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AutoMatters & More: Paris – ‘The City of Light’ (special report pt. 1)

Paris Opera
Paris Opera

Recently I returned to San Diego from a wonderful, long-overdue vacation in Paris, France. The monuments were, as always, spectacular, and there were some great new things to see and experience, including a world-class electric car race through the streets of Paris.

The heart of a city is its people, and the vast majority of the people I encountered in Paris were open, welcoming and went out of their way – in one case at personal risk to himself – to look out for and help this particular American tourist. It probably helped that I speak some French, having learned it in grade school in Canada too many decades ago. I think people appreciate it when you at least make a sincere effort to speak with them in their language. Most seemed to know far more English than I know French.

Unfortunately all is not bright in “The City of Light.” Paris has a very serious street crime problem. It is directed at tourists, and the police seem powerless to stop it, despite years of effort. Also, forget what you think you know about carry-on baggage regulations on that trip of a lifetime to Paris. Air France has rewritten that book, and it is not in our favor.

As I will explain later, you should be aware of these problems and protect yourself by planning for them before you even leave home on your globetrotting adventures. If you are unprepared, you will likely receive a rude and costly awakening.

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Air France Airbus A380’s well appointed Economy cabin
Air France Airbus A380’s well appointed Economy cabin

As this was a long overdue vacation I wanted to make the most of it, starting with getting there. I chose to fly to Paris on a very special aircraft that I’d longed to fly on ever since it entered service: the colossal, double-deck, Airbus A380. Air France flies this plane non-stop between Paris (Charles de Gaulle airport – CDG) and Los Angeles (LAX).

This is an excellent way to travel, even for those of us flying Economy Class. Walking around the lower deck and up the circular staircase at the rear is a welcome way to stretch your legs. The A380 is quiet during flight, unlike in lesser jets where there is a constant whoosh of fairly loud jet noise. Also, thankfully, I felt no sharp pain in my ears when landing after my long flight.

Air France Airbus A380’s circular rear staircase
Air France Airbus A380’s circular rear staircase

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The individual video entertainment systems feature a wide selection of movies. I watched the new “Star Wars” film and the Academy Award winning “The Revenant.” Mapped updates tracking our journey were interesting, as was the tail camera view looking forward on takeoff and landing.

Two delicious meals were served, including bottles of complimentary French wines and, in the unlikely event that we were still hungry between meals, there were complimentary self-serve sandwiches, packaged snacks and beverages in the upstairs and downstairs galleys. The French flight attendants could not have been more attentive. This was the best of what flying used to be like (except for the plastic cutlery, of course, and thankfully no smoking).

Unfortunately, the Air France hospitality all but collapsed immediately before my return flight, while still in the Departures area of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s talk about Paris.

Formula E Paris ePrix on the streets of Paris
Formula E Paris ePrix on the streets of Paris

I’d been there twice before – in 1978 and again in 2001 – and had already visited famous landmarks and museums. On this trip I had new goals: to visit my son who is living there, and to report back to you on the inaugural Formula E Paris ePrix, sanctioned by the FiA – the same sanctioning body that sanctions Formula One. I had applied for and was granted a press photo credential after covering the Long Beach ePrix, and took some pretty cool photos of the race. For those of you in the know, Jean Todt spoke at a press conference. I will cover that event for you in an upcoming, dedicated column.

Celebrating the Paris ePrix electric car race
Celebrating the Paris ePrix electric car race

I found a great deal on my hotel room through Hotels.com, at the Astotel Hotel Caumartin Opera. Located by the Paris Opera and major department stores, cafés and the Metro subway system – its staff met my every request with a smile, gave me directions and greeted me upon my return. The average nightly rate of only $115 included free apples, French pastries, packaged snacks and beverages (in other words, breakfast).

Please return next week for part two of this special report, and send your comments and suggestions to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

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Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #435


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