• Joshua Dopkowski

Journey to Lyon

I walked off the plane and there I was.

After a full and late night of heavy indulgence, broken sleep, and drunk texting a childhood friend I hadn't seen in over 20 years, I spent most of Sunday laying around and watching American news, occasionally forcing short naps to try and stave off the grogginess and slight headaches, no doubt the result of too much fun.

The previous evening my closest friends and I went to Burns Steakhouse, ate like ravenous kings, and then managed to convince the host of a swanky cocktail lounge that we were worth letting into. He was turning well dressed women away, but for some reason he allowed the three of us after I told him I was moving to France tomorrow. He was French, perhaps that had something to do with it, or perhaps it was because I name dropped one of the best cocktail lounges in the world, Night Jar in London. I don't know.

I had to wait the entire next day for my flight, however given the severity of my subsequent physical situation in the morning, the wait was welcome.

I made one final suitcase check, look a long long shower, and consumed NY pizza and wings like it was my last, and washed it down with a little hair of the dog provided by Founders Brewing. I was in Queens, drinking beer from Michigan and eating pizza from NYC, all while laughing it up with my close friends, just mere hours away from boarding a flight bound for the other hemisphere.

I left my friends apartment in Queens at 7:30 pm EST, that’s 19h30 EST for the rest of the world, and at that point I felt like I could have gone to bed and slept all night. The driver taking me to JFK seemed to be in a somber state, saying very little, and listening to an uninterupted Aretha Franklin tribute on the radio. The lack of conversation was really the first “quiet time” I had to myself since arriving in NYC, and it also gave me time to get emotional. “This is it" I thought to myself, “I’m headed to JFK to fly to France.”

"Over the past few weeks I had visited 3 USA states, crossed through another four, and seen some of my closest friends and family, as well as some special people that I had not seen in years.

Now my tributes and farewells were behind me. In front of me was a 7 hour flight and 2 hour train ride to reach a place that I had never been, and will soon call home.

One of the first lessons I learned from the journey to Lyon is that first class and premium seating is definitely worth it. I flew first class on Delta from DTW to LGA, premium on Norwegian airlines, and rode 1st class on the TGV train to Lyon. I also really did not spend that much more to do so. My initial reasoning was because of the amount of luggage I had (two large and heavy suitcases plus my fully loaded backpack) and the resulting baggage fees; I would have had to pay between $300 -$400 for my luggage if I booked coach/economy tickets, and premium tickets waive those fees.

Another motivating factor for treating myself was the cost of meals. As premium tickets also come with meals and drinks, I spent virtually nothing on food and beverage during my travels. The added comforts from premium tickets also just made the overall journey less stressful, therefore I haven’t needed to recover as much had I done this all more economically.

Overall, my the cost of traveling premium was offset by the benefits, so the true cost was about the same had I booked everything in economy.

At the airport in Detroit (DTW) I checked in very quickly, and the Delta agent suggested I use the TSA precheck line, since the first class line was backed up because Jessie Jackson was in it. Sure enough, there he was, no doubt having just left being with Aretha Franklin during her final hours. I opted for precheck which was very quick.

At JFK however my airline (Norwegian) was not part of the precheck program, and there was no premium customer security line. I went into the precheck line anyway, and wasn’t caught until the metal detector. At that point I had already bypassed much of the standard security line, and the only consequence was to take off my shoes and use the larger “hands up” metal detector. The agent at the ticketing counter also took mercy on me for having one of my bags being 2 kg over the limit. I was 2/2 so far.

Once through security I headed to the premium lounge for Norwegian, which was actually the Alitalia lounge. While sort of unimpressive, the lounge did have plenty of comfortable seating (including many couches), monitors that provided flight info, clean restrooms, views of the runways and tarmac, an attendant that announced when and where each flight was boarding, free Italian wine, an array of snacks, a selection of help your self liquor, sparkling water and unlimited Budweiser. The lounge certainly was better than being in the general terminal.

Boarding was a breeze since I was in the first boarding group. I walked down a very long jet bridge to reach the entrance to the Norwegian 787-9 Dreamliner, which many of you may know was very hyped up when it was released several years ago. I am hear to tell you the hype was right. I was immediately impressed and felt like I made the absolute right decision booking with this airline. High ceilings, impressive mood lighting, and the most leg room I’ve ever had on any flight was enough to make me smile, but the extremely friendly flight crew serving quality and complimentary juices closed the deal for me.

At one point we were sitting on the tarmac delayed (typical for NYC) and I actually thought to myself “I’m in no rush to get off this plane.” The takeoff felt almost like floating, and I never actually heard the landing gear or flaps after we left the ground. The windows were huge and had no shades, rather they would tint in some deeply futuristic manner in order to block out any light.

Once in the air, the journey consisted of eating a delicious meal accompanied by pretty good wine. I watched Blade Runner 2, which normally would have been tedious, however was perfect for a red-eye Trans-Atlantic flight. About halfway through the movie I slept, not the best, but sleeping was at least possible given the comfort and ultra recline of the seat. Anymore recline and I would have been horizontal, which would have been better of course.

Upon waking over Ireland, we were promptly served breakfast with coffee/tea, and I finished the movie, spoiler alert: what a bummer!

One downside was that because the TV is in the armrest and not on the seat in front, it has be stowed during landing, meaning the only show available during approach is out the window. This is hardly significant enough to affect my perception of Norwegian however, that airline is amazing!

When I arrived in Paris, I was officially strung out, however, Charles De Gualle (CDG) airport was not terribly difficult to navigate. While I was waiting for my train to Lyon, I met a young lady from San Diego who was originally from Chicago. Melanie I believe she said her name was. We had a pleasant 30 min conversation about our reasons for being in France, and then we got on our respective trains and went south. The train ride was fast, 220/mph fast. Every time another train passed us headed the other way I thought I was going to die. I opted for a burger (yes, and no it’s not even close to the same thing) an espresso and a “glass" of Merlot.

While enjoying my quite decent train food, I met another single parent of a super cute little girl. They were both from Belgium, and headed to the south of France for a wedding. It was nice starting my time in Lyon by saying “goodbye, we will talk again" to another single parent, of a daughter nonetheless.

I fetched an Uber from Lyon Part Dieu which is a major train station in Lyon. The driver was awesome, originally from Paris, and we talked about what a chump Trump is. We arrived at the flat, and the host was waiting for me by the front door (I had texted him updates). The host wasted no time showing me everything about the apartment, and then offered to walk me around the neighborhood! I was very pleased initially about the flat as it was in great shape and really charming. I then went to dinner at a café on top of the hill, and ate a salad that had about a pound of the most delicious bacon I’d ever had!

My travel was complete and the night nearly over, and yet all I could think about was how badly I wanted to floss. And so here I am, in Lyon. I slept 11 hours and in the morning faced trepidation about obtaining breakfast. I succeeded though in ordering from the boulangerie, and that set the tone for the rest of the day, perhaps the rest of my time here? Onward.


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