A Misadventure to Charles de Gaulle Airport

"All good things must come to an end."

That was the outlook my wife and I tried to maintain as we rode the crowded train to Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport. It had been a wonderful trip, but Paris had sunk her claws deep into us, and getting her to let go was proving to be an impossible task. We stood mostly in silence, both of us not wanting to speak and expose the sadness that would be clear in our voices. I watched as the last visions of Paris passed outside the window, and then....the train stopped.
Paris Eiffel Tower

At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, because it was a scheduled stop at a platform on the outskirts of Paris. Things went awry, however, when the driver came over the intercom, mumbled something in French, and then everyone got off the train. Well everyone except for us, and two guys from Iran...
Paris Metro
The ride into the city was much easier...

Neither my wife and I, nor our new Iranian friends, spoke a word of French - well outside of "une éclair au chocolat s'il vous plaît" - but it didn't take a rocket scientist to understand that we needed to get off the train. My wife and I schlepped our huge suitcases out onto the platform and watched in disbelief as the train doors closed, and it pulled away into the dreary mist. Oh yeah, did I mention it was raining?
Paris Tuileries
First stop...Crepes in the Tuileries...

In the real world, I talk to strangers for a living. I'm pretty good at it. There are two scenarios, however, where this skill has always failed me...talking to women when I was single, and asking strangers for help in a foreign country.  Thanks to my paralysis, we stood on the platform for a few minutes utterly clueless as to our predicament. Thankfully, one of the Iranians asked someone what was going on, and learned that a new train would be along shortly.

At this point, we had about 90 minutes until our flight departed Charles de Gaulle, and I was starting to get a little nervous. I didn't have much faith that "shortly" would still mean we'd make it in time, but there wasn't much choice but to wait and hope for the best. I made small talk with the Iranians -"I promise, we don't all think you're the Axis of Evil" - while my wife dodged raindrops with a folded up newspaper. After standing in the light drizzle for about 20 minutes, the next train arrived, and we resumed our trek to the airport.
Paris Pont Neuf
The Pont Neuf...Lost my thumb apparently...

We arrived at the airport with just over an hour before our flight. Check in was a breeze - thank you Delta medallion status - and we were through security with over a half hour until departure. We marched through the terminal toward our gate, but when we arrived something didn't seem quite right. The gate was empty. Just one agent behind the desk...no passengers. 

"Ah Mr. and Mrs. Jones...Just in time." What? 

The gate agent scanned our boarding passes, we made our way down the empty jet-way, and boarded a fully seated airplane. Feeling as if this was some weird episode of the Twilight Zone, I got out of the way before the flight attendant hit me in the bum as she closed the boarding door. "What kind of flight is this? Fully boarded and pushing back 20 minutes early?" 
Paris View From Notre Dame
A dreary day here is better than...well, anywhere...

It was the first and only time in my life that I was the last one to board an aircraft. Apparently in Paris, when they say to be at the gate 30 minutes early, they mean it. I can't imagine how bad our predicament would have been had the replacement train only come a few minutes later. Actually, I can... 

An extra night in Paris wouldn't have been so bad. 

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 



  1. One more night in Paris would be a dream. I only spent two days there and I am itching to return.
    You're lucky you didn't get on the train at the start of a strike. I remember when I was waiting for the bus in Bologna, Italy. And waiting, and waiting, until suddenly myself and the locals realized that a strike had just been called, lol. I had to walk to downtown Bologna from where my hotel was. 

  2. A similar experience happened to me in Germany, but the train pulled out into the middle of a huge train yard and parked.  It was as the conductor was walking by did he notice me and my companions and called for a station truck to come retrieve us and take us back to the station.  Great memories!

  3. I so hate that train to the airport.

  4. You gotta take those interruptions seriously in Paris. You never know if it's Jason Bourne or Nikita or somebody like that causing the problem. I'm surprised you didn't stop for one last pastry and end up missing your flight!

  5.  That had to be a nightmare...I probably would have flipped out if we were stuck there cause of a strike...

  6.  That is a great story Patrick...At least he was good enough to take you back. Could have easily just left you to figure it out on your own!

  7.  I didn't have any ill feelings the first time around Jason...I do now...

  8. Well that was the plan once we got to the airport, but when the lady said they were waiting on us that kinda fell apart. I bet that would have been an awesome eclair too...

  9. Oh no, I have to go to the airport for the first time on Thursday morning! Will definitely be leaving about three hours in advance just to be safe, haha.

  10. It's funny, but most of the flights I have taken recently left early. Not more than 10 minutes or so, but it still isn't something you expect.

  11.  I'd love to tell you that 3 hours is enough time...but it seems with CDG you never know. Best of luck, and enjoy wherever the flight is taking you:)

  12. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I don't do well with things I can't wrap my head around, and being "late" for a flight that didn't depart for another 30 minutes bewildered me the entire flight. Actually, it still does...

  13. Yikes, better make it four! Don't want to miss the flight because I'm going back to my favorite country, Ireland!

  14. I can't really think of anywhere that I would rather be stranded! :)

  15. Oh, I know that feeling about leaving Paris! I also know what it's like when you're the only one who doesn't know what's going on. My first trip to Paris, I took the Metro from the Gare du Nord without having a clue how to get where I was going. It's a long story...  But Paris is worth every little difficulty you might have there!

  16.  Well that can be forgiven Catherine....you were tired remember?:)

  17. Something really similar happened to us years ago!  We're always super early for flights (I'm a worrier), but we almost missed our flight out of Paris even though I thought we'd be golden.  Dang Paris just sucks you in... ;)

  18.  Good to know I'm not alone in the flight issues. Yes, Paris is partly to blame:)


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