Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bon Voyage!

Samedi, 17 août.

Bienvenue from la France! It's just past 8:00 pm here. That means it's currently 2:00 pm in Centreville ... and also means that I have been awake for over 30 straight hours. And let me tell you, fatiguée doesn't even begin to describe my level of exhaustion à ce moment. Earlier this afternoon, I started to fall asleep while sitting straight up on a park bench. So yeah, it's been quite a long day ... but I guess that's because it all began, well, yesterday!

I spent Friday morning packing (and unpacking and repacking) and headed off to the airport around 1 pm for my 4:15 flight. Goodbyes were difficult, but I know I'll be back in Virginia before I know it! As for the trip itself, the flight from Washington Dulles to Charles de Gaulle was a breeze ... well, as much as a trans-Atlantic plane flight can be! Our plane was an absolute goliath, and if you think I'm exaggerating, look up the Air France Airbus A380 -- it's the largest passenger aircraft in the world. Check out this photo of the economy class! I had planned to sleep most of the flight, but between the airline food (say what you want, but I really liked it) to the inflight entertainment (I finally got a chance to watch Lincoln), it was all just too exciting to miss a second!

Here are some helpful hints if you are planning to fly Air France anytime soon:
  • Not many things are written in stone anymore, but the Air France baggage weight limits are literally carved in granite and hung over the check-in desk. Just kidding! But actually, they're insanely serious about weight limits. I got my boarding pass and waited in line for 20+ minutes, only to be sent back to repack because my carry-ons were too heavy!
  • Allow plenty of time to go through security! I was at Dulles Aiport more than two and a half hours before my flight and didn't have a whole lot of free time after finally getting through security.
  • Forget the weather outside: wear your heaviest clothes on the plane. Air France is crazy picky about the size and weight of your luggage, but they don't look twice at the size and weight of YOU. When I went through check-in the second time, I was wearing two jackets, sunglasses, and a digital camera. I'm almost certain that I could have bundled myself up like a sausage without any questions! Besides, it's cold when you're a couple thousand miles up in the air and an extra jacket won't be wasted!
  • Do research on your destination airport. Learn the rules, print out a map ... whatever will keep you from dragging a heavy duffel bag in circles around Charles de Gaulle Airport!
  • If you can, take the Airbus. It's two stories, has comfy seats with individual TV screens and is basically the definition of chouette. I actually sort of miss it...

The layover at Charles de Gaulle was ... interesting. We arrived early, almost an hour ahead of schedule, but Brooke, Thomas and I spent at least that getting through passport control and making our way to our gate. (Brooke and Thomas are fellow study abroad students from W&M ... not my imaginary friends.) I was really grateful to meet up at with Molly, who had naturally had zero trouble finding her way to our gate. We adventured a little bit through the terminal and, ever the classy travellers, read French newspapers. But by the time our plane took off for Montpellier a few hours later (8:55 France-time, almost 3 am Virginia-time), we were all pretty pooped. The flight from Paris to Montpellier is a blur of napping and turbulance (Airbus A380, it was not), but we got to the Aéroport de Montpellier–Méditerranée all in one piece.

We -- along with several other students from other US univerisities -- were met at the airport by Valerie, one of our student assistants, and taken to the Cité Universitaire Triolet, which houses students from all the Universities of Montpellier (I, II, et III). Although most of us will soon be moving into homestays, we each get our own rooms in Triolet for the orientation period! Stay tuned for a post with a tour of my new home-away-from-home ... at least for a few weeks!

1 comment:

  1. I hang on each word! The Airbus looks wonderful! Wow! I want to go!