This is part of a set of pages describing our trip in March 2012 to Europe.
We arrived at Pearson airport at 4:30pm, in good time for our 7:50pm departure on an Air France flight overnight to Munich. Argos had been dropped off at the kennel that morning and we’d spent the remaining hours finishing our packing, balancing the bags so that they didn’t go over our checked bag weight limits. Ipods were loaded with music, phones and other devices all charged for the flight.
The Toronto airport’s value parking lot was hard to find – few if any signs for it – and I wished I’d brought a Google map of it. We parked at the Viscount street lot and took the Link train across to terminal 3. Our youngest was thrilled at the train, which was compartmentalized, and would have been happy to ride all day. Tip: when we came back, there was no sign for a train to the parking lot. Get to the link train and take one going towards Viscount and you’ll get to the value parking lot.
We arrived in terminal 3 and looked for the Air France desk. After walking all the way one way, we found Air France self-checkin kiosks. But they were only for domestic flights. We had to walk all the other way and, around a corner, found the Air France desks. It was utter mayhem. The self-checkin kiosks worked well and handled the entire family as a group. It spat out all ten boarding passes, for our flight to Paris and the connecting flight to Munich.
There were two lines for check in and it was unclear which one we should choose. We chose the wrong one, and joined the second line. There was surprising amounts of queue jumping – a pet peeve – before we finally reached the first attendant, who checked our boarding passes and let us continue on. She halted us for a moment because we had only two checked bags; the family of 4 ahead of us had 8. But we had packed as lightly as possible and, with three day packs, had more than enough for the trip. The desk clerk reviewed our passes again, checked our passports, and asked our youngest to say “Go” before shooting each bag back onto the conveyor belt and off to the plane.
Another benefit to having children. We hit security and were fast tracked to one side because of the children, to what appeared to be a family line. We went through quickly, remembering not to send the youngest through until someone older was on the other side. There was plenty of time until our flight went and we filled the water bottles that we had brought through security, empty, from water fountains nearby. Lots of planes coming and going were a nice distraction during the waiting.
The boys were fascinated with the screens in front of their seats. We are not a DVD-in-the-car family. Each seat had a small screen and a Nintendo-like game controller in the arm rest. Lights were turned off and on, buttons were pressed, and there was a lot of excited chatter. It was the first flight our youngest could remember taking and it had been awhile for our other two children as well. We had a bag of Life Savers to try to help avoid ear popping and just to have something to suck on while we got started. Take off was smooth and all eyes were on the screens, which showed altitude and air speed.
Air France fed us well. Dinner involved beef shepherds pie for adults and chicken strips for children. We were able to select the meal type, so our eldest child had an adult meal. If you have picky eaters, the child’s meal may be a better choice. Our middle child focused on the baguette and block of cheese, which is his modus operandi at home as well. We had brought a Lunchable snack as well – we hadn’t expected dinner – and our youngest nibbled on that. He started to get sleepy almost immediately, as it was about 9:15pm and well past his bed time.
Then he threw up. Twice.
He was more upset than anyone else. I flagged an attendant and received a few wet cloths and wiped down his clothes. His shirt was a write-off, to be cleaned later during the trip. His jeans were fine and they dried hanging off my knee during the balance of the flight. We wrapped him up in a blanket and he was shortly asleep. The seat next to me was, surprisingly, empty, so I had some extra space in order to manage the clothes, help him get folded up in his seat, and so on.
Breakfast showed up surprisingly soon after that. Most of the family had slept but my middle son and I had stayed awake much of the night. It was basic, a bread roll, yogurt, juice, and more bread. I put the juice in my bag – our youngest wasn’t having any – and our middle child wolfed down some more bread. He had stayed up watching films, enjoying the novelty of being on the plane. One he had seen before, and one was an old animated film that he hadn’t seen. I finally had to tell him to turn off the screen as he went to replay the first film, and tell him to get some sleep.
We were all awake and re-dressed, in the case of our youngest, as we descended into Paris.
Our bags were sent on to Munich so we just had to navigate the Charles de Gaulle airport. The border control process was in our favor, since European Union passport holders were separated from others and there were few of us from elsewhere. Our passports were stamped and we headed to our gate.
We had now traversed border control and had to go through airport security to get to our plane to Munich. It was just the same as in North America, with limitations on liquids and so on. The water bottles still had water in them but – in the first clash of languages – it seemed as though the French security officer wanted us to pass them through, and he placed them in a container. We put our bags, shoes, and other gear into trays and walked through. In my groggy state, I was stopped and had to go through again, having forgotten to take off a pen attached to my shirt collar.
They had pulled my backpack off as well as the two water bottles. Oops. I had forgotten the orange juices that I had stashed for later. They went straight into the trash. We could choose to immediately empty the water bottles or throw them away so, much to my daughter’s pre-teen mortification, I chugged about 1 and half liters of water. It wasn’t pretty but they passed me my backpack and I popped the bottles in and away we went.
Our gate was just past security. The plane was called and everyone made a mad rush for the doors – not orderly queueing up and boarding by row. We waited until the press of crowds diminished and then joined in. There were some free newspapers so I grabbed some for the plane and train ride and we got onto the plane. I was a bit surprised that this chaotic boarding process didn’t seem to work any less well than the regular process. Normally, since they board by row, everyone whose row isn’t called still gathers in the boarding area and makes it difficult to board. This less organized process seems to embrace that need for some people to be on first – no, the plane won’t leave if you’re not first – and still gets everyone to their seat.
Off to Munich.