Cockpit Chronicles: Paris with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on each of Kent’s trips as a co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 out of Boston.

As I mentioned in the last post, I was given this two-day CCS trip instead of a three-day Paris. While I enjoyed the extra day off, it was hard to give up a Paris layover. Not much happened during the flight down and the deadhead home from Miami was uneventful. So we’ll skip ahead to the next Paris trip.

Fortunately I’ve managed to hold an entire line of Paris trips for June, so I’ll be trying to catch up on all the great recommendations for things to do in the city of light.

Since I was the relief pilot for this 6 P.M. departure, it was up to me to do the exterior preflight. The rain was starting to come down in sheets, just in time for my venture outside to look over the airplane.

At least the wet ramp made for a few nice photos…


We taxied out on time, only to discover a lineup of fifteen airplanes in front of us waiting to takeoff from runway 33L in Boston. It was easy to see the cause. A large dark line of clouds and rain north of the airport was disrupting the normal departure paths of the jets, which meant that ATC had to work with the pilots to get headings that would keep them far away from the storm.

We listened as pilots asked for a different heading after they lined up on the runway and saw the green and yellow blobs that depicted the heavy showers and convective activity on their radar. Finally it was our turn to enter into position and hold on the runway. ATC gave us a left turn to a 250 degree heading, toward the city of Boston. This heading might have worked a few minutes earlier, but the weather looked to us to be far better to the northeast. Some ATC facilities are getting more advanced weather radar capabilities, but it’s always up to the pilot to decide if they’re comfortable with what’s in front of them. Captain Al asked for a turn to 020 degrees instead. ATC took a minute to check with the departure controllers to see if this would work for them.

With our brakes parked, I was able to take a picture of the weather ahead from my view in the observer’s seat, and also the view of the radar on the map display.

Our 020 degree heading was approved and the climb out was perfectly smooth. We passed along the ride report–an indication to the controller to let the airplanes behind us know that this direction may be their best choice.

Since we had a relief pilot aboard, we each had an hour and fifty minutes for our break in one of the new business class seats. I think all three of us managed to sleep during our breaks, a rarity for me. Usually the relief pilot gets the first break, which is during the meal service when the lights are turned all the way up as bright as a tanning bed.

Forty-five minutes before landing, all three of us were back in the cockpit. Jim, the co-pilot, pointed out the beaches of Normandy. Since it was the Friday before Memorial Day in the U.S., I thought it was a pretty good time to finally catch a glimpse of this part of the world, where WWII came to a close. Unfortunately, with the sun coming up in our eyes, the view wasn’t ideal. But I’ll keep an eye out next time for this historic area since I’ll have an idea what to look for.

Approach control told us to expect the north runway, 9 Left, which meant a good mile more to taxi to our gate. Al turned to Jim and said, let’s ask for 8 Right. Now, this is completely normal in Miami, Chicago or even Dallas. But for some reason, in Paris we just never seem to get a different runway from what they have in mind for us, no matter how nice we say Bonjour when we contact them. So we’ve long since given up asking for a change in runways. Captain Al doesn’t normally fly Paris trips as he’s always preferred the Caribbean. But he’s not shy. And sure enough, his request was met with a “roger, expect runway zero eight right.” Amazing. I’m glad Al has opened my eyes to this whole ‘ask and they just might say yes technique.’

I’ve heard stories of the bus ride into Paris taking as much as two and even three hours during the weekday morning traffic. I’ve mostly had weekend trips to Paris, so I haven’t had a chance to see this gridlock very often. This time we were lucky to have just an hour and forty minute ride into the city via our full-sized bus. I usually plug in my iPhone and listen to the latest This American Life podcast.

While waiting in the lobby for our room keys, everyone discussed their plans for the day. After the requisite four-hour nap, I would meet up with Captain Al and Lisa, one of the flight attendants who gave me a cake for my birthday over the Atlantic in January. I’ve always enjoyed flying with Lisa, but hadn’t had a chance to visit with her much on our previous trips.

The eight other flight attendants and the co-pilot scattered to do their own things. Shopping, museums and working out were in their plans.

The three of us met up in the hotel’s crew lounge before going down the street to the Monoprix grocery store. We picked up some baguette, cheese, wine and salami before walking to the Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre to have a picnic. Fortunately, Lisa’s a bit of a wine expert, so we had her pick out a bottle.

Lisa at the Monoprix, or as I like to call it, “Mono-Lisa.”

This picnic routine has become a favorite with crews for lunch. While technically it’s forbidden to have an open bottle of alcohol in a public park, the police seem more concerned with people who are clearly drunk. As this article on Picnicking in Paris mentions, as long as you’re discreet, you’ll be treated discreetly by the police, who have been known to say, “Please hide the wine bottle,” followed by a polite “bon appetit” as they move on.

We sat down in the Tuileries Gardens, which is right next to the Louvre.

This spot gave us a clear view of the museum where we could take in the sights and visit for a while. While we spread camembert over a baguette, I found out that Lisa is an English Literature and creative writing teacher at a Rhode Island college. She grabbed a magazine and wrote out two lines that showed how punctuat
ion can change everything:

I’d argue that in addition to the punctuation, the picture to the right of the quote added to the impact.

After finishing an entire baguette, half the cheese and a bit of wine, we packed up to continue our walk. We passed this spider, which was formerly on display in London and now resides in Paris. It’s 30 feet high and it was built in 2005 for a staggering $3.2 million.

We approached a wall at the edge of the Tuileries garden that had some round air vents cut out. For some reason, curious Al decided he needed to look into one of these holes.

“Check this out!” He yelled at us. “It looks like a sun dial.”

Now I was trying to figure what a sun dial would be doing in a sewer grate. Isn’t it a little dark down there for a sun dial? But sure enough, there was the face of a clock or perhaps a sun dial on the floor of this long storage room.

“It looks like where the Louvre stores their artifacts!” Lisa gasped.

We looked into most of the holes in the wall and found them packed with stuff. Mostly clay pots, the sun dial and maybe some of the equipment that originally came with the palace that is now the Louvre. We were all surprised that this stuff was slightly exposed to the elements.

Lisa said, “We’re just like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew!” We agreed I’d have to be Parker Stevenson while Al took the Shawn Cassidy role. But I really think Al’s more like Sean Connery.

Upon researching further, it may be parts recovered from the Tuileries Palace that burned down in 1871. The Louvre is now a u-shaped palace, but at one time the open end was actually the Tuileries Palace. It’s been proposed that the building be rebuilt someday for an estimated $400 million. As we walked out of the Tuileries, we noticed a gate blocking the entrance to the area where we made our discovery. Maybe we weren’t meant to be back there.

We decided to stroll through the Louvre and maybe take a few pictures. A couple stopped us and asked if we’d take their picture. They were from St. Petersburg, Florida and they looked like models. Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to take a few good pictures for them. I’d like to apologize to them if I ran their batteries dead trying to get just the right shot.

We then went down to Pont Neuf to jump on a boat tour of the Seine. It’s only 11 Euros for an hour trip and we still had some of our picnic to eat. We weren’t leaving until the next afternoon, so we enjoyed another romantic plastic cup of wine. Our tour guide informed us that she wasn’t yet certified, and she hoped we didn’t mind. She did a great job and sat right front of us while explaining the history of Paris.

The lighting was perfect and I took advantage of it to snap pictures of the oldest bridge in town, Pont Neuf.

We also saw an Amphibious car called the Amphicar parked on the back of someone’s river boat.

After deciding that the river boat was well worth the 11 Euros, we walked to the Latin Quarter to find something to eat. Sharlee, a commenter on the last Paris trip, mentioned that the creperie at 27 Rue Andre des Arts was where she had the best crepes ever. Since that’s one of my favorite streets in Paris, I was almost sure I had eaten there. It turns out I hadn’t, so we all waited about a thirty minutes to get a seat.

After our light picnic in the late afternoon, a creperie was just what we needed, since we weren’t looking for a very large meal. The dinner crepes or gallete as they’re called, were perfectly cooked and we all enjoyed the nautical theme of the restaurant. A cat made a surprise visit to say hello after we finished our ham and cheese galletes. It moved on quickly to see if the people next to us had anything better that they were willing to give up.

Without Al on this trip, I wouldn’t have seen how surprisingly flexible the French controllers are nor would we have discovered the Louve’s secret storage area. I guess it pays to be inquisitive. I’m glad to have experienced these two Paris trips with Al and to learn more about Lisa’s second job as an English professor.

Here’s a gallery of many more pictures from this Paris trip:


Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on each of Kent’s trips as a co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 out of Boston.