It’s true. Flying into Paris and flying out of Paris are two entirely different things. Check-in bags multiply, hand luggage is not handy anymore and duty-free — especially at the new Terminal 2E at the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport — is but another country. So it is with some relief that I stand in queue for Business/Sky Priority passengers with suitcases that weigh a shade over thirty-two kilos and an umbrella that has braved an unseasonably grey (early) summer in France.
The sky outside is as clear and blue as Lake Annecy today. But I’m willing to weather the irony, and the disappointment of flying during the day (it’s a pity, really, when one could have been walking up and down Champs-Élysées till midnight), because the check-in at CDG is quick and painless; unlike our experience on the way in from Delhi to Nice via Paris. (Two PNR numbers for two separate legs of the journey had thrown the ground staff in Delhi into a tizzy when we asked to check the baggage right through to Nice.)
It helps that there are Ladurée macarons and window-shopping at Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Miu Miu to look forward to. But first I must make a stop at the new (about a year old) Air France lounge in 2E — a sprawling vision in white, only occasionally broken up by a life-like tree or by curved separators divvying up a space that could well have been the set for the new Star Trek Into Darkness. I grab some breakfast (the spread is almost as expansive as the lounge) and a bar stool to check my mail on one of the iPads placed at one end of the hall. But with time running out, soon I’m back outside to take a turn about the terminal.
Predictably, there’s enough to gawk at or buy, if you played a good hand at the Casino in Monte Carlo or won the French Lotto. For those less fortunate, there are other riches to explore, and for free. The Espace Musées — a self-contained but well laid out exhibition area where Rodin is holding court at the moment — is a great place to count your pre-boarding minutes, for instance; a space becoming of a city with over 150 museums to its name.
All that walking, however, can make you even more grateful for the flatbed and the champagne that greets you once you are onboard. But with eight hours to while away on a day flight, entertainment and food count for more than just distractions. I find at least five movies, including recent Academy Award winners, I’m happy to watch — a rare occurrence, except maybe on Emirates. Lunch is also fairly competent — shrimps and scallops at 30,000 feet above sea level. A final aide-memoire of those lovely meals on the Riviera. What more can one ask for? A pair of socks? Check. A snug blanket and some more French wine? Check. Home in time for dinner? Ah well, you can’t have it all, can you?