Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Planes, Trains (we wish!) and Automobiles, April 16-17

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers but in France it signals the beginning of strike season and this year is particularly busy. The government is trying to “liberalize” some of France’s very restrictive employment laws, especially on the railroads, and the unions are having none of it. Air France employees are also pushing for a wage increase. Since our travel to Oldtimer involves both Air France and the SNCF (French railroads) we knew things could be a little tough. We weren’t sure how tough…

Being French, the strikes are very organized. The railroad employees are off work 2 days out of five and have published a calendar to allow travelers to make plans. Our train reservations (Paris-Nancy, which we made in late January before the fun began) were on a scheduled strike day when the calendar was published in March. We had also prepaid for a rental car in Nancy. We decided to just wait to see what happened. About two weeks before our departure, Air France published their strike calendar and, you guessed it, our flight Houston-Paris was scheduled for a strike day. We quickly called the airline and, after a very long time listening to hold music, managed to move our flight up one day and then moved the train tickets up as well so they would not be on a strike day.

The day before we were set to fly to Paris we received two emails from Air France in quick succession. The first said it was time to check in for our flight, the second that our flight was cancelled. Another very long time spent listening to hold music resulted in a change of plans to Delta Airlines flights, the first leg Houston/ Atlanta and then Atlanta/Paris. Unfortunately, Delta doesn’t have a premium economy section so our tickets were downgraded to “cattle class.” Also, we’d be getting into Paris too late to make our train connection so we changed that ticket again, this time to a later departure (luckily the train changes could be made on the internet. No hold music.) and we would arrive in Nancy just before the rental car office closed.

Monday about 5 pm we left the ground in Houston bound for Atlanta. Upon reaching our gate for the Paris flight we were informed that there was a mechanical problem with the plane and it would be delayed at least an hour, scotching our train and car plans which were tight to begin with. Instead of our 10:30 pm departure, we finally left Atlanta a little after midnight, landing in Paris after 2 pm. When the flight was delayed we had managed to cancel the train and car reservations (free airport wifi!) and make a one way Paris/Nancy car rental booking, so at least we could get to the boat instead of having to overnight either at the Paris airport or Nancy. I wasn’t too pleased about having to drive 3 1/2 hours to the boat after the airlines fiasco but that was our only alternative. That or take a taxi. (Hello, Ines!)

We did finally make it to Oldtimer about 6 pm, threw the suitcases on the boat and walked a couple hundred meters down the canal bank to the local pizza joint to find out they were moving and offering takeout only. One pizza margarita and bottle of lambrusco later we tumbled into bed to begin our jet lag recovery.


  1. Oh poor you! You must have been exhausted, not only by the journey but by all the rearranging. Still, I’m sure Oldtimer was pleased to have you both back on board! Happy faring!

  2. Not only is the boat happy to have us on board but it's very pleased to have the winter grime removed! Faring begins Saturday.


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