Dr Dop: Journey to Lyon
After a night of indulgence and broken sleep, I spent most of Sunday laying around and watching American news, occassionally forcing short naps to try and stave off the grogginess and slight headaches, no doubt the result of too much fun. I did one final suitcase check, showered, and ate NY pizza and wings with a little hair of the dog provided by Founders.
I left my friends apartment in Queens at 730pm EST, that’s 1930 EST for the rest of the world, and at that point I could have gone to bed and slept all night. The driver taking me to JFK seemed to be in a somber state, saying very little, and listening to an uninterupted Aretha Franklin tribute on the radio. The lack of conversation was really the first “quiet time” I had since arriving in NYC, and it also gave me time to get emotional. “This is it" I thought to myself, “I’m headed to JFK to fly to France.” Over the past few weeks I had been in 3 US states and seen some of my closest friends and family, as well as some special people that I had not seen in years, but now my tributes and farewells were behind me. In front of me was a 7 hour flight and 2 hour train ride to reach a place that I had never been, and will soon call home.
One of the first lessons I learned from the journey to Lyon is that first class and premium seating is definitely worth it. I flew first class on Delta from DTW to LGA, premium on Norwegian airlines, and rode 1st class on the TGV train to Lyon, and I really did not spend that much more to do so. My initial reasoning was because of the amount of luggage I had (two large and heavy suitcases plus my fully loaded backpack) and the resulting baggage fees; I would have had to pay between $300 -$400 for my luggage if I booked coach/economy tickets, and premium tickets waive those fees. Another motivating factor for treating myself was the cost of meals. As premium tickets also come with meals and drinks, I spent virtually nothing on food and beverage during my travels. The added comforts from premium tickets also just made the overall journey less stressful, therefore I haven’t needed to recover as much had I done this all more economically. Overall, my contention here is that the cost of traveling premium was offset by the benefits, so the true cost was about the same had I booked everything in economy. As I describe my experience below, remember that everything I did was via premium tickets.
In Detroit at DTW I checked in very quickly, and the Delta agent suggested I use the TSA precheck line, since the first class line was backed up because Jessie Jackson was in it. Sure enough, there he was, no doubt having just left being with Aretha Franklin during her final hours. I opted for precheck which was very quick. At JFK however my airline (Norwegian) was not part of the precheck program, and there was no premium customer security line. I went into the precheck line anyway, and wasn’t caught until the metal detector. At that point I had already bypassed much of the standard security line, and the only consequence was to take off my shoes and use the larger “hands up” metal detector. The agent at the ticketing counter also took mercy on me as one of my bags was 2 kg over the limit, so I was 2/2 so far. Once through security I headed to the premium lounge for Norwegian, which was actually the Alitalia lounge. While sort of unimpressive, the lounge did have plenty of comfortable seating (including many couches), monitors that provided flight info, clean restrooms, views of the runways and tarmac, an attendant that announced when and where each flight was boarding, free Italian wine, an array of snacks, a selection of help your self liquor, sparkling water and unlimited Budweiser. The lounge certainly was better than being in the general terminal.
Boarding was a breeze, I was in the first boarding group and walked down a very long jet bridge to reach the entrance to the Norwegian 787-9 Dreamliner. Many of you may know how hyped up this plane was when it was released several years ago, however I am hear to tell you the hype was right. I was immediately impressed and felt like I made the absolute right decision booking with this airline. High ceilings, impressive mood lighting, and the most leg room I’ve ever had on any flight was enough to make me smile, but the extremely friendly flight crew serving quality and complimentary juices closed the deal for me. At one point we were sitting on the tarmac delayed (typical for NYC) and I actually thought in response “I’m in no rush to get off this plane.” The takeoff felt almost like floating, and I never actually heard the landing gear or flaps after we left the ground. The windows were huge and had no shades, rather they would tint in some deeply futuristic manner in order to block out any light. Once in the air, the journey consisted of eating a delicious meal accompanied by pretty damn good wine. I watched Blade Runner 2, which normally would have been tedious, however was perfect for a Trans-Atlantic flight. About halfway through the movie I slept, not the best, but it was at least possible given the comfort and ultra recline of the seat. Anymore recline and I would have been horizontal (which would have been better of course.) Upon waking (over Ireland) we were promptly served breakfast with coffee/tea, and I finished the movie (spoiler alert: what a bummer!) One downside, because the TV is in the armrest and not on the seat in front, it has be stowed during landing, meaning the only show avaliable is out the window. This is hardly significant enough to affect my perception of Norwegian however, that airline is amazing!
When I arrived in Paris, I was officially strung out. I will write a side piece about navigating CDG airport, however for the most part it wasn’t overly difficult. While I was waiting for my train to Lyon, I met a young lady from San Diego who was originally from Chicago. Melanie I believe. We had a pleasant 30 min conversation about our reasons for being in France, and then we got on our respective trains and went south. The train ride was fast, 200/mph fast. Everytime another train passed us headed the other way I thought I was going to die. I opted for a burger (yes, and no it’s not even close to the same thing) an espresso and a “glass" of merlot. While enjoying my quite good train food, I met another single parent of a super cute little girl. They were both from Belgium, and headed to the south of France for a wedding. It was nice starting my time in Lyon by saying “goodbye, we will talk again" to another single parent, of a daughter nonetheless.
I fetched am Uber from Lyon Part Dieu (which means Lyon For God) which is a major train station in Lyon. The driver was awesome, originally from Paris, and we talked about what a chump Trump is. We arrived at the flat, and the host was waiting for me by the front door (I had texted him updates) and he wasted no time showing me everything about the apartment, and then offered to walk me around the neighborhood! I was very pleased initially about the flat as it’s in great shape and really charming. I then went to dinner at a café, and ate a salad that had about a pound of the most delicious bacon I’d ever had!
My travel was complete and the night nearly over, and yet all I could think about was how badly I wanted to floss. And so here I am, in Lyon. I slept 11 hours and in the morning faced trepidation about obtaining breakfast. I succeeded though in ordering from the boulangerie, and that set the tone for the rest of the day, perhaps the rest of my time here. Onward.
Thanks for reading! Until next time!