Off season is when I normally do my serious travel, so I have been through a number of airports and cities in the last week as I work and do errands.
I have discovered a few unknown airlines and some basic transportation secrets that I wanted to share … to say nothing of the fact that my Hermès scarf was given a complete pat-down at Newark because you never know when someone has dangerous goods in the folds tied around the head.
We decided to fly from Newark to Paris on Open Skies, a division of British Air that only serves Paris, Newark and Dulles—the plane is all business class and allows a good bit of space for each guest.
We had extra space since the flight was almost empty.
I had understood this was a one-class airline (business), but arrived at their desk beneath Newark to find there are two classes—seat and bed—yes, that’s how they are classified. (We had seats, but the beds looked similar to those on United.)
The beds go 180 degrees (flat) while the seats only go 140 (very comfortable).
I think the Delta business-first is more comfortable, and I am wild for United’s Flat Bed service, but this seat was certainly spacious.
The flight quite swift and luxurious from the East Coast. We arrived at Paris’ Orly Airport, not as far from the city as CDG, and very convenient if you have a Left Bank Hotel.
DARE TO SHARE
In wanting to fly from Orly to Barcelona, we used Expedia.com to book what we thought was an Iberia flight.
Explore Barcelona, Spain:
Turns out we were on their low-cost sister airline, Vueling. To pronounce this, think of the Spanish word for flight (vuelo) and your lips are in the right position.
Vueling flies the Airbus 320 and is obviously a Spanish airline, since they know a lot about sardines. There is little space and no pitch, but the flights are cheap!
There was a promo from Barcelona to Amsterdam for €30; we paid about that to fly from Paris to Barcelona and got one piece of baggage included in our fee—this airline encourages carry-on or charges €20 for an extra bag, which isn’t bad.
The planes are a cute white and chrome yellow design with giant gray polka dots on the tail; seats are gray leather. There are two wings and a real tail on each plane. Snacks are available for purchase on board.
HURRAY FOR ORLY
Oh la la Paris:
Orly airport is south of Paris and handles most intra-European flights. We walked into a nice enough departures salon with a branch of baker Paul for a lunch or take-away snack, a bookstore and other shopping. But once we checked into Vueling and cleared security, there were no more opportunities for even a magazine.
We did get a sandwich at a bar near the gate, but Orly (written ORY on baggage tags) is not the airport nirvana you’ll find at BCN (Barcelona).
The taxi to Orly cost €40 but you can take a bus or train and shuttle combo; there is also a moto service if you can figure out how to balance that suitcase (and your bum) on the back of a motorcycle. Orly is very easy to use, both for international arrivals and intra-European flights. Since Spain and France have no borders between them thanks to the Schengen Treaty, you do not have to go through immigration on arrival in either ORY or BCN.
Explore the Schengen visa-free zone with our European Travel section.
BRAVO FOR BCN
The Barcelona airport is light filled and shop filled; it is more fun than any mall with branches of all the major stores such as Zara and Custo and plenty of tourist traps selling gaudy Gaudi versions of fridge magnets and keychains. There are many restaurants, including McDonald’s, as well as gourmet food shops where you can get the famous Iberica Ham, which is illegal to bring into the U.S.
Unlike Orly, BCN has retail stretching from the central hub (the mall) into each finger of the gate areas (A to D)—a favorite in the B gateway was Chocolate Factory, where they hand out free samples and we had to ponder the difference between “chocolate jam” and “chocolate crème” for about $10 a jar.
For reasons I do not totally understand, given the Schengen Treaty (elimination of borders) there is duty-free shopping at both Orly and BCN. You cannot bring cigarettes and some forbidden items across, but are free to look for discounts on Toblerone bars, makeup and perfume. Note that the famous ham costs about $20 for 100 grams.
GIVE UP TAXIS
Taxis all over Europe are expensive—the fare from BCN into Central Barcelona is €35 euros with tip and fees for baggage in the trunk; the taxi flag falls at €2.35 (it’s €2.30 in Paris).
We decided to take a bus cross-town in Barcelona, this cost €1.45 and was very easy since the route was laid out at the bus stop and on the bus interior and a digital voice announced each stop. It was sunny, which makes the world seem wonderful, so the bus was an unexpected treat—and savings … as well as a way to feel part of a community and non-touristic.
Busloads of Kisses,
By Suzy Gershman for PeterGreenberg.com. Visit Suzy on the Web at www.suzygershman.com andwww.borntoshoplady.blogspot.com and of course, check out her latest book Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop California Wine Country.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Paris Bargain Shopping: Flagships, Flea Markets & Outlet Malls
- Luxury Hotels, Luxury Travel & Suzy’s Shopping Guide to Paris
- Top Paris Shopping & Luxury Travel
- France & Belgium Travel
- Shopping section
- Barcelona Shopping Report: Banking Bust A Boon To Luxury Hotels And Barcelona Bargains
- Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Barcelona, Spain
- Barcelona Art & Architecture Guide + Barcelona Hotels
- Barcelona, Mexico City & Santa Fe: Museums, Restaurants & Art in Latin Cultural Capitals
- The Trains In Spain: A High-Speed Rail Review
- A Guide To Touring Spain By Train (& Walking)