France tagged posts

Trip Report: Air France Paris to Cape Town (CDG-CPT) Business Class

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This is part 4 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 864 Paris- Charles de Gaulle to Cape Town
Sched. Dep. 10:10AM    Actual Dep. 10:45AM
Sched. Arr.  10:30PM      Actual Arr. 11:18PM
Boeing 777-200, Business Class

My flight from Dulles landed at the M concourse of Air France’s Terminal 2E compound.  It was a bit of a schlep to the K concourse, which is also the part of 2E where terminating passengers have to go for baggage/immigration/exit.  There was a walk from where the plane emptied out to the Navette (shuttle) train, but it is pretty well-marked, and clean and orderly.  It was then short two-stop ride on the Navette to the K concourse, where the Sky Priority security lane moved slowly, but not terribly.  Two people pushed themselves in front of me, which seemed to be common theme with lines at CDG.  There was no recombobulation area just through security which caused a bit of a bottleneck.  The Air France Salon was just past security, downstairs.

Air France Salon CDG 2E-K

Check-in was friendly.  There were sections of the lounge on either side of the desk, but I asked where the showers were, and was directed to one side that I stayed on. I went right for the shower, knowing there might be a wait, and sure enough there was.  But with seven showers, the line moved fairly quickly, despite there only being one cleaner.  The shower room was nice, modern, and clean, with a package of a fresh bath towel, hand towel, and bath mat.  There was also a small amenity kit with shaving and dental accoutrements, a comb, a deodorant wipe, and a L’Occitane body wash.  There was also liquid soap in a dispenser in the shower.  The only things I’d wished they had were tissues and some sort of moisturizing/hand/body lotion.  The shower felt good.

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Turkish Airlines Washington-Dulles Lounge and Air France Business Class Washington-Dulles to Paris  (IAD-CDG)

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This is part 3 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 55  Washington-Dulles to Paris
B777-300ER, Business Class
Sched. Dep. 6:35PM   Actual Dep. 6:29PM
Sched. Arr.  8:00AM +1    Actual Arr.  7:38AM +1

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown out of Dulles.  But this experience reminded that Dulles isn’t a terrible airport to fly out of… once you get there.  I decided to take the 5A Metrobus over the rail; though they take about the same length of time, the bus takes you straight to the terminal in one shot, as opposed to a long metro ride transferring to a bus.  (The Metrobus option is also significantly cheaper.)  I left my office at 3pm, and Uber-ed to the bus stop at L’Enfant Plaza.  Despite traffic, the ride took only a little over an hour, and everyone on the bus had a seat.

As a reminder, I was flying Air France from DC to Cape Town via Paris, in business class, on a Delta Skymiles redemption.  When I got to the Air France/KLM/Korean Air counter at around 4:35, there was no line on either the Sky Priority or regular line.  The agent wasn’t particularly friendly, but was fine as she took my bag and printed my boarding passes.  Air France doesn’t participate in Precheck, but there was basically no line at regular security, on either the “premium” or regular lane.  I was through quickly and on the train to the A concourse.

Air France/KLM/Korean Air check-in at Dulles

I had forgotten that I actually wanted to go to the B concourse, though my flight was leaving out of A.  The two are just different sides of one of the midfield terminals (one straight line with gates on each sides), which is Dulles’s nicest terminal, and home to pretty much all airlines but United and a few other randos (Frontier, Air Canada, and even some United Express flights).  The terminal is modern, with lots of food options, and with increasingly fancy shopping over the years.

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Israel Trip Report: Starting Out IAD-CDG-TLV in Air France Business Class

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This post is the first in a series describing my recent trip to Israel with my boyfriend. Our trip included Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Pride.

Air France Flt. 39  Washington-Dulles to Paris – Charles DeGaulle, Business Class, Boeing 777-300 ER
Dep. 4:06 PM   Arr. 5:15AM +1
Air France Flt. 1960  Paris to Tel Aviv, Business Class, A320
Dep. 7:15 AM Arr. 12:45PM

We left our apartment in downtown Washington three hours before our flight out of Dulles, which should have been ample time. We had picked up a one-way rental from Avis near our house, and the drive took about 35 minutes, and rental car return didn’t take too long. But Dulles sucks. There was a 5-10 minute wait at the Sky Priority check-in counter for Air France, and then security was dreadful. The priority lane at Dulles is useless, as everything merges at ID check. The lines for individual x-ray screenings were very long, and we are directed to a specific line– which unfortunately had several babies, pets, and illiterate travelers. The other lines, of course, moved at a decent pace, and then they opened up several more lines. But 30 minutes later, we were through.

Dulles A Gates

Dulles A Gates

Air France-KLM Lounge at Dulles

Air France-KLM Lounge at Dulles

We took the train to Dulles’s A-Gates, and finally we got to the Air France/KLM lounge, right across from our gate, about 30 minutes before scheduled boarding. The lounge was pretty crowded, and we had trouble finding two seat...

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Trip Report: Heading home on Brussels Airlines Business Class CDG-BRU-IAD

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Now that we’ve been back from our Seychelles and France trip for a full three calendar months, it seems to be the appropriate time for the final blog post on the trip – our flights back on Brussels Airlines from Paris to Brussels to Washington Dulles. We leave for Israel in two days, and I promise those blogs (to the extent I do any) won’t be as tardy.

As a recap since it’s been awhile, we used US Airways miles for one ticket, and United miles for the other – the last chance to use US Airways miles on Star Alliance and the last chance to use United for partner business travel without paying a bazillion miles. Our award routing was IAD-ADD-SEZ on Ethiopian, SEZ-ADD-CDG on Ethiopian, and CDG-BRU-IAD on Brussels.

People seemed to be more surprised that we were connecting through Brussels to get back home than they were surprised by our Ethiopian flights. But there were only two options with two seats on dates that worked for us, Brussels via Brussels or Lufthansa via Frankfurt. Not only is Frankfurt more out of the way than Brussels, but Brussels Airlines business class has a much better reputation. I can confidently say we made the right choice.

It took us about 7 minutes to walk from the Park Hyatt to the RoissyBus in the Opera area of Paris, where we had just missed a bus. But the buses run every fifteen minutes, so itwasn’t a big deal. I’ve taken the bus before and it is really easy from that part of town. <http://www.youwentwhere.com/?p=1034> It was a 10,50 euros (tickets on machine or on bus) 35 minute ride, as we were going on a Sunday morning and went to the first stop, Terminal 1.

Terminal 1 at Charles DeGaulle is right out of the Jetsons, a large round building, disconnected from the rest of the airport,with many levels and tubes of stairs and walkways. It is also a giant pain in the butt, which I’d experienced when I flew out of T1 on Lufthansa last year.  Brussels Airlines check-in is downstairs, near baggage claim. There was no wait, but it was the only time on the whole trip where carry-ons were weighed and tagged. We then headed back to the entry level, and then through a long series of tubes leading to the gates. Each “pier” (more like a spoke) at T1 has 4-6 gates, and its own security (and lounges). Our pier only handled Schengen area flights, so there was no immigration. Even though we were flying Business Class, we weren’t given “Priority No. 1” passes at check-in, so couldn’t use the priority lane, but the wait was only about 3-4 minutes and we had time.IMG_0992 IMG_0991

The pier was pretty crowded, as it is shared by five Star Alliance carriers – including SAS, LOT, Aegean, and Swiss – making for a motley crew of passengers. The one lounge is operated by SAS, and it really wasn’t anything special, though Ikea-like. It was clean, with an adequate continental cold breakfast spread and some snacks. The free wifi worked alright. The wall of windows, though, made the lounge unbearably hot. There also wasn’t a bathroom in the lounge, so we didn’t end up staying too long.

SAS Lounge at CDG

SAS Lounge at CDG

IMG_0998 IMG_0999 IMG_1000

Our flight to Brussels boarded about fifteen minut...

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Hotel Review: Feeling Welcome at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

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I am not a huge Hyatt customer, simply because there aren’t a lot of Hyatts where I want to go, and most Hyatt Regencies/Grand Hyatts remind me of conferences. But some of my favorite hotel stays over the past few years have been at Hyatt properties in Argentina, New Mexico, and Vietnam — particularly Park Hyatts. And one of the best ongoing credit card sign up offers is for the Chase Hyatt Visa. Back when I got the card, after making a single purchase with the card, which comes with a $75 annual fee, you got two free nights at any Hyatt property in the world. I used mine at the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhao in Buenos Aires in 2012, and was astounded by the level of luxury. I’ve kept the card, paying the $75 annual fee, as I’ve found a use for the annual category 1-4 certificate each year that far exceeds that cost.

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome

When we decided we were going to Paris, I knew I wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome. I’d heard outrageous things, it had a great location, and I wanted to end our 2-week trip somewhere special – not a cramped “okay, for Paris” hotel. Rates, though, were not in our budget – making the hotels in the Seychelles look cheap. The advanced purchase rate was 688.50 Euros per night, so I knew that this would be a great use of Hyatt free night certificates. For comparison’s sake, for Argentina, my two nights were worth a measly $1282.60.  So I was able to persuade my boyfriend to sign up for the card, which now has a $1,000 spending requirement before you get the free nights. It all worked out, the nights were deposited in his account, I called, and we got our reservation without a problem.

Que rico

Que rico

Fast forward a little over a month, and we had our stay.  The synopsis is that the room itself wasn’t particularly special, though good-sized and had a great bathroom. But what was amazing was the level of service that the hotel provided, making us feel like welcome guests from the moment we walked in the door til the time we checked out. It’s amazing how few properties even attempt to do that, but the staff at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome tried, and succeeded.

Due to some transportation snafus, my boyfriend and ...

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Hotel Review: Radisson Blu Le Dokhan’s Trocadero, Paris

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We had a total of five nights in Paris. We could have done an Airbnb or apartment rental, but instead we split the stay into two different hotels – mindful of my boyfriend’s no-fun rule that he will not change hotels if it means less than two nights at a given property.

Paris is a pricey hotel city, so it’s a great place to make use of points and what not. But for the most part, you have to keep everything in perspective, as even some of the fanciest, most expensive hotels lack the amenities you’d see in comparable properties in New York, Tokyo, London, or even a place like Warsaw.

For our five nights, we ended up splitting the stay into 3 and 2. I have had a certificate from Club Carlson for almost a year and a half, good for one night at any property. I almost used it a few times, but always found great other deals, so this ended up being the time to use it.  We figured we’d use that for one night at one of the three Radissons in town, and then do two more nights using Club Carlson points- noting that, as a Club Carlson Visa cardholder, I would only be charged points for one of those nights. For the last two nights, I had convinced my credit-wary boyfriend to get the Hyatt Visa, with its generous bonus of two free nights at any property with a $1,000 spend, which we used at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome.

Picking a Radisson wasn’t so easy. The best Radisson in Paris, the Radisson Blu Ambassador, left the chain last year, and became a Marriott. That left three properties in the center city, and one, the Radisson Blu Boulogne, on the outer fringe. Of the three in the city, we quickly eliminated the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees, as my boyfriend said it wasn’t a particularly nice or convenient neighborhood, and the folks on Flyertalk seemed to agree it wasn’t a particularly special hotel. That left the Radisson Blu le Dokhan’s Trocadero, and the Radisson Blu le Metropolitan, which are owned and managed by the same company, and are about two blocks away from each other in the 16th arrondissement, which I have come to refer to as the Upper East Side of Paris. The reviews said there wasn’t much difference between the hotels in terms of room size or amenities, though le Metropolitan has a small indoor pool. Le Metropolitan has a more modern design, and le Dokhan’s has a more classic French theme. My boyfriend prefers the classic French, so we went with that. Of note, as of May 1, all three of these properties jumped up to a new top tier redemption rate of 70,000 Club Carlson points – up from 50,000 when we booked and stayed. It’s also been speculated that these properties will become part of Club Carlson’s new luxury “Quorvus Collection” brand, but so far, they have not been part of the initial three properties announced.

Radisson Blu le Dokhan's Trocadero

Radisson Blu le Dokhan’s Trocadero

Le Dokhan’s was very easy to get to by public transport, even with luggage, and is a few blocks from the Boissiere metro, and a short walk to the Trocadero metro. Approaching from the outside, the hotel really looks lovely – well maintained, landscaped, and lit, on the corner of two smaller streets. On the inside, the lobby area is charming as well, though not really conducive to seating, and really just feels like a small Parisian hotel. One reason I had given into the older-style Le Dokhan’s was that Flyertalkers had reported that Club Carlson Gold Elite members frequently were upgraded to “Business Class” rooms, or were given complimentary breakfast. Consistent with my experiences with Radissons in Europe, alas, neither were offered, and I even asked about breakfast.

Le Dokhan's Lobby

Le Dokhan’s Lobby

Everyone talks about the elevator at this hotel, as the walls are an old Louis Vuitton trunk cu...

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Trip Report: Of French Public Transportation, and Flying Air France from Montpellier to Paris-Orly

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Air France Flt 7551  Montpellier MPL to Paris-Orly ORY
A321, Economy
Dep. 5:20pm Arr. 6:40pm

From Montpellier, we planned to fly back up to Paris, as the train would be quite long, and quite expensive. We were able to get tickets on Air France for about $65 each, which was pretty reasonable.

MPL Airport

MPL Airport

The Montpellier airport is a bit out of town, but only about 5 miles.  Though the hotel offered a 25 Euro black car service to the airport, we decided to be thrifty and take public transport, since it seemed easy and we had plenty of time on a weekday afternoon. The first part of the trip — a 3 stop, 7 minute journey on the tram for 1,40 EUR — was easy. Once we got to the transfer point of the Place de l’Europe, though, we discovered that we had just missed a “Navette” (or shuttle) bus to the airport, and the next one wouldn’t be for 55 minutes. We would still have been fine for our flight, but there wasn’t any cafe or anything nearby, and sitting outside with our luggage for an hour wasn’t appealing. There weren’t any taxi stands in sight, though, so no readily apparent alternative existed.

A Spanish tourist then came by and asked ...

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Exploring Montpellier and the Crowne Plaza Montpellier

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Our last stop before returning to Paris was one night in Montpellier, in the South of France. Our train from Lyon arrived at the main train station in Montpellier. We had actually passed our hotel on the train into the City, but it seemed a bit too far to walk with luggage. It took us awhile to find the tram stop – in fact, longer than the tram itself would take. We found it though, and bought day passes for the clean and modern tram system for about 5 Euros. It was a two stop ride through the center of town – the Place Comedie – to the Corum, a mammoth convention/entertainment center just outside downtown. From there, we walked across the street and up a steep hill to the Crowne Plaza. (We later realized there is a way to go via elevator.  The hotel should probably add that to its website.)

The hard-to-find tram stop

The hard-to-find tram stop

Montpellier doesn’t have a ton of hotels. Most of the chain properties are affiliated with Accor, but there’s also a Crowne Plaza and a Courtyard by Marriott. They had similar reviews, and similar prices, but we decided to go with the Crowne Plaza based on the potential upgrade due to my IHG Club Platinum status. The hotel itself is very new and modern, and represents the new Crowne Plaza branding, which is trying to firm up its role as more luxurious and hip than Holiday Inns, but short of the luxury of Intercontinentals. It was actually the newest hotel we stayed in on our entire trip and it showed.

Crowne Plaza Montpellier

Crowne Plaza Montpellier

Lobby, Crowne Plaza Montpellier

Lobby, Crow...

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Trip Report: Exploring and Eating Through Lyon

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Where were we? Ah, yes, Lyon.IMG_0682

We spent two nights and nearly three days in Lyon, and it turned out to be one of my favorite cities in Europe. Lyon is the third-largest city in France, with a metro area population of over 2 million, but is often overlooked by tourists in favor of Paris, the Mediterranean, and Bordeaux, or used only as a transit point traveling into the Alps. But with a rich history, a lovely location straddling the Rhone River halfway between Paris and Marseilles, and a short train trip from either, it’s a great city to add to a French vacation. With rail connections and flight connections throughout Europe and North Africa, it’s also a good weekend destination in and of itself.

There are a number of different areas of the city each with their own character...

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Hotel Review: Hilton Lyon in Cite Internationale

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Lyon is France’s third largest city and thus, unsurprisingly, has no shortage of hotels. In the main tourist areas (Vieux Lyon and Presqu’île) and the downtown area, most of the hotels are either independent or part of the Accor chain (Sofitel, Novotel, Ibis, etc.), along with a few Best Westerns. In the Cite Intenationale area north of downtown, though, there is both a Hilton and a Crowne Plaza. I couldn’t find any reviews of the Crowne Plaza, and then discovered it was because it wasn’t scheduled to become a Crowne Plaza until the day of our arrival. Although it had good rates, I was wary about trying a property on its first day as a new brand, so we went with the Hilton, which also had good reviews, and had a “2-Nt Length of Stay” promotional rate of about 110 Euros a night.

Cite Internationale is a weird place, developed in the 1990s, and nestled between the Rhone River and Lyon’s main park, the Parc de la Tete d’Or. The majority of the complex appears as rows of homogenous orange siding, containing a huge housing complex, a convention center, an office park, a theater, and several hotels. There is an interior pedestrian walkway spanning the length of the complex, which contains a lot of restaurants, shops, and a movie theater. The Museum of Contemporary Art is also in the complex, though in a separate, older building.

Cite Internationale, Lyon

Cite Internationale, Lyon

It was an easy ride to Cite Internat...

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