Thursday, 9 December 2010

If you want "real" snow - go to Paris!

OMG blizzard, white out, chaos! that's my experience of my two days in Paris.

Perhaps I should have watched the weather a bit more closely before I left Toulouse on Tuesday for two days of work at the exhibition centre near Charles de Gaulle airport.

When I left Toulouse however, the weather was a pleasant 15 degrees and the city drenched in glorious sunshine, I remember vividly looking out of the window after take off and recognising certain landmarks from the air of our local area as we passed over Moissac and the lake at st Nicolas de la Grave. I could even see the snow capped Pyrenees mountains clearly in the distance after being airborne for 20 minutes and heading North. As soon as we reached our cruising height we started our decent into Paris Charles de Gaulle, quickly the weather turned into thick cloud and the pilots had to revert to their instruments to land the plane successfully in a snow storm. We circled the airport for over 35 minutes before being allowed to land on the remaining open runway and we skid to a halt on icy and snow covered tarmac. After making my way to my destination and working for the day, my focus on Wednesday morning turned to the weather forecast as many stand visitors were discussing the impending blizzard. At 11am the snow started falling heavily and I decided to make a move early to the airport. All flights at 3pm were still scheduled and on time but as the light started to fade the storm got heavier and instead of watching the planes come and go to their stand points, it was snow ploughs that took their place. Everything was covered in a thick blanket of white snow by 5pm and the announcement over the tannoy confirmed my worst fears - "unfortunately due to extreme weather conditions this airport is now closed and no further flights will depart or arrive until further notice". GREAT!

After going back through security and queuing patientely for 2 hours to be told I was in the wrong queue, I joined a further queue after confirming it was the correct one to get a new ticket issued. However 45 minutes later when I reached the front I was told again "Computer says no!" At this point after remaining calm, I flipped and my personality took control!

I was finally issued with a new ticket to fly to Toulouse later that evening (weather permitting) I rejoined yet another queue passing thousands of stranded passengers including disabled people and families with young children, to again be told "computer says no!" the print out that the security people said no flights to Toulouse were flying that evening arrrrrrgh. After explaining that surely all airport staff should be singing from the same hymn sheet one of the security guards went to talk to the check in desk simple but just not done before, how stupid! Yes Toulouse flight was on! I was allowed though security at 8pm to a proposed 8.30pm flight and at 9pm the airport reopened. After chatting to some nice French men who encouraged me to celebrate leaving the airport with them over a bottle of Champagne we finally boarded after crossing the airport behind a snow plough to our waiting plane that was being de-iced. We then taxied out to our holding point and............ there we sat...... for 2 hours. Finally, after being de-iced again we finally took to the skies skidding our way down the runway. Once we were airborne I started to breath again, Toulouse, home, here I come!

Weather here today a balmy 10 degrees, what a difference an hours flight can make and yesterday it was an amazing 20 degrees, how fab!

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