The first leg of the flight was 11 hours from SFO to Frankfurt. If it had been just 11 hours sitting in an airplane that would be something, but we were flying east so it was getting later and later. I left on Thursday afternoon and arrived on Friday afternoon. In Lyon it is 3:20 in the afternoon at the moment, but it is only 6:20 in the morning in San Jose.
So, after the calming parts of the flight, the serving of snacks, drinks and then dinner, the movie offerings bore me and I’ve tired of listening to The Alice Network, which is a good historical fiction book, I pull the navy cotton blanket around me and the teensy pillow and decide I should sleep. Earplugs helped with the constant swooping air against the plane body mixed with the engine percussion. I have even wearied of watching the two hour sunset, tomato red at the horizon and splayed out across the huge patch of the horizon. Not like our little in-town sunsets. As the plane is flinging us east at over 600 mph, or some such speed, the sun keeps going down for a long time.
I shut the window shade and settle in. In intervals which become shorter and shorter, I settle into rest, then shift to one hip and curl up a knee, then the other, then sit facing ahead and try another position, longing to recreate horizontal. But I can only approximate it. This sleep, shift, wake, drop back into half-sleep seems to go on forever. The hours pass and I never truly sleep. So it goes for most of us on the flight until the cabin lights are turned on and breakfast comes down the aisles on carts.
I notice that my seat mate, a young woman who travels a great deal, has her phone charging on the screen as she watches a movie. I regret that my charger is in the bag I put overhead. But then I think, “I’ll have an hour layover in Frankfurt and I can charge it then.”
Landing in Frankfurt was part of my plan to avoid the delays at Parisian aeroportes. As we deplaned, I looked on my text for boarding and it said Gate A21 but the marquis in the airport read A60. I’d heard part of an announcement at the end of our flight about checking with the airport because some gates had been changed. So I headed down the wide hallway, walking and walking, and turning down another hallway, walking more, for what seemed like a full mile. Then there was a sign for A1-60 pointing down an escalator. I followed a number of people into a room with automatic passport check lanes on the right and manual, meaning wait for a person at a booth to look at passports. I pushed my passport into the auto read and a big x came up with the image of an attendant. I tried again and a woman behind me simply pushed past me and inserted her passport. I had to excuse me, excuse me back through the swarm of people and get in line for a person to check my passport. This seemed unnecessary because I just got off a plane and a continuing flight shouldn’t need this, but a rather testy young agent assured me and another dissenter asking if we were in the right place, that we did indeed need our passports checked.
Then I headed back up the long hall I had walked down, now really pushing it, because it was boarding time. I kept up with a young woman in cowgirl boots who was striding along with a big backpack. When I got back to the literal other end of the airport, I scanned my ticket and when into the little hall with a line of folks. Our boarding path suddenly turned left down stairs (huh? a stair they roll out to the plane?) and then into another little hall, through double doors and out to a curb where a bus waited. “What?? I didn’t sign up for a bus to Lyon.” A man looked at my ticket and waved me to the bus.
We squeezed in and the driver took the load of us through twisty turns and tunnels in the bowels of the Frankfurt airport. Then his route went out into the taxi area and we dodged other busses and various transports driving. It was hot and the AC was barely cooling the over crowded bus. Finally we drove out to an area with Lufthansa planes parked and pulled up next to a small one being serviced. The driver gave an announcement in 3 languages asking us to be patient. I am beyond patient. I’m going into full jet lag stun. We duly watch the mechanic with the machinery finish whatever he was doing on the jet engine.
And we wait for the paperwork to be complete. And then we board, but after taxiing the plane out onto the runway, another apology announcement explains that due to such and such about air traffic we won’t be allowed to start the engines for at least half an hour. My hour layover spent traipsing up and down the Frankfurt airport and I’m on a small plane that has no outlets. My phone is running out of juice and so am I.
We take off finally and this plane lurches and twists its way into the flight course, nothing like the big jet we’d spent 11 hours on. At the Lyon airport, which is set out in a field, I claim my suitcase and add the carry-on on top of the handle and head out the door. There are, I realize, various young persons in fatigues moving slowly out the door, each a couple yards distant from the other, maybe 8 of them, each cradling a machine gun, in their arms. It is surreal. I try to take it as support.
Lugging my two roller cases atop each other out toward the train, I ask a man walking by me on the road if I am headed in the right direction for the Rhone Express. He says something affirmative in French, then offers to take my suitcases. I am sleep starved and the sun is blazing, so it feels like a rescue as he navigates them down escalators to the train platform. “Merci! merci!”
When I get off the train at Part-Dieux Station and cross to get a taxi, the driver does not know of my location, and consults with another cab driver about the address, then nods that he will take me to Octavio Mey. I’d seen it on a map when I was going to take an Uber, but now my phone was at 3% and I was saving it to call my host. The cab rushed through streams of traffic and I began to wonder if he did indeed know where he was going, but then he pulled over, took out my suitcases and I paid the Euros.
I was on the phone when my host came downstairs out of my apartment.
This was the moment, during his cheerful explanation of the keys and the apartment and a pitch for all the touristy things to do, that I realized I didn’t bring an adapter for French electrical outlets. I nodded and thanked my host and hurried him out. With the last 2% on my phone I googled and found FNAC and hand wrote directions down for an 18 minute walk in the morning down river. Without my phone for a day, I had no idea what time it was.
The late afternoon in Lyon was blazing hot and I had to have the big double windows facing west shuttered. There seemed nothing to do except recharge, so I fell asleep with the fan blowing on me. I awoke and walked outside awhile to get some salad, then slept more. All night I’d sleep a few hours and then awake to the people in the cafe’s below the window laughing, talking, drinking. Which they did until about 5 a.m.
Later I realized I could keep the time by looking a the Gare St. Paul out the window.
At dawn I listened to the scraping of metal chairs as the bakery was setting up and the smell of fresh bread baking wafted up into my apartment.
Finally, after pain au chocolate and a good long walk down river and back, then another one, with thunder and rain, because the first adapter I got wasn’t the right one, my jet lag left me.