The Red Eye To Paris

This blog entry about the events of Friday, March 17, 2006 was originally posted on March 18, 2006.

DAY 1: “And your last name is Trinidad?” asked the pretty Air France check-in clerk at JFK’s Terminal 1 after I had given her my shiny new passport. “Are you from Trinidad?” She seemed pretty enthusiastic about it.

“No,” I disappointed.  “Are you?”  She had a very Caribbean look about her with flawless coffee-toned skin.

“No,” she said, still excited.  It was probably just a part of her job to be so.

“Oh, that’s usually the reaction I get from Trinidadians.” I zipped up my bag for the weigh-in while she checked me in on the computer. “Oh, you are going to Bamako!?” she said excitedly. I figured she was just used to people checking in for the red eye to Paris, the usual final destination.

“Are you from Mali?” I asked. She had a French accent and it might have been true as Mali is a former French colony where French is still the official language.

“No.” She told me she had grown up in France but was a descendant of the French African island of Guadeloupe. “You know Guadaloupe?”

“I’ve heard of it,” I said, seemingly continuing to impress her.

“Most Americans don’t know it. They only know American islands.” Little did she know that I didn’t actually know where Guadeloupe was on the map, and that I’ve heard of Guadalupe, Mexico. It was fun to chat her up anyway. She gave me directions on how to transfer terminals upon arrival at Charles De Gaulle airport and tagged my bag to go to Bamako.

“What are you doing in Bamako?” she asked.

“Just touring around.”

“You don’t know anyone there?”

“No.”  Little did she know the traveling solo scenario wasn’t a foreign idea to me.

She gave me my boarding pass and directed me towards Gate 2.  “What is your name?” I asked.


“Thank you Collette,” I said.  “Uh, merci.”

“De rien.”  And with that, she sent me off to the security gate with her photogenic French African smile.

EARLIER THAT DAY wasn’t as smooth. I spent most of the day scrambling around in New Jersey and New York doing last minute chores — retrieving some old gear at my folks’ house, getting much needed travel insurance, finalizing a reservation at a hotel in Bamako upon arrival (using broken French and English), etc. — and I only packed that afternoon. Once a procrastinator, always one. But I managed to get my groove back after my year-long backpacking hiatus, remembering the packing routine I’d done many times before for almost a year and a half. Toilet paper, check.  Malaria meds, check.  USB memory card reader, check. Et cetera, et cetera. It still amazed me that everything you need in Life fits in just a backpack and a small daypack. Packing and prepping up, the routine was all coming back to me and I felt like a retired soldier going back to battle. In no time, I had everything back up to par with my usual Global Trip self, complete with notepad and spy camera in pocket. Things were finally going smooth until the security check at JFK.

“What’s this for?” asked the security officer, after my belongings had been flagged for a hand inspection and swab after the x-ray. She was holding up a metal and rubber clamp — a new version of the infamous “iClamp” I discovered I needed in India on my big trip to get my computer working.

“Uh, well, the logic board in my laptop is busted and I have to squeeze the side of it for the screen to lighten up,” I explained truthfully. “But when I do that, I can’t really type.” Pathetic, yes — but I wasn’t ready to bring my new laptop on this coming adventure.

The security officer was amused and called over her supervisor.  “Is this okay?”

The stern-looking man analyzed it in his hand and let it pass.  I sighed a relief; my former iClamp had almost been confiscated on an Air Canada flight . Once passed the gate, I just wandered around, watching people board their flights to destinations unbeknownst to me. I sat at a table and fired the new iClamp up to begin writing this entry, until it was time to board the plane.

THE RED-EYE TO PARIS (picture above) wasn’t very exciting. I had an aisle seat next to two German girls who mostly kept to themselves. I pinned them for lesbians since they cuddled and held hands while they slept — not that there’s anything wrong with it — although they didn’t make out, not even once. There was a baby two rows up that cried for a bit, but was thankfully pacified. I spent most of my awake time watching the yoga video on the big shared screen (filmed on location at Angkor Wat) and parts of The Constant Gardener on the little monitor mounted on the chair in front of me, which also provided me a good hour of Solitaire. The mediocre chardonnay that came with my mediocre salmon helped get me a few hours of sleep before waking up with red eyes the next morning in France.

Next entry: African Games

Previous entry: The Scramble

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “The Red Eye To Paris”

  • BTW, my love/hate relationship with Lonely Planet continues; when trying
    to call the hotel in Bamako for a reservation, they had published the
    wrong phone number. Luckily I’m also traveling with the more
    comprehensive Bradt Guide to Mali, which had it correct.

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • Yahoo! First!!! Glad to see the iClamp back in action. Looks like it had
    an upgrade smile

    Posted by Liz  on  03/18  at  01:10 PM

  • Feels like old times…..big ass cup of joe and Erik’s Blog….what more
    can a girl ask for!!!

    Posted by Lisa  on  03/18  at  01:54 PM

  • It sure feels good to be back armchair travelling again! Something to
    look forward to each day. Rose

    Posted by Rose  on  03/18  at  02:53 PM

  • that’s a grip clamp, idn’t it? Looks lovely - the green color is very
    fitting. I know that’s what you looked for when choosing it. HA!

    I attempt to steer everyone away from LP - ugh. What is the Bradt guide?
    I suppose I can look at a bookstore sometime… duh. Have fun!

    Posted by tallgirl

  • wow you canadians are claiming the lead for first posters! and
    yes…still no TDOT

    Posted by markyt  on  03/18  at  03:47 PM

  • Bweeeeeerrrr

    your fucking brilliant

    god speed


    Posted by bil Chamberlin

  • good use of flikr. now we get to see more pics an comment on ‘em!

    but uhmm..where’s teh pic of collette?

    Posted by PorkFryRice

  • I hope they’ve got internet access in the Sahara! Can’t wait to see
    where you end up going over the next few weeks.

    Posted by Office Samurai

  • so that’s why you were asking about flickr. i thought you were gonna
    blog it from there. great new iclamp. =D

    Posted by alice  on  03/19  at  01:03 PM

  • “It still amazed me that everything you need in Life fits in just a
    backpack” i like that one…

    Posted by ELI-NYC  on  03/29  at  09:20 PM

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This blog post is one of eighteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Trippin' To Timbuktu" (originally hosted by, which chronicled a trip through the West African nation of Mali in March-April 2006.

Next entry:
African Games

Previous entry:
The Scramble


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BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

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