Monday, June 30, 2014

3 Days of Travel

When I left my house at 7:00 am EST on June 25th I had no idea that it would take until about 4:00 pm CET (Summer) on the 27th, to make it to Valencia. Neither did anyone else in our group. This post is going to be long, because it was a long couple of days, but bear with me.

A few days before the group was set to leave, we were told that it was possible that our flight itinerary may change because of strikes going on in France. We're not going to France, I know, we're headed to Valencia, Spain. But, our flight connected in Paris. Anyway, because our plans weren't concrete everyone arrived at the airport in Raleigh at 9am. That way, if anything were to happen we would be able to adjust.

The funny thing is, this being my first time flying at all, much less flying internationally, the thing I was most nervous about was airport security. Actually, that's what I was the most nervous about for this whole trip. Yea, I don't know why either. In the end, or I guess really at the beginning, our flight was not moved, and we loaded onto the plane at our scheduled 2pm boarding time. Take-off was scheduled for 2:30. Once we were all on the plane the pilot came on the intercom and announced that due to weather conditions at JFK there was a ground lock. This ground lock meant that our take-off time was moved to 3:30 as we sat on the tarmac for an hour.

Another thing that I was worrying about was getting motion sick. Lately I haven't even been able to ride in the back seat of a car without feeling nauseous at some point, so a plane seems like it would be much worse. I was delighted to find that not only was I not motion sick, I could even read without a problem. Other than the one hour delay, the flight to JFK happened without any problems. We arrived in New York some time around 4:30. It took us a while to navigate the airport, but eventually all 17 of us made it to the Air France desk. There we were told that our boarding time was 7:30, although there was some problem with our connection in Paris to Valencia.

This is from the plane descending into Valencia, but I thought you might enjoy a picture.

Knowing that there would be more negotiating ahead of us, because it became clear that we were going to miss our connecting flight, the flight to Paris went fairly smoothly. It was a 6 hour flight, and while we left the airport around 8:30pm, we arrived in Paris at 9:40 or 10:00 am. Fortunately our luggage arrived with us, though we missed our connection flight to Valencia. The staff at the airport had to be working hard in order to get all 17 of us flight for the next day, so it's hard to be too bitter about the wait.

In the end we were all put on flights, the airline gave us lunch vouchers, and a stay at a hotel (with complimentary dinner). I'm willing to bet that once we got to the hotel and sorted out rooms, that everyone took a nap. At least, that's what I did. We met up for dinner at 7, and then a group was making plans to go into the city. Of course, we're in Paris, so I'm interested. The trip they were considering, a half-way guided tour with stops for pictures, was 50 euro a person. That's a lot. You all know how I've budgeted, and planned for this trip. I was trying to talk myself out of going. At the same time, I knew I would regret it if I missed this amazing opportunity. So I went. Myself, three other girls, and our driver (Errol) toured Paris, with all the lights on and people out and about. The rest of the group in other taxis behind us.

Let me just take a minute to say that not being able to have a real conversation with anyone in France (because I don't speak French) was one of the most frustrating things I have ever experienced. Definitely in the top 5. If I can encourage you to do anything, it would be to learn the language of the country you're visiting. At least to a conversational level. Yes, we weren't supposed to spend that much time in France, but I hope you can see what I'm getting at.

Now, I'm not going to tell you about racing around France taking pictures and not show you any. Here are what I consider to be the best four of the night:

The Eiffel Tower isn't as delicate as I had imagined. It's still breathtaking.

After we got back to the hotel at 1am, the rest of the traveling didn't seem as bad. Our group met in the lobby at 4am, went to the airport again, where we waited, then flew to Madrid. In Madrid we waited some more, and then flew to Valencia. Finally we got to Valencia at 4:00pm, then went through orientation, and got to go home with our host families. 

I know I sped through those last hours, but not a lot happened, and I'm honestly happily surprised if you've kept reading this far. Please leave any comments or questions below. Until next time.

One last note: I'm keeping a journal of everything that happens, so I can get as much feeling, and be as accurate as possible with these posts. That being said, there will most likely be a considerable time lapse between these events are taking place, and when I am able to sit down and write about them. Thanks for understanding.