Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It all began badly....

RER - Charles De Gaulle AirportImage by JKleeman via Flickr
It was our first trip to Costa Rica.

We were due to leave from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which meant that friends had to get up at some godless hour to take us to catch the milk train up to for some wonder everyone was not on strike...except that the lifts at Charles de Gaulle railway station did not work, so I had to hump the suitcases up two flights of stairs to get to the shuttle bus that runs round like a demented hamster serving the various terminals.

Charles de Gaulle must be the most unpleasant main airport in existence. Badly laid out, dirty almost to the point of being squalid and decidedly expensive, it was almost a relief to get through to the departure gate in some far flung annexe for our long flight, which involved a change at Houston.

The 'plane was late, we had to walk miles while empty transport vehicles passed regularly, picking up no one, until we eventually arrived at the hour long queue at immigration.
I was struck by the discourtesy of the staff organizing the lines....whatever their training had involved there had been no place for manners, evidently....but the final blow came as our 'planeload approached the checkpoints.
It was one of those periods when the French government were being uncooperative in the view of the U.S. and as the sound of French became audible to the staff, more than half of them closed down their desks.

Well, welcome to the U.S.!

We were in transit, we had no intention of staying in the country, but were still subject to this absurd process, not to speak of having to retrieve our baggage and go through customs!
I think 'subject' is an appropriate word.
The U.S. government appears to think that all foreigners are 'subject' races with only one aim in get into the U.S.A. and stay there.
Given the reception, the reaction all around me was the same as mine....
If that's the U.S.. they can keep it!

Then through 'security' again as the departure time for our flight to Costa Rica did not so much as creep closer but gallop fast enough to win the Derby.
Bossy women snatching our travel documents....and the final delight...taking off our shoes to go through the security gates.
Well, Mr. Fly cannot balance to do this standing, so I asked for a chair.

'If he isn't fit he should be in  a wheelchair. If  he isn't in a wheelchair he's fit.'

So he stood in front of the gate, blocking it, until a chair was brought.
I think it was a near run thing between the arrival of a chair and his departure in handcuffs.

The 'plane was small and crowded.....but at least we were out of the U.S.!

As we approached landing time, the plane ran into violent thunderstorms and circled for an hour over the main international airport at San Jose, Costa Rica.
From the window I had close ups of mountain peaks and searing bolts of lightning, while in the seat behind a loud American voice announced that it was often like this and no doubt we'd be diverted to Panama, where, as Americans need a visa, nobody would be allowed to leave the plane!
Eventually, the pilot announced that we would be diverting to the holiday airport of Liberia, in the north of Costa Rica...but from there...what?
Would we be bussed down to San Jose?
Would we have to stay in the plane at Liberia until conditions improved?
No news.

At Liberia, the plane landed and eventually the stewardesses announced that it would be refuelled and would then take off again for San Jose.
It was a long, hot wait and Mr. Fly, exhausted, needed somewhere to stretch out.
I asked a stewardess if he could go through to the front of the plane.
But he was ill.
He hadn't paid first class, he didn't get first class.
But he doesn't want champagne, caviar, pole dancers or whatever else goes on up there..he just needs to stretch out.
He hadn't paid first class, he didn't get first class. There's water in the galley if you want to help yourself.

I was getting worried.
Mr. Fly was suffering from heat and exhaustion.
We had arranged a pick up to take us to our destination.....but by the time we had been  refuelled and taken off again, we would be five hours late arriving.
There was no way our pick up would still be there.
I started looking at the travel guide, looking for somewhere to stay near the airport, and found a couple of options, planning to take a taxi to one of them, get some sleep, and ring our contact number the next day to sort out what to do.

The voice from the seat behind was declaiming that this was always happening in this got used to it...he was going to ring his wife to pick him up...too bad for anyone else...

Then we landed.
Immigration was fast.....we were the only 'plane.
Customs was fast, with a charming man who helped me load the suitcases through the machine.

And miracle of miracles....our pick up was there!

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  1. Glad the final leg of immigrantion consisted of pleasant people. I'm with you on the rudeness of the USA guys who vet you on entry. I can still recall the tones of Paul Burrell who was in front saying ' but don't you know who I am?'

    Looking forward to the next part.

  2. French Fancy, good to see you on the other side of the pond!
    I'm trying to set the scene a bit, because while most people have an idea of France, not many have an idea of Costa Rica!
    You cannot believe my relief when, struggling with Mr. Fly and the suitcases a nice man from customs took the bags out of my hand and onto the screening machine and reloaded them the other side!

  3. I'm sorry for the treatment by the USA customs and immigration. Sad to say, but that is not uncommon...

    The man who helped you is not uncommon, either. I too want to hear the next installment...

  4. e every time we flew via the U.S. there was a hassle....
    The worst thing was that every time we returned to Europe our bags were rifled...we lost Mr. Fly's medication one time, then all our gifts for friends and the third time one of our suitcases had just been ripped apart.

    I've always had kindness from the gentlemen in immigration and customs in Costa Rica...they tale one look at the poor old cow struggling with the luggage and come to my assistance!

  5. Perhaps they respect elders...

    I do not think much respect figures into things in the U.S. anymore--part of the reason the rest of the world finds the United States so annoying. Topping that, nobody seems to respect anyone here anymore either...