This Trip Report includes:
* USAirways F domestic, Envoy Transatlantic
* Paris Hilton
First I'd like to introduce my roommate thumbgirl as an honorary member of the FlyerTalk Community.
Background: We planned this trip back in October. I was lucky enough to secure a $440 r/t ticket for january travel. I had two SWUs w/ a 1/31 expiry date and the trip would allow me to have some sort of balance for 2002 (those zeros are just too much to look at)! A double miles and European Bonus popped up from the Dividend Miles Folks making my mileage earning potential exponentially greater. However, according to koko's law, this was a vacation and not a Mileage Run! I offered thumbgirl a ticket to be my co-hort in the weekend adventure and to help translate. It her acceptance was immediate.
Friday 11Jan: "Harry Potter and the South Terminal"
We left for the airport around 8:45 for our 10:35 flight. By the time we parked the car and took the shuttle over to the USAirways counter, it was about 9:40. There was no one in line at the Envoy/Preferred/First-Class Check-In line so I thought it would be a breeze. A line of about 8 was in the regular line. I was quite surprised to actually have to wait for about 10 minutes before one of the two agents finally free'd up. Thumbgirl and I checked in w/o any hassles and they collected my SWU.
We took the escalator down to the security area for the S Gates. A line was nonexistant and w/ the exception of thumbgirl's cowboy belt the size of Utah we made it through w/o any delays. The tram delivered us to the South Terminal and realizing that we were going to be on a plane for a long while, we decided to walk up the stairs to the gate area rather than take the escalator. We take a quick look around the South Terminal and notice the NW 747 going to NRT and a NW DC-10 parked waiting to take passengers to AMS. I made a quick stop at the bookstore to pick up a copy of the first Harry Potter book. It set me back 7 bucks and change. We were then off to S5.
Uniquely, I have noticed that during the day US has been departing SEA from the S4 and S5 gates (which surprised me the first time I saw it at xmas) and have been arriving at the S10-S11 gates- who knows?
We take our seats in the boarding area and they offer up prebaording for families and those "requiring more time". They followed shortly w/ First Class boarding and thumbgirl jumped up. I offered the suggestion of waiting just a tad bit to avoid being "randomly picked" by security. We let 4 or 5 people jump in line, then we followed. Going down the jetway thumbgirl asked if I wanted the window or aisle seat. I gave her the option as I truly didn't care. She took a gander at my boarding pass and hoped that no one would be sitting between her 1A seat and my 1C seat. I informed her that there was no 1B, and that relieved her (I think).
USAirways180 SEA-PHL: "No Way! There's a Mini-Tray for my Drink?"
We throw our bags in the bins of the Airbus319 and sat down in 1A & C. Having done a bit of flying in her years, this was actually thumbgirl's first flight in First. She was quite giddy at the notion that she could cross her legs and still have room! The female FA came around and took a pre-departure drink order. Thinking quickly about Freddy Heineken, I decide Orange Juice is the best choice. Thumbgirl went the same route. The flight took off on time w/ a full FC cabin of 12 and 85 in coach.
About 40 minutes into the flight, the FA came around offering choices for lunch. A clear cutback was noticed as the FA read the choices of crab and shrimp ravioli, sliced sirloin, or a stuffed sole for lunch. Even though asking us for our meals first was purely against geo1004's "Serve from the West Theory" we were happy. The starters of smoked salmon w/ capers, parma ham and the norm was consumed w/o discussion. The salad followed w/ a choice of oil & vinagrette or creamy peppercorn. My main choice of the seafood ravioli and thumbgirl's stuffed sole came out w/ nearly perfect timing along with our second beers (Heineken and Bud Light respectively). Thumbgirl and I got our third sourdough roll w/ our main dishes. Burning 80k for thumbgirl's ticket was completely worth it to watch her eat in amazement that she was gnoshing a 4 course meal on an airplne.
Dessert came around and it was a rather ordinary cheesecake w/ a walnut topping. Seeing my lack of excitement, the FA said that if she knew we were going to be on the flight, she would have made something special. We declined on the cheesecake but took a third beer.
At this time we pulled out our Lonely Planet Paris Guidebook and started to plan our weekend. This was my first trip to Paris and my list consisted of Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, etc…
Being used to writing teacher's Lesson Plans thumbgirl's itinerary looked
2- Go through Customs and Immigration
3- Visit an ATM
I see her list, let out a laugh and put a big X though it saying, "we'll just go with the flow, ok?"
The Envoy Lounge
We arrive into PHL on time around 6:30 at the B Terminal and head over to the A gates where our flight to CDG would depart. In anticipation of amazing thumbgirl even more, we went through the unseemingly ordinary door and went downstairs into the Envoy Lounge. We show our boarding passes and are informed that flight announcements would be made. The Lounge is packed w/ flyers for the flights to BRU, LGW, and FRA but we are able to find two chairs together in the back. I grab a Heineken for myself and an Amstel Light for thumbgirl. Forgetting to un-cap the bottles, I head back to the bar for the bottle-opener. I stop and bring back the awesome snack mix and some cheese and bread to nibble on. Continuing to live up to my reputation, I made some "oh yea, I'm going to Paris for the weekend" phone calls. I turned the phone over to thunbgirl as I went to meander around the lounge looking for AusTxHiker. I was thinking that a 6'5" chexfan wearing maroon corduroys would stick out like a sore thumb, but it was for not and I missed a FT Encounter.
The first announcement for the Paris flight is made and we made our way after 4 beers to A7 where the wonderful Airbus 330 would take us off to CDG for a wonderful weekend!
USAirways26 PHL-CDG: The Wonderful A330 and Envoy!
At boarding through 1L we crossed the Galley and made way to our assigned seats in 2G&H. I don't know why I said it, but I go to thumbgirl, "Ahh let's just take these seats (2G&H)." An FA overheard my little comment quickly came over and asked to see our boarding passes. She was quite shocked to see that we were actually taking our assigned seats foiling her little plot to send us to coach.
After I threw our bags in the overhead, thumbgirl's mouth simply drops. Just remember your first international trip in Business… It was an awesome and heartfelt reaction. We have some pre-departure champagne and take off on-time at 8:15. The FA came around shortly after take-off inquiring about a post-departure drink. I go with a glass of champagne and thumbgirl gets a glass of chardonnay. The drinks were served w/ the usual bowl of mixed nuts.
The FA later came around to take our meal orders. Again, another cut-back was noticed when no menus were handed out. The choices for the main dish included: Petit Filet mignon, Stuffed Turbo, Stuffed Chicken w/ spicy mustard sauce.
Thumbgirl went with the turbo and I, the chicken accompanied with a Heineken. My meal was pretty average, however, the spicy mustard sauce gave the dish a kick. I think the turbo was good as thumbgirl didn't stop to talk! I think we pretty much gorged on our dinner so we chose to pass on the dessert.
I inquired w/ an FA if the Crabtree & Evelyn amentiy kits were going to be handed out. She informed me that "they were renegotiating w/ the supplier and they were out at the minute."
Following dinner, I gave thumbgirl a tutorial in using the P@ssport Entertainment System. She was a quick learner (or I a great instructor) as she became a pro in navigating around the system. I decided to listen to a few of my favorite selections from Paul Simon's Graceland and then watched to montage of VH1 clips. Watching the VH1 montage, the pure beauty of the entertainment system came to light as I was able to rewind the program to watch Christina Aguilera's performance 3 times
Shortly thereafter, I joined thumbgirl in the land of ZZZ's and was out like a light. We awoke probably about 40 minutes outside of Charles deGaulle missing the breakfast service. However, we didn't miss much. There is/was a catering strike at CDG forcing US to double load their flights for PHL-CDG and the return CDG-PHL flights. Breakfast was a simple shrink-wrapped muffin. This could only lead to a dissapointing flight back.
It was very foggy and cloudy as I didn't see the ground until we touched down! We were one of the first to deplane through 1L and we decided to do a quick freshen up at the Arrivals Lounge at the Salon Bleriot. To say I was unimpressed would be an understatement. Upon entrance we surrendered our invitation, only to be greeted by a room full of cigarrette smoke. Welcome to France!
We quickly brush our teeth and freshen up. We then faced a 10-minute line at immigration that was bearable and our trek to the City of Lights had begun!
So… we're in Paris
Thanks to the help from blairvanhorn we had a head's up that we would need to take a shuttle from Terminal 1 to the RER station. After a while (I think we took the scenic route) we were dropped off and made our way to "Paris by Train". We stopped by an ATM pulled out some brand spanking new euros and thumbgirl got to break in her French for the first time when we bought our tickets to Champ d'Mar station. We took the RER-B (blue) train to Notre Dame, made a quick change to the C (yellow) line and we were there.
As the hotel came into sight beyond a soccer field I started to ponder where that darn Eiffel Tower was. The Paris Hilton pretty much bills itself as being "within spitting distance" of the Tower. As we made our way down the Avenue de Suffern I turned to thumbgirl and said, "Now where the heck is that darn Eiffel Tower thingy?" As such, the timing couldn't have been better. Within two steps, the Eiffel Tower popped into view to our left as we passed through an intersection. The fog that surrounds the city was still around (remember the landing?) limiting our viewing distance. Spitting distance, it was.
The Hilton Paris Rocks!!!
At check-in the staff noticed my Diamond VIP status. The gentleman informed me that I would have to go to the 10th floor to checkin. Thumbgirl and I hopped on the elevator and went up to the 10th floor. As soon as the door opened, the concierge welcomed us with a wonderful smile. "Monsier, Madame chexfan… welcome. Welcome! Welcome!" check-in was a breeze and the concierge personally escorted us to our room. The room was ready and waiting for us w/ a personalized hand-written note, a bottle of wine and some bread w/ jellies. I was amazed with the view of the Eiffel Tower as we were so close!
We freshened up again, ate some of the baguettes and were on our way! We started off on our trek and our weekend of sightseeing. First on our list was the Eiffel Tower, it was still too foggy so we decided to pass on going up and went off across the River Seine. We walked up some Franklin Roosevelt road, passing some stuff and ending up on the Champs d'Elsyees. We ambled up the Champs d'Elysees to the Arc d'Triomphe. We saw people under the Arc, but couldn't figure out how to get there. Surely, we thought, they all didn't cross the street. Our rationale took over and we walked around the cirlcle. Of course it took us 180 degrees to find the underground stariways to the Arc, but neither of us were injured in the process. We exited the Arc, from the opposite side from which we walked up. This made us happy in eliminating the need to cross the street.
So we started our walk back down the Champs d'Elysees in the direction of the Louvre. Satisfying thumbgirl's urge to do some shopping, we stopped in some famous (not to me) stores to do some browsing. The prices were reasonable, but nothing was purchased.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat at some café and grabbed a café au lait to warm up. It was now about 4:00p and we decided to head back to the hotel to get some sort of rest. We got back to the hotel and stopped in the concierge lounge for a quick drink. Charles was working an introduced himself to us. I grabbed a Heineken and thumbgirl, an Amstel Light. We had a little bite to eat and returned to our room for a quick nap. After an hour and a half rest, we awoke and freshened up for a Saturday night out on the town in Paris!!!
A Night Out on the Paris Town
geo1004 gave us the name of Fish - La Boissonnerie in the Latin Quarter area in the 6th Arrondissment for a good dinner. We decided to walk to St. Germain des Prés and found Fish on the Rue de Seine at about 8:15 or so. The bartender asked if we had a reservation, which we didn't. He said that if we came back at 9:30, he could get us a table then. We felt this was acceptable so we walked to the corner bar. We walked in and were completely surrounded by smoke. It was truly horrible. But thumbgirl and I were both able to finish a drink before we decided to mosey on out to an outside table on the street. Outside, under the heatlamps, we each had 2 or 3 more drinks (I was sipping on Carlsberg at the time and thumbgirl was sipping some red wine). We walked back down the street to the restaurant at 9:30. The bartender saw us and asked for another 15 minutes. Thumbgirl accepted the delay while I walked outside and wandered around. Directly across the street, I spotted a sandwich shoppe. The sandwiches there looked so good. So I grabbed thumbgirl and we went there for dinner. Not only were the sandwiches so tasty, but also it was very reasonably priced. The two sandwiches and two glasses of wine set us back a total of 17 euros.
From here we went over to some bar that was suggested to thumbgirl. It was quite small and dungeon-esque and really wasn't anything too impressive, so we moved on to a brewery located across the way. We truly lucked out by making the decision to stop here. We were able to secure two barstools watching the folks come and go all night. At about 1:15 we finished our last beers and made our way to the taxi stand. After standing in the queue for about 25 minutes a cab came by to take us back to the Hilton. It was a long day but I was in Paris!
Sunday is "Be a Tourist-For-A-Day" day
It was Sunday and our last full day in Paris (actually our only full day in Paris). We set the alarm for 9:30 and weren't too happy when it went off. After showering, breakfast was in the Concierge Lounge.
The sun was actually trying to break out and the top of the Eiffel Tower was visible! As we walked by the Eiffel Tower we noticed that the lines were short so we dropped some euros for a ride to the top. On the way up, I thought what it would be like if I was scared of heights and confined spaces. Man, that surely would have freaked me out! (right geo?) But it didn't. We snapped some photos up top and made our way back down.
From the Eiffel Tower we followed the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay. Blairvanhorn had given us the tip about reduced entrance admissions on Sundays, and he was correct. We got to the d'Orsay around 11:30 and ambled around for a bit. Honestly, one of my secret hidden adorations is for Art and Art History. Thumbgirl has one as well. Although, one would think this is a good thing, it really isn't when you are trying to do tons of sightseeing in one day! We walked around in complete amazement and I was so impressed by the abundance of works done by Renoir, Degas (both pre and post 1870), Van Gogh (though not like in AMS), Gauguin, Cezanne and the entire room dedicated to Monet.
We checked our watches and decided at 1:45 that we should leave. We headed down towards Avenue StGermain again and grabbed a bagguette and Coke Light for lunch. We took a left hand turn and made our way towards the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. Again I was just simply amazed with this masterpiece of Gothic Architecture (but I still noticed a number of Romanesque qualities w/ the roundness of some of the features). We walked around inside, and I dropped some euros to light a votive candle for my mother. As we were leaving I posed the question why the University of Notre Dame has the mascot of the Fightin' Irish and not the Fightin' French. We didn't have an answer and we continued on.
To fulfill the need to get something for my niece and nephew, we check out the souvenir shops outside of Notre Dame. Nothing strangely unique caught my eye so we strolled on down to the Louvre unfulfilled.
To say that I had no clue about the pure immensity of the Louvre would be an understatement. I've heard the requisite "You could spend two days in there and never see the whole thing…" But I just wasn't prepared.
Anyways, thumbgirl and I were checking out the admission fees. We qualified for the after 3pm, the under 25 and the Sunday admission fees. We went with the cheapest one, which was surprisingly cheaper than addmission to the Seattle Art Museum.
After picking up an English and Japanese floor map, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa. I mean how could you not? We made our way up some stairs and were completely surprised to see Winged Victory greeting us. We took some photos and made our way to the Rennaissance wing. Around this time I turned to thumbgirl and said that I was kind of sick of museums and I knew I wasn't appreciating where I was. She agreed saying that she was in the same boat. Again, timing couldn't be perfect. I had just noticed that we passed 3 works by Leonardo daVinci in a row. If this were to have happened before 12pm, it probably would have taken us 30 minutes to get through the room, at 5p, it took us about 20 seconds. We caught a glimpse of the Mona Lisa and then made our way to the Greek and Egypt sections. On the way there, some famously brilliant paintings were noticed on the walls, but all we did was turn our heads and say, "Hey, that was on the cover of my Art History book" when made our way past Louis David's The Oath of the Horatii and Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People.
We went through the Egypt stuff and trotted off to the ancient Greek area. We were happy with some old stuff we got to view including Venus deMilo, where I was obliged to take pictures of her "lesser known side." There was an empty exhibit room not too far away where thumbgirl and I decided to have fun posing as pieces of art. As soon as I scan the photos, chexfan in motion will be published!
Shortly before 6pm we were directed towards the exits as the Museum was closing. The way the whole outside of the Louvre was illuminated was quite impressive. The contrast of the Grand Louvre and IM Pei's glass pyramid was amazing. From here, thumbgirl and I decided to take a cab back to the hotel after we checked out the bright gawdy Ferris Wheel. Although it didn't look too far away, the walk easily took 20 minutes. When we got there, we were happy to see a festivity of some sort going on. I turned to thumbgirl and we pondered if this was to celebrate the last day of our stay in Paris. We chuckled and drank some of the free coffee and ate the free cotton candy they were giving out.
Our quest to find a taxi stand proved elusive and we found ourselves
about 5 blocks from the Eiffel Tower heading back to the Hilton. We talked
about heading back to the hotel and freshening up then going back out,
only to realize that we would most likely never make it back out of the
hotel as the long day of walking took a toll on us. So we did the smart
thing and stopped for dinner on the way. Thumbgirl went with a grilled
ham and cheese. Weirdly enough I was in the mood for breakfast and they
didn't have French Toast, so I ordered an omelette instead which was served
w/ Fench Fries but they didn't call them that.
The meal was reasonably priced and we were off to the Hilton.
We dropped off our stuff in the room and made our way back down the hall to the Concierge Reception room. Charles was there to greet us. He pulled out a Heineken for me and asked thumbgirl what she wanted. We sat down and began to relax. The only other four people in the Club were a Mother and three daughters (aged 27, 24 & 20 and 51/52nds). They were from Minnesota and we started chatting with them when they made a rhetorical comment of "Who would visit Paris for just two days?" Unfortuntely, they thought thumbgirl and I were a "couple" and I was S.O.L. with the 3 daughters. Shortly thereafter, we had the club to ourselves and Charles re-stocked the fridge w/ Heineken. Unfortunately we were kicked out of the club at 11pm but Charles let us take some drinks with us to our room, so our "fun night could continue".
Monday 14Jan- Do We Have to Leave?
We awoke and realized that Sunday night was the most economical drinking we had ever been a part of. Easily an 80 euro bill could have been rung up. Ahh the joys of VIP status.
After I showered I made my way to the hotel gift store to pick up a t-shirt for both my niece and nephew. We checked out in the Concierge Lounge w/ Liesel.
We made the way back to CDG via the RER C and RER B lines. It took about an hour and 35 minutes to get there but we still had about 80 minutes before our scheduled departure. We got a bit confused with all the escalators but I took a risk and followed the signs to the United ticket counters. I gambled by assuming they'd be next to the USAirways counters and it paid off. The line was shockingly long and thumbgirl jumped in at the end. I smiled to her and said, "I don't think we need to stand in line." We walked a bit and found the Envoy check-in. There was no one in line there and after a quick round of security questions, we checked in. The agent had no problems printing thumbgirl's boarding passes but had some trouble with mine. After a seemingly long minute, she asked for my SWU. I handed it over and she excused herself b/c she had to get approval to accept my SWU! This was the first time I had ever heard of this practice but there was nothing to worry about. She handed over my boarding passes to PHL and SEA and we were on our way.
We cleared Immigration and made our way to the Salon ICARE. This was next to the Arrivals Lounge but many times nicer. I got a quick soda and we departed. On the way out, I ask thumbgirl if we could just take a peek in the RCC. She didn't understand that I just wanted to scope it out, but she obliged and did the 2 minute visit w/ me. We took the elevator back down. I bought some candy for the flight back and thumbgirl picked up some duty free alcohol.
We got to the gate area about 40 minutes before our scheduled departure and a line had formed already for boarding. We made it through security and thumbgirl noticed that her carry-on got quite a bit heavier. I reminded her how much money she had just spent in the duty free shop. We jumped into line for boarding through 2L. It didn't seem to be moving too swiftly then I noticed the agents at 1L. I nudged to thumbgirl and we made our way down there for boarding. We were greeted with a smile and I was "randomly selected" for a security search. After a brief one-minute look through, the security guy zipped up my Tumi and wished me a nice trip.
Monday 14Jan- USAirways27 CDG-PHL
We took our seats in 2A&B and had a welcoming glass of champagne. The first envoy section w/ the exception of 5C&H were filled. Knowing about the catering strike at CDG, I had a feeling not too expect too much for the return trip to PHL. When we sat down I noticed that the headsets in our seats were typical coach ones. I asked the FA about the Noise Cancelling headsets and she went on and on about the catering strike. She said that if I wanted a pair of used ones, she would go in the box and get some. Thining to myself that I have been through far more disgusting things than using someone else's headsets, I ask her for two pair! She returned w/ two NC headsets still shrink-wrapped. I was very thankful, as was thumbgirl. The entertainment portion of the return trip would at least be up to par! However, unlike the trip to CDG, they also handed out the Crabtree and Evelyn Amenity Kits. Go figure.
The lunch options were the exact same as the choices for dinner on the PHL-CDG trip (i.e. Petit Filet mignon, Stuffed Turbo, Stuffed Chicken w/ a Spicy mustard sauce). I went with the fish, and thumbgirl the chicken. Again, I don't have too much to offer on the food consumed.
We had a good laugh as the gentleman behind us told the third person about his story of being delayed on his SR flight from ZRH and almost missing the CDG-PHL leg.
I followed up lunch going back to the VH1 programming and fast-forwarding straight to the Christina Aguilera spot. I threw Memento on and quickly fell asleep (it required to think, and my brain wasn't up for that). I woke up to see the credits rolling and thumbgirl laughing to Shrek! I decided to switch over and watched my own version of Shrek… Ah the joys of the A330!!!
The pre-arrival snack was cutback "due to the catering situation" at CDG. It consisted of wrapped cookies and Ghiradelli Chocolate. Arrival into PHL was about 15 minutes early, but all that was lost in our taxi to the gate.
Deplaning was through 2L and we were the last folks from the Envoy and First cabins to leave. Knowing about a debate between the pitch of bulkhead Envoy seats and second row Envoy seats, I pulled a frequent flying dork move and measure the pitch to kill the time in exiting.
A Two Hour and 12 Minute Layover in Philly
We made it through Immigrations and Customs w/o any problems and made our way back up the stairs to the A Terminal and went through security again. I made it through all right, but a security agent's eyes lit up at the chance of further security screening on thumbgirl.
From here, we took off for the USAirways Club between the B and C Concourses. We walked in and presented our Envoy boarding passes for admission. The desk agent asked if we would like some drink coupons. Being two people who rarely turn down a free drink, we accepted. She signed over 4 coupons to us and said to come back if we needed more!!!
I ran up to the bar and got thumbgirl and myself two handsomely poured Yuenglings (I honestly can say that I have missed this fine Pennsylvania Lager since moving to SEA). I filled up a bowl of pretzels and we sat at the window looking out at the Airbii moving about between the concourses. I made the requisite call to my parents saying that we got back to the US w/o any problems. Thumbgirl borrowed my Nokia and made some calls as I made a quick run back to the front desk for more drink coupons.
Monday 14Jan- USAirways751 PHL-SEA
30 minutes before our scheduled departure, we left the lounge to go mail my Paris postcards. We made our way to C17 where our A319 would take us to the Emerald City. The loud gentleman who sat behind us earlier with the delayed flight from ZRH saw us. He comes over and says, "Hey you guys came in from Paris." We nodded and he began to tell us about his horror story, yadda, yadda, yadda. Being the polite folks that we are, we nodded as if it was the first time we heard it- but this time we got to hear that he went shopping at the Gap for his meeting the next day.
Boarding for preferred flyers and first class was called 25 minutes before departure and thumbgirl and I were the 10th and 11th ones to board respectively. We took our seats and the FA greeted us with a smile and hello. She asked for our pre-departure drink order. Thumbgirl was very surprised to see that her "glass of water" turned out to be a full litre plastic jug! The FA laughed and said, "If you need to go to the bathroom, it's right there!" and got a chuckle from both of us.
We took off on-time w/ a passenger load of 57 (11F/46Y). The meal service was as usual and the choices for dinner were the seafood ravioli, chicken or grilled mahi mahi. We both went with the grilled mahi mahi and we concurred that it was the best plane meal of the trip. As it was about 2am Paris time, thumbgirl was asleep before dinner was cleared. After dinner, I finally had the chance to crack open Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and put a dent of 65 pages in the book w/ ease- ahhh the joys of a book on a 5th grade level.
We arrive into SEA at gate S12 about 25 minutes early. We were directed to go to S15 to take a shuttle bus to the main terminal. It seems that the tram is stopped at night for construction or aome other reason. This new option wasn't bad as we probably got to the baggage claim faster than waiting for the tram.
We made our way out to the courtesy shuttle parking where a near perfectly
timed Ajax shuttle was going by. We flag him down, got a ride to the chexmobile,
and our long weekend in Paris came to an end.