Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Leaving Dubai and Arriving in Chantilly

We stumbled out of bed at 4.30am on Wednesday morning and dressed ready for the car that was to pick us up at 5.20am. We tried to contact the airport to see if the planes were flying, but i had to get the Hotel desk to do it as we couldn't get on to the airport. The car arrived at 5.20 and the driver said everything was flying.
We were met at the car by a hostess who led us to the checkin desk and a porter who brought our luggage. He was great because he kept looking for shorter lines and we were checked in pretty quickly.
We flew on a new 380 Airbus and it was huge, a double decker aeroplane.
we landed in Paris about a quarter to Three and then had to get all our luggage to the Europcar in Terminal 1. Laurent met us there and helped with the booking. He then drove us to meet Loretta in Chantilly. it was fast and on the wrong side of the road. Oh dear!We went to the school and had a quick tour around and then we collected Loretta and she showed us the way to Avilly St Leonard. Gray sat in the front and we squashed in the back. The trip was much more comfortable for me as I couldn’t see a thing. The roads are incredibly narrow and cars go so fast.
We looked in the apartment and were nicely surprised. It is sparsely fitted out, but very comfortable and while not large, it is big enough so that we don’t feel as though we are under each other’s feet. We are out in the country between Avilly and St Leonard, two very quaint villages.
Laurent drove us all back to the station so that they could catch the train for Paris. He parked in the station and off they went! AGH! I had to drive after being up at 4am and feeling tired and scared. We had no food at all and needed supplies and things for me to take for lunch the next day.
I gingerly managed to get down the street and park on the footpath in one vacant spot as everyone else was doing. We walked down to the Supermarket “Simply” and wandered around thinking what we might need. We had seen a Boucherie and thought we would go there on the way back to choose our meat. When we eventually carried our stacks of bags back up the street, the butcher was closing. We had to hurriedly think what we wanted as his lovely display was all put away and we ended up with some ham and some veal, the latter being cooked which we didn’t realise at the time. We put the shopping in the car and headed across the road to the Greengrocer which was also closing, but I asked her was she closing and they let us in. We said everything we could think of and they produced it, even some plastic box things I could take my lunch in the next day.
Having put all that in the car as well, we decided to go into the Brasserie for dinner. It was a good choice as the food was good and the atmosphere pleasant.
Then we had to find our way back to Avilly. The roads are so narrow and the car is a bit too big for some of these roads. It is a diesel and nice to drive, but terrifying at the same time.
We arrived back and carried the shopping upstairs and put it away and unlocked all the suitcases. We took a few things out and left the rest. I was going to have to wear the same shirt the next day as we had no iron.
It was quite late when we eventually fell into bed and we slept reasonably well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adventures in France

We left home early on Thursday morning to travel to Sydney. We called in to see Gray's mum on the way and then went to Sammi's. She and I went to Guy's work to collect my UK passport which had arrived that morning and then back to her home. The car, well huge Mercedes Van, arrived at 4.30 and took us to the airport. Michelle and Sam came as well as there was so much room in it.
As we booked in a fellow asked were we going to the UK as it was all closed due to the volcanic ash. He said Paris was fine.
We sat with the girls and Guy arrived to take them home and we went through to the Business Lounge for approximately 15 minutes.
We boarded the aircraft and had the customary champagne while we prepared for takeoff.
We flew over Orange and waved to everyone on the ground. Then we ate a lovely meal. I didn't do much sleeping on the way to Bankok and when we landed many people got off, but we stayed on. It isn't the safest place in the world at the moment.
As the crew changed over, the incoming crew told us that Charles de Gaulle was closed now as well. That meant lots of uncertainty and what would happen? we wondered..
We sat in the Dubai airport for 6 hours, moving several times to more comfortable seats and we watched lots and lots of people come in and not many leave at first. However, as the day went on it grew quieter and quieter as flights weren't coming in. At 2pm, when the net flight was cancelled we were sent to the Sheraton Towers, Dubai Creek .

This was a very comfortable hotel and we were so tired that we were surprised to find it was only just 2pm. The manager was very helpful and suggested the next morning that we go to the Emirates Office and see what we could do. We set off in a taxi. Here you go everywhere in a taxi and the usual cost is about 10 dirhams, approximately $3. We found what we thought was a very helpful man who told us we could just stay on in the hotel and no I didn't need another voucher. We caught another taxi back to the hotel and the manager said we couldn't stay because they were fully booked and he had already told Emirates that when they rang. He was very kind. We took another taxi back to the Emirates building and were given another man to talk to. He could do nothing about accommodation as they were only the Booking Office, but he did manage to get us a flight on the 21st! Back into a taxi the hotel because the manager had said if we could couldn't get anything from Emirates, he would find us a hotel. He organised a whole suite of rooms in the Business Club part of another Sheraton Hotel. When we walked in, I was so amazed I went back downstairs to check the room rate.
We had no luggage for 4 days so visited a huge shopping Mall to buy a couple of sets of clothes and some shoes as we had set off in our wintry clothes for the expected 7 degrees when we landed in Paris. A shuttle bus goes between the Hotel and the Shopping Mall so we only had to catch a taxi one way that day.
Yesterday we caught a Water Bus to the Old Souk with some Brits we had met and walked through tunnels created by very old wooden arches that looked like the upside down hulls of boats. At ground level there were hundreds of material shops behind old wooden doors. As we walked they began to open the doors up for the evening's trading. Shops and businesses close at 1pm and open again at 4pm till 10pm. The trading week is from Sunday till Thursday.
We saw an incredible fire while we were in the Old Souk. First we heard many sirens and then we saw smoke pouring out of a building. It took the two fire engines half an hour to come, by which time the fire had completely taken over and the watching crowd had swelled greatly. We caught the waterbus back across the Dubai Creek and walked up to see the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk. The spices were displayed in large sacks and containers both inside and outside the shops. The smells were delicious.
We joined our British friends and some Australians who were friends of friends of ours in Orange. It is a small world! for Happy Hour in the Business Club room and it was good to mix with others in the same boat.
Our hopes were building as things seemed to be improving on the Volcano front and we were confirmed to fly out tomorrow. Our British friends had a flight today to Manchester, but this was cancelled when they had been at the airport for some hours. Our feelings are like yoyos as each new piece of information arrives, but there is a lot of misinformation flying around as well. We are going to fly out at 8.20am tomorrow morning.