|While I have
been to Europe many times to both the North and South regions, I had not
yet seemed to make it to Paris. It has always been toward the top
of my list of places to see but the opportunity had just not presented
itself. In December of 2006, during Scandinavian Airlines'
Christmas Calendar promotion, I wanted to opt for either Prague or
Paris. I decided to go with Paris and invited a few friends along
for a long weekend.
As with most all of my trips to a foreign speaking country, I love to polish up my language skills. I purchased Pimsleur French III to fine tune the French that I took in college. I also completed Pimsleur Danish I to use on the flights and to prepare for an upcoming May trip to Copenhagen. It was a fantastic experience to use both Danish and French on this trip, be understood, and get a response in the language. Truly rewarding.
who knows me is aware of my love for Scandinavian Airlines and the
product that they offer. On Thursday, March 15th, 2007, we boarded
'Toste Viking' after enjoying a bon voyage cocktail at Seattle-Tacoma
Airport. I've actually flown aboard 'Toste Viking' before so it
was good to see a good friend back in Seattle. I was seated
in seat 35G next to my friend John. I know the on board service
schedule of this flight like the back of my hand now so it's always
interesting to look for variations. For the first time, I noticed
the implementation of charges for alcohol on board. It is supposed
to apply to any beverages after one's first and second but I did not see
it being too strictly monitored.
John picked us up a wine from the aft galley after dinner, though, and they did charge. I am sure that this is a new concept for the flight crew as well and not necessarily consistent. Alcohol is still free of charge for Business Class and Economy Extra. I really enjoyed the meal which consisted of pasta and chicken. The fish had run out just one row before ours but that was okay. I also always enjoy the selection of warm breads offered to accompany the meals.
I slept for a bit on the plane but not as much as I normally do. We actually were able to find the 'quiet zone' in Copenhagen Airport and made good use of that area. It was actually the best rest that I had gotten thus far on the trip! I napped in one of the loungers with my iPod until we needed to head to our next gate for the flight to Paris. We got a bit more rest on the flight from Kastrup to Charles de Gaulle. Upon arrival to Paris, I discovered just how odd an airport it is. It appears to have been designed with a space age concept in mind quite some time ago. I would have been curious to see the more modern section of the airport but I believe that that terminal is for intercontinental flights.
getting our baggage, we took the RER from the airport to the Metro
station «Chatelet» in the city proper. The train ride itself
took about forty five minutes after catching a coach from the airport to
the RER station. We took the Metro from «Chatelet» to «Hotel de
Ville» which was in proximity of our hotel in the Marais
district. We were quite turned around when emerging from the Metro
and it took us just a bit of time to find our hotel. Upon arriving
to our hotel rooms, we all freshened up and then headed out for our
first night out! Despite having traveled for so long, we were
still ready to see the nightlife and stayed out until nearly 2AM.
The following morning (Saturday, the 17th) we enjoyed a charming French breakfast right in our hotel after settling up the hotel bill with the staff. Our breakfast consisted of warm croissants, juice, and French press coffee. It was magnifique! John, Chris, and I then headed out to take the city by storm and see all of the sites. Kurt decided that he preferred to walk around the Marais district so the three of us went out touring.
strategy of the day was to take the Metro out as far as we wanted to see
for the day and then walk back along the Seine River. We took the
Metro to the Arc de Triomphe as our starting point for the day. We
were immediately in awe of finally seeing both the Arc de Triomphe as
well as the Eiffel Tower in the background. An underground walkway
is required (and smart) to get across the roundabout to the
center. After taking a few more close-up shots of the Arc de
Triomphe, we decided to climb the stairs up to the top. That was
our first experience with circular staircases and it certainly was not
There is a small museum atop the Arc de Triomphe and then, of course, and exterior viewing platform from which we could take photos of the surrounding area - including Champs-Elysées. After taking photos of the area and of ourselves, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower. On our way over, we made a stop at the Palais de Chaillot for some great photos of the Eiffel Tower in the background. The Trocadéro fountains are in front of the Palais de Chaillot which was designed in Neoclassical style for the 1937 Paris Exhibition.
|Upon arriving at the Eiffel Tower, we needed to figure out the difference between the variety of entrances available to go up. We learned that two of the entrances offered elevator service for the entire trip and these queues were much longer than the other. We opted to pay less, stand in a shorter queue, and take the stairs for most of the way up. There is then a mid level from which everyone take the elevator to the very top.|
|After taking a number of photos of the surrounding area and of ourselves, we headed back down to ground level. At the base, directly beneath the Eiffel Tower, we enjoyed some sausages with French Fries. We also used this time to discuss our plan of attack for the rest of the day.|
|With map in hand, we walked east and then southeast along the Seine River to find some more landmarks. We stopped to photograph the Hôtel des Invalides and the expansive Esplanade des Invalides just in front. Another impressive sight was the Pont Alexandre III. This bridge has exuberant Art Nouveau decoration of lamps, cherubs, nymphs, and winged horses at each end. It was aptly named after Tsar Alexander III who laid the foundation stone for it in 1896.|
not cross the Pont Alexander III but rather proceeded further down to
the Pont de la Concorde. With the Grand Palais slightly in view,
we crossed the Pont de la Concorde in order to get to the Place de la
Concorde. Place de la Concorde is one of Europe's most historic
squares and covers more than 20 acres. We photographed the 3,200
year old obelisk from Luxor which is surrounded by two fountains and
eight statues personifying French cities.
Conveniently from the Place de la Concorde, we proceeded east to the Jardin des Tuileries. While walking through the Jardin des Tuileries, I could only imagine how spectacular it is during the late spring and summer with all of the flowers and foliage in full bloom. It was still quite impressive nonetheless. This area in full is known as the Tuileries Quarter and is anchored by the Place de la Concorde on the westerly side and the Musée du Louvre on the easterly. I began to look for the pyramid entrance which was really one of the only landmark criteria that I knew of the Louvre. The pyramid was opened in 1989.
|We did not have any intention to actually explore the Louvre on this particular day so we just had some photos taken of us outside by the various pyramids. We would return to the Louvre another day and spend some additional time in the museum. We began to wind our day of exploring down by walking through Forum des Halles.|
turning direction a bit to head back to our hotel in the Marais
District, I hear a shout from another direction and look over to see a
man exposing himself in public. Never a dull moment!
While we did not pay a visit to the Centre Pompidou per se (museum of
modern art), we did get some photos from the outside to depict its
interesting architecture. This is most certainly a stop that I
will make on a future visit to Paris as I tend to enjoy modern art.
After a much needed nap in the early afternoon, we headed out to dinner and found ourselves at Pizza San Antonio on rue Saint Martin. We had a really good, personable waiter and we also loved the food so this brought us back on two nights later. We each found a plate that we enjoyed and John and I ordered wine by the carafe while Chris had a beer.
The following morning (Sunday, the 18th) we began a bit late, as usual, due to having been out late the night before. We quickly discovered that everything seems to run a bit later than we are used to at home - which was fine by us - we just adjusted our schedules accordingly. To make up for a little bit of time we found a Starbucks near our hotel and grabbed a quick bit to eat along with our coffee. Whenever I am in Europe I always enjoy a particular type of mango and orange juice for which I cannot seem to find a substitute in the US. I made sure to have one of those to accompany my breakfast.
After our jump-start to the day, we took the Metro up to the station «Blanche». John and I got into some odd state of laughter after seeing someone's dog on the train going into a complete frenzy. The owner was trying to keep this dog under control but the dog subsequently began to maul the passenger next to them. At that point John and I found everything to be funny and it was good to get out of the Metro and get some fresh air. After emerging from the Metro station, we found the Moulin Rouge nightclub along the Boulevard de Clichy.
began to rain lightly so we decided to keep moving along onto our next
stop, the Sacré Coeur. Surprisingly enough when we arrived at the
base of the stairs heading up to the Sacré Coeur, the clouds began to
break and we saw blue sky for the first time on the trip! There
were quite a few peddlers outside of the basilica trying to sell
bracelets so we had to wade through them to get up the stairs.
The Sacré Coeur was originally built dedicated to the 'Sacred Heart of Christ' should France be spared the impending Prussian onslaught in 1870. Work begin in 1875 and completed in 1914. The consecration was delayed until 1919, however, due to a German invasion against which France was victorious. We climbed the stairs to the top and took some impressive photos of the surrounding area. Upon exploring the interior of the basilica, it became clear that some of the most impressive features are the stained glass windows.
|We spent about thirty to forty-five minutes exploring the interior and then headed back out to enjoy the views. We then took the Metro south to the Ile de la Cité at its Metro station «Cité». It did not take long to spot the Notre-Dame in all of its grandeur. No vision of Paris is quite as associated with history as the spectacular Notre-Dame. Pope Alexander III laid the first stone in 1163 and was finished in about 1330. Notable features of the cathedral are the chimères (gargoyles), rose windows, and the flying buttresses.|
|We walked through the interior a couple of times trying to figure out how to climb to the top and discovered that the queue was outside. Had it not been as cold as it was this day with the wind blowing, we would not have minded. We still endured the chill, though, and made it to the front of the queue. Getting to the top involved scaling some very narrow and winding staircases. We again got into a laughing fit when a couple of Asian ladies behind us were making very laborious (read moans) climbing up. It got us to laughing where we could barely take another step.|
cold and wind did not let up as we arrived to the top but only seemed
magnified. Again, though, we took some impressive photos of the
surrounding area which included some of the Eiffel Tower in the
distance. While on our walk back to the Marais area, we took a
bridge over the Seine River and passed through Place du Châtelet.
We tried a
different restaurant (Café l'Etincelle) for dinner this evening and didn't quite care for
it as much as the previous night. It was still enjoyable, however,
and we had a nice toast to kick off another evening of frivolities.
|We found some interesting souvenir shops along the way so it was a good opportunity to pick up some nice things for ourselves, friends, and co-workers. Much to our surprise, it began to hail! That created a quick photo opportunity and then we proceeded northeast once again to find Champs Élysées. Shops and cafés at the beginning of our walk down this grand avenue were very humble and then worked their way up in scale as we neared the Arc de Triomphe. Pretty soon, we were finding establishments such as Louis Vuitton and Dolce et Gabbana.|
clouds began to break once again and we saw the beautiful blue sky
accenting the Arc de Triomphe and Tour Eiffel. Those who can brave
the passing traffic and stand on the island just in front of the Arc de
Triomphe will find some spectacular photo opportunities. It is a
bit surreal to hear traffic speeding past you in both directions as
you're looking into the camera and trying to capture the perfect
We figure for this to be our last opportunity to take photos of the Arc de Triomphe already so we made the most of the chance. After a few final glamour shots, we proceeded to find a Metro station and head back toward Marais.
I forfeited my nap this afternoon to be able to re-pack my suitcase. On shorter trips, I tend to just live out of my suitcase instead of unpacking into drawers and closets. Typically, anything over four days warrants the unpacking. Chris took a small nap while I re-organized and listened to my iPod.
|After we all prepared for the following day, we gathered our thoughts, shared some fun stories thus far from the trip, and then discussed dinner. It was unanimous that we would return to Pizza San Antonio. We were fortunate enough to get our same waiter this evening and he quickly brought us our carafes of wine. One of the funniest occurrences this evening was the fact that our waiter's pants were hanging a fair distance below his waist. This was not so much the funny part as much as the look on a little girl's face who was just awe-struck by this and seeing her parents' reaction to this.|
|We also happened to notice a wandering dog that seemed to be quite intelligent in the way he crossed the street with the proper signal. He then would stroll through the outdoor seating areas of restaurants and then we later saw him jumping up on a café door as to reach the knob and try to get in. Again, I guess this was just one of those 'you had to be there' moments.|
|This particular evening after dinner turned out to be quite eventful. We headed out to one of our favorite venues, Open Café and then on to Amnesia. On previous nights, we frequented the Amné Club which is located downstairs in Amnesia. On popular nights, it is quite loud, quite crowded, but also quite a lot of fun! We ultimately found ourselves stationed in Amnesia at a table toward the back. We ironically found ourselves seated next to an American couple from San Francisco.|
|We chatted with them for most of the night and then were all joined by some others from England. We quickly befriended a girl named Sophie and were taking photos left and right this evening. Those proved to be quite interesting to review the following day on our trip back home. Despite our need to be up at 6:00 am the next day, we were out until nearly 2:00 am. We had an incredible time out that night, though, and it was all worth it.|
|Needless to say, however, 6:00 am came on Tuesday, March 20th very quickly and I jumped out of bed immediately when the alarm clock went off as to not sleep late. Eventually, Chris and John arose and we tried to gather ourselves to be out of the hotel by 7:00 am. This was just about the quietest we have seen our street the entire trip. We normally heard a lot of voices, trash trucks, you name it outside of our window in the evening and during our nap times. I took a couple of photos of the serenity from the hotel room window before I took my suitcase down the stairs to leave.|
|We headed to the Metro station «Hotel de Ville» to make our way to the RER train line. Unfortunately we had a different station in mind than that to which we arrived on Friday night and we wound up at Charles de Gaulle Étoile. While we did find an RER line, there was not one that would take us to Charles de Gaulle airport (!). I was fortunate to use my French and ask a newspaper stand employee just what I needed to do to find the correct RER line. She was very nice and pointed us in the right direction.|
|We took the RER line to «Châtelet» and then transferred over to the proper line. On this particular ride, the train was so full that I was hanging half way out the doors. When the doors did close, my bag got stuck inside the doors and stayed that way until our next stop. When we crossed over to the proper train, I made sure to get a good position on the train but then Chris had to throw himself into the train to make sure that he made it. It was all quite comical. Despite the circumstances, we were all in pretty good humor.|
|Nearly two hours from door to door, we checked in completely to Seattle and then made our way to the gate. I picked up a few French magazines for my mom just outside the gate and then we settled in to have a coffee and breakfast until our flight. We were on Scandinavian flight 566 from Paris to Copenhagen on an MD-80. I believe that we all slept nearly the entire flight and it was quite nice. We did have a bit of a layover in Copenhagen but I had planned to use that time to do some shopping for things to take home with me.|
|As very common in Copenhagen Kastrup airport, the gate for our next flight was not listed on the screens until closer to departure. From my past experience, however, I already knew that we needed to head C39. I enjoyed a croissant and coffee before walking around the airport, taking some photos, and then making some purchases for home. I bought a Danish magazine for mom and my usual stash of Danish chewing gum. John camped out in the 'quiet zone' and managed to find a lounger with a head rest this time where he did not on the flight in.|
|This is the point where I go into detail in regard to boarding and then the flight home. I just figured that I would state that for those who are not here to necessarily read about that portion.|
Airlines Flight 937 to Seattle, Washington
With well over an hour before boarding, we headed for the walk to gate C39. We passed through immigration to get another stamp in our passports. As I have experienced in the past, we checked in at the gate, turned in our boarding passes, and then proceeded into the larger waiting area where flights to Seattle and Chicago depart almost simultaneously.
Chris and I entered the waiting area and then John proceeded just after. I noted that we would be flying 'Toste Viking' yet again back to Seattle. He had received an upgrade to Economy Extra and I presumed that this was due to the assistance of my friend Beth Ann in Seattle SAS sales (thank you!) I headed out of the gate area to the customer service desk dedicated to flight 937 to Seattle. I made the inquiry as to what criteria might be available for further upgrades and the agent advised that she could upgrade one additional person.
|Fortunately John and I were now in Economy Extra. Chris, though, was at least able to move to a window seat from center in Economy for the flight back. Given that I traditionally compose a flight review, I was excited to occupy Economy Extra to differentiate it from the Economy service we experienced on the way over on the 15th of March. We boarded and found our seats. I was supposed to be in 16E and John in 16F. Granted I was in a center seat but there was still sufficient room on both sides where I was not too concerned.|
|I quickly noticed that 14D was available and asked a crew member if it were possible for John to move ahead to enjoy the extra legroom with the bulkhead. He moved up and I moved over to 16F. I was now very much happy with my seat even though it was not quite Business Class (beggars can't be choosy!) My job will be complete when I am able to develop a flight review while flying Scandinavian Airlines' Business Class service. I planned to stay awake most all of this flight (as usual) so the extra few inches were just perfect.||i|
|Our flight was delayed by a mere thirty minutes as a passenger had not shown up for the flight and his or her luggage needed to be removed from the aircraft. It was just a short way and we taxied to the end of the runway to make a powerful and majestic liftoff from Kastrup. We lifted off heavy on this sunny Copenhagen afternoon and the A340 makes this with nothing short of grace. Personal video programming began just about thirty minutes after takeoff for the use of movies, video games, and more. Hot towels were distributed to passengers in Business Class and Economy Extra.|
|I made a point once again to speak Danish with the flight crew. The flight attendant in our section picked up on the fact that I requested a United States immigration form but was speaking Danish. She inquired about this with me and I responded that I speak a little Danish and a little Norwegian. She then told me in Norwegian that she is from Stavanger, Norway. This conversation was just so delightful and extremely rewarding for me to switch between Danish and Norwegian after having used French for the past several days. I was on cloud nine, no pun intended, even though we were well above the clouds at this point.|
|Despite its ability to make me sleepy, I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine with lunch. Unlike in Economy, after dinner liqueurs were complimentary so I enjoyed a Baileys on the rocks. My goal on this flight was to read three magazines that I had from home and had not yet completed. I did fall asleep for about an hour and then resumed my reading. Thereafter, however, I committed to staying awake as it was still technically daylight and I needed to begin to adjust to the schedule back home in Seattle.|
|While reading, I scanned the 'Entertainment on Board' guide to see if there were a movie that I might enjoy. I was also catching bits and pieces from the feature film, Casino Royale, playing on the PTV (personal television) units around me. I decided to watch 'Something's Gotta Give' when it started again at the beginning. I have always heard a lot about it but had not yet had the chance to see it. It was a pretty good movie in that I really enjoy Diane Keaton but not so much care for Jack Nicholson. Nonetheless, it was a good way to pass some time on the flight.|
intended to listen to the 'Featuring' channel 7 for 'Dreamgirls' but
never quite made it that far. I primarily listened to 'Hitlist' on
The flight crew on Scandinavian Airlines is very good about circulating throughout the cabin with cold water and juice throughout the journey. Crew members also come around with candies and other snacks throughout the flight. We even enjoyed ice cream treats in Economy Extra which was a nice surprise.
|I never had the opportunity on either flight 938 or 937 to visit the aft galley to see what was available there. On both flights, we were able to use the mid section lavatories which were located just behind us in Economy Extra.|
this nearly ten hour flight seemed to go by quickly. At about an
hour and a half from arrival into Seattle, the main screen channel
displayed scenes from throughout Scandinavia and indicated that 'second
serving' would be starting soon.
Scanorama, the in flight magazine of Scandinavian Airlines, has a new look and it appeared that there were a few format changes to it as well. In noticing this, it was fun to read more details about the new flights SAS is offering from Stockholm to Beijing. They will be using the A340-300 for this route and it constantly amazes me how SAS is able to reach so many of their intercontinental routes with just 7 A340 and 4 A330 jets.
serving was brought to us and in a much nicer format than that in
Economy. We enjoyed our meal on actual dinnerware with set of
silverware, etc. I quite enjoyed my meal which had a heavy
Scandinavian influence but I know that it is very subjective and that
John did not care for it so much.
Once the trays were collected from the second serving, I pretty much just tidied up my personal belongings in anticipation of the gradual approach to Seattle. I kept my camera handy for just a little bit to catch some screen shots of the video map as we neared Washington and then Seattle. As I kept an eye on the flight path, I noticed that we made a wide approach to Seattle and then performed a complete 360 degree turn. This involved the jet's being banked for about five minutes. I was not quite sure of the reason for this except for the fact that we may have had to stall on our approach to Sea-Tac.
We still approached the airport from a northerly direction, however, and soon enough I could hear the landing gear compartments open and the gears being lowered. I was very interested to see where we were over Seattle as I watch this particular flight nearly daily from the ground as I'm walking home from the gym. I am also always quite interested to watch the non-US citizens as they peer out the windows and remark on the scenery and surrounding area. I tend to wonder what they're thinking with the differences in topography from Demark to Seattle.
We had a very smooth approach and landing into Sea-Tac airport and quickly made our way to the gate. I saw enough out the window to see that both a British Airways 747-400 and Eva Air 747-400 were already parked at the South terminal gates. I would soon find out that these flights had just recently entered into customs as well and that we would be in queue behind them.
|Crew members made a blockade in front of Economy Extra in order to allow Business Class passengers to exit through the second, left side door which was being utilized. We then departed shortly thereafter and I gave the flight crew a very thankful 'farvel' (good bye).|
|I've always loved Scandinavian Airlines and this flight was no disappointment. Yes, admittedly, I've noticed a few changes in the service level for general Economy but I have also noticed such changes taking place much earlier on other carriers. This will also prompt me to think carefully about confirming into Economy Extra (or even Business) on future flights. My next experience with SAS will be in May of 2007 as I head to Rome, Italy for a cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom to the Eastern Mediterranean. I most certainly am excited about joining the crew of Scandinavian Airlines for the journey over.|