Day 13: Paris to Victoria

Our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 1pm Paris time so we actually got to sleep in a bit because we didn’t need to leave the hotel until 9pm. One benefit of being in Paris on the weekend is that the traffic is much lighter so we got to the airport just before 10am and went through check-in with no trouble at all (Air Canada was pretty efficient given that we weren’t the only EF group checking in for the flight to Montreal).

Just before we entered the secure area, we all said goodbye to Frank… I think he might end up regretting his offer to the group to come visit him at his home – he lives in Tenerife on the Canary Islands and shares a beautiful waterfront home with his brother… He’s been doing the Tour Director gig with EF for 18 years now and it shows – he’s completely unflappable and has the patience of a saint. The kids really liked him and he seemed to genuinely like our kids so it was perfect match all round.

After saying goodbye to Frank we entered the secure part of the airport and cleared customs with no issues. When we went through security, one of our group got the extra special treatment from security – but that might have been because of the two Gatorades (one full and one with a couple of swigs left in it) and a San Pelegrino drink he’d been carrying around in his pack of the last 5 days and had forgotten about. You gotta hand it to the French… they can express scorn, disdain and annoyance like nobody’s business.

After clearing security, we headed to our Gate to stake out a spot and then spread out to grab some snacks and duty free, etc. Once again, Jamie impressed with his ability to seemingly inhale junk food by scarfing down 3 double cheeseburgers, 2 large fries and a large coke in the 20 minutes before the flight boarded. I’m a little concerned about being in the spew radius but he assures me he’ll be fine. We think his total for the trip is somewhere in the neighbour of 16-18 cheeseburgers, 10 large fries, 10 tubes of Pringles chips and enough Coke to float a BC ferry.

Around 12:05 (Air Canada’s approach to boarding times seems to be “close enough”) we started boarding the plane… of course, this being Paris and all there was nothing even remotely resembling a line… It was more like a funnel feeding people into the single boarding line from all directions. It went fairly smoothly (if you compare it to something like storming the beaches of Normandy) and we were soon on the plane – along with the EF group from Toronto, another large one from Halifax. We’re all seated at the back of the plane.

About 20 minutes after 1pm the captain came on the PA to announce that they would be returning to the gate for maintenance because they had not been able to arm one of the cabin doors… They fixed it pretty quickly and we ended up leaving about 1 hour late.

We’re now about 5 hours into the flight and they seem to be burning some extra fuel to make up the lost time… Next time, I’d suggest they just throw the lunch in the tank and burn it… it’s clearly not meant for human consumption. With a choice between pasta (which upon opening bore an uncanny resemblance to a container full of vomit) or salmon (who serves fish on a crowded plane where we’re all sharing the same air anyways) and a cole slaw that defies easy description, lunch was an interesting affair. It must be a testament to how good the food has been on this trip that the food seemed even worse than usual (that’s saying a lot when you consider Air Canada’s well-deserved reputation for crappy food). I thought for a minute that the dark chocolate and cranberry cookie might be a standout but somehow they even managed to screw up a cookie… The dinner roll and butter were okay though. When it comes to food on airplanes, Marie has the worst luck – she’s always getting skipped over for drinks, etc. This time they ran out of the pasta option right when they got to her… When she told the cabin attendant that she was allergic to fish (she’s not really but wanted to see if they would do anything about it) the cabin attendant’s response was a curt “you should have ordered a special meal… this is all I’ve got.” It’s probably a good thing the cabin attendant didn’t see the look on Marie’s face or she might have called for a flight marshal…

Also, I think they might have left a window open or didn’t arm that door properly after all as it’s about -20° in the cabin – everyone is bundled up in jackets and have the blankets wrapped around themselves like shrouds. I’ve heard talk of the kids using their new lights to burn some of the magazines and leftover food to keep warm.

I think that’s it for now. The plane is bouncing around pretty good at the moment and I’m having trouble typing so I’ll leave off for the time being and will post this and the last couple of days’ posts when we’re on the ground and can get an internet connection.

Whew… That was a bit of a bumpy descent and landing but we’re on the ground safe and sound and waiting for our next flight (Montreal to Vancouver that starts boarding in about an hour). We landed about an hour late because of the delays in Paris (lots of unhappy people on the plane whose connecting flights left without them). We have lots of time for our layover so we weren’t too stressed by the absolutely massive lineup of people trying to get through customs. We were actually kind of impressed by the one Canadian Customs guy who demonstrated such a profound indifference and snarkiness that we wondered whether we had landed in a country other than Canada (not mentioning any particular ones but you can use your imagination). His complete lack of customer service skills was matched only by the complete indifference of the girl behind the counter at the Tim Horton’s… It’s so nice to be back in Canada and experiencing that famous Canadian courtesy and welcoming attitude… In all, it took us about 1.5 hours to get through customs, pick up our checked bags, drop off our checked bags after clearing customs, go through security screening and find our gate. In all, we’re left with about an hour to wait before boarding starts.

Our next flight is about 6 hours long and they won’t be feeding us so everyone is stocking up on Timmie’s and snacks from the various shops around our gate… Once again, Jamie awed us all with his capacity for consuming food (2 regular sized Tim Horton’s sandwiches, two donuts and a bottle of iced tea in under 20 minutes!)

We’re about 20 minutes away from boarding so this will be it for the blog until later in the week when I’ll do one final post next week with comments, highlights and anecdotes from the kids!

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Our intrepid travellers with Frank – our awesome Tour Director

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Our Tour Director after a long day of touring with 32 teenagers!

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