Friday, September 30, 2016

Paris & the Heart of Normandy

Last year Thomas and I were contacted by some friends to join them on a Viking River Cruise from Paris to Normandy along the Seine River. We jumped at the chance - we have been wanting to take a river cruise for a while now. So this morning we left Santa Fe for our Paris & the Heart of Normandy adventure.
Map of the River Cruise
Our flight from Albuquerque was at 12:10pm so we didn't have to get up early and rush. But as usual for both of us we were up at 6:30am. Which worked out well. It gave us a chance to bring the dogs bowls and food over to Bruce, empty the garbage cans, close the blinds and turn off the air conditioning. It was 7:45 when we decided to leave for the Albuquerque International Sunport. That was a good time for us to head out since it meant we wouldn't hit morning work traffic as we drove through Albuquerque. We arrived at Airport Parking where we left the car and took the shuttle to the airport. When we got to the Delta counter there was no one there so we used the kiosk and checked ourselves in, but there was no one to take our bags (not at the counter and not outside at the drop-off). So we found a place to sit and wait for someone. We only had to wait about five minutes when a gentleman showed up and checked in our bags. Then we made our way over to security. The line was short and the TSA agents were friendly and cordial. In only a few minutes we had passed through security and gotten our shoes back on and we were ready for our trip to begin. We had about two and a half hours to wait for our flight so we just sat and read. Before we knew it they were calling us to board our flight.

We are flying Delta all the way to Paris and the first leg of our trip took us from Albuquerque to Salt Lake City. The boarding process was surprisingly fast and efficient. We were on a smaller plane than usual - only four seats across (two on each side of the aisle). the flight was mostly good except for a man and woman behind us who talked incessantly and at a volume better used when talking to someone across a crowded room. Also, the guy, who worked or has a hobby in alternative medicine, kept opening different scents that he was explaining to the woman he used in aromatherapy. Unfortunately in that closed space the scents sent my allergies into orbit. I ended up having to take one of my prescription allergy pills to counteract it. Other than that we just read for the duration of the flight. We arrived in Salt Lake City in under an hour and a half.

We were in row 8 so we were out of the plane quickly and made a beeline for the restrooms. After that we needed to get something for lunch. We landed at the 'B' gate area and we needed to make our way to the 'D' gate area for our next flight. So we started walking keeping our eyes peeled for somewhere to eat. We ended up at our gate and hadn't found anything we wanted. So we decided to go to a place just that we passed just before getting to our gate. We had burgers and fries at a place called smashburger. Pretty good for airport food. Once we were done eating we found a place to sit and relax for the next three hours until our flight to Paris (which is 10 1/2 hours). We read, played on the computer and relaxed. Time passed quickly and before we knew it we were boarding our flight for Paris.

They started boarding at 4:30pm and we took off at 5:15pm. We ended up reading from the time we got into our seats until the Captain turned off the seat belt sign when we reached cruising altitude. Then we watched movies - I watched Lincoln and Thomas watched The Jungle Book. During that time they came around with drinks and pretzels and then an hour later we had dinner. I had ravioli and Thomas had chicken. With that we had a salad, cheese & crackers, bread, shrimp cocktail and a brownie. When the movies finished Thomas tried to sleep and I went back to reading. Thomas had a hard time relaxing - he felt antsy and fidgeted for a while, took a stroll around the cabin and tried reading. Eventually he was able to fall asleep for a while. Sometime after 10:00pm (Santa Fe time) they brought us a ham sandwich and cookies. I kept reading (my book is really good - I am reading The Monuments Men) and Thomas watched another movie. Then about two hours before we landed (which was 9:00am  Paris time) we got some breakfast. It seemed that all we did was eat on this flight. I have to admit that I eventually became restless. Being on a plane for ten hours is trying. But with a lot of self control we endured. We landed a little bit early (by that we had wheels on the ground) but it took us almost 30 minutes to taxi to the gate.
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
It seemed to take forever. Finally we arrived at the gate and made it into the terminal. I think we landed at Terminal 2 Gate B or C but I am not sure. Anyway, we started following signs for baggage claim. We walked and then walked some more and eventually arrived at a train. We took this train from Gate B or C to K. We walked a short distance and then had to go through customs. This was so quick and easy. When we arrived at customs there were two people in front of us. When it was our turn the woman looked at our passports, stamped them and sent us on our way. From this point we found a Baggage Claim board and located the baggage claim we needed to get to for our flight number. So we walked some more. Finally we arrived at Baggage Claim 31. We had to wait about 15 minutes for our bags. I was wearing my FitBit and from the gate we landed at to the baggage claim was .68 miles. I do believe that this is the largest airport we have ever visited. Once we had our bags we exited the terminal and found the Viking River Cruises kiosk and checked in. The man there greeted us and then walked us to a waiting area. He told us he needed four more people and then we could get on the shuttle for the ship. Thankfully we only had to wait ten minutes and we were off. The drive from the airport to the ship dock took us 50 minutes. I tell you I am glad we made it to the ship - it has been a long journey but now we can relax and enjoy our cruise.


Missy said...

I'm taking the same trip in a couple of weeks and am wondering if on your embarkation day, you took advantage of the shuttle into Paris that Viking provides. If so, where does it drop you off and pick you up to go back to the ship? Do you know what times it drops off and picks up? Thanks in advance for your help -- I'm just trying to plan our first day and this info would be very helpful.

Mark said...

Hi Missy,
I didn't take the shuttle to Paris the first day. Mainly because we didn't get to the ship until 1:30pm. So we took the time to get settled and then took a guided tour to Saint Germaine En Laye. We did use the shuttle the last day to go to Paris and it dropped us off at the area of Grand Palais, Petit Palais and Alexander III Bridge. If I remember correctly the shuttle left for Paris at either 2:00pm or 3:00pm and came back from Paris at 5:00pm or 9:00pm. And I believe it was a 30 to 45 minute drive into Paris from the ship. I am working on a blog post for each day but I have been distracted but I hope to be done by tomorrow. So come back to the blog and click on the tag at the bottom of the post that says Paris & the Heart of Normandy and that will give you all the posts for that trip.
Thanks for reading.