My previous report ended behind this magma of passengers queuing at security check entering the Schengen Area (there had been none on the way in, leaving the Schengen Area). We had been seated in the rear of the A330 which had probably arrived behind other long haul flights, and it did not bode well at all for our connection.
That is where an airport staff told this to the passengers at the end of the waiting line, including us: Go left towards the exit, there is another security check over there where there is nobody!
There was a longish walk
… alongside birds that I could not refrain from taking in picture, at the cost of running afterwards to catch up with my wife (she has given up any hope of stopping my plane spotting even when we have NO time to waste) : an A350
… and an A319
… and then we reached a security check opposite a corridor towards the luggage delivery, where there was indeed no waiting, and then on the same passport control automatic gates as on the way in, where there was no waiting and where my wife had no problem this time.
HEL has a one piece terminal, or rather two terminals connected by a corridor which seemed much longer than on this drawing in the Finnair in-flight magazine.
The wings of the terminal are lined with duty-free shops, but the corridors were not crowded.
Arrival in the vicinity of Gate 14 : there were actually a little more than zero minutes walking time to reach it but we had reached it. There was no passenger around anymore; it was STD-14’ and I apologize to the staff at the gate for reaching it so late. He did not show any impatience at all: You are coming from Osaka? No problem, we had been informed.
The windowless jetbridge was of course empty
This was bad news for Miss PAX20C who thought that she would have a triple seat for her alone and occupied the remaining empty seats with her hand luggage and her coat which she put there on her seat later before going to the toilets. (I had not paid extra to select seats. Good news when checking in in KIX : I had a window seat not overwing, which was bad news for my wife who did not have an aisle seat.)
Of course, Ms. PAC20C did not object the least to give us back our seats, all the more that like on the way in, there was space left in the overhead bins: it was likely that there were many passengers connecting like us from a long haul flight and therefore did not need to maximize their hand luggage.
Not only there was much more space for the hand luggage than on an AF flight to ARN, but there is much more space for their owners : the seat pitch was much more generous, with 5cm extra which are probably welcome for tall passengers, especially if the space under the seats is not entirely occupied by a hand luggage.
An A32x is an A32x in any airline: there is no seat width surprise.
And then nothing happened, next to this E-190. It was 4 pm, local time, i.e. 3 pm, Stockholm time and it was of course already night, especially since we were further east.
The safety card, both sides
Nothing happened until these passengers arrived at STD-2’
… and then again nothing happened until the arrival at STD+5’ of these very last passengers from KIX like us, but they had been stuck in the security check closest to the arrival gate, taking a 24’ penalty there. On top of this secret bypass, I remembered that if a long haul Finnair flight is late, Finnair waits for the connecting passengers as needed.
All passengers were now on board : the plane pushed back 15’ late, but we could assume that this was included in the schedule regulation margins.
Passengers of Norwegian Air Shuttle 738s deplane from both ends in HEL like in ARN. The distinct shape of HEL’s control tower.
Crossing Runway 4R/22L
Crew, be ready for take-off
Take off Runway 33; it was already too late to see any detail of the airport.
The boundary of the airport
Probably Expressway E12
Expressway E18 on the north shore of Lake Pitkäjärvi. In the foreground, Bodom Faram (Bodomin kartano, in Finnish), an 18th manor which is now the club house of a golf course.
Espoo, the second most populated city in Finland, located between Expressway E18 and the coast.
The interchange between Expressway E18, Route 20 and Route 1, in Espoo, in the center of this picture.
If we had taken off on time and if there hadn’t been clouds, we might have seen the sun rise again from the horizon before setting for good later, like once saw it e long time ago on a GVA-CDG flight, but it was much too late this time.
The Finnair A32x have collective IFE screens displaying a moving map in flight.
There was an announcement over the PA which was so unintelligible that I did not determine if it was related to duty-free sales, BOB or free drinks. I knew before buying my tickets that Finnair offers drinks only on its European flights: anything more is for a charge if you are hungry, but we could wait until we reached our home.
Night descent to CDG
Good news : we would be landing Runway 27R, which provided a view on Paris and the Eiffel Tower
The projector (actually four rotating projectors, each rotating sequentially 90 degrees) at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
My camera was not sensitive enough to provide a good picture of CDG2.
Last glimpse of the Eiffel Tower on the horizon, just before touchdown
Terminal 1, with a twinkling lighting
… and then with a fixed lighting pattern
Too bad to see this ANA 787-9 in Star Wars livery with so little light.
Air China 777 in Star Alliance livery
A Norwegian aircraft, but I do not venture guessing the type
The tracks and Terminal 1 end station of the CDG-VAL people mover connecting both terminals (and a long parking lot too)
Last glimpse of the ANA787-9
A much less prestigious Aigle Azur A320
Remote parking lot for LCC planes
A French Air Force A340
Arrival in front of Terminal 2D, which seemed to be reserved to Easyjet at night.
The fuel truck arrived promptly to refuel the aircraft
It was no chance if I wrote "in front of Terminal 2D”, because on these four segments with Finnair, we had only one gate arrival, in KIX.
This provided me an opportunity to take a picture of the A319 without being noticed by the notoriously photo-unfriendly ground staff who was made less watchful by the cold and the darkness.
The passengers of the return flight to HEL were waiting for their turn to board.
Good news for PRMs : there was a lift to reach the main level
Bad news for the PRMs : the lift was out of order.
A last glimpse of the plane : I did not manage to get a better view than this.
The first pieces of luggage appeared 25 minutes only after the complete stop of the plane away from the terminal.
Good news for the passengers reaching CDG by plane : there was no waiting line for buying a RER train ticket like when we departed ourselves. Bad news for passengers reaching CDG with an RER train : this escalator is stopped.
Good news : we narrowly caught a semi-direct RER train to Paris
Bad news : this RER train is equipped with refrigerated ventilation
… i.e. a sliding window which refused to remain shut and refrigerated the train efficiently.
Good news : on a Sunday evening, the Chatelet les Halles station (a major transportation hub in the center of Paris) is not crowded. Bad news : this escalator is stopped.
It felt good to find again our home values : Paris vous aime (=Paris loves you), but the escalator maintenance teams didn’t love passengers on a week-end.
As a conclusion, I now propose you a small bonus on the traditional chalets in the Japanese mountains.
Thirty years ago, the guests at Takayama 高山 Youth Hostel expressed respect for the challenge of reaching Shirakawa-gō 白川郷 by bicycle during the so-called “Golden Week” (the week around May 1st which is peppered with legal holidays in Japan),
… because climbing Amō Pass 天生峠 at that season was not for the faint of heart at that season. On the other hand, there was not much traffic on the road and the reward was well worth the effort. Because on the other side of the pass, it was possible to stay in this youth hostel which was then in this beautiful thatched roof old house in Shirakawa-gō 白川郷,
… and be invited for tea by this charming Japanese woman wearing a Lufthansa apron.
The curse of the listing of these mountain villages in the prestigious Unesco World Heritage List by Unesco has hit Shirakawa-gō and the commissioning of the Tōkai-Hokuriku Expressway has opened this formerly remote area to mass tourism.
You know need to go further, to lesser known, less accessible places and Miyama 美山 ("Beautiful Mountain", literally), some two hours on a very winding road Kyōto, has kept the charm of yore.
Miyama is lovely in autumn, but it is something else in winter because this valley is part of 裏日本 Ura Nihon : “Japan’s hidden side”, on the Sea of Japan side, exposed to the Siberian winds which pour snow because of the barrier of Japan’s mountains. Snowing is a serious matter there: the reason this road signs are so tall is that they must remain visible in winter despite the depth of the snow.
The local population now lives off tourism, but they never miss an opportunity to remind visitors that they are still living in these thatched roof chalets, unlike the owners of the souvenir shops of Shirakawa-gō.
These traditional chalets are called gasshō-zukuri 合掌造り in Japan, which means "built like praying hands”.
There too, late November was the fall colors season.
A thatched roof must be replaced entirely every 30 to 40 years, but maintenance is needed each year, sometimes twice a year.
After having visited the village, there was nothing like having lunch in a local inn. There was an entire family multi-generational family there.
A sample of our meal
Also soba, similar to the ones served by Finnair on its Japanese flights, but not the in the same setting.
When most customers had left, this staff revived the fireplace to cook skewers
Quite frankly, the chimney was not drawing well at all.
But how can you beat the charm of these establishments where time seems to have stopped decades ago ?
Thanks for reading me !
Helsinki - HEL
Paris - CDG
My evaluation of this flight is valid only if it is connecting with a long haul flight, because this flight alone provides hardly more than on a LCC: BOB and no checked luggage included in the entry-level fare. The small bonuses are the moving map of the collective screens, a very decent seat pitch and, last not least, the smiling efficiency of the FAs which seems to be part of the airline’s culture, on both long haul and European flights.
Both my wife and I were satisfied by the quality-price ration of Finnair to go to Japan from Western Europe at minimum price.
HEL failed surprisingly at the security check, where only the insiders and the luckier passengers could avoid the mess by using a fallback direction initially sign posted as leading to the exit. Note though that Finnair does wait for short-connecting passengers.
Free exit and quick delivery of the luggage in CDG ; the inadequacy of the maintenance of the rail infrastructures was a harsh reminder that we were back home after a vacation in Japan where everything works, period.
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