Thursday, September 15, 2016

Boston to Lille leg 13-14 September

Our flights in Boston and London departed on time and each arrived a few minutes early. The long leg across the Atlantic was superbly uneventful, although about midway we started experiencing some on-again, off-again turbulence.

Still, that slight bit of nuisance didn't prevent Susan from sleeping for just about the entire flight.

As for me, even though I could stretch out I couldn't close my eyes to the point where I even tried the sleeping mask but couldn't get my head wrapped around the concept let alone the odd feeling of wearing a mask when it's not even Halloween.

To me, Terminal 5 at Heathrow is still  bit confusing. In fact it seems to be a conglomeration of not one but three terminals, now referred to as A, B and C Gates. You have to take a tram from one to the other so I'm at a loss to see how it's just one terminal.

Also there was scant information on the electronic boards when we got off the plane compounded by no direct signage telling you where to go to get that elusive connecting flight.

Finally, and this really baffles me, even though we were not leaving the country and didn't have to go through passport control we had to go back through security again. Is it just the locals being overly cautious or what? I thought it odd.

Fortunately we didn't have long to wait for our flight to Paris and before long we were zipping across the English Channel and in less than three-quarters of an hour had landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. (Coincidentally, the very next day we would actually find ourselves standing front of de Gaulle's birthplace in Lille.)

We soon found ourselves in a queue for passport control, along with 40 or 50 other folks and there was only one border police window open. Oh boy this had "Problem" written all over it. Yet the line moved right along and before long two more windows opened and we soon found ourselves standing in front of a lovely young woman with widest smile and the most pleasant attitude. We quickly passed through.

We were officially in France.

Next up, getting our checked bag.

Our experience in baggage handling at CDG in past years has been less than stellar but this time was very different. In fact, we had no sooner found a place to sit near our baggage carousel and wait before they started off-loading luggage from London and voilà! there was our bag. So off we went in search of the TGV station and our train to Lille.

And once again we found ourselves waiting -- we hadn't counted on getting our luggage and gliding through Passport Control so quickly this time; waiting, waiting, waiting, all the time sitting with a cast of thousands from all over France (if not the world) waiting for a train to take them somewhere, anywhere but where they were at that moment: Nantes, Bordeaux, Nice, Marseille, Lille, Brussels, Strasbourg. For us it was Lille, of course.

Three hours passed rather quickly -- perhaps we were still in a fog from traveling for two days -- and before long we were in our seats aboard the TGV for the 50-minute trip to Lille, the train sliding past lovely pastoral countryside some of which we hoped to revisit at a more leisurely pace with Richard and Pauline next week.

After arriving at the Lille Europe station (there two stations in Lille, the other being Lille Flandres) we made our way up the escalator along with what appeared to be half the population of Lille, and there was Christina and her two children, Kiera and Liam waiting for us.

A quick 15-minute walk and we were at their apartment in the centre ville. We were home. It felt good to be in Lille.

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