The good news about this FR are that: - it is shorter than the one of the way in (ORY-NCE with AF), - and the tourist bonus is unlike any other posted so far .
The bad news are that: - it is nevertheless long - it is yet another bland domestic flight, with fewer landscapes than on the way in - you have to read the bonus at the end to understand the allusions scattered here and there.
Now that you have been warned, the story begins in the parking lot for rental car return. Last time I had been to NCE, I had wasted fifteen stressing minutes finding the way to the airport from the toll way due to construction works, but coming from the road along the Var River was amazingly straightforward. I only needed to understand that you have to go around the terminal in order to reach the gas station to fill up the tank, to avoid having it done for a horrendous fee by the rental agency.
Returning the car was fast, and I did not take the direction of the terminals, but that of the toilets, for a makeshift wash due to the bonus.
Going that way, you reach the rentals' counters, where I had waited in line for an hour the day before. On Sunday afternoon, it was as empty as I wish I had seen it after landing.
The toilets meet the French cultural codes here: only women are allowed to change babies' nappies.
There is a reminder on the door to their room.
On the male side, there is neither pictogram nor baby care facility. I did not need them, because my activity that morning was for adults only. I had drunk a lot, but I was not drunk. On the other hand, I could not possibly enter a plane in my current attire, and a change of clothes after liberal use of soapy water was welcome.
Exiting the parking lot building
And a quick walk to Terminal 2, going up to the Departures level to have a better view.
There is an express haircut stand in the hall landside. Not only is it closed on Sundays, but what I really needed was a shampoo, not a haircut.
This time, I used the self checking machines in order to obtain my BP, which I had no chance to print, since I had not had access to the internet during the week-end, much less to a printer.
AF had forced me to buy a more expensive Classic ticket for the flight back (I bought it months in advance, but it was not early enough to get the cheaper Mini fare). I could choose my seat with that fare… only that I could do it only 30 hours before the flight. For a life and death issue, I could have found an access to the internet, but this was not one, and 2 hours before the flight, AF only offers me the choice between only three neighboring seats overwing in the whole A321. True enough, one of them is a window seat on the right side, the best one when flying out of NCE because it provides a view on the Alps.
Do you wish to print again your boarding passes?
What do you mean by that? To start with, AF should know that I am travelling alone and that I do not have a connecting flight, and then, what is this hint that I should have managed to find a printer during the week-end? How about letting me do it more than 30 hours before the flight? Are they preparing us for the day when they charge us for the BPs like Ryanair does?
Since I had a Mini fare (no seat selection, no checked luggage, no airmiles) on the way in, and since I was unlikely to bring back a trophy over 55 cm long from my adventures that morning (or any trophy at all, for that matter), I do not have any checked luggage. I am skeptical about the savings of personnel due to these self serve checked luggage counters: there are two counters in the background (with a staff to help passengers), and a showy arch in the foreground (hiding a staff filtering the passengers). Just as many staff as if they checked luggage the old way.
Going up to the security check, not using this escalator which is stopped, which mean ten steps up, far more than the four steps (also with an escalator) in Taipei.
As you all know, a standard stair step is 17 cm high (there are a few millimeters less there, because the steps would have been too high if there had been one fewer).
Apple products appear to be targeted in NCE, for the staff systematically ask if you have an Iphone or an Ipad. I answered no, since my smartphone is a Taiwanese clone, and left it in my bag without a problem. On the other hand, no matter the brand, all laptops must be taken out of their case. I wonder what is so suspicious with Apple wares.
NCE's Terminal 2 is honorably plane spotter friendly, but on a hot day in July on the Riviera, the air is hot, especially on a tarmac. Hot air results on creative special effects on pictures of things which are too far, like for instance a Cessna Citation Mustang 510, a mini-business jet in front of a larger Bombardier Challenger 300
The Bombardier Global Express is commonplace there: there are two together here (I feel sorry to have cut the right wing of the first one), with a TK, BA and Germanwings aircraft in the background.
This is another
Even larger: a private ERJ135
Better not try to take pictures of distant objects. If you stupidly let a SU aircraft in a special livery pass by the terminal while you type the FR of the incoming flight, it is too late to have a decent picture when it is further away.
The air was curiously smooth for this Swiss A320 landing on runway 22R
In the background, you can see a possibly British passenger, who found the one and only power plug accessible to passengers, and plugged his G type multiple socket plug. Bad luck for me, I of course do not have an adapter for that with me on a domestic flight.
You may consider that it is kind of too late to try and connect to the internet now that I have my BP, since I am airside. Furthermore, do not be fooled by the left part of that home page: no matter where you click in it, you cannot go any further.
But there is a free wifi coverage, reasonably accessible, which allows me to display the de rigueur corporate home page, with a targeted add for the Great Wall Marathon. It is a crazy race, for as you all know it, the steps of the Great Wall are much more than 17 cm high. Who would want to run in an area which isn't flat ? ;-)
How about the toilets? They are clean, and these have a mosaic inspired by Provence landscapes which I like.
There is nobody here until Gate 09 is displayed for my flight. Since most passengers appear to wait in the area closest to the security check's exit, the area around Gates 09-13 is particularly quiet. It may also have to do with the ten steps or so (each 17cm high) to go down to reach it, which appear to be a formidable obstacle to most travelers.
I would be more interested in the weather that I am going to have when leaving the aircraft at the destination. I do not need to choose now the clothes that I am going to wear tomorrow or the day after.
Bad news : the flight is delayed a quarter of an hour. It does seem like much…
… but gate D09 is next to the kids area, and they do not seem very tolerant to delays : some start crying and others are loud…
… and many of passengers crowd to start waiting in a line of a sort, when they could remain seated since the plane is late. Children and adults alike start making a lot of noise and that ends up being tiring.
Boarding while passing by the selection of newspapers, with three times as many titles, but they are no more international than on the way in.
Some additional plane spotting with a KL E190 on the right
And a Finnair A321 coming up from behind.
Another outlook of the jumble of various aircraft parked in the international section
For plan registration number geeks, I fly in F-GMZE this time:
This gizmo senses the lowering of the plane due to the weight of the boarding passengers, so that the jetbridge adjusts its own height accordingly.
A Fedex ATR42, from my seat
And an Easyjet A320
The safety instruction card, identical to hundreds of others already shown on this website.
And the seat pitch just as good in an A321 as in an A319
The captain apologized for the delay, day to various issues during the day upon which he did not elaborate. Maybe because he could not blame passengers, contrary to his colleague of the other flight?
Saab 340 (Sky Taxi), ready to align on the runway
The light is waning; this Easyjet A319 is the only aircraft which I managed to capture in flight.
Take off from runway 04R (note that the runway changed since the Swissair A320 landed); the plande made an initial turn to veer off the coast during its climb.
(Thanks to flightradar24.com)
This provides me a glimpse of NCE, despite adverse lighting conditions.
… and the silhouette of the coast beyond
… before heading north, and crossing the coastline
The plane goes quite a long way towards the east. Lit by the setting sun, this is the city of Menton in the center of this picture. It is the last French city on the Riviera before the Italian border.
The mountains on the French side
But we are high enough to see the Italian plain beyond the mountains.
I find it fascinating to be in France (in French airspace, actually), and see the city of Coni (Italy) beyond the Alps.
Talking about the Alps, this is Mont Blanc, the highest summit in Western Europe at 4,807 m, looming above the sea of clouds.
For once, I ask for orange juice rather than coffee, and an additional glass of water. The cookies donot weigh much, but I am not hungry.
A domestic AF 321 looks a lot like a domestic AF 319, only that it is longer.
After the great weather that I enjoyed in the backcountry of Nice, the descent towards Paris is not a touristic publicity for the capital.
Highway 406, Créteil's lake and a view of the Seine River. If you look hard enough, you can distinguish the Montparnasse Tower at the extreme left in the background.
Looking attentively, you can distinguish the Montparnasse Tower, the Eiffel Tower and La Défense business district. In the foreground, this is the marshaling yard of Villeneuve St Georges.
It is marginally easier to see once we have lost elevation, little time before touchdown.
There we are
The red and blue stabilizer of a Cubana de Aviacion IL96-300, between aircraft from Air Berlin and TUI, and from Corsair, respectively.
Not enough light, an aircraft which taxies on a bumpy taxiway: I could not do any better than this picture of military aircraft parked there. The French Air Force aerobatic team (the Patrouille de France) was that day in ORY for a book signing session, and each pilot apparently had apparently in his company vehicle, all neatly lined up. I assume that they planned to sell many books, if they used a Transall tactical cargo plane for them (the cargo capacity of an Alphajet is negligible).
This sample of flights at the far end of ORY's West Terminal are more commonplace : AF A321, Hop!CRJ, Vueling A320, and a TAP aircraft which is too far to be identified.
End of pushback of a Vueling A320
The way to the exit provides a panoramic view of a strangely empty Departures level: are there really no flights after 9pm?
I wanted to take an Air France bus to Paris, at this stop …
Cycling races create more nuisances road traffic than foot races, especially long after the last competitor crossed the finishing line and all awards were distributed.
The fallback is therefore the Orlybus shuttle like on the way in, eliminating the last hint of creativity in this week-end trip. The Paris transport authority did not envisage that travelers may want to connect to another bus inside Paris, and posted a subway map on both sides of this ticket vending machine. I did not find any bus map there, but I did not look for one elsewhere
Two days later, I received this e-mail from AF, which confirmed that my fidelity was rewarded and that I won even more Miles. In AF parlance, that means a 250 miles gain for that flight, which cost me 31 EUR compared to the Mini fare of the way in: I let you calculate the budget needed to accumulate the number of airmiles needed for your dream award ticket.
The end of this FR will barely reach FL90, with a dramatically low climb rate. You can be no-show on this tourist bonus, especially since this is the last segment of the trip.
The Renault Clio whoch took me so much time to obtain in NCE had no problems going through the River Tinée's gorges, thanks in part to its height, which was appropriately less than 3.7m.
St Etienne de Tinée, a two hour drive upstream due north from Nice is the last village in that valley, and this is what it looks like in the middle of the time when the weather is great. This is the end of the automotive bonus, and the beginning of the purpose of this week-end trip.
On July 27th, shortly before 7am, it looked like this, with a small crowd of people in flimsy clothing despite the still cool temperature in the equally small center of the village.
You guessed it: this was the starting line of a competition which was significantly different from my ordinary Sunday morning race in the surroundings of Paris (we had already covered several kilometers then, and gained 65 m in elevation).
Going where? We follow this sign, which inaccurately claims this road to be the highest in Europe. There are actually several higher roads in Europe, even counting only those which are paved and open to the general public, like for instance that of southern Spain's Sierra Nevada, which reaches 3,150m. Reaching 2,802m (9,192 ft) may not look like much by Rocky Mountains standards, but it is commendable on this side of the Atlantic.
It climbs for cyclist, and it climbs for foot runners too.
The sun appears
The slope is getting worse
Some Flight Reporters fly a certain Asian airline for the pleasure of seeing FAs who do not need to shed an ounce of weight, in ultra tight uniforms. And then, there are Flight Reporters who practice sport for the pleasure of seeing female competitors who do not need to shed an ounce of weight, in equally tight fitting clothes. In both cases, you get to travel, but in the latter you can really run after them.
(that belt holding a bottle of water must have been uncomfortable, by the way).
F***, there is still all that to climb! Straight ahead, this is the Bonette Pass, but the finishing line as at the Bonette Summit, some 100 m higher to the left. Good thing that they are generous with food and drink stations ! (they are usually spaced every 5 km for standard off stadium races, but here, they are closer apart towards the end).
I passed some runners who had been over-ambitious during the first kilometers and were walking.
I doubt the slope is only 5% here (OK, this is actually an average to the next kilometric marking)
Camp des Fourches, an abandoned military camp of the Alps military defense system, at the time when Italy was not considered as a friendly neighbor. The altitude is 2,290m, still a long way to the finishing line.
It feels good to look back and realize that you already climbed that much (and also to spot competitors who have no chance to catch up with you).
But when you look again to the road ahead…
F***, the last climb which scratches the Bonette summit diagonally is even steeper that in my remote cycling memories! The white vehicle on the right is the first bus bringing the first competitors back to the village – I knew for the start that I had no chance to board this one.
The cars parked on the side of the road before the pass give the look of Tour de France mountain day. 2,715 m high Bonette Pass is at the end of this straight line.
This is the final climb. The 8% grade posted here must be some practical joke. The top is at 2,802m, which means a 47 vertical climb in 380m, i.e. a 12.5% grade. I hear a runner claim that it was 15%. I am no longer able to do any mental calculation, but it feels like a 45% grade;)
The finishing line is a simple thing: a few barriers, a table and several chairs, in front of the monument marking the top of the road. I saw it at the last moment, behind a curve. I could have passed an exhausted competitor in the last hundred meters if I had seen it earlier. (This picture was taken afterwards, of course).
This is one of the most difficult to reach buffet of all parties that I participated to. The servers are St municipal staff of Etienne de Tinée. The background is reasonably dietetic stuff, but after the finishing line, you can also indulge in pastries and local pies in the foreground. Body dehydration, due to the effort combined with the sun and the wind, make you drink liters of any drink available (water, fruit juice, tea, coca cola), and the loss of minerals makes this thirst unquenchable.
This was the first aid tent for those who have barely made it to the top and need some assistance. On the right, a runner stretches against the pick-up truck which brought the runners' bags, so that you can put on some layers after the finishing line. The bright sun and near zero wind made that nearly useless, but it could have been otherwise.
There were many Red Cross volunteers at various locations on the road.
They did not spend their day there for nothing: this emergency truck passed us on the way down, with its sirens on.
What about the result ? A rule of thumb of road races is that a one hundred meter elevation gain is worth an extra kilometer. This 27 km + 1,660 m elevation gain race was therefore equivalent to a flat 43.6 km race, i.e. a reasonably flat marathon. The elevation gain must be worth less than that, though, because the winner made it in 2h05', which would have been a world class performance on your standard 42.195 km race. (I thank the readers who know me for not revealing my own performance, and therefore my name).
But no matter how much time you need to make it to the top, what a better a reward to have such a view at the finishing line! Wouldn't you join the race next year? :-)
Nice - NCE
Paris - ORY
It was an ordinary French domestic flight: the comfort of the seat is OK for a flight of that duration and the seat pitch adequate. The food and drink served are minimal, but the extra glass (of water) was welcome.
Entertainment falls in the category at best, you were lucky: no IFE, hardly any newspaper (the dailies are especially thin in the middle of summer), and I could have chosen a seat away from the wing only if I had had internet access within 30 hours of the flight.
The captain apologized after landing 25 minutes late in ORY: this was a lot for a passenger whose alarm clock had rung at 4am.
NCE was easy to reach this time, and security controls were efficient. I always take points off when power plugs are missing airside, even when I did not really need one. The self serve computers did not provide the promised internet access, but wifi access was free.
ORY still suffers from the lack of a real rail link to the city (there is a very expensive driverless train, connecting to the infamous RER-B suburban line), but traffic on the expressway was smooth, this being the middle of summer.
The toilets were clean in both NCE and ORY.
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