Our flight from Chennai to Abu Dhabi was over an hour late; and we had only an hour and a half to catch our connecting flight to Paris. Despite that concern, I had a very comfortable flight. Etihaad Airways was fabulous: the crew, the food, the in flight entertainment and the service were all top notch – among the best on any international flight I have been on!
I ate a pretty tasty and hot breakfast, saw a strange Egyptian movie about three sisters who inherit a cabaret (I mean, it was really REALLY strange), saw a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation, and then dozed off quite comfortably and woke up only on landing in Abu Dhabi.
In Abu Dhabi we were informed that we had missed our connection to Paris, and the airlines was trying to find the next best connection for us. Eventually we were told that we’d have to fly to Doha from Abu Dhabi, and then catch another flight to Paris from there. It was going to be a long, long flight.
My biggest worry was about how we would get the keys to the apartment in Paris – the apartment owner was leaving for Canada that evening, and we’d now reach Paris only at night. The airline guy arranged a calling card for us and I spent our time at the airport frantically calling the apartment owner in Paris. She finally answered on my fourth try (even as we were being asked to board our flight to Doha) and assured me that she would leave the keys at the all night store opposite the apartment. That was one problem resolved!
We had a short 30 minute flight to Doha, where they served us sandwiches and juice and then took them away even before we were finished because we were already landing! We then had a wait of another few hours in Doha. I liked the Abu Dhabi airport more than the Doha airport, which was more like a giant shopping mall (Dubai International Airport, now see what you’ve gone and done!). But it’s probably a good thing I liked the Abu Dhabi airport because we are going to be spending seven hours in transit there on our return flight (and you can ask me my opinion on the airport after THAT).
The last leg was Doha – Paris. I usually love international flights – I love airline food, I love watching movies some 30000 feet up in the air, I love all the free beverages, and I even love the static caused by the airline blankets – I’m eccentric like that, but all this plane hopping and lounging around in transit was getting even to me, and I just wanted to reach Paris now.
But it was a good flight. The plane was rather empty so we had the entire row of four seats to ourselves, and could even pop over to the set of two seats on either side. We were served drinks and snacks first, and a pretty good meal afterwards. I watched Brave, and then a Parks and Recreation marathon, and finally I stretched out across all four seats and slept all the way to Paris.
We cleared immigration and customs, got all our luggage (did not forget the tripod this time!) and headed out of the airport. And then came the most painful part of this journey: getting ourselves and all our luggage to the apartment. We first took an airport shuttle from the arrivals terminal to the RER station, then the RER to Denfert Rocherau station, and then we had to walk for over 20 minutes with all that luggage before we finally came to the apartment and the grocery store. And then came the unkindest cut of all: the apartment was on the fourth floor, there was no lift, the stairs were the narrow, curving kind, and there were no lights on the staircase. And we had to do this with a mountain load of luggage. By the time we made it to the apartment, we felt like we had conquered Mt Everest.
We would later feel that the apartment was worth it: it was a lovely studio, beautifully decorated and with lots of character. It was in a very lively area, full of parks, local markets and restaurants, and very close to public transport. The lady who stayed in the apartment was renting it out because she was traveling during this time – I found it through airbnb, and strongly recommend trying it out if you want to stay in a place which gives you a taste of how it is to live in a particular city or town.
But all this gloating about our apartment choice would come much later. For that night, we were just happy to have made it to the apartment without dropping dead somewhere on the way, and to have a sleeping surface that was completely flat. And that we were finally in Paris! What more could we ask for?