Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Day 18: And that's the end of that....

September 28: I woke up Karolina at 5:00 in the morning for a special astronomical event: a total lunar eclipse. I knew there was an eclipse scheduled to happen soon, but being in Europe threw me off a bit because my Astronomy magazine was based on US dates and times as well as news sources I normally read. Most of my friends and family would be able to see it the evening of the 27th, but I was flying through time and space nine hours into the future. Six hours if you consider it from east coast time. My Astronomy magazine didn't say anything about what time the eclipse would be in France, but eventually I figured out that totality would happen--probably--around 5:30 in the morning.

A lunar eclipse--just before totality! (Unfortunately, I couldn't get any photos of totality. It was just too dark for my camera to handle.)

So by around 5:00, Karolina and I woke up to check it out. We didn't know exactly where the moon was going to be at 5:00, but it might require leaving the hotel in order to see it. We figured it was almost certain that we'd have to get out to see it since our hotel was facing east and by 5:00 AM, I figured the full moon would be mostly towards the west.

Through the hotel window, as expected, we saw no hint of the moon. The stairwell of the hotel was on the west side of the building, so I tried that next--somewhat surprised when I actually did find the moon. Although it was facing the correct direction, I had expected other buildings to block any views in that direction. Which they did--but the moon was still high enough to peek above the buildings. That was certainly convenient! We were all of about 10 seconds walk from the room!

Totality hadn't started yet, leaving a sliver of moon exposed to the full onslaught from the sun, and we waited in the darkened stairwell until the whole moon turned blood red. Not surprisingly, I had a devil of a time getting photos. It was just too dark for my camera in unsteady hands. My best photos were actually just before totality when enough light still reflected off the sun that my camera had an easier time getting photos.

Karolina went back to the room shortly after totality started, but I hung out a bit longer and eventually returned a half hour later.

Cheese at an outdoor market. Lots and lots of cheese!

I didn't sleep particularly well after that--I was too keyed up and awake now. I tossed and turned until 8:00 when we finally got up again to get breakfast downstairs. Afterwards, we packed our bags. I had to juggle some items around separating stuff I'd carry onto the plane in my pack and the stuff I'd have to check in a small, lightweight bag I had sewed. Although we checked out of the hotel early in the morning, we left our bags at the hotel in a small room set off from the breakfast room to allow us to wonder around Ajaccio a bit more before we needed to be at the airport for our flights.

I can't say we did anything particularly interesting or exciting after that. I stopped in a bookstore hoping to find Nancy Drew books in French for Amanda, but failed miserably. (Sorry, Amanda!) I had purchased some postcards yesterday and even wrote most of them out already, but being a Sunday, I wasn't able to buy postage for them so I took care of that today.

Karolina shopped for lunch by wandering through an outdoor market, which she wanted to eat on the beach where we'd been swimming the day before. I didn't want to walk out on the beach and get my socks and shoes dirty with sand, so I took a seat on the wall overlooking the beach and ate food I had purchased from the supermarket the day before.

Then we headed back to the hotel to gather our bags and walked down to the train station where we caught a bus to the Napoleon Bonaparte Airport--perhaps the same airport Napoleon used to escape Corsica? Just kidding! Of course Napoleon didn't leave Corsica in an airplane. He obviously would have used a submarine. =)

And olives! Lots of olives at the outdoor market too! =)

Karolina's flight out from Corsica was scheduled to leave a couple of hours before mine. She'd be flying to Amsterdam (via Nice, if I recall correctly?), while I'd have flying to the United States via Paris. But we headed to the airport together because why not? It's not like I had anything better to do in Ajaccio for another hour or two.

At the airport, I tried to check in but they wouldn't let me drop off my bag more than an hour before the flight. A mere hour?! Karolina had her own troubles checking in for her flight. The kiosk where we could check ourselves in was showing an incorrect destination. We eventually went to a counter where a real live person checked her in--or rather, told her to wait to the side until someone else came to help her. As it turned out, her flight was running late meaning that she'd be missing her connecting flight in Nice, so they were now going to send her through some other city and rebook her to Amsterdam. She'd be getting into Amsterdam a few hours later than originally scheduled, but she'd get there eventually.

"You'll still get home before I will!" I told her. I was taking a flight to Paris, but I'd have to spend the night in Paris before I would be able to catch my next flight on to the United States and--even worse--depending on flights and loads, I might then have to spend the next night in Phoenix. I might be living at airports for the next two days!

I ate lunch sitting on this high wall overlooking the beach.

Once Karolina's tickets were straightened out, we hugged each other goodbye and she left through security, never to be seen again.

Or so I thought.... I was finally able to check my bag about a half hour later and entered through security myself where I found Karolina, still waiting for her flight. It was still running late!

The morning and early afternoon had absolutely beautiful weather, but it had turned nasty while we were in the terminal. Sheets of heavy rain carpeted the runway outside, and this was a fairly small airport where they didn't have jetways. People would have to dash through the rain to get to the airplanes. We could see strong gusts of winds blowing the palm trees around like toys. I wondered if this might delay flights even more....

But her flight did start boarding about 10 minutes later--just as the rain was stopping--and this time she really did leave, never to be seen again. (At least not until some other grand adventure!)

My flight left about 40 minutes after that. I love airports without jetways because they boarded the flight from both the front and rear doors of the plane getting it boarded in half the time it would usually require with a jetway. My seat was on the front half of the plane so I boarded through the front door.
I just had to be careful not to fall off the wall. It was a long way down if I did!

The plane soon took off over the Mediterranean Sea. I had great views at my window seat for all of about five minutes before the plane rose through a layer of clouds obscuring the views below.

A couple of hours later, the flight landed in Paris. I looked out for the Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks, which I did manage to catch sight of briefly before landing. Can't say it was particularly amazing from my distant viewpoint, though.

The plane landed at the Orly airport, an airport I'd never been to before and--even worse--not the airport where my flight to the United States would leave from. I picked up my checked bag, then found the bus stop for the bus that would take me direct from Orly to the Charles De Gaulle Airport, practically on the other side of Paris.

When I got on the bus, the driver asked which terminal I wanted to get off at, but I didn't know. "Wherever US Airways is located," I answered. But the bus driver didn't know that. I'd figure a bus driver who regularly drove this route ought to know something like that--or at least have a chart with all of the airlines and which terminals each of them use--but not this one. I paid the fair anyhow and I got on the bus, with neither the driver nor myself entirely sure which stop I should get off at. I figured once I was at the airport, there was probably some shuttle that could take me to another terminal there if I somehow ended up at the wrong one.

The bus ride seemed like an eternity. Certainly at least a good hour or so through often times heavy traffic, but at least it was a fancy bus with free wi-fi and USB ports for charging devices. I used the free wi-fi connection with my smartphone to look up which terminal serves US Airways. I now knew where I needed to get off. Excellent. =)

The bus finally dropped me off near sunset--and a rather spectacular one at that with brilliant red and orange clouds dominated the sky--and bought a few snacks and dinner at a Relay market and haunted the soon-empty airport for the rest of the night. My flight to the United States wouldn't leave until something like 10:00 the next morning. I had time to kill.

I really liked the shadow of this lamp against this sidewalk!
The bus that would whisk us away to the Napoleon Bonaparte Airport. (See me sitting on the wall on the left next to our backpacks on the ground?)
While Karolina was photographing our departure, I carried all of our gear onto the bus. The purplish bug in my hand is the one I sewed myself to check items at the airport. The one on my back is what I'd use for my carry-ons. And the pack on my chest was Karolina's. Don't worry, Amanda--the flight out of Corsica wasn't on your airline. I paid full price for that ticket so I was allowed to look like crap! =) I'd change into nicer clothes and my tie before checking in with US Airways.
Flags in front of the Napoleon Bonaparte Airport.
An absolutely torrential downpour hit the airport just before Karolina was about to board her plane. (I'm not 100% certain, but this might have been her plane.) It just looked like sheets of water were hitting the ground! So glad not to be on the trail right then!

I boarded an Air France flight to Paris's Orly Airport. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time I had to board, although the ground was still very much saturated with water.

Goodbye, Corsica!
There was a gorgeous sunset going on when I arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport, but the moving bus meant most of my photos were quite blurry and none of them really captured the colors well.

Wandering around the mostly-empty terminals of Charles de Galle all night long.... I was stuck outside of security, though, since I couldn't check in for my flight until late next the morning.
Once I did get through security the next morning, I had shops and places to wander around. I took this photo at the M&M store inside of security the next morning. =)

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