Austin Christmas Visit: Airport Review

Shortly after returning from Paris a Christmas visit to Austin was on the agenda. Having bought this ticket 4 months ago as a surprise to my daughter I was unaware she was already booked for her third season at Sundance in Utah. Oops! To my surprise a gig in San Antonio came through and she worked the Texas event and Sundance remotely. Isn’t technology grand?

Here we are, I am the one with the hat.

Upon landing in Austin I was anxious to see any changes to the airport. It had been 3 years since my last airport visit and they had recently opened a new wing.

There was the usual..

Statutes to important people who served the people. Nice statute of Barbara Jordan.

Busy luggage areas decorated for the holidays.

Then there was the unusual and funky..

Weird Austin walls on entry to the bathrooms.

A composting container next to the trash and recycling receptacles.

And what a phenomenal idea. Never saw one of these in an airport.

Quite a tribute to someone who did so much. Let’s hope it is to the man who caught those crooks.

And many ways to purchase coffee.

But my favorite were the dogs. Never saw so many in an airport. Guess it was home for the holidays. Here’s my favorite. Isn’t she a beauty?

Now that the Airport has met my approval, on to San Antonio where my daughter was one of the event helpers at a national Christmas party for 20,000 USAA employees. That must be quite a party. Catch you tomorrow.

France: I Bid You Adieu!

Woke at 2 a.m. though the alarm was set for 3. Unable to check in on line for my flight the hotel clerk told me to get to the airport early for seat confirmation. Besides check in concerns transport to Charles De Gaulle, (CDG), was another problem. I was told several hotel patrons leaving at 4 a.m were facing challenges getting to the airport.

While the bed beckoned I took a final stretch got up, dressed, and AP’d Uber. As I walked into the lobby the Uber driver was notifying me of pick up a quarter mile away.

Though I wanted the ride I had no idea of the location, had 1 bag, 2 carry-ons, and the darkness loomed. I texted back I had no idea of the location and within 3 minutes he was at the hotel. This was a good sign.

Upon checking out I donated the 10 euro subway card to the desk clerk as a token of appreciation for his guidance and walked out to the waiting Uber. The Uber driver assisted with bags and spoke minimal English.

The ride to CDG held no Paris lights and we passed through an intersection where police were beating a felon 10 feet from the car and more were running from a panel van to assist. Grateful the light turned I asked the driver about this and he stated, “unsafe area,” elaborating no further.

When we arrived at CDG the driver placed me at the exact terminal, assisted with my bags, and stayed an extra moment to ensure the old lady got into the terminal. While he was richly tipped, it was a nice touch. It is eight hours till departure. Sufficient time for an airport review. 🙂

Finding a bank of computers I quickly accessed my flight information and checked in. Whew!

Next, find a cart.

Check.

And the visit to the loo.

It is now 7 hours 15 minutes to take off, so I checked for a spot to rest. Several places were already taken.

Looks like an entire family on a camping trip here.

And somewhere under that blanket is a solo traveler.

Then there is this interesting place to doze between calls.

And while in my search I was unable to find the perfect spot to rest my head I did locate the perfect way to end this blog.

Orly Airport to Lourdes

Left for the Orly Airport flight at 0530 which was 4 hours pre-flight in the hopes it would provide ample time to get to my destination. The first step on this journey was an Uber and he arrived 3 minutes post email. The driver spoke no English so it was a quiet ride through a glowing Paris with Christmas decorations and lights.

Arrived at the Le Bus Direct location at 0550. It was scary dark in an area with homeless sleeping about but a friendly man in a business suit approached and gave me instructions on the process. I smiled and thanked him grateful he departed after informing me of what to do.

The 0605 bus arrived and I was allowed on though booked for a 0645 passage. There were 4 passengers on the bus and one with a dog who gave much love.

The 30 minute trip went quickly on a sparsely commuted highway. Once in the airport I snagged a man with supervisor on his name tag and received all details needed to locate my airline.

Since I arrived early my next step was to investigate the airport. Perhaps there is a job with this work as I certainly fit the qualifications. Here are my findings..

There was some Christmas cheer..

Clean bathrooms with a bit of an odor, but nice touch with the female personal care items machine. This is a new find.

Pricey stores..

A classy restaurant….

And last, but not least, an interesting mobile….

Since Orly Airport passed inspection it was time to move on to TSA. Here I found the staff pleasant but unaware if Lourdes water could be brought back on the plane. This concerned me as I had brought an entire suitcase to fill with bottles of Lourdes water. Mary will find a way.

Once on the plane I met a man of 22 also going to Lourdes. He sat on one side and a man of 25 sat on the other going to an annual reunion of college friends where they drink heavily for 24 hours then return home. Odd combination of seat mates, however both charming.

Pao Airport

As we neared the airport the pilot informed us that Lourdes Airport was closed due to the strike and we would land 30 minutes away in Pao Airport. From Pao we would be bused to Lourdes Airport. Departure went quickly and the ride through the French countryside a delight with scenes of the Pyrenees.

The Pyrenees

Once reaching the Lourdes Airport a rental car seemed the best route as I was unsure of the reliability of cabs in the area.

Lourdes Airport

My 22 year old seatmate came for the ride and upon reaching Lourdes we made plans to meet which never came to fruition and I began the visit happily alone.

Next Blog: Why I am at Lourdes and for those of little faith you will probably will remain that way and never read my blog again…….

Is Paris Burning?

Train Station

No, only their transportation services are burning. During my December 4th to 9th visit the strike began and is now in its 4th week. The strike concerns retirement changes. Frenchie’s have over 40 retirement plans and are able to retire at 55 with many of them. The government wants to change and streamline these plans which is causing quite a stir. Personally, I hate being retired so I don’t get it. That said let’s chat about the trip and the strike’s impact on it.

Arrived in Paris at Charles DeGaulle Airport on the first day of the strike, December 5th. My first notification was when a fellow passenger mentioned it upon deplaning. She was going to Marseille, a short jaunt, however, she had a six hour wait for her flight. While American me was appalled she smiled stating she was pleased to get any flight home. I should have taken heed.

Once in the terminal I sought directions and was greeted by the usual French response. While I love the Frenchie’s their disdain for US, meaning the United States, is evident. And it didn’t help matters that our President insulted theirs the day before. While not all Frenchies like Macron they are loyal.

After speaking with 4 different red coat “helpers” in the airport I located my way out of the terminal. Already missing JFK I ponder scrapping the trip.

Next was obtaining a ticket from a machine for the fare on the one train which was running. After several attempts on getting a ticket from the machine an American tapped me on the shoulder and told me to go to the ticket agent. Guess he heard my profanity and I followed the direction he pointed me in..

My success rate with human ticket folks has been 50/50 yet hoping to be lucky I found the window and a millenial with a smug look glaring at me. Sensing her disgust on Day 1 of the strike I attempted my, “un peu Francais,” and things got worse. Here was a real bit-h, pardon me, and as we proceeded in ticket purchase she proved to be a double b-tch.

She snickered when I asked how to use the ticket and where to go. Knowing she was probably telling me where to go in French under her breath I realized assistance needed to be obtained elsewhere. Why bother getting upset as there is karma in the world.

Looking around I noted even the Asians appeared bewildered. I felt a kinship and located a 50ish woman red coat “helper” who actually helped. Reading my mind she smiled as I approached took my ticket posting it to a circular disk on the turn style said, “#22 to Gare,” and pointed to the stairs beyond the turn style. Success!

Posters at one of the Train Stops

At the Gare Station I found a pleasant, young man in a blue jacket to help. Also, the bathrooms were free at this station. A gift to us weary travelers with a savings of .70 euros, akin to .85 USD. Nice touch as I was near ready to water a tree.

Gare Station decorated for the holidays. Nice mall inside the Station.

Since there was no further train access a cab to the hotel was the only way. I am up to 35 euros for transport now and by days end it came to 80. However, when there is no other option who is counting?

At least the cab drivers kids will have a nice Christmas.

Tomorrow: The Louvre

Another view of the Gare Train Station Mall at the holidays.