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  • April 2008
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Amman to Paris to Chicago

It’s kind of odd being back home after 2-weeks of living out of a suitcase. Funny how you make new routines for yourself. Like always having some pocket change so you can buy a bottle of water at a little shop. Or trying to spend bigger bills in bigger stores so you can get smaller bills for taxis. Or just having a limited choices of clothes to wear – which I think is rather nice actually. Of course hand washing them in the hotel sink isn’t that much fun.

My journey home started around 10 PM on Tuesday at my hotel in Jordan. Abu George, my favorite concierge, had booked my car to the airport so I settled my bill and was out the door by 10:10 PM. Most hotels in Amman can book cars for you but they cost at least 25 JD (plus a little tip for the Driver). Its much cheaper to have a friend to pick you up (give them some cash tho, they might not take it but its the thought that counts – gas is around $7 a gallon right now) or if traveling light the bus is only a couple JD. An actual cab might be cheaper too.

I enjoyed the ride to the airport – just around 35 minutes, with no traffic. Amman is beautiful at night – all the city lights draped across the hillsides, and the stars twinkling above. The terminal at Queen Alia airport is not exactly intuitive for departures. There are a few monitors and a sitting area, but no visible counters to check in. I was about to head for a security checkpoint that said “Departing Flights” or somthing like that when I was approached by a blue suit. I’m not sure who blue suits are – but they are young guys who wear Crayola Blue jumpsuits with Royal Jordanian on them. But they seem to work for the airport. They like to help you find your bag or, in my case the other night, the departures counter. For a small tip, of course. Small, that is, if you’ve remembered to keep a pocket full of smaller bills.

The blue suit was actually helpful this time, as I had forgotten that in Amman there is this security checkpoint before the ticket counter. This is comprised of a ticket/passport check, and baggage scan and metal detector walk-thru – just like in the US. It’s just a different order than we Americans are used to, but it actually kind of make sense. Why even have people at the ticket counters unless they have been screened through security?

So, then I was in the Amman airport for a couple of hours. I did some duty-free shopping, sat at a cafe (Amman airport has Pizza Hut, Popeye’s Chicken, two World Cafe’s, a Starbucks and a Cinnabon – go figure), and was generally bored waiting for my gate to finally open. They have another security check at the gate (baggage scanner and metal detector walk-thru), which in my opinion is a bit annoying. Why two full security check points? Anyways, you can’t sit right by the gate until just before your flight. The monitors said the gate was open, but it clearly wasn’t. Even so, people started lining up. I watched the queue grow for about 20-25 minutes until finally the checkpoint was opened. I sat for another 10 or 15 minutes while the line worked its way through. From the conversations I overheard most of the travelers seemed French or at least french-speaking europeans. I couldn’t figure out why people would stand in line for that long if they didn’t have to. After all we were all waiting to get on the exact same airplane that we all had assigned seats on. It’s a mystery to me.

The flight from Amman to Paris left a bit after its scheduled departure of 1:45 AM. They served a light snack (finger sandwich and drink) before turning down the cabin lights. It was only a 4 hour flight and I thought I would sleep the whole way. Unfortunately I was in an exit row on the window with two other guys next to me. Let’s say we were probably all on the larger side of average. Being an exit row there’s the door kind of curving out into my space, and then a large guy on my right, and no reclining seat. I didn’t sleep much.

Arriving at Charles De Gaulle at 5:45 AM was kind of an adventure. It is a huge airport! One of the biggest I’ve been in. I’m actuallyglad it was so early in the morning because it was nearly deserted (I couldn’t imagine doing it for thefirst time with a ton of people around). So deserted actually, that people from my flight hit the customs stamper guys before they were even on duty! That was kind of funny.

I spent around 7 hours in Paris. Pics from the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame du Paris were in previous posts. I am giving some detailed tips on navigating the transfer from Flights to Trains at Charles De Gaulle in my next post.

I made it back to the airport in just the nick of time from my exploration of Paris. I literally waited 10 minutes at the gate before getting in line to board.

The flight to Chicago from Paris was great. The plan was configured 2-3-2. I had a K seat (window on the right – they obviously skipped some letters). The J-seat on the aisle was occupied by a french lady. Apparently a friend of hers was across the aisle. I tried exchanging pleasantries in French, which actually didn’t go over as poorly as I had expected. She obviously preferred to talk to me in English, but wasn’t condescending about it as a few others had appeared to be during my time in Paris.

We did sit at the gate and then on the tarmac for awhile. Finally, it was announced that we were 3rd in line for the runway. Most people were reading, dozing off, or experimenting with the touch screen entertainment system mounted in the seat backs in front of them. Except for an older Asian-looking man, who was making his way down the aisle. To my surprise he stopped by our row and leaned down to speak in french to the women sitting near me. The woman in the J seat got up and followed him back up the aisle towards the front of the plane.

I kept a disinterested eye on them over the top of my newspaper. They disappeared behind the curtain into the first class cabin. The plane was starting to roll forward, closer to the take-off runway. The curtain opened and the J-lady appeared sans the french speaking Asian man. I carefully studied some news article in front of me. J-lady sat back in her seat, speaking animatedly in French to her friend across the aisle. When they were finished I asked what had happened.

J-lady explained that the man was their boss and he had an empty seat next to him in 1st class. He wanted one of them to come up their and keep him company. I smiled and thought that such a request could be a blessing or a curse on a 9-hour transatlantic flight. Depends on your job and your boss, I suppose. Turns out that they work for a gallery in Paris and were on their way to a big art show in Chicago.

I dozed off as the plane took off and woke up after we had reached cruising altitude. J-lady leaned over and wished me a good flight, saying she was going to sit next to her boss. Not sure if she drew the short-straw or not, but I figured I was the lucky one as I now had two seats to myself for the next 8.5 hours or so. I settled in to watch a movie (The Kite Runner), right after I had set her entertainment console to the birds-eye camera view so I could keep an eye on our progress high above the Atlantic.

The rest of the flight was uneventful and I watched movies, napped, and ate airline food.

I walked into my apartment around 6:15PM on Tuesday – 20.5 hours elapsed on the clock since I left my hotel in Jordan – 28.5 hours elapsed in real-time. It was so very good to be home.


2 Responses

  1. I’ll bet you were glad you weren’t towing along two youngsters as you were trying to figure that all out!

  2. Wow Brian were you taking notes while you were going through all those steps to Paris? If not, you have a great memory and it is helpful info for others. I hope you were awake enough at that point to enjoy Paris for atleast a little bit. I would love to go back sometime!

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