The journey to France

Le grand voyage!!

36 hours!

One full day gone up in the air. And another half a day further because flights are not the end of the journey.

Flying from Auckland to France – 36 hours!!

Everybody seemed quite shocked when I told them about the duration of the travel required (after all we kiwis do live in the most far-flung corner of the world), but I was more excited than nervous to finally hop on the plane and make it to France.

I was travelling with a group of four other girls from NZIIU also going to France for their exchange program, so I was pretty comfortable travelling without my parents.

Saylor and me on the plane to France

The first plane I boarded was supposed to take 17 hours, which is the longest flight in the world as of now, but they ended up taking 18 hours instead. Not sure if they were trying to break the record for the longest flight or what?

Now, this meant a one hour delay and most of the people on the plane had connecting flights to catch – including me. By the time the plane landed, I just had like 15 minutes before my second plane took off. The other girls in my group were being calm about the situation and talking about how great it would be to spend the night in a Doha hotel. I was surprised at first because I really couldn’t see how that was a good alternative to actually making it to France but I told myself that I was just being irrational and should just enjoy the ride.

That was until the lady sitting behind me started crying. She started weeping and telling everybody how the flights in Doha rarely ever wait for anybody, even if it’s the airlines’ fault. This is when I started panicking again. I didn’t have a spare $3000 to book another flight at the last minute. So as soon as I got off the plane and arrived at the airport, I started running towards the gate that said ‘international transfers’. I ran as fast as I could with my 7 kg carry on and my large coat – just like they do in the movies – a young traveller running through the airport with a frantic, worried look on her, struggling to make the next flight. Exactly like the movies, but without the romantic background and attractive running strides. When I finally stumbled up to my gate, there was actually a huge crowd because it turns out that they hadn’t started boarding yet. What a relief!! After making it on board, I settled and started noticing how the Airbus was wayyy better than the Boeing aircraft. So many features and perhaps it was because the flight was comparatively shorter but the attendants were also a lot nicer. Overall, I liked my experience way better on the second aircraft.

Bakery at the airport in France

After landing in France, I collected my bags (they took an anxiously long time to arrive) and made my way to the exit. This is the part where I had my first interaction with a French person. Well, I’m not sure you can even call it a conversation because it was just a lady who screamed ‘À DROIT’ to me on the escalators because my poor New Zealand self was so used to always standing on the left. After that, I along with the rest of the group met up with a lady from CEI who guided us through two metro trains and finally put us on our TGV’s for our respective regions. I’m really sad that we couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower while transiting from CDG airport but perhaps I’ll be able to see it when I go back. The TGV was really cool and obviously a fast ride. The lady sitting next to me looked really scary but after half an hour of sitting beside her, I built up the courage to ask her ‘la prochaine arrête est Rennes, non?’ which I’m pretty isn’t the right way to say it. Anyways, I hopped off the TGV and spent 10 minutes pacing the platform with my bags, trying to locate my host dad. At this point, the train had left and the platform was empty except for me and another teenager looking just as confused as me. Then, just as I was about to give up I saw a sign that said ‘sortie’ that pointed to the escalator. I climbed on it and that’s when I finally met my host dad and made it to their home safely. I tried stringing a few words in French together but I don’t think he could understand what I saying, at which point he revealed that he could speak a little bit of English. Yayyy!! 

Saying Goodbye to Mom at the Auckland Airport

What happened after and how my exchange is going so far is a story for next time. Au revoir!

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