Paris 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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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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YWW Does East Asia: The Hilton CDG Airport Review and Lufthansa Business CDG-MUC Trip Report

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Note: Hidden in this post is a stupid mistake I made, but realized before any significant consequence.   If you spot it before I reveal it, you get a gold star!

Lufthansa Flt. 2229, Paris CDG to Munich, 1h 30 min, A320, Business Class

The Hilton CDG is on the airport property, but given the size of CDG, that’s not saying much.  It wasn’t too bad, though, as I took the CDGVAL airport shuttle train two stops to the Terminal 3/Train Station exit, and the Hilton was a few minutes walk from the station.  The property is modern and a fairly typical airport hotel.  As I arrived, a Qatar Airways flight crew was checking in, so I waited patiently.  Then two French people walked up and literally stood about 3 feet in front of me, as if I were a hologram.  My face must have shown my repulsion/shock/anger and the clerk called me over, and said, “Sir, it’s okay.”

Hilton

Hilton

I had booked the Hilton because of a competitive rate, about half that of the CDG Sheraton, its location, and my Hilton HHonors Gold status – though before the recent massive devaluation of Hilton HHonors points.  Hilton treats its mid-level elites very well, though, with upgrades, free internet, and free breakfast, which all came through on this stay.  I was pre-assigned to the Executive Floor, the highest in the hotel, and given access to the Executive Lounge.  The room was fine, with cool views of the runway, but nothing remarkable.  I decided I’d head to the gym first as I was fighting to stay awake to get my body closer to New York time.  I was exhausted though, and lasted only about 25 minutes.  The gym was also adequate, and there was a small indoor swimming pool which French teenagers were enjoying.  I then headed up to the Lounge, only to find it’s hot hors d’ouvres service had ended, and though the lounge was open for 2.5 more hours, there was no food available at all except a fruit bowl.  (The sign suggested there was “salty mix and beverages” til 11pm, but alas, no salty mix.)  The lounge was nothing special, so I had a diet coke (no booze available) and an apple and then headed back to my room.

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Trip Report: Paris to JFK on Air France: Losing my A380 Virginity

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The Airbus 380

The Airbus 380

My trip out of Paris on an Airbus 380 was an interesting one.  I woke up at the Intercontinental early, planning to get in a morning of sightseeing before heading to the airport on the RoissyBus at around 11am.  Upon waking, though, I discovered emails from both Air France and Delta informing me that my flight had been “rescheduled” 90 minutes later.  I assume it had left New York late the night before, but I was pleased to have such advance notice, and also didn’t mind an extra 90 minutes in Paris.  When I first booked this trip, I was scheduled to have only a 22-hour layover, which now turned into 26 hours.

I headed to the RoissyBus around noon for the 45 minute trip to the Airport.  To give you an idea of just how large DeGaulle is, the estimated arrival time at Terminal 3 was a full 20 minutes after the arrival time at Terminal 1.  DeGaulle is really a series of airports, not connected architecturally or physically.  Terminal 2 is itself about 7 different terminals 2A through 2G.   I’ve actually only flown out of 2E, which is home to most SkyTeam longhaul flights.

I had checked in from my netbook at the hotel, but needed to print a boarding pass.  When I got to the Kiosk, though, I received an error message.  So I headed to the nearest SkyPriority lane, where I decided I might as well check my luggage if I had to wait.  Then it was through immigration, then to a monorail to the L gates, and then through security.  None of the waits were long, but it was exhausting.  After clearing security, I headed upstairs to the large Air France Salon lounge.

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Trip Report: 24 Hours in Paris and the Intercontinental Le Grand Paris Review

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The Seine

The Seine

When I initially booked my stay in Paris, I was going to stay at one of the Radissons, using a free night certificate.  I was able to get a free night at the Intercontinental Le Grand, though, one of two Intercontinental hotels in Paris, on a successful best rate guarantee claim, so I figured I’d use the Radisson night somewhere else.

The best thing about the Le Grand, by far, was its location.  The Roissybus from DeGaulle stops literally a half-block away.  The metro is right there as well, but I didn’t use it all my entire brief stay.  The weather was mild, and I found myself walking about the City in different directions.

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