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February 5, 2004

The Last Time I Saw Paris

The 7 hour flight from Chicago to Paris was only 20% full, which meant that I could pick out a seat with no one on any side of me and stretch out a bit. I guess all the anti-French ranting by Republicans last year has finally paid off. No one's going there.

Put Terminal 2B at De Gaulle on your list of places to avoid. There are only a dozen or so places to sit down before going through security and getting ready to board. The only place to eat is also the only place to smoke, and you can still smell the smoke at the other end of the terminal under the no-smoking sign. With a 3 hour layover, that got old fast.

I do like the sound of French, though, and the ongoing PA announcements gave me plenty of opportunity to hear it. As a non-Francophone, to me it mostly sounded like "Mes Dammes et Monsieurs, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah bah-GAHZH." They make baggage sound romantic.

I think Europeans are different from us in terms of gender exclusivity in bathrooms. I headed into the "toilette" and there were two women in there mopping the floors. Other men skirted breezily around them and took care of business without missing a beat. I, on the other hand, suddenly decided I didn't have to go after all.

After another three hour flight I landed in Bucharest and was met by Gabriel Gorghio, the host for this event. We waited for two more planes to arrive with other participants and then piled into a mini-bus for the hour and half drive to Targoviste. Gabriel told us that the many potholes we were bumping over were part of a national program to keep driving speeds down. After 24 hours in transit, I arrived.

The whole group had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which began with a strong Romanian liqueur and went on to a cabbage salad, a chicken schnitzel with ham and cheese inside, vegetables and then crepes wrapped around ice cream for dessert. After a day of airplane food, it was terrific.