Paris

Trip Report: France 2014

Another catch up on my travels over the last year, specifically my trip to France. In a previously article, I explained how just before this trip, I had returned from Australia. Many people asked why I didn’t just fly to France from Australia, and there is a simple answer to that question, one was for personal travel one was for work.



Australia was planned many months in advance, the flight was booked, the hotels secured. Then work came to me with only a month or two notice and sent me to France. Where I work, I have no control over the flights other than to provide suggestions. Also keep in mind that you get huge penalties for cancelling flights, so it is rarely worth it to cancel a flight in favor of another one.

After returning from Australia, I had very little time to prepare for France. Landing late at night, I went to bed for only a few hours before getting back up, doing laundry, and repacking quickly before boarding to Paris.

The flight was good, a nice US Airways A330 aircraft from PHL directly to Paris. The customs in Paris was about the easiest to pass through that I had ever encountered. Paris is nice in that many people speak English, so it isn’t terribly difficult to get around for me. I will make this concession though, my language learning in the past did help on this trip. While I may not be conversational in French, I was actually very surprised at how well I could read French. Using some powers of deduction combined with 3 years of language all the way back in high school, did help prepare me significantly for France… I suspect Korea will be a fair sight more difficult for me in the language department.

There is a TGV station right in the Paris Airport, which after a 2 hour layover, we boarded for Aix. It was a bit odd, as around Paris, they seconded all announcements with an announcement in English. This randomly stopped in the countryside of France someplace… I was never sure if I was in the correct spot or not. This was even more difficult on the way back...but I ended up in the right spot when everything was said and finished, no mistakes.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

Once we ended in Aix after a bus ride from the train station, I was so tired from the trip from Australia, that I fell asleep and awoke only briefly to consider food, and then ignored it and slept more until the next morning. Aix was a beautiful little town, but I didn’t get to explore it much since I was working all day and not back until late every night. We ate at a few burger places in Aix where there was some really amazing food.

After my stay in Aix, I boarded the train back to Paris. Another long train ride to Paris where I almost got off at the wrong place again due to my complete inability to understand French in the spoken form… weird how that works that I can read but completely not understand a word they said.

Statue in front of Notre Dame

Statue in front of Notre Dame

On my business trip, I had opted to stay one extra day at my expense to look around Paris. Let me say, Paris in a day is difficult to pull off. The subway took me to Notre Dame where I started my walk. First off I walked the wrong way, still fun, got to explore a mile or so of France I hadn’t expected. Then I turned around and went to correct way following the Seine river up to the Louvre. Go here, a million times over, go to the Louvre… just amazing. I maybe saw 10% of the museum in the 1-2 hours I had there and then I had to move on. The rest of the day was spent walking up the Seine past many sights where I stopped and took pictures and admired the scenery. Was swindled by a beggar… when in Paris… saw lots of people falling for a scam shell game. Paris being Paris, well known for pickpockets and thieves, keep any eye on your money here.

Louvre

Louvre

Finally I ended my walk at the Eiffel tower. What a sight to behold! It is an incredible piece of engineering and one I would really like to go back and see at night. There is so much to offer in Paris, I would go there again in a heartbeat. This was a wonderful whirlwind tour of the French capital, but what an enjoyable visit it was.

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New Zealand to France, Long Way Round

While some of us may be more experienced than others at travel, we all have long trips that really stand out as being a nightmare. My nightmare trip was coming back from New Zealand last year. Was it anyone’s fault? Nope, well no one’s but possibly my own and some bad luck, but Qantas was still just as great as I had heard. Possibly a few American Airlines flight attendants could have been better but… well let me get to story of my trip.



After finishing my time in New Zealand, I had an extremely early flight the next day and because the trip from downtown Auckland to the airport takes so long, I opted to stay at the airport hotels. This still demanded a 4am wake up time, as the airport wanted everyone on international flights there at least 2 hours before departure. Yet, security wasn’t open until an hour before the flight, so we got to twiddle our thumbs until they opened security for the day.

Next was a flight to Sydney, it takes roughly 3 hours to fly to Sydney, and everything went smoothly. We arrived and after that, I had to deal with an 8 hour layover in Sydney. I’ve never had the opportunity to attempt to kill 8 hours in an airport, but it is not the best way to spend one’s day. The time went slowly, but eventually the plane began boarding, which was not nearly as smooth as boarding in LAX, despite them being the same plane. Then again, fitting 400-500 people on a single plane cannot be an easy thing to do.

Shortly after everything was closed down and the plane pushed back, we were in the air for our trip from Sydney to Dallas Fort Worth. Now let me explain this flight, the Sydney to Dallas flight, at the time, was the longest flight you could take in the world. In air time for this direction was slightly less than going Dallas to Sydney, but still just short of 16 hours in the air. Now if you’re keeping track, with this flight included, I had been in transit for 27 hours.

This seems a great time to tell you, I can’t sleep in economy class. I’ve tried many many times, the most I can get is maybe 30 minutes at a time. So including when I had gotten up, I was awake for roughly 30 hours at this point. Global Entry didn’t work for me at Dallas for some reason, so I had to wait in a long line at customs. By this point I was hungry, and really wanted a shower, but still had one more flight to Philadelphia… after another 2 hour layover.

We boarded the plane to Philadelphia, an old American MD-88 aircraft if I remember correctly. These planes have the ability for the pilot to open small side windows while on the ground. Apparently the pilots had done so, and they could not get it to close properly. They brought a technician on board and worked to get it fixed. Now I am an Aerospace Engineer, so I know what they are going to have to do on some rudimentary level at least. So after a little while it hits me, we’re going to have to exit the plane, they need to do a pressurization test when they get this fixed. No more than 20 minutes later the announcement was made, “please get off the plane we need to do a pressure test.”

We exit, and wait, and wait… finally 2 hours after scheduled takeoff we get called to reboard. Except, the flight attendants had wandered away and no one could get ahold of them. So we waited some more for them to come back, an additional 20 minutes trying to find them.

We took off, I made it home, was picked up from the airport and went to bed… for a few hours and I do mean a few. Then I was awake again and packing for a work trip. I had to leave that day to France for a week of work meetings. So back to the airport I went. Boarding a plane to Paris, flight time of around 8 hours to France, 2 more hours in the airport, 3 hours on the TGV train, 30 minutes on a bus, and finally in the hotel in Aix En Provence. Immediately I went to sleep and having never wanted to explore a city less than when I arrived in Aix.

My inability to sleep while traveling is a problem, which is part of the reason I have been seeking out all of these points to help me travel more in business and first class cabins where seats are lie flat designs, this is far more likely to allow me to sleep at least enough to keep me from going slightly insane.

So that was my nightmare trip from New Zealand to France, the long way round. Does anyone else have some nightmare trips they want to tell me in the comments?

 

Click... Goes the Camera Phone Shutter?

While the blog has picked up in a bit of a different direction, let us not forget that this is a photography site, and all of this travel, finding ways to travel cheap and more, often is jusy an excuse to get some more great photos. So, without further ado... my past year of travel, camera phone style.  

Starting in DC, probably still my favorite city to visit, I am a sucker for museums and DC doea not disappoint. 

Washington DC, at the Naval Fountain

Washington DC, at the Naval Fountain

Next up was my trip to Las Vegas, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon. 

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

One of the water transport pipes inside the Hoover dam

One of the water transport pipes inside the Hoover dam

Then a quick weekend trip with my cousins to Northern Pennsylvania to go camping. 

Kayaking a lake in Pennsylvania 

Kayaking a lake in Pennsylvania 

Once November rolled around, it was time for my big vacation trip to Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. 

 

The famous Sydney Opera House

The famous Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbor... So much good food here

Sydney Harbor... So much good food here

Eating on the waterfront in New Zealand

Eating on the waterfront in New Zealand

An incredible perspective on Auckland

An incredible perspective on Auckland

With a 36 hour transit home, I needed sleep but I had to immediately fly to France for work. Can't complain about a trip to France though. 

 

The Louvre in Paris

The Louvre in Paris

There are many more photos from these trips and I will share them in upcoming posts dedicated to each trip.

Hello Again - My Thoughts On Travel

Hello again world, it has been far too long since I've written here and it's time that I change that. Since I've taken up travel pretty extensively, I'm going to focus a lot on travel here since that's where most of my photography has come from in the past few years.



Here is the plan for the future, I will start focus on my travels and writing more about that time I spend travelling, prepping for travel, how I go about things and anything in between. Trip reports should become a thing as well, reviewing hotels, loyalty programs, flights and more. As always, give me feedback if you want to see something here I haven't done, or want something changed.

Let's catch up on the last year, since I've been lazy on keeping everyone up to date on where I have been going. 

Since my last post I've been travelling quite a bit for a number of reasons. Starting with Boston, which was a quick trip on an Amtrak train. Starting from Trenton, NJ I boarded an Amtrak NE Regional train to Boston. After arriving, I quickly jumped on transit in Boston and made my way to Cambridge. In my other life, my work life, I work with fusion reactors, essentially recreating the sun on Earth. In Cambridge is a reactor we needed to look at for some information on the design of the bigger badder reactor we are building in France. This was a quick trip for only a couple of days to see the facility before turning around and catching the train back to Trenton.

Next up was my trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I flew to Las Vegas and immediately left for the Grand Canyon. Grand is an understatement for that wonder. It's so big, so hard to process, it almost is like a oil painting in 3D. It's just hard to describe what that place is really like. We then hoofed it back to Vegas, stopping at the Hoover Damn (impressive), and then spending my last night in Vegas. What a cool city, loved it, will go back soon and would highly recommend seeing Penn and Teller.

After that was the big trip to Sydney Australia. This was so much fun. The plane flight was by far the worst I've had to date... though that is to be expected on what was at the time the longest flights in the world. Sydney is amazing, I don't have enough good words for what Sydney was for me, amazing. Go, if ever get the chance, go! After a few days in Sydney, I went to Auckland, New Zealand... Now this was a bit of a different story. The city was alright, cool views, nice weather, just wasn't my favorite city. I will eventually go back to New Zealand and explore the country, but the city I found to be a bit lackluster. Following that was the worst travel "day" in history. 3 hours to Sydney, 8 hour layover, 16 hours to Dallas, 2 hour layover, 1 hour delay, 4 hours to Philadelphia... sleep for 4 hours (Yes, I cannot sleep on planes), board a flight for France, fly to Paris, train to Aix En Provence... sleep for roughly ever.

So as you just got a hint, France was next up. This was another business trip to go review the reactor being built there. Not going to go into huge detail there, but Aix En Provence was beautiful, but because of work, only really saw it in the dark. Will be back this year sometime. On my way home I did take a day in Paris. What a fun city! It was a bit whirlwind because who can really do Paris in a single day, but I did get to walk the Seine river, see the Louvre (partially), and stand under the Eiffel tower... not half bad for one day.

Since then I've had a few quick trips to Chicago, Greenville South Carolina, and Washington DC. Trying to at least keep this from becoming a novel now.

Starting this week, I'll give you a detailed run down of my upcoming trips. My long term plans, and how I plan to fly around the world... literally. Keep an eye on this blog, there is so much more to come.