Prague, Plans, Views from a Plane Window, Experiences in CDG and a few other things…

August 8, 2017

Hello from Prague!!

 

It’s been a really busy time.

When I wrote my last newsletter (in June) I was in Montreal completing the sale of my condo and shipping all our belongings to Split (Croatia). Having completed that, I then spent 3 weeks in Mexico, travelling through Copper Canyon and then visiting my mom (who lives in San Miguel de Allende). Together we went south, spending a week in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas and then an additional few days in Mexico City. While this was going on, Lissette (still in Croatia), received our furniture and other belongings and set up our apartment in Split.

When I came back to Split in early July we put an ad on Airbnb and were quickly able to rent out our apartment for the first 3 weeks of August.

That’s why we are now in Prague for the entire month of August.

 

The plan: This month is about catching up on dentist and doctor stuff. We always like getting that done in Prague (inexpensive and good quality service. Plus we love this city). We’re then planning to go to Poland, followed by the Ukraine, followed by a visit to Moravia in the Eastern Czech Republic. All this however will depend on renting out our apartment in September and October. The whole period is open right now so write us asap if you’re interested in visiting Split.

I’ve got a lot of posts to catch up on in the next little while. We also have some exciting activities coming up here in Prague. Lissette and I both turned 50 over the last few months and thought we should do something a little crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy.  I don’t want say what they are before we do them but expect something on “Wild, Wacky Prague” (or something like that) in the next little while…

 

Views from a Plane Window

I love views from the sky and while travelling Croatia – Canada – Mexico (and back) I did some filming whenever I got a window seat. Highlights for me: the views over the desert in Northern Mexico and flying a small plane from Dubrovnik to Split.


 

 

Experiences in Charles de Gaulle

Maybe you can learn from my recent experience the next time you fly through Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.

I had booked Air Transat from Montreal to Paris (which lands at Terminal 3) with a connecting flight Paris to Split (via Dubrovnik) at Terminal 2D. I had an hour and 15 minutes between flights according to the schedule. In most places that’s lots of time. But I had flown Split – Paris – Montreal a few weeks before (with 2 ½ hours connection time) and I knew from that experience that an hour and 15 minutes might not be enough this time around.

Here’s how it went and how I made a whole bunch of friends (and an enemy)

– Air Transat plane lands on time but taxis around for 10 minutes.
– Plane stops away from the terminal. I see buses pulling up. I think the word “motherfucker” spills out of my lips. This is an Airbus 330 with about 350 passengers on board. I’ve never, ever had to get on one of the airport buses when getting off such a large plane. Deboarding takes 10 minutes.
– 10 minutes later the bus pulls up to the terminal. First stop: immigration
– Immigration goes pretty quick. But I look at my phone and my Croatian Airlines connection is taking off in 45 minutes and I know that Terminal 2 is at least 20 minutes away.
– I bust out of immigration with my bags (I didn’t have any checked baggage to pick up) and look for the exit. I’m rushing, seeing a friendly looking customs officer, smiling at him while asking “is this the way to Terminal 2?”
He looks at me, a twinkle in his eye “You have not asked the magic word” (in French. The whole conversation is in French).
I know full well what he’s going to say so I just say it as it is “sorry, I have a plane taking off in 45 minutes and I’m in a rush. I just wanted to know if this is the way”.
Him being an asshole “In this country it is polite to say Bonjour” with a challenging look.
Me “Sorry, I’m in a rush, I wasn’t looking for a relationship”
I rush past, hearing him muttering something behind me. No doubt calling me an asshole. I don’t care.

Terminal 3 is in the middle of nowhere, you have to walk about 15 minutes to the train that takes you to Terminal 2. I dump my stuff on a trolley and run with it saying a million “pardons” and “excusez mois”. I make it to the train in about 8 minutes.

A 5 minute train ride takes me to Terminal 2 where I’m running again. Less than 30 minutes before take off. Of course the train drops me off at the very furthest end of the complex and 2D is at the furthest opposite end of the building. I’m running again.

By the time I’m in 2D I have 20 minutes before the plane takes off and I haven’t even gone through security or immigration. 

Security: huge line but the guard takes pity on me when I tell her that I’m not going to make my plane. Lets me cut to the front of the line. Still takes about 8 minutes though because I’ve got some guy in front of me who’s beeping through the machine.

I’m out! Gate is at the far end of the terminal, I see the Croatian Airlines plane behind the window pane. Another huge crowd to run through and again a million “excusez mois” along the way…

Arrgg. Immigration. Right there by my gate, about 5 deep. In less than 10 minutes the plane is due to take off. The French lady in front of me sees me: I’m a frigin mess, my shirt wet, sweat dripping off my forehead, I’m panting…”you look like you’re in a rush?” Everyone in the line looks back and seems to agree with her because they all let me through. I thank them all profusely.

Immigration agent stamps me. I run for the gate.

I’m the last one to arrive at the gate. A pretty boarding agent looks at me.
“I’ve run all the way from Terminal 3” I say, feeling the need to explain.
“Bonjour monsieur, vous êtes arrives”. (translated: you have arrived). Sweet words and I finally take a deep breath.

I get on the plane and 2 minutes later they close the gate.

That was my experience at Charles de Gaulle.

If anyone out there is thinking of booking a connection through CDG please learn from my experience – leave yourself at least 2 hours and say bonjour to everyone you meet.

 

 

Odds and ends

A few interactions in Croatia over the last few weeks:

1) the young taxi driver who wanted to show us how open he is to the world “I wish everyone in world come to Croatia. Who I don’t care, I like all. No problem if American, N*gger or Asian”. (sorry, can’t even bring myself to write the whole word)
I think his heart was in the right place….

2) I was buying an electronic shaver in Split, one of those ones that you use to trim nose hairs, ear hairs and any other hairs that need trimming. The guy at the store was big and hairy and I knew I was setting myself up for a comeback but I asked anyway “does this thing get jammed up and pull on the hairs? I hate when that happens.”
Him, shrugging: “I don’t know, I am not metrosexual” he says in matter-of-fact way.
Damn…

3) I read somewhere that Kid Rock will be seeking nomination for the Republican party in the US. Why not? The government in power has shown that you no longer need to be educated or have career experience in finance, the economy or knowledge of global issues to be elected. Nah, that’s all worthless shit these days when all that matter’s is ‘resonating’ with the dumbass populace.
So instead let’s have fun with it – who is the most ridiculous person that Donald Trump could ever hire?
Here’s my nomination. Not any worse than anyone DT has ever hired (2nd nomination possibility: Carrot Top).

4) We were sitting at a café in Prague yesterday and struck up a conversation with a young woman next to us. Super nice, she’s from Ottawa and has been living in Prague the last 2 ½ years. At the end of the conversation we exchange emails and she says to us “you have a blog don’t you? I didn’t want to creep you out but I recognized the two of you from your figures on the header of your blog”.
At first I though “hey, how cool to be recognized”. But then I thought of it more – we weren’t recognized because of the hundreds of photos of us on this blog. We were recognized because of the figures up there on the header. So we’re basically cartoon characters now. Just like Peter Griffin 🙂 .

5) It’s funny the things people sometimes say to brag about their country.
A Croatian friend once told us “you don’t need to buy bottled water here. We have the best water in all of Europe from the tap”.
In Macedonia our guide bragged “in Macedonia we are the best dancers in Europe. And we don’t mind getting naked” (??)
But I’ll never forget the last time we were in Prague. The Airbnb owner was showing off the stove in his apartment, turning it on and off: “Here in Czech Republic we have the best gas in Europe”.
Even if you do have the best gas, why is that something worth bragging about? Who brags about gas?

 

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

 

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Comments

  1. Hilarious trip through CDG Frank, although its far from funny at the time … But it’s a very common occurance these days at most of the world’s major , especially connecting, airports, and things only seem to get worse. Here are some tips to cut down your connection times – this, specifically for CDG which is the airport I use most and know the best, but it applies to all the big connection airports like Amsterdam, Madrid, Frankfurt etc. (But forget about Heathrow as that’s just the most hopeless case in the world).

    – Fly on the same principal airline or partner airline on the through flight – origin to final destination. In the case of CDG, it would be airlines like Air France, KLM, Delta, AeroMexico, Aerolineas Argentinas Aeroflot etc. (the Skyteam group), all from origin to final destination..
    – In this way you get to arrive and leave all from Terminal 2 – and usually from close or reasonably close gates…. And you arrive and depart from the ‘passerelles’, the glass passageways that connect plane and terminal, very rarely being stuck out on a parking lot, if at all, waiting for a bus (in either direction) … After all “membership has its priviledges…” and that applies to airlines, especially at their “Home” or main bases. If you are booked on different airlines this is NOT the case. ( At CDG, Terminal 1 is for non-affiliated, usually origin to destination airlines, Terminal 3 is for charter or similar airlines etc. – neither being close to the ‘action’ , and making for much longer, more inconvenient connections).
    – By flying on AF or a partner airline through CDG with a connection , on some domestic (eg: Nice)but mostly non-domestic, non-Shengen flights, you remain in a segregated connecting zone and generally you do not have to pass security, or immigration and passport procedures again (you go through those at your final destination) which cuts a lot of time, especially during the busy hours. If you are booked on different airlines that is NOT the case.
    – If you have checked bags, they don’t have to be picked up and re-checked at CDG – they go straight through to the final destination on the same flight (hopefully….) but you hv to be on the same or partner airlines to get baggage thru’ to final destination
    – Be familiar with whatever airport you are connecting through . (they all have their own ‘modus-operandi’ but in all, familiarity makes the job a cake-walk.

    I fly into and out of Nice through Paris CDG several times a year and on most tickets I have a 75 to 90 minute connection. The frequency of flights between Nice and Paris allows for a lot of choice – and leeway. For sure I have missed the odd tight connection, usually due to departure delays in Canada, but the best cxn time I have done, (assuming planes all on time) at CDG was 35 minutes, with an average of 50 minutes, the worst 1h05 . Needless to state one’s physical state – and appearance – is somewhat different between a cxn of 35 mins and an hour five minutes … But that brings up the other great quality of CDG for a lot of destinations … for example, if you miss the Nice flight there another one in an hour – often less – and then another one after that. On any missed connections AF has always got me on the next flight – very different to Air Canada’s policy (see below !)

    That it not often the case with all airlines… Our favourite kicking post here , Air Canada, is something else. A few years ago, returning from Buenos Aires / Santiago to Montreal via Toronto, and after a long overnight flight , the plane was 40 minutes late getting into Toronto, (scheduled at 06h00, arrived 06h40…) and after passport/immigration/security etc. we missed the connection to Montreal . As you know the Toronto – Montreal route is served by flights every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day and evening – a real ‘shuttle’. Air Canada kept us waiting all day . They refused to put us on another flight saying ALL flights throughout the entire day were booked solid – a total lie ! We sat waiting at Toronto Airport until 18h30 when ‘they finally managed’ to get us on a flight, getting us into Montreal literally 12 hours after we were meant to arrive. Air Canada did not even spring for a coke and sandwich throughout the day – we just had to wait – and bitch . (Sorry, you could not bitch, as AC staff threatened to call the security to attend to any ‘terrorism activities’ !!!! ) Good ol’ Air Canada lost some good clients that day, never to be seen again .

    But what can be done about the poor passport and immigration chaps ? Damned if they do, damned if they don’t ? Too aloof, rude, off-handed if they don’t greet one ; too friendly, familiar and time-consuming if they do ! I had to LOL imagining the scene – the little French guy, trying to hold out his little bit of courtesy and manners in the face of the tired, bored, disinterested throngs , with his little but oh so important “Bonjour” , which like “S’il vous plait” and “Merci” have , or are fast becoming, forgotten words in any language, and especially in a world where there isn’t – and can’t be much , or any Time for niceties ! Bravo, to the guy ! “Chapeau”

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks for sharing this Tony, great tips. I just googled Terminal 3 and they have no air tunnels – all flights require buses (sounds a bit 3rd world).

      Airlines served at Terminal 3:

      AIR ARABIA MAROC
      AIR BERLIN
      AIR HORIZONS
      AIR MEDITERRANEE
      AIR TRANSAT
      ARKIA
      ATLAS BLUE
      BMI
      CARPATAIR
      CIMBER STERLING
      CLUB AIR SIXGO
      EUROPE AIRPOST
      FLY NON STOP
      HOLA AIRLINES
      IBERIA EXPRESS
      INTERSKY
      ISRAIR
      JET 2 COM
      JORDAN AVIATION
      LTE
      MAURITANIA AIRLINES
      MERIDIANA
      MYAIR AIRLINES
      NIKI
      NOUVELAIR
      ONUR AIR
      PEGASUS AIRLINES
      SMART WING
      STRATEGIC AIRLINES
      TUNISAIR
      VUELING
      WIND JET

      Not exactly a who’s who of airlines is it? I don’t know how Air Transat made it on this list, even Easyjey flies into Terminal 2.

      But I’ll know next time!

  2. Thanks Frank – Yikes ! What a list of vastly little known or unknown airlines …. Now I know who NOT to book on (although a couple there are a surprise – like Transat, Vueling, Tunisair, Air Berlin … Yes, Terminal 3 is (from everything I hv heard, though never experienced…) the pits – but evidently its cheap for the airlines that use it – supposedly a lot cheaper than the traditional bona-fide terminals. Is maybe Air Transat having troubles ? Recently they hv been a lot in the news for bad service, food, flight cancellations and delays etc mainly on Mexico, Dom Rep routes . It was topped off last week by a big brou-ha-ha when 2 of their flights were diverted from Montreal arrival to Ottawa because of a thunderstorm here (it was over in all of 30 minutes !!) but the planes were stuck on the ground for hours there. (see Global or CBC news site)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      I saw those stories Tony.
      Actually I have always been an Air Transat fan because they fly direct to Prague and Budapest from Montreal which nobody else does and their pricing generally good. Plus they’re a lot better than those surly Air Canada employees…
      Seating could be less cramped though. But that’s with everyone these days.

  3. i dunno, my personal gas is pretty awesome! 🙂

    But… great little video Frank. I dunno, when I get stressed and in a rush I stop taking photos and video. or if im really tired. so good job because i would be like ‘I wish I’d bothered to take more footage!’ 🙂
    Andrew Boland recently posted…A Chateau Stay in NormandyMy Profile

  4. Wow, what a whirlwind. No soak-up-the-sun, lazy summertime for you! You know you’d be excused if you used your time in Prague to take a big breath and kick back but I know that the city and the Czech Republic itself will be too alluring to let you rest for long. 🙂 I could feel your stress as you barreled through the CDG airport. When I make any flight plans, I always try to book 2-3 hours between flights just to avoid the anxiety and 20 point increase in my blood pressure. The extra waiting time is well-worth it as far as I’m concerned. Loved your story of the open-minded taxi driver and the hirsute salesman who so matter-of-factly implied that ridding oneself of unwanted nose and ear hair makes a person metrosexual. And, in my house, anyone bragging about gas gets the cold, fish-eye!
    Anita recently posted…A Rant-A-Thon From a US and a Canadian Expat: Bureaucratic ContortionsMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Ha, you’re funny Anita. The cold fish eye. I’ll make sure never to brag about gas around you 😉

  5. That was a harrowing story of getting to your flight, Frank. It’s the worst feeling, isn’t it? I think sharing such travel tales is a good way to let others know we’re not alone because let’s face it, travel isn’t always easy.

    When booking our current 8-week journey with Eurail several agents (at separate stations) told us the only way we could make 1 leg of the journey work would be with a 15-minute change of trains in Madrid. We kept asking, have you been to the Madrid station? We have and we knew every star in the universe would have to align for us to make it. Abi, ever resolved, got online and found a different configuration that gives us an hour in Madrid, which we showed to the next agent who smiled and said, “Ah, yes!” Um… why is it that we had to find it?

    As for #notmypresident (you know how I feel about the current occupant of the White House) we were in Zagreb last week visiting a church on the hill when an elderly man asked where we were from and he said he was Canadian/Croatian and proud of it, but he does not like America because there is a dictator. We, of course, thought he was referring to Trump. Several minutes later he goes off on a bit of tirade – in broken English – and tells us his life story that he was a cook in the merchant marines, has traveled the world and how not “narrow” he is and then proceeds to YELL out vehemently that Obama is a fascist and how much he likes Trump. Abi and I looked at each other and thought, well there you go, they’re everywhere.

    Life is an adventure, and stories are the best part of the adventure. I would tell you to enjoy Prague but how can you not enjoy Prague?!
    Patti recently posted…Five Days in Budapest ~My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      He who shall not be named huh? Sorry that you met an idiot and that he was half Canadian. You know what the cooks spent most of their time doing in the merchant marines don’t you?
      One of my ex-bosses was a captain in the merchant marines.
      I’ve had the same kind of experience with rail agents Patti. Usually the best source for info in the dbahn.com website I’ve found.
      You are totally right – travel not always easy and definitely not as ‘sexy’ as it used to be.

  6. Oh goodness, yourexperience at CDG sounds so stressful – seriously was it really necessary for that member staff to be so difficult with you when you were in a rush & just asking for some help?! But I’m so impressed someone recognised you from the cartoon pics – that’s hilarious!
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted…A Sunday Stroll at Virginia Water, SurreyMy Profile

  7. This “bonjour” thing in France is very very useful for assholes when they want to upset someone, and it is a typical cultural Gallic thing. Sometimes in my office cafeteria some of these assholes pick up two people having a conversation and drop a “bonjour”, and when they get no answer, they fume. They don’t acknowledge apparently that they are the ones being rude interrupting a conversation.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Ha! That’s a great comment Lionel. Made me laugh. Glad to know it’s not me who’s the asshole.
      Usually I would always say bonjour but I was in a rush. But he was a dick not acknowledging that, plus I figured my charming smile was bonjour enough.

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