Melanie and I have returned from France. What a great trip! I learned much more about Melanie and her life. The trip highlight was having dinner the family she lived with for a year while studying in Aix en Provence.
The trip started off rough. The plane leaving JKF was packed and with 45+ stand-by passengers waiting, we were wondering on the way to the airport if we would make the flight. But this would be the less of our worries. We made the flight to from New York to Paris and that’s when fun really began. All flights from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport to Nice were full.
Melanie was confused by this knowing that this time of the year is an ideal time to travel stand-by to France. I noticed two people checking in heading to Nice with bicycles. We were sitting with one of Melanie’s co-worker’s boyfriend who mention that Nice was hosting a triathlon. We later learned how big this event is when Melanie was asked by another American if we were there to career Team USA. Turns out this event is part of the 2002 ITU World Cup Series. We were not going to Nice from Charles de Gaulle.
Based on a suggestion we decided to take a bus ride to the other side of Paris and try one of the Air France shuttle flights from Orly. We knew Melanie would have no problems flying out of Orly but we were not sure if I could on a companion pass. However, we had hope after learning that the French do not necessarily follow all the rules. And we learned this to be true.
We got to Orly in time to catch the next flight to Nice. Racing through the airport we make it to the gate. We got checked in. Yes! Air France honored my companion pass and put both of us on the stand-by list. Minutes later our names are called and we are going on the next flight to Nice. But Melanie’s boarding pass says she is sitting in JPS. In other words, the jump seat. The of course is not common. Nor was it common for the pilot to ask us if we were flying to together and if so to wait at the front of the plane.
We boarded the flight without a problem. Not knowing if we heard the pilot correctly, I kissed Melanie bye and headed for my seat in the back of the plane. Happy that we would be in Nice soon, I settled in for what would be the second worse flight in my life. I will spare you the details. Of course throughout the flight I was wondering how Melanie was doing. Little did I know she was having a unique experience of riding in the cockpit. Yes, that’s right. She was chillin’ in the cockpit.
I am having the second worse flight in my life and Melanie is living it up in the cockpit. This would not happen in the U.S. these days. Melanie was one of three riding in the cockpit. And the funny part was one person was just sitting on a box; no seat belt, just a box. I think next time I will wait at the front of the plane.
After the interesting flight experiences, we were finally able to begin enjoying our vacation. Nice is a beautiful city and the water is blue. We walked all over the center village, Old Town, and along the pebble beach shore. We climbed to the top of a hill where a park oversees both sides of Nice, Old Town and the harbor. And we enjoyed good food, which got better and better as the week went on. Believe it or not, the region is known for its pizza.
We ended our visit of Nice by watching the triathlon. This was cool to watch and was an added bonus even with the travel problems to Nice. After watching the cycling and running for a few hours, we boarded a train and headed to Aix en Provence via a very scenic route. The rock mountains were glorious and the coastal cities were beautiful.
Melanie lived in Aix en Provence for a year while studying French so I was very excited to see this cozy town rich with history. Melanie took me to school she attended and to various cafe she frequently visited. The family she lived with invited us over for dinner, which was an awesome experience for me. We walked all over town and we visited Cezanne’s studio. Of course we did more but as this posting is getting long…
We left Aix for a day to visit Arles. Another scenic train ride delivered us to this quaint French villa with ancient Roman ruins. We walked through a Roman colosseum that is still in use today for bull fights and saw an outdoor theater. We also saw the cafe painted by Van Gogh who lived in Arles for a year.
We return to Aix for a short visit and back to Nice for one last night. We boarded a direct flight from Nice to JFK. Eight hours later we were back in a very rainy New York City already missing the streets of south France.
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