February 12, 2012 in Features, Travel

8-hour layover proved just long enough for quick tour of Paris

Ross Werland Chicago Tribune
 

Runners in a 20K race through the streets of Paris were encountered during a well-executed layover in the city of just less than 8 hours.
(Full-size photo)

PARIS – My wife and I ran in a 20k in Paris, marveled at outdoor urinals, strolled Boulevard Saint-Germain, enjoyed $15 hot dogs (not including wine) and generally fell in love with Paris all in less than three hours. Less than three hours is all the time we had.

We were just minutes shy of an eight-hour layover in Paris. Many online tips would have you just curl up in an airport bar rather than risk missing your next flight at de Gaulle, which can be a confusing airport. But Paris? How could we not venture out?

The problem with most any layover excursion is that large airports typically are about an hour from downtown, so right there you factor in two hours. Security easily burns three more. The big variable is customs. One surly customs official can ruin the whole thing. But we were waved right through by amazingly disinterested officers. Yes!

We ditched our luggage at the airport (service by Bagages du Monde), then hopped RER light rail. About an hour later, with one transfer, we emerged from underground near the Eiffel Tower. Then plannus interruptus.

We were trapped between a 20k race and the Seine River. We walked and walked toward what we kept thinking would be the last of the race, no overpass, no underpass. So much for our precious minutes in Paris. Then a Brit and his partner, sharing our predicament, finally said, “We’re going for it!” They eased into the race, ran about 50 yards while edging over and out on the other side. My wife and I (I wearing a sport coat, with umbrella, man bag) followed. (I know this is wrong, rude, etc. But only one guy passed me; not bad.)

Now liberated, we made our way through a light mist, passed fabled Hemingway haunts, took note of drop-dead shopping for another visit and still had time for those leisurely dogs alfresco.

Since we were in a tourist area, cabs were plentiful. We were back to de Gaulle in plenty of time.

And this is why I’ve started picking flights based on the layover city. I just wish I could have gotten a race T-shirt. On the other hand, at least I wasn’t arrested.

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