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Old 04-14-2003, 12:33 AM   #1
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Austin to Sophia Antipolis

Austin to Sophia Antipolis, 12-Apr-2003

The trip started off poorly, finding me up until daybreak Saturday morning preparing for the work I’d be doing at the customer’s site on Monday. I finally called it an evening shortly before 07:00 and took a nap for a few hours to refresh before I had to head out to the airport. The alarm went off at 10:00a, and again at 10:09a, and again at 10:18a, and again at 10:27a. Then again at 11:00a, and again at 11:09a, and again at 11:18a. Finally I dragged myself out of bed and brewed a pot of coffee.

I called dbaker and woke him up at the crack of noon to see if he’d be able to provide transit to AUS which thankfully he was able to do. I packed my bags, charged up the GSM phone, got all my computer supplies in order, and we headed off to the airport shortly after 2:00p to get me on my 3:55p flight to Houston. Check-in was smooth at the airport, although I did get the usual taste of frustration from the Continental agents at my apparent refusal to use the e-ticket machines. Naturally this evaporated as soon as they learned that I was checking in for an international flight, but the reaction seems typical.

Anticipating the sardine can flight out of CDG in 15 hours, I went ahead and checked my main bag opting to just keep my laptop case as carryon. Given that my luggage was delayed two days my last flight to France this was a real leap of faith on my part. I figured I’d earned enough karma and left my underwear and shirts in the caring hands of Continental and Air France.

Having arrived comfortably early (AUS is generally a complete mess of infrequent travelers on Saturdays) I had an hour or so to kill before boarding the flight to Houston. I grabbed a glass of orange juice and settled in to the Austin President’s Club and worked on getting my laptop online. However it seems like perhaps the Austin earthlink number has changed because I was never able to get online.

At last I headed down to gate 16 and boarded the flight to Houston. The flight was uneventful, although I voluntarily displaced from my assigned seat to 1A in order to allow for a married couple (one EUA, one companion upgrade) to seat together for the 35 minute flight.

In Houston I spent a few hours in the North President’s Club. I sat and drank red wine while I watched a snappily-dressed CO agent and two airport police stand around and look at everyone nervously. I managed to secure a seat nearby their “spot” so I could eyeball the goings-on to see if I could figure out what the deal was. At first I thought they were looking for a specific person, and one of the police kept walking over to the windows to look around on the tarmac below. Finally about 15 minutes before I needed to depart for my flight the CO agent stuck his head in a nearby doorway and said “OK, they’re ready for you now”. I readied my camera, now thinking that perhaps it was a celebrity waiting for a flight, but I was disappointed by the appearance of a nondescript family of vaguely Hispanic looking people. I packed up and followed them out – I figured there was a decent change that they were on my flight given the timing, but their gate was well beyond mine.
I felt quite cheated by my gate – C-16 for the flight to Paris/CDG, keeping me out of the international D gates at IAH. It really felt like I was going to Cleveland, not Paris, as I loitered around C-16 and waited for boarding.

The flight to CDG was great, although I slept through most of it. The meal was good, but not spectacular: Ribeye with asparagus. I got the dbaker special “the works” hot fudge sundae, watched that Nicholas Cage movie about flowers where he plays twins, and then slept for the rest of the flight. This was only my second flight to enjoy the new lay-flat BusinessFirst seating and it was the first time I really took advantage of the new seats. They’re absolutely amazing! I was able to lay flat on my stomach and on my side and sleep comfortably for hours. It was nicer than some hotel beds I’ve experienced. When we touched down in Paris shortly before noon I actually felt like I’d had a decent night’s sleep (albeit wrinkled) and didn’t have that “whoa, I’ve lost a day somewhere, have you seen it?” feeling.

One hour and twenty minutes is a comfortable layover in CDG, removing the panic of missing my flight I often have while riding the little shuttle bus from hall to hall. I got a few more pics of the stunning hall F. The Air France flight to Nice was late, of course.

The upgrade bought with my miles didn’t confer to the AF seating, as I’d expected, but it really is immaterial. The AF flight had no real first class section to speak of – first class seating mainly just improves your odds of not getting a person sitting right next to you. It’s the same-width seats and same cold sandwich to eat. I sat in 10A and read my Stephen King novel for the 1 hour and 35 minute flight. The approach vectors into NCE are amazing, taking you along the coast from Cannes all the way to Nice. I took a bunch of pictures, but none turned out due to the filthy grime on the airplane window. It’s definitely worth being awake for that portion of the flight.

Arriving in Nice in learned that my luggage had been lost! How Super! I filled out the paperwork, left my contact information, and took the shuttle to Terminal 1 (I’d arrived at Terminal 2) to meet up with Sravish who was flying in from London for this trip. We found each other at our pre-arranged location and caught a cab to the hotel in Sophia Antipolice.

We’re staying at a hotel in the center of a little industrial park, surrounded by commercial concerns. There’s nothing to do, no stores, and no restaurants nearby. At 60 Euros to take a cab here from Nice, we’re really thinking that we might rent a car on Monday so that we’re not stuck here in the evenings after our work is finished. We’ll see how Monday goes, I guess.

My bag finally arrived via courier from the airport at 11:00p or so (yay) and I called it a night. The fun begins Monday morning…

I’ve got some pics, but my new 4 megapixel camera makes a modem connection even more intolerable. I might not be able to upload them until I arrive back in Austin.

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Old 04-14-2003, 02:21 PM   #2
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No, Jack, my luggage wasn't "vibrating" :P

(modern bombs don't tick...)

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Old 04-19-2003, 07:37 AM   #3
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And home again...

The taxi ride from Sophia Antipolis to the airport in Nice costs a hefty 60 Euros. That fact, combined with Sravish's 8:10a flight to London meant that my clever plan of getting a 10:30 flight out was dashed into impracticality. There's no way I could justify to myself spending an extra 60 Euros just for the extra few hours of sleep I'd planned on. Instead, I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:45 with Sravish.

We took the taxi to NCE Terminal 1 and I tagged along as Sravish checked in. As we stood in the economy line I overheard one of the ticketing agents in the Business Class say a keyword "American Express" which caught my attention. I casually glanced over and watched a walk-up passenger buy a full fare business class ticket on the next flight to London and pay for it with his American Express Centurion Card. This is my first sighting of the fabled "black card" AmEx in real life and it was a classical example of exactly the sort of person and purchase I'd expect to be done with one. It was more of a thrill to me than it probably should have been. I'm such a shameless capitalist. Naturally I called dbaker to share the story and also to confirm a ride home from AUS which I'd need in about 20 hours.

After Sravish checked in for the flight, we headed across to a little cafeteria and got coffees to chat while we waited for it to be time for him to board his flight. I managed to order the coffee (complete with answering the "black or with milk" question) entirely in French which was a bit of an accomplishment for me. Of all the languages I am exposed to for work (German, French, and Japanese mainly) I have the most difficulty with French. It never really congeals into words and phrases for my ears and seems to always just be a barrage of throaty vowels even after spending days in France.

Sravish hustled off to his flight at about a quarter to eight and I was faced with two hours to kill in NCE. I spent my time taking many pictures of the airport's two terminals, although I never found the motivation to walk between the two in order to get a shot of the gigantic man built from boulders and iron that seems to be the airport's mascot. Maybe next time when I have promised myself that I'll rent a car instead of taking a taxi.

At some point during all my walking, my samsonite rolling suitcase developed an embarassingly loud "clackka clackka clackka" noise from one of the wheels. It gelled my resolve to check the bag instead of bringing it as carryon. This is always the wisest approach, I think, when I'm on the packed-solid Air France domestic flights which rarely even have enough overhead space for my laptop bag. Check-in and the flight to Paris itself were completely uneventful.

I had just an hour or so to change planes in Paris, consumed mostly by the three bus rides I had to take in the process. Neither my arriving flight nor the departing flight were worthy of gate space and instead I got to do the stairs to tarmac to bus ride to stairs to airport to stairs to bus ride to stairs to airport to gate to stairs to tarmac to bus ride to stairs to plane to seat abomination that is often correspondence at CDG. All told, it worked out fine of course, and it was nice to get a bit of fresh air. Paris was sunny and warm on Thursday.

I settled in to 4A, one seat in front of my 5A perch for the flight over. Being the middle of the day, and thwarted by the high percentage of windowshades that were left open during the all daylight flight, I wasn't able to sleep much during the trip. I watched "25th Hour" on the in-flight entertainment system and two DVDs (Gattica and Pi). I read a lot of Dreamcatcher and noodled around on the laptop for most of the flight. (Plus the protracted BusinessFirst meal service designed to consume two hours of your trip just handling the logistics of a single meal). All told, the flight was great.

Arrival at Houston was smooth and fast, no lines at customs. I did note that they've changed the "items to declare" form. According to the date on the bottom the new form is from November 2002 but I didn't get one on my flight back from Tokyo in December. The new form is mostly the same as the old one, just bluer and prettier. Nice gradient shading on the boxes and such. Apparantly there's also different langage versions available, the flight attendents had french language versions of the form available (I got one by mistake initially).

I also noticed that IAH has implemented two baggage re-check lines (color coded) for you to use dependent on how soon your connecting flight boards. They've now provided a high-priority "less than one hour" line to check a bag which is at risk of missing your next flight. I had three hours to kill so I just did the boring, slow line.

Thrilled to be back in the land of unmetered phone calls, I spent the whole layover online from the President's Club. Ahhhh, glorious internet.

Finally I made my way to C31 to board my MD-80 to Austin. I'd slacked at the P-Club until late into the boarding process and was the last of the first class cabin pax (packed flight) to board and take my seat. We then spent an hour sitting at the gate while maintenance crews investigated a failure of the nosewheel lock indicator (or, perhaps, the failure of the nosewheel lock). I was pretty damned exhausted at this point and nodded off at several points. I called dbaker to let him know we'd be late arriving.

Finally the issue was resolved and we flew to Austin. It's a short flight and I read and snoozed for most of it. Touchdown AUS 17R and off we went to gate 16. Deebs was waiting for me in baggage claim, as well as my suitcase which apparantly managed to find a spot on the earlier 5:25p flight from IAH to AUS.

Another successful journey. It's nice to be in the air.
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Old 04-19-2003, 05:36 PM   #4
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Thank you for sharing your experience
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