I have already mentioned my antipathy towards Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, which has come about because whenever I fly out of it there are delays and missed connections. One of the times I was flying from London, Heathrow to Oporto, Portugal, via Charles de Gaulle. That was the easiest way to get to Oporto, I was informed by a travel agent. I had temporarily forgotten about my previous experiences of that Paris airport, so I casually booked the ticket.
It was September and the weather had been great up until the day I was due to fly. I left Newport about 8 am and as the coach headed towards Heathrow, the fog came down. It was a pea-souper by the time I got to the airport and no planes were taking off, not only because Heathrow was fog bound, but because European airports such as Charles de Gaulle were similarly affected. The plane was only (only!) delayed for an hour, and once aboard, I asked if the captain would radio ahead to find out the status of my flight to Oporto. I was assured by cabin crew that as Paris was affected by fog, planes leaving Charles de Gaulle would also be delayed. That sounded logical so I waited until we got to Paris to panic. Of course, my plane had taken off on time without me.
I went to the transit desk and explained my sorry plight, thinking that they could easily get me on the next direct flight to Oporto which was … the following day. Oh no, I groaned audibly. 1 told the guy behind the counter my sorry tale. I was starting work in a town close to Oporto the next day and my new boss would be at Oporto airport to pick me up. My mobile phone wasn’t working, so I called a friend in Wales and asked him to phone my boss and tell him what had happened. I had managed to get a flight to Oporto via Lisbon a few hours later, then I would fly from there to my original destination.
Ten hours later I was in Lisbon, and had to phone my boss to tell him when I would be arriving in Oporto. The flight from Lisbon was delayed. I gave him the flight number and hoped he would be at the other end to pick me up as I had no idea where I was going and only the address of the school. As it was the weekend it wouldn’t be open of course. I borrowed a mobile phone from a fellow-passenger to call, and it was then I learned that the Welsh and Portuguese had been allies for five hundred years.
I eventually got to Oporto and my boss was there to meet me. Unfortunately my large suitcase wasn’t and I had to spend time reporting its loss to someone who didn’t speak English. The joys of travelling are endless! Because I was in a restricted area my boss couldn’t come in to translate, and I had previously been outside the area to inform him of my arrival. The airport officials were loathe to let me back in to report the loss of my suitcase.
Finally I was out of the airport and being taken to my accommodation. The suitcase turned up a couple of days later. Had it been left in Lisbon? No, of course not: it hadn’t been put on the plane out of Charles de Gaulle!