told an officer what we were looking for, and he came running after us as went off looking for a place to get directions, and brought us back to the entrance to take the elevator up a floor. There, finally, were the Air France counters.
Here, we discovered that they had to reprint our tickets because the airline agent on the phone had booked us on a plane different than what was printed on the tickets — there realy were, now, only 10 minutes to make it through a huge security line and to the gate before they closed the plane doors. And the young man with the wheelchair was desperate by now to get back to his original assignment. The ticket agent, our next guardian angel, in less than 5 minutes recruited a second wheelchair (this was the only way to get priority for getting through the 200 or so folks in line for security), figured out the ticket changes, and called the plane to tell them to hold open the door as we were on our way in the terminal. We rushed through security, and the gate agents nodded at us as our caravan, complete with wheelchair ran toward the gate. They motioned us through, and we made it to the plane. After we boarded, the doors closed immediately. Nancy and I looked at each other in amazement — our angels really had allowed us to do the impossible, by being right there at every turn to make sure we didn't stray (like who would ever have figured out without being told to walk across the debris and right up the road through the middle of moving traffic to get from one terminal to another, for instance?)
The flight was smooth — Yay!!
Six hours later, after dinner and about 2 hours of fitful snoozing, we landed in Paris, an hour earlier than our itinerary had said. Apparently facilities at Charles de Gaulle airport were even more overloaded than those at Kennedy. The plane was parked on tarmac, at a place where no airport building entrance was available. We deplaned down a big flight of stairs, and were packed like sardines into city buses more crowded than New York subway cars at rush hour. The buses meandered along a circuitous labyrinth of roads between and under surrealistic structures made of molded gray concrete. These were not buildings with doors and windows, but some kind of alien city-scape of undeterminable function. Our biological clocks were scrreaming that it was around 1:30 am, although it was daylight. The whole ride seemed like some kind of otherworldly nightmare.
Finally, we were let off in front of a door that led inside a building. We traveled together about a half mile of anonymous corridors and stairways, through the lines at the passport checkpoint, and then to the baggage carousels, where we were really happy to see our bags appear — a miracle after the snafus at Kennedy. We piled the bags on luggage carts, and finally exited to the hall where people were waiting to pick up arriving passengers.
We had arranged for a car service to pick us up, figuring we were not going to be too intelligent and awake at that hour after a non-existent night's sleep. Of course we'd told the car service to pick us up at the original arrival time we'd been told, and the changes at Kennedy had all happened with such urgency we hadn't even realized that we were in Paris earlier than we'd said. Our driver wasn't there to pick us up when we arrived, and it took a while to figure out why. Meanwhile, it turned out there was no cell phone service inside the terminal, and we were still trying to figure out how to contact the car agency when the driver finally did appear holding up a card with our names.
So then we were in a van with our baggage and this kind of sleepy driver, whisking off to Paris at the amazing speed of about 2 miles an hour average. How lucky that we'd arrived at the peak of Paris' morning rush hour! The trip that was supposed to take 45 minutes ended up taking over two hours, and finally, after being able to contemplate at luxurious length every building we passed, we arrived at our new home for the month, a 5 story apartment building on a very narrow one way street in one of the oldest parts of Paris. There was only one lane for traffic, so the driver stopped in front, piled our bags up on the sidewalk, took our payment, and left quickly. At this point appeared our last guardian angel for the trip, a young athletic cyclist emerging at that moment from our building, who sized up the situation, asked Nancy to hold the door open, and with amazing speed brought all 6 bags from the sidewalk to the elevator door.
We were here! We were amazed! We were somewhat disoriented, what with little sleep and all the things that had happened so quickly along the way to assure that we actually made the plane change and got from the airport to our new Parisian home with no delays or disasters. When we took the key from under the doormat in front of the apartment, and got it to work in the lock, we felt surprisingly at home and blessed, and grateful, and very tired.