This is the story of an ordinary (from a Paris dweller's point of view) week-end trip on the French Riviera, flying AF rather than EZY for pure cost reason (the latter being even more expensive than the former, even months ahead of time), reaching the airport by bus.
What will hopefully save this tremendously bland routing from your closing the window is that the both tourist bonuses are unusual. But there is a price for that : be prepared for around a hundred pictures and captions.
This was supposed to be a major vacation departure day, but there was hardly a soul in the streets of Paris before 7am, and I did not wait for long before a bus came up at the bus stop near my home. On the other hand, all city bus stops are marked on the area maps at Denfert Rochereau (a major subway and bus hub in Paris), but not that of the Orlybus shuttle to ORY, and it is nowhere near where it appeared to be according to the website of RATP, the Paris mass transit authority.
I was fortunate to see by chance this bus in front of the RER train station; the picture is slightly blurry because I knew that a bus idling at a bus stop is likely to leave within one minute, which it did, just after I had boarded it.
The recent decoration of the outside of the South terminal of ORY
… but this time, I was flying out of the West terminal
This Welcome to Paris message is slightly out of place at the Departures level. Especially since we are not in Paris, strictly speaking.
I was well in advance, partly because I had hardly waited for the two buses, even though they have a quarter of an hour interval in the early morning.
A shop which has been used as a meeting point by Flight Reporters.
The self serve BP printing machines, but I had printed mine in the office the day before.
The toilets landside are not luxurious, but they are clean and functional. They are all the cleaner on the female side that they are being cleaned and there is a line of women waiting the men's room. Women usually object to using the same facilities as the men, but not when that requires walking to the next one (I took the picture after they had left).
Le Figaro, a major daily newspaper, announced that AdP (the Paris Airports operating company) would take three years to eventually allow men to change babies' nappies. They did not start here.
Plane spotting from ORY's West terminal is not very rewarding activity, since there is domestic traffic only. This is a sample:
Air Corsica A320
What is more, Orly-West is not very planespotter-friendly, so you have to adapt. The windows which separated me from that Hop! CRK are far away and dark…
… but some creativity can be reached with a careful selection of the viewing angle. No, I did not photoshop this picture:
… I shot through the narrow horizontal slit between tinted window frames, seen below.
Cityjet Fokker 50, shot the same way
This AF A321 AF is too close to the terminal for the same trick, which only allows highlighting the logo
Air Corsica stabilizers, with an AF stabilizer in an artificial shade
ORY landside is not a hopeless place for families: there is a children's corner
The self checking machines for printing BPs and checked luggage tags
And the bar code operated automatic gates for reaching the security check area
The waiting time was very reasonable, especially this being the beginning of a summer week-end
The security check area, from airside. The airside area is aesthetically not very pleasant, compared to any modern airport (the West Terminal opened in 1971), but there are enough seats for all.
You can recharge your cell phone, but not your laptop: I did not see a single AC power plug..
It took me some time to have access to the internet. No, the AF lounge's network would not do.
But I had to be patient for free wifi access (which is a novelty, from July 1st in both Paris airports). Can you identify the city from this portion of my screen backdrop image? I provide the solution later in this report; it is easier if you know me :)
This dummy address was apparently identified as such…
.. because only when I provided a real one did I eventually reach the FR home page, reaching me with a sluggish throughput.
It may seem contradictory to show the direction of wheelchair accessible toilets through stairs, but the sign is actually posted on the frame of an elevator.
Yes, there is ONE baby change area accessible to all, male and female, which means accessible to all families on Saturday morning in July, and this young couple eventually gave up after waiting.
For adults, these facilities are adequately sized. For younger children old enough to travel UM, the sinks are too high.
Some additional plane spotting: there is of course no dearth of AF A32x
… and Transavia
For once, there is no rush of passengers at the gate minutes before boarding starts (on time).
An Airlinair plane in its original livery (this AF subsidiary was rebranded Hop! In 2013, together with Britair and Régional)
This ATR72 reminded me of another one, shot here landing in TSA, that we shall never see again.
There were only two young French medical students on board B-22810 operating flight GE222 which crashed in Penghu due to foul weather, and they did not carry much mediatic weight compared to the 54 French casualties on board Flight AH5017 which crashed also due to foul weather a few day later.
That night of July 23rd must have been nevertheless a long one for the families in Kaoshiung, from where the Taiwanese ATR72 had taken off or in Taipei.
Taipei, from the Elephant Mountain trail: this was the solution of my riddle for those who had not identified the tip of the Shinkong Tower in the corner of my laptop screen. I owe this picture to a Taiwanese friend, thanks Suchuan !
After this short sentimental digression, let's go back to the boarding of the plane, after going past a newspaper stand. Neswpaper without an s, because there is a single copy of a single newspaper (La Croix, an overtly Roman Catholic daily).
This single copy of an otherwise honorable newspaper is apparently what AF calls its selection of French and international newspapers. I wonder what they found to the other titles which did not make the cut.
The razor fin seats of AF's domestic A32x are well known to all; I find them OK for a flight lasting an hour or two (including delays).
The seat pitch is compatible with a marathon runner's legs.
Some additional plane spotting, despite adverse lighting, with a Hop! CRJ-700
A line of Vueling A32x stabilizers, with some intruders with lower ceilings and rectangular windows.
The stabilizer of an Air Carïbes plane, and of F-HMLL, a Hop! CRK
A departing Hop! ATR42
And a Hop! CRK
I always have the impression that Candair made savings on the CRJ's front landing gear, so that they are not level when they are on the ground.
I have time for this additional plane spotting, because the pushback is delayed twenty minutes because of three no-show, including two who have checked luggage which have to be found and unloaded from a full A319.
The captain explains that, adding a sanctimoniously stern speech on the negligence of passengers which forget about the boarding time and create a nuisance to all the other passengers, ending more or less by remember that next time you fly. Like if all passengers regularly misbehave like this: I have the very unpleasant feeling of being scolded for an imaginary fault even though I never did that. Sure, I sometimes boarded at the last minute, but without any checked luggage. The crew evaluation starts with a demerit.
Take off, with a view of a neighborhood of Villeneuve le Roi, whose inhabitants are either uncurable plane spotters, or could not afford to live anywhere else. Or maybe they have a severe hearing problem.
This circular structure is a park with various recreation facilities.
Villeneuve St Georges's marshalling yard, the largest south of Paris
Distribution of pastries
An 8 cm long chocolate bread, and a cup of instant but strong coffee, in a cup adorned with AF's 80th anniversary logo.
Just in case you do not know what a domestic AF A319 cabin looks like
Mont Ventoux , an isolated 1,911 m high mountain, famous among cyclist for its challenging climb
The Durance river
The valley of the Asse, a tributary of the Durance
A big blue bunny (Lake Ste Croix)
Canjuers base, the largest military ground in Western Europe
Again the Canjuers facilities, next to the D955 public road which crosses through the camp
I am not quite sure, but this heart shaped facility looks to me like a solar power plant. Or maybe greenhouses?
Another similar facility
The French Riviera is in view; a left turn to fly alongside the coast.
The end of St Raphaël, on the left
The bay of Agay
General view of St Raphaël and the bay of Agay
Cannes Mandelieu Airport
St Honorat and Ste Marguerite islands, off Cannes
Lérins abbey, on St Honorat island
Antibes and the Cape of Antibes
A close up on Fort Vauban
Marina Baie des Anges, a much decried luxury residential project built from 1968
Touchdown at 10:31, before making way for a private jet and a Tunisair 737
There are always an incredible number of private jets in NCE, small ones and large ones, but far right, the yellow stabilizer belongs to Britain's Monarch Airlines, owned by a travel agency.
A line of private jets, against the sun
And a quick arrival at Terminal 2
Two Easyjet A320 on each side
And an AF A319
This welcome sign, together with a comment on the French version of this FR, made me aware of the rise of Chinese visitors in Nice, the only ones together with the Singaporean who use simplified ideograms (??? : welcome to you !)
A quick walk to the car rental counters, under the parking lots…
… and there do I discover the disaster. In front of the Avis / Budget, there is an incredibly long line of resigned passengers, which is all the slower that it is made up on men only, whose spouses and children patiently wait seated: this means that there will be one transaction per person in the line before me.
Not only is it the last Saturday in July, at the height of the peak season, but their computer system failed, and they have to fill in the forms by hand. It takes me exactly one hour to reach the counter. The only good news was that I am upgraded two notches up, from a sluggish Fiat 500 to a powerful Clio 4 dCi. That is good news, because the engine is going to handle a commendable cumulated altitude gain. The engine of the driver too, but that will be part of the tourist bonus of the return flight (teasing…).
For this flight, my tourist bonus is on Paris, since this is the origin of this flight. Two weeks before, the Royal Street, a few steps from the Champs Elysées, was unusually empty, which gave a perfect view of the obelisk of the Concorde, the Parliament, and the dome of the Invalids further to the right.
That day, I had been invited by an indirect acquaintance, and he had spared no expense, paid actually by me, as a taxpayer…
… and I was not the only one invited by the French President, which meant that he was not expecting that much honor from me.
Many French people have never heard of the expression Bastille Day, but all know that July 14th is the national day, a banking holiday, and features a military parade on the Champs Elysées, that the Parisians claim to be the most beautiful avenue in the world (I have reservations about that). This is an opportunity to see our elite troops equipped with the latest French weapon technology …
… well no, they were taking this opportunity to remind all that WWI had started one hundred years ago (for those who had not read or watched a French media in the past six months). In order to celebrate the fact that we have a last decided to put an end to wars in Europe, the French military had launched invitations to armed forces from dozens of countries around the world, for three representatives each. There were guests from Mainland China, but not from Taiwan: would you wonder why?
A uniform is meant to give a uniform appearance to a group of persons. But when each one wears a different uniform, the result is more a patchwork of colors.
OK now, this is Flight Report, and we should talk about aviation. To begin with, and since they do fly, these are Sperwer drones, powered by a two stroke engine, launched with a catapult and recovered with a parachute and airbags. It looks like a cheap makeshift third world toy, compared to jet powered stealth drones, but it fits the needs in third world deserts where there is no runway in sight and where the bad guys do not anything like a surface to air missile. It is also French technology, made by Sagem according to the logo at the base of the stabilizers.
They did not take the risk to fly them low above the crowd, but there were more conventional (and expensive) machines in the air. The reason I had chosen not to sit in the front rows was that I wanted an overhead view unobstructed by the trees. In the order of appearance, these are the Patrouille de France (the French military aerobatic team, flying Alpha jets):
A Mirage F1 B and four Mirage F1 CR, from Air Base 118 in Mont de Marsan
Three Rafale from the same air base
A KC-135 tanker, together with four Rafale fighters
Another KC-135 and two Rafale
An E-3F Awacs, followed by a Rafale and two Mirage 2000
Two Rafale Marine and two Super Etendard
An Atlantique 2 and a Falcon 50, used for sea patrolling
An A400M Atlas, the long awaited military transport plane built by Airbus.
And last a Casa CN235, whose numbers were increased to fill the gap caused by the delays of the A400M program.
The students of the major military and police schools open the parade, starting traditionally with Ecole Polytechnique. This two century old college is now France's most prestigious engineering university, and extremely few of their graduates serve in the military – you find them in all the major corporations' top managerial and executive.
I had no worry for them, and had rather a thought for the policeman below in the foreground. He had a chance to be at the Bastille Day military parade, and all he got to see was the public, for every other policeman faces the axis of the avenue (see the previous picture of the crowd)… and he did not get to be one of them. That is what I call tough luck !
Paris - ORY
Nice - NCE
The comfort of the seat was OK for a domestic flight. The FAs distributed the food and drinks with the expected efficiency and smiles, but the speech of the captain blaming implicitly the passengers for the delays of the flights in general was needlessly unpleasant. I would not like having him in my team. The chocolate bread and coffee were industrial grade, but met the minimal requirements for a morning flight, and that is more food than the cookies served the rest of the day. No IFE, and a single newspaper copy for all the passengers boarding behind me (roughly one third of the aircraft) is what I call no entertainment on board. I rate it 5 because you can do without it during a one hour flight. I hesitated about punctuality. The delay of the aircraft made waiting at the car rental agency even more tiring, but AF was not to blame for either. I give ORY an excellent accessibility rating because the bus trip was very fast. ADP had not responsibility for that: I was simply lucky with buses running every quarter of an hour, and the streets of Paris were empty. Wifi access is now free at last, but the throughput is sluggish. The NCE operating company had no responsibility of the computer problems of the car rental agency, but I did leave the airport one hour later than I expected after leaving the aircraft (I felt lucky not to take the wrong lanes leaving the airport: the signage does not address adequately the case of passengers having neither a standard destination nor a GPS navigator).
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