The Layover

1am: Stuck in line. Standing in the Air France customer service queue in Terminal 2F in Charles de Gaulle airport. The line’s not moving at all. Stuck on the runway in Italy for hours trying to get here and now I’m stuck in line. At first, I thought everything was going to be fine. The pilot had originally announced that Air France would try and get all of us onto our connecting flights. But when I asked a steward a little while later if our flight would be held for us, he gave me one of those “you-silly-little-man” looks that the French are so good at and said, “Mais non, you will have to spend the night in Paris.” S and I are with two other friends, B and V, who had also attended the wedding in Venice and whom are also trying to get home. Unlike us, they have to be at work on the following day. Thankfully, we’d closed our office until the new year.

2am: We’re all finally checking into the Ibis hotel at Charles de Gaulle Terminal 3. Took us forever to find the damned place. The Air France customer service guy said it was easy. Just go out the doors and take the CDGVAL, he said. I think he was just trying to get rid of us. Once through the doors, we spend the next twenty-five minutes looking for signs for the damned shuttle. While waiting for it, one of our friends said, “Hey, there’s also a Sheraton and a Hyatt Regency here. Why didn’t they put us up there?” My very tired wife S said it best, “Because the Ibis is cheap.”

230am: Buying toiletries via the vending machine in the lobby of the Ibis is an amusing way to end the night. All of our check-in luggage was held by Air France so that it could be rerouted most efficiently, which means we have no clothes or toiletries with us.

930am: We’ve decided to make the most of our one day in town. S and I have planned a rather ambitious itinerary. First things first, I need to call a friend to see if I can dump my carry-on luggage at his place for the day. Second call will be to a friend to see if he can help us get lunch reservations.

10am: B and V have decided to come with us on our mad dash around Paris. We’re all in a taxi speeding to my friend’s place in the 16th; it is (amazingly) well-situated around the corner from the Baccarat museum.

1055am: We’ve dumped our bags, grabbed an espresso, and we’re now walking south towards Pont L’Alma. The weather is cold but not as cold as it was in Italy. And it’s dry, thankfully. Rain would have been the one thing that could have killed our plan. Our first stop is the Bellota Bellota shop and cafe on Rue Jean Nicot. Bellota Bellota is one of the best suppliers of Spanish ham and gourmet produce in Paris. I love their pata negra, lomo and chorizo. Will buy some packets for ourselves and friends.

1130am: Bellota Bellota was fabulous, as always. Except for the rather snooty sales assistant who refused to let us try some samples. We’ve never had a problem at the Jabugo Iberico & Co store on Rue Clement Marot. The staff at that Bellota Bellota outpost in the eight arrondisement have always been happy to let us taste various jamon before deciding what to purchase. But at this branch in the seventh (which I believe is the main branch), the young lady behind the counter rather forcefully and gleefully exhaled a loud, “non!” when I asked if we could try some of the hams on display. Nonetheless, we picked up several packs of yummy pig parts and are now making are way across Rue Saint Dominique towards Rue du Bac. S is breaking up the walk by poking her head into every patisserie we pass, which on this particular stretch of road, means we’re stopping constantly.

1pm: Turned north up Rue du Bac and over onto Rue de Montalembert. We’re now comfortably seated in L’Atelier de Robuchon sipping our first glass of Champagne and picking from a platter of pata negra. Heaven. I love L’Atelier. And I especially love the original branch in Paris. It is perhaps one of the best, casual places in the world to enjoy great food and good company — which is why we’ve chosen it for our one meal in town (also why I needed to call a friend to help me arrange some seats). We’ve each chosen three savoury courses. I’m starting with a chestnut soup flavored with foie gras and smoked pork fat, followed by deboned pied de cochon on gratinated toast, and ending with steak tartare with fries. S is having a soft boiled egg with a light chanterelle cream; chicken soup with foie gras ravioli; and a beef cheek bourguignonne. She will also end her meal with a cheese selection. With the food, we’ll share a really fabulous bottle of Meursault from Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet. We have asked for a not too oaky, quite buttery white Burgundy with very little citrus. The sommeliers (yes, we had two helping us) pick perfectly.

230pm: We’ve finished lunch and S declares, “I hate to say it, but this was the best meal of our whole trip… better than anything we had in Venice.” I think V agrees. She’s nodding along vigourously.

330pm: We’ve made our way down Boulevard Raspail east onto Rue de Grenelle. S can’t help but sneaking a peak into Christian Louboutin, but as usual, the store has nothing in her size. This is the third time she’s visited this specific boutique and every time we go, they’re sold out of her size in every model she likes (not that I’m complaining). We’re now in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, one of our favourite perfume shops. I’m a huge fan of Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant. I think it’s one of the nicest, freshest unisex scents I’ve ever come across. Today, both S and I are taken with Carnal Flower, a Tuberose-based scent created by Dominique Ropion.

415pm: I’m chilling out while S is trying on underwear at Le Bon Marche. On the way here, we stopped off at Un Jour Un Sac on Boulevard Raspail to pick up a shoulder strap that I had meant (but had forgotten) to buy on my last trip to Paris. On that same trip, S had discovered the lingerie department in Le Bon Marche–discovered the range, the professionalism of the sales staff, and the comfort of the changing rooms–and had immediately decided that this was her favourite place in the world to buy intimate apparel. And, while it may seem like an indulgence to go lingerie shopping when we only had one day here, remember, we didn’t have access to our check-in luggage, which meant we couldn’t get to our clothes. We essentially only had what we were wearing. So a fresh change of undergarments was very much a necessity. Once she’s done, I’ll make my way to the men’s section and pick up a new pair of boxers and a T-Shirt as well. B and V have ditched us. They’ve run off to the Marais in search of a falafel stand that B swears makes the best falafels in Paris. I hope he brings me one. Later I confess to S that I think the pace we had set for the day might have scared them off.

5pm: We’ve headed north, up to Rue Saint-Honore because S wants to pop into Astier de Villatte, producers of some of the coolest, prettiest (and priciest) rustic French ceramics around. The shop is super-crowded, as usual. There’s a couple with a baby pram who have decided to shove it right in front of the glass display so that no one can get access to it. Fortunately, S decides that carrying back expensive, very breakable ceramics might not be the world’s smartest thing and foregoes purchasing anything. Of course, I know she’s secretly thinking that she’ll just stock up on some of these pieces at Strangelets in Singapore when we’re back at home.

6pm: We need to meet B and V back at our friend’s place, to pick up our carry-on bags, by 8pm, so we’re kind of rushing around now. We’ve sped-walked and window-shopped our way up Rue Saint-Honore. Wish we had more time. I would have loved to have spent some time in Colette. They have a very amusing Fraggle Rock window display on at the moment. I remember that show, which immediately dates me as a child of the 70’s. We’ve made our way up through Place Vendome, where I whined to S that we should have found a way to convince Air France and our (travel) insurance company to put us up at the Park Hyatt for the night. In my dreams, I guess. Our final pilgrimage point is a place that S had whispered to me as soon as we knew we’d be stuck in Paris for the day. We’re in Repetto, where she’s trying on ballet flats and I’m resting my tired feet. She’s settled on a pair of cream coloured flats (they call the colour “dust”). I’ve been trying to convince her to try on a pair of sexy booties but she just keeps giving me one of those stupid-husband looks. It’s a look I’m very used to.

630pm: Stuck in traffic, which I should have expected but totally forgot about. We grabbed a cab and are en route to my friend’s house.

745pm: We’ve showered and changed into our new, ahem, garments. Heading off soon, back to the hell that is Charles de Gaulle. I just hope there are no more delays. I’m perpetually shocked at the taxi fares in Paris.

930pm: Checked in, got our boarding passes and now headed to our gate. Flight leaves in an hour and a half. As you can imagine, it’s completely full. Annoyingly, S and I got horrendous seats, the two middle ones in the middle section of 4. That means we’re stuck like sardines between two strangers. You would think that after all we’ve gone through (one bag destroyed on the way to Europe; our other bag lost for a day on the same trip; then being forced into this layover on the way back), we’d get better seats. Not asking for an upgrade. Just an aisle seat. But, “mais non.” Oh well, at least I have some sleeping pills. We’re picking up some sandwiches right now. We’ll try and hoover those as soon as we take off and then knock ourselves out for as much of the flight as possible. It’s not like either of us want to eat the Air France meals.

1050pm: On board finally. What a day. I just hope my bags made it on board.

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his three kids!