Sunday, December 30, 2012

We took the long way home

ELLE DIS: 'We apologize for this short delay'
Our long-awaited trip back to France from Reno was, indeed long. A freaky snowstorm in Dallas on Christmas Day left the massive airport under-staffed with only one de-icer in operation. Thus, we sat on the runway for nearly three hours waiting for a gate. As we finally pulled up to the gate, our connection to Madrid left its gate, leaving us with a whirlwind trip to London. Ken's first trip to jolly old England consisted of two trips around Heathrow on the shuttle bus and a dash to the gate to make the connection to Marseille. Because that plane also left late, we just barely made our last flight to Bordeaux. I had been anxious all day, or rather both days, because our friend Fred was meeting us in Bordeaux, and we had unwisely put our cell phone in our baggage. But all's well, as Fred had gotten our messages about the delays and was waiting for us when we slunk off the plane in Bordeaux. Our luggage wasn't quite so lucky. As the year draws to a close, three of our four bags have arrived in Lauzun, and one, apparently opting for the scenic route through London, may arrive tomorrow.
So amazing to be back in France. I have spent four days wandering around the house, reminding me at every corner, how much I love chez nous.
It is the start of a new year, and a new life for these American retirees. We plan to frequently present our experiences in a "he said, she said" format. But since this is MY blog, "she" will have the first word; and since we are where we are, we shall call these segments, "Elle dis, il dis." We look forward to sharing tales of our new life in France with you.
~ Mimi

IL DIS: 'Can I have a cookie please?'
Mimi and I scheduled our return to France leaving Reno via Dallas-Madrid-Bordeaux. We checked the flights before leaving and there were no delays, so we left for the airport, saying our tearful goodbyes to our sons.
We checked our luggage at the curbside attendant and we were good to go. Or so we thought. The baggage handler, after about 20 minutes, said there were delays in Dallas and we should come back in two days to try again, or we could hope the delays compounded and we could make our short connection. We threw the dice and hoped for the best. After all, we had a scheduled six-hour layover in Madrid so there was a little wiggle room.
The plane from Reno was two hours late arriving, due to ice. When we finally landed in Dallas, we were informed that we were 37th in line to get a gate. Also, there is just one de-icier for the whole airport. Finally, there was no estimate when we would get off the plane. Our connection to Madrid was also still delayed, so we retained some hope of catching it.
Meanwhile, American Airlines doesn’t serve food in transit unless you pay. Also, they serve no food or beverage while on the ground. So there we were, having had only a petite dejeuner way back in Reno, and were we hungry! Reno to DFW is just under a three-hour flight. After two hours on the tarmac, we were offered a half of a granola bar. It tasted fabulous, and the wrapper wasn’t bad either.
As we pulled into the gate, our flight to Madrid pulled out. Fudge! Remarkably, we were re-booked onto a flight to London Heathrow, then to Gatwick to Bordeaux. Hope remained alive.
There was a three-hour layover and were assured we had time to make the connection between London airports. We boarded the plane and waited for some delayed passengers. Sounded like a reasonable thing to do since we had been in the same pickle. Two hours later, we left the gate to be de-iced. Another hour to de-ice and our three-hour window to make our connection to Gatwick was now down to 15 minutes.
Deplaning at Heathrow, we were greeted by British Airway staff that had planned for the delay. We were handed tickets to Marseille with a connection to Bordeaux. All things considered, awesome service from British Airways. The connection in Marseille was tight, and we had a friend on his way to the Bordeaux airport to pick us up. Run, run, panic, panic.
Out of nowhere a woman from Air France noticed two lost and confused Americans. She grabbed our hands and rushed us through customs in Marseille.  (It seems as if the French either love Americans in general, or maybe us in particular.)
We caught the flight to Bordeaux, and all told, arrived only four hours after our scheduled arrival time. Our friend was waiting for us, and the only thing left was our luggage. The carousels went round and round and round. Nothing. Now we are off to Lost Baggage. Air France filed a claim and we headed toward home.
Our luggage has been located in various countries and is being delivered piecemeal. At this posting, three out of four of our bags so far have been delivered. Maybe we should have signed our luggage up for frequent flyer miles.
~ Ken

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