Europe 2016 diary: day 1

Saturday, 29 October, 2016. 13:26 Sydney time

We’re sitting on board our first flight, from Sydney to Dubai. It’s a daylight flight all the way, and we took off at 06:00, so we’re mostly awake despite trying to get a bit of sleep at the beginning.

We had to get up at 03:00 this morning to have a quick breakfast and then catch a taxi to the airport. It had rained overnight, but it had stopped so we didn’t have to wait on the kerb for the taxi in the rain, although it started sprinkling as the taxi arrived, and got quite heavy while we were driving. It eased off a bit by the time we got to the airport, so we didn’t get too wet getting out.

There was a short queue of passengers at the Emirates check in, so it didn’t take long to check our bags and get boarding passes. The woman at the counter asked if we preferred a row next to a window or in the middle of the aisles, and said the plane was fairly empty, so we could have a whole row of seats to ourselves and stretch out. I asked if there were any exit row seats available and she said no, but there was a bulkhead row, so we got that. Then it was filling in our departure cards and going through immigration and security into the departure area.

Nothing was open when we went through. No duty free shops, no food places, nothing except a lone McDonalds, where a few people were getting coffee. Our plane was the first scheduled departure of the morning, right on 06:00 when the airport curfew lifted, then the next departure was 06:30, and then no more until 08:15. So given our flight is only about a quarter full, there was virtually no business for anyone opening this early. As we waited, a couple of places opened around 04:30, a small duty free shop and a newsagent.

We boarded not long after 05:00, and the plane left the gate early. As we walked on, we checked our seat numbers, which were 43A and B. So naturally we started walking down towards the back of the plane, thinking the seats were several rows back. But when we looked at the seat numbers we were passing, they were already up in the 50s, so we had to backtrack, against the flow of other passengers. When we reached our seats, they were the the very first row, right by the entrance door! I guess rows 1 to 42 are upstairs, this being an Airbus A380. From where we’re sitting we have a view into the cockpit whenever a crew member opens the door to go in or out.

They served a breakfast soon after take off, and I got the potato and tomato frittata so M. could mix and match, swapping parts of her vegetarian meal with mine. (The other option was scrambled eggs with sausage.) Then we dozed a bit, since we’d only had a few hours sleep before getting up to go to the airport. But after a while we started waking up. M. watched movies while I tried to do the latest crossword in my weekly challenge with the guys at work, before I gave up and started writing this diary.

Over Australia
Flying over Australia

The second meal of the flight was served remarkably early, being a lunch choice of beef and mash with veges, or stir-fried chicken and noodles. There’s also a light snack on the in-flight menu sheet we were given, and I thought that would be served mid-flight, with the lunch just before we land in Dubai, since it’ll be 13:00 or so when we arrive there. But for some reason they front loaded the heavier meals and I guess we’ll get the light snack before landing.

Written later

We landed in Dubai at close to 13:00 local time, though it was early evening in Sydney. We had a long walk from the gate to the transfers area where we passed through security before heading from terminal B to terminal A, which involved a ten minute shuttle train journey. By the time we got there, our ongoing flight’s gate was already open for passengers to go through into the holding area.

M. felt like some potato chips, so we located a small food place that sold some and bought a large pack of rosemary and salt chips to munch on. M. didn’t finish them all by the time we boarded, so we sneaked them on and she finished them off as the plane prepared to take off. The flight was only 6.5 hours long, and to pass the time without falling asleep I watched two moves: X-Men: Apocalypse, and then 10 Cloverfield Lane. M. slept for most of the flight.

Crossing Arabia
Flying over Arabia

We landed in Lyon at 19:20 local time, still on Saturday. The airport seemed to be very quiet, with no other flights arriving at all, so we got through immigration very quickly, with the French official just glancing at our passports before waving us through. We had to wait a while for our luggage, but once we had that we simply walked out the exit past the “nothing to declare” sign.

It was a bit of a walk to the Rhônexpress tram stop, where the express tram to the city departed. There was one waiting as we arrived so we got straight on board. A conductor helped us place our bags in a convenient spot and we sat next to them, but he hustled us away from those seats, which were designated for wheelchairs, and to other seats further away from or bags. The tram wasn’t very full, with maybe a dozen people heading out of the airport. We rode it for two stops, which took about 20 minutes, and got off at Vaulx-en-Velin, where we changed to the metro system for the ride the rest of the way into the city.

After several stops we arrived at Cordelier, where we alighted and dragged our bags up the stairs to the street, finding ourselves in a pedestrian mall. It was mostly deserted, being a street of fashion shops that were all closed for the night. We walked south a few short blocks and then across one street to find our hotel. We checked into the Mercure Lyon Beaux Arts hotel, getting a room on the fourth floor, in a building that was obviously an old apartment building converted into a hotel. We asked the lady at reception where we could find some restaurants for dinner, and she marked a nearby street on a map for us, Rue Mercière.

Lyon street on arrival night
Rue Mercière

After quickly dropping our bags in the room and freshening up a little. we headed out to find some food. The street she indicated was a narrow one with cobblestones, and lined on both sides with numerous restaurants. Most were doing Lyonnaise cuisine, which meant lots of meat and fish and very little in the way of vegetarian options for M. There was a pizza place and a pasta place, and something with a couple of vege options on the menu, but they were all busy and often with queues of people waiting for tables. Since we were in a bit of a hurry to grab a bite and then go to bed, we settled on a place that did bagels and various bagel sandwiches, called Best Bagels. I got a pastrami deluxe, which had tomato, lettuce, pickles, and hollandaise sauce of all things on it, while M. had a “veggie orgie”, which had eggplant, tomato, pickles, red onion, and cheddar cheese. They were simple, but very satisfying after our long flight.

Bagel dinner
Bagels for dinner

After eating, we headed back to the hotel to have showers and get fresh before hopping straight into bed. By the time we were done and ready to sleep it was almost 23:00, however, the lady at the hotel desk had told us that daylight saving ended tonight, so the clocks would go back and we’d be able to get an extra hour of sleep. We could definitely use it!

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