Frantic Fred's Travel Tips: France

by Miles O'Neal, Jetlag, Ltd.

Leaving France

by air

It is suggested you arrive for international flights 1.5 or 2 hours early. Casey and I threw caution to the wind and arrived 40 minutes before departure. We therefore spent every minute of the time in the airport either hurrying to get into a line, waiting in a line, doing business at the head of the line, etc, culminating in sitting down on the plane about 10 minutes before scheduled takeoff, which we missed by a monumental 7 seconds or something. This is not a good idea. One computer terminal with an attitude can delay you enough to miss your flight, in which case they will happily put you on the next available flight, which happens to be through an area currently under dispute by Israel and its neighbors. (On the other hand, the American Airlines personnel were most helpful, hunting down late international passengers (by name!), bumping them (us) to the heads of queues, and essentially hand-carrying us through the process.)

At the airport, be prepared for intense questioning by the French anti-terrorist squads when you arrive for your return trip. They will descend upon you while you are waiting in line at the ticket counter. They will ask such questions as who packed your luggage and when, whether it has been out of your sight since then, if your grandmother gave you anything to carry on the plane for her, where you stayed, the names of people you worked with, the names of the maids at the hotel, the types of tires on the taxi you took, the cost of a zone four Orange Card that week, which lines you can transfer between at the Porte Surlee subway station, how many linear feet of steel girders are used in the Eiffel Tower, and other basic, everyday questions to establish your credibility as a legitimate traveler, as opposed to an illegitimate child of Mohammar Khadaffy, etc...

Oh, yes, and who pitched the third inning of the World Series for the underdog team in 1933?

Make sure you don't speak anything besides English around these people, or they will give you really HARD questions.

I suggest an interested, helpful, cordial approach with these people. They do have a sense of humor, but it involves forms of torture outlawed since the Spanish Inquisition.

Weekday trips to/from the airport typically take twice as long as weekend trips, so plan accordingly.

by sea

Sharon and I departed as we arrived, skipping merrily across the English Channel, from Calais. Customs was much easier here, and apparently the boats aren't usually terrorist targets, so nobody asked us anything. Several trips were cancelled for unknown reasons (too few passengers), so a bunch of us wandered down to the beach, waded in the surf, collected shells, etc. Eventually a ferry arrived. We were in its driveway, and I still suspect they would have run us over had we not moved. We floated merrily back to Dover.

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Last Update: 01 Oct 2002
All text copyright 1992-1995,2002 by Miles O'Neal, <>, Austin, TX. All rights reserved. Free electronic redistribution of this article is allowed only in its entirety; all other uses require the author's permission.
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