Sunday, July 5, 2015

How To Get Home

This post is instructions for Bee to navigate the Marseille and Dublin airports.

Sorry if it's a bit over-detailed, but given that this is (a) your first solo flight and (b) it's international with a connecting flight, I thought more details were better than less.

I'll keep my cellphone with me the whole time you're traveling, so at any time, regardless of the time difference, if you need any sort of help please don't hesitate to text me then if I don't reply within 10 minutes call my cell phone. You need to dial the US international prefix "001" before the area code.


Before I left, I handed you 3 pages stapled together:
1) The day's calendar - discard this whenever you wish
2) Flight reservation - you'll need this at Marseille check-in.
3) Meal purchase confirmation - save this until the Dublin-Boston flight.


I've made annotated maps (embedded below in this post), which came from the Marseille airport webpage:
which might be useful in getting there and parking in the correct spot.

You're flying Aer Lingus, which uses Hall 1 ("Hall" is what we'd call a "terminal").
I circled hall 1 in green. Parking lots P1 and P2 are closest.

Ground floor of Hall 1
Unlike in the USA, Aer Lingus doesn't have a dedicated check-in desk with their name above it. Instead, the airport has a bunch of generic check-in desks with video screens above them.
  1. Enter the building
  2. Aer Lingus check-in was here for me. There was no line for Aer Lingus but a long Lufthansa line right next to it, so before getting into any line, find the Aer Lingus screen and get in that line. 
    1. Check in
    2. Show them the reservation printout and your passport.
    3. They'll take your bag and give you a boarding pass with the bag ticket stuck on the back.
    4. This boarding pass is only for the Marseille to Dublin flight. You'll get the Dublin to Boston boarding pass in Dublin.
    5. Keep the boarding pass in the passport, you'll need them both together a few more times.
  3. After checking in, go thru these doors.
  4. Go thru these doors to the security check queue. Only 1 of 5 x-rays machines was operating when I got there, but they opened 3 more at 9:00 am. Despite not moving at all when I first got in line, it sped up and was only about 15 minutes long for me. This is as far as Blake or Annie can go... after this point you're on your own :)
  5. Oops, there's no 5 in my drawing :)
  6. Go up this escalator after security (it's your only option)

1st floor (Americans think of this as the 2nd floor)

  1. Is the escalator from security on the ground floor
  2. Walk down the hall
  3. This is passport control. Show them your passport and boarding pass. They'll put a French stamp in your passport! Keep your boarding pass & passport together, you'll need them to board the plane.
  4. This is your only food option.
  5. This is where my flight's gate was.
  6. Your gate might be over here. Check the monitors for the correct gate for your flight.

When you're at the gate, please text me so I 'll know you're on schedule

After boarding the airplane, keep your boarding pass & passport together as you'll need them again in Dublin.


You'll get off the plane then follow a long twisting hall (along with all other passengers... just follow them).
Eventually you'll come to this sign on the ceiling:

Which is at this junction in the walkway:

And here's a floor plan of the area:
  • The big blue arrow is how you enter this area from the plane.
  • Your path is the purple lines
  • You do NOT want to go to "Baggage Reclaim and Exit" - this is for people leaving the airport.
  • You DO want to go left to "Flight Connections".
But before you can go to your connection you must visit the desk.

So here's what you need to do in this area (these are the 1/2/3 in the pictures above)
  1. Stand in the line. It might be short or long. It might stretch down toward the EXIT. Do not go thru the exit!
  2. Visit the desk
    1. You'll need your passport and baggage claim ticket. The ticket was stuck to the back of your boarding pass issued in Marseille.
    2. The person at the desk will check things and issue your boarding pass for the Dublin to Boston flight.
  3. Proceed to your connecting flight
    1. This area starts with another security check. Note that they'll take any water that you have.

Once you pass that security you'll go up an escalator and emerge into what they call "The Loop", which is a shopping and food court area.
  1. This is the top of the escalator from security - you enter here
  2. This is the shopping area
  3. Escalator up to food court.
  4. US customs forms are here
  5. Is to the gate.

Dublin has a cool new thing called "US Preclearance". Basically, you do customs and US border entry in Dublin and you don't need to do them in Boston.
BUT, once you pass thru this border control you can't come back to The Loop, and there's no food on the other side of the passport check, so do your shopping (expensive junk) and get food (upstairs) before you go to the gate. You'll have a 3+ hour layover, so you can safely kill an hour in the Loop area before heading to the gate.

Once you're ready to go to the gate, stop at (4), get a customs form, and fill it out right there.
Here's what mine looked like:
There's also a stand for bottled water for 1 euro, paid on the honor system. There was another such stand right next to the gate.

Next, proceed to the "Preclearance" area. Simply follow the signs that have the US flag on them. You'll go down an escalator, then turn right and go down another escalator.

There are 3 steps to preclearance:
  1. Yet another security check. You may get "randomly" selected for additional screening (I did), and if you do, don't worry. They just pat you down and maybe do drug tests on your shoes. Interestingly, they did not take my bottle of water here.
  2. You go thru customs. You show someone the form you filled out, then go to some touchscreens where you scan your passport and answer the customs questions again onscreen and it takes your picture. This prints a card.
  3. You go thru border control, where you give them the card and your passport, and they check some stuff and hand your passport back, and you're done - you're now technically in the US. Proceed to your gate.
  4. Sit in the waiting area near your gate, just like any flight.
  5. You'll again need your boarding pass and passport to board the plane.

When you're at the gate, please text me so I 'll know you're on schedule

I know this sounds pretty complex, but the great thing is that you now don't need to do customs & border at Boston... you just saved a HUGE amount of time and hassle after landing (remember the long passport control line when we 1st landed in London?)

On the Plane

I bought you a nice meal. 
In order to get it, when you board, show the printed page to the flight attendant. They'll tell you what to do.

Arriving in Boston

  • When you land in Boston, once the plane stops at the gate, text Mom that you're at the gate.
  • You will then exit the plane and walk thru the boarding area just like any domestic flight - no passport or customs, because you already did all that in Dublin!
  • There will be green signs guiding you to Aer Lingus baggage collection - follow them. They take you out next to the incoming security check (same one we went thru when we left Boston).
  • Mom will meet you right after you exit the secure area. If you don't immediately find her, text her and just keep following the Aer Lingus signs to baggage collection, which is on the level below the arrival gate & security.

Welcome home!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Dave's Last Day

For my last day we poked around Le Garde in the morning then took a road trip to nearby town of Hyeres

We started by visiting the farmers market in the Le Garde town square. 

Lots of wonderful foods, including heirloom tomatoes

There are many prepared foods, including paella and couscous

Then off to Hyeres. First we stopped at the beach for a swim

Then to the center of the old town, which has very narrow streets with things for sale

The Pose!

That might, the teenagers were to attend a local party, and Bee was invited, so Annie took her to the local H&M were Bee bought this very pretty dress for €6

After the teens left for the party, Dave, Blake, Annie, and Catherine headed down to a cafe for Dave's last dinner. Annie and Catherine rode a scooter 

The town square had been rearranged for an outdoor talent show 

After dinner it was back home to bed for an early morning departure

Provence road trip

On Thursday we took a road trip to see some sights in Provence.

We had a lazy start. 
Blake rented a minivan to hold all 7 of us.

Before we left, a school field trip was exploring the neighborhood

Annie made omeletes

On the road. Another very hot day; the AC was welcome

It was a two hour drive out, so we stopped to stretch our legs and have a snack

Outside Avignon, gypsies wash windshields at stoplights

The walls of Avignon. We didn't go in

Our 1st destination was the Pont du Gard
Bee assumes "the pose" - early in the trip she started posing with her elbows in and hands out, and people have noticed that she always stands this way. It became an inside joke, and she now parodies herself 

Dave and Bee doing the pose under the arches

Along the way we passed several fields of sunflowers

Next stop was Le Fontaine de Vacluse, a spot that my parents introduced me to 23 years ago. I was excited to show Bee, and neither Blake not Annie knew of it. Here's the Sorgue River downstream from Le Fontaine. It's full of these beautiful green vines that flourish in the cold water

We stopped for crepes. Catherine had a creative way of holding the hot, messy treat

And there was this thing

Le Fontaine de Vacluse is a spot where a huge underground river ethers from a cliff. In the Spring it gushes up to and over the camera's location, but in the summer it's a large calm pool down in a cave

Downstream a bit from the cave, the water gushes from the rocks all year long. We dipped our feet, it's VERY cold

A bit further down you can wade in. It's so cold that after 30 seconds your feet and legs ache

After Le Fontaine we headed downstream about 10 minutes to L'Isle sur Le Sorgue, a very cool town that was built in a spot where the river branches into several fingers then recombines downstream. People rent flat-bottom boats and try to pole them down the rivers; usually they all end up in the water

The whole crew having dinner on one of the rivers

Getting late, time to head home. One last picture before the river

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Milan to La Garde

Today is the final leg of our travels, and it's welcome. Not to sound snooty - this is a fantastic trip and we're very fortunate to be able to do it - but at some point you get saturated. All the cities and trains and hotels run together to the point of diminishing returns. It's sort of the opposite of a week at Club Med, where after 3 days you're sort of bored from the sameness. For example, in Zurich (5th hotel), upon returning from dinner we couldn't remember our room number and had to ask the front desk.

Today we rode the Thello, a special train with service between Milan and Marseille. It runs south to the coast at Genoa then runs west along the coast, passing they all the famous Cote d'Azur locations: Monaco, Nice, Monte Carlo, Cannes. It'll be a distinctly different kind of beautiful from yesterday's trip thru the Alps.

Here's the route:

We started the day on a lazy fashion, sleeping in then having a long breakfast. Plus, wifi works in the hotel cafe, so we took advantage of that.

Then we were off. The plan was to take the metro to the Duomo, see that in passing then have lunch in The Galleria. But the heat defeated us: tugging suitcases any distance in 90* weather fell apart real quick, so we caught a cab to the train station.

At least we got to drive past the Duomo

At the station we and had lunch in an AC'ed cafe

Dave had pasta (seemed like I should have it once in Italy) and Bee had bufalo mozzarella with prosciutto. Check out the giant bottles of olive oil and balsamic

Then we were off.
The area south of Milan looks a lot like the Salinas valley

As the train leaves the inland area, we passed thru a long tunnel then came out into a steep and verdant valley. We sped downhill thru many curves and tunnels

We hit the Mediterranean in Genoa

The proceeded west thru the city on elevated track

Dave had his face pressed to the window while Bee read a lot

Europeans love shirts with American writing and pictures on them. Most are nonsensical English words. Once in a while they're cool - this is my favorite so far, on a guy who was across the aisle. Bonus points if you can name the character

Heading west along the Cote d'Azure. Resort towns in the distance

There were many of these, apparently private beach areas

Public beaches as well

Isola Gallinara, just off the coast of Albenga, Italy

Sanremo, with Nice in the distance

Ventimiglia is the last stop in Italy

We crossed the border into France and the houses became REALLY nice

Here we're entering Monaco, with Monte Carlo just ahead. Daylight is starting to fade

The train goes under all of Mote Carlo in a tunnel. Their train station was really nice

The harbor has a good many super-yachts

Passing thru Nice, which has clay tennis courts

And a palm tree lined waterfront

And miniature golf!

Villefranche-sur-mer is a little cove with a crescent beach

The tracks hug the cliff about 100 feet above the beach - you look straight down upon it

At Cannes the tracks run inland. Buildings are pretty in the setting sunlight

West side of Cannes has a long narrow rocky beach

Beyond Cannes the coast turns rocky, with no beaches

It reminded me of Pebble Beach or La Jolla. Intermittent houses with amazing views

Agay has this pretty little cove and beach

The train goes inland from Frejus to Toulon, thru an area filled with vineyards. Again, it looks a LOT like California

Our train arrived in Toulon at about 10:30. Blake, Andre, and Catherine were at the station. Good to be here!

We're now in La Garde til we return home, Dave in 4 days and Bee in 8