The Traveler's Journal

Adventures, tales, stories and vignettes by travel writer James Patton Jones

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Wednesday the 19th of September 2018 | PM Edition Published by JRAC, Inc.
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Previous Articles:

Columbia
Architecture in Columbia

England
To London via Train
A Bus to Stonehenge

France
A Flight to France
Normandy, Brittney and the Loire Valley
First Day in Paris
Walking Tours of Paris
Memories of Paris

Japan
Arrival in Tokyo
Subway Survival, Swords, Site-Seeing, and Sushi
A Week of Business Meetings, and Wonderful Food
Asakusa and Tokyo Tower
Mt. Fuji and Hakkone
Sony Building, Hibiya Park, Shopping

Mexico
Memories of Mexico

Switzerland
Swiss Excursion, Part I
Swiss Excursion, Part II

USA
Snow Camping in Yosemite

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A Flight to France

(3 days after 9-11)

A week before my planned vacation...

I awoke Saturday morning to realize that I would be leaving for my European vacation in six days. An excitement mixed with anxious anticipation began to sweep over me. Three weeks in Europe-- what would it be like? Then the panic-- did I have time to complete all the things I had planned to get done before I left? Then the justification of the panic-- of course not! I always put far too much on my plate before vacations, trying to complete a month's worth of tasks in the last week. It was then that I remembered that Dad and Barbara were to arrive today for a five day visit. They were a day delayed, and the house had been cleaned the day before, so that was one less thing to worry about.

   
   
We had a nice visit through Tuesday:

September 11, 2001

The day the U.S. was attacked: the worst terrorist event in the history of humanity.

For the first time in history, the FAA grounded all domestic air traffic, and diverted all in-bound international flights to airports in Canada and Mexico. The shock and horror of that dark day sank slowly into our minds. We knew in our hearts that our country would soon be going to war; we knew that we had to prepare our minds for the horrible truth.

Of course I intended to take my vacation (if the FAA would open the airports); I'm 9th generation American and proud of it; no cowardly terrorist was going to cause me to feel fear!

Tuesday and Wednesday crept by. It was difficult to focus on work, to focus on anything, really. The airports remained closed for outbound traffic. Only those flights which had been grounded were permitted to continue to their destinations. CNN was reporting that on thursday some airlines would be allowed to fly, after airports completed new security precautions.

Thursday I checked and found that Atlanta was open for air traffic, but that AirFrance had cancelled all flights, but would have some flights on Friday.

Several family members suggested I should not go, that it wouldn't be prudent. Others thought I was a brave man for not allowing these events to deter my plans. I was unable to reach AirFrance to confirm my flight, but since it was a Delta Airlines codeshare, I called them using my 'premire frequent flyer' number and asked them if they could assist. After nearly 20 minutes on hold, they were finially able to confirm both the flight, and my seat on it. They recomended I arrive 2 hours before scheduled departure. "Only 2 hours?", I inquired. "But what about the new security precautions?" To which the lady responded-- "Security will slow you down considerably, but there are so few people flying and so few flights, that 2 hours should still be more than enough time."

14 Sept. 2001

This morning I packed for my three weeks in Europe, and managed to get all my stuff into my carry-on suitcase and my backpack. The first week of my vacation I was to travel with my friend Helen, and since she packed a rather large suitcase, I figured I would just check my baggage as well.

We arrived 3 hours before the scheduled flight. Waited through line, only to be told that our flight had just been cancelled. We got standby tickets on the next flight, and after waiting hours, were told that this flight was delayed. Eventually, we managed to actually board the plane. But after we sat down, the pilot announced that the safety check had revealed that the brakes needed to be replaced. Once completed we were finally on our way.

I soon settled into my seat, and pulled out my travel pillow, ear plugs, and eye mask, tucked the airline blanket around me, and settled in for a long nap.

15 Sept. 2001

I awoke as we began our descent. The pilot informed us that we were flying over Ireland. I looked out upon the darkened Emerald Isle below for the second time in my life. An odd longing, almost homesick feeling came over me, and once again I promised myself that I would someday actually set foot on my ancient homeland.

As the French countryside came into view, I mused aloud that it looked a lot like Kansas. Helen was appearantly horrified at this statement. I guess she has never been to Kansas.


[Title: "View of France from Airplane" ImageID: 183270_16 ]

French Customs was interesting: it was unmanned so we just walked on through. There was no one around. We exited that part of the building and got directions to the Hertz rental car facility. The Hertz personel were quite friendly and helpful. The car I requested, however, was not available. So instead they gave me a VW Dora (which is basically a Jetta) which I have decided I really like. It has a high-effeciency diesel engine, and is quite peppy too!

The next two hours were spent trying to find our way OUT of Paris. It seems that Parisians don't believe in putting road signs in obvious places. Typically, you have to enter an intersection before you can read the name of the street, the sign for which is often attached to the side of the building on the corner, and usually on the side opposite the direction of travel. In addition, the vast number of traffic circles were quite frustrating; however, I have since decided that they greatly increase the effeciency of traffic flow. The escape from Paris was futher enhanced by an appearant disdain of lane separator lines on so many Paris streets. They work like this: you leave an intersection, with several lanes of traffic, going in various (or same) directions. Then suddenly, without warning, the lane separator lines disappear, leaving sometimes 3 lanes of traffic weaving, wondering around the payment. To add insult or perhaps injury, people like to park their cars in the outer lanes of traffic, so that you may suddenly have to merge left to avoid a parked car, not knowing if there's even a lane there for you, or the direction of traffic flow in that lane!

Eventually we succeeded in escaping from Paris, alive, and discovered that the French highway system is quite good-- the roads are in great shape, the lanes appear wider than in America (or at least the feel that way compared to the tiny Paris streets), speed limits are reasonable, passing lanes are provided often, as are rest stops with picnic tables and trash cans, and some with public restrooms.


More articles about France:
 Normandy, Brittney and the Loire Valley
 First Day in Paris
 Walking Tours of Paris
 Memories of Paris


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--The Traveler



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