No, really, walking to airports isn’t a good option – originally published 20 May 2005

(Written when I was living in Paris, 2005)

I really can’t believe this happened again.

The last day of the Cannes Film Festival, I dragged all my luggage to the bus stop to wait for the airport bus, which is supposed to come every 30 minutes. After 45 minutes of no bus, it was discovered that there was a strike and there wasn’t going to be any buses. You would have thought that someone would hang up a sign, but nope. The Nice airport is a good 30 km from Cannes, and the only other way there was by train.  You would think that the taxis would have been all RACING to the taxi stands near the bus stations to make tons of money getting people to and from the airport, but no. I waited for 15 minutes in a taxi stand line a million people long, and only one taxi came in that whole time.

I had befriended two very freaked out Brits, and we started the adventure together. It’s funny, I ended up spending hours with these two people and never once got there names. So let’s call them Frank and Kara. Frank was pissed, Kara was panicked. I was worried. My flight was at 6:50pm, theirs was at 7:00pm, and it was getting very late. The line at the train station to buy tickets was super long, and the only train we could have caught with any chance of getting to the airport was leaving in 7 minutes – there was no way we would be able to get tickets before it left.

Frank decided “this is bullshit,” which he stated many many times throughout the day, and somehow talked our way through the guy collecting tickets, promising that we would all pay on the train. This was where the language barrier actually worked in our favor – we spoke mostly in English, some bad French, and the ticket-guy had no idea what to do with us but let us go through. Amazing. We got on the train and no one came around to collect tickets (thank god). When we saw the airport approach, we decided to get off at the next stop. Kara had already told us the train didn’t actually go directly to the airport, it went nearby and then we would have to take a cab or a shuttle train to the airport itself. I highly doubted any of us would make our flights… it was now 6:15pm.

So we get off the train and we’re in some little suburb town that looks like all 4-lane highways to me. With luggage. I started to (inwardly) panic, because, you know, I had just done shit like this not even a month ago and it was somewhat traumatizing. We ask around and get the advice that “oh, it’s not far, a kilometer at most, and there are no taxi stands or a shuttle train, but really, you could walk.”

“Um, I don’t think we should walk,” I said as we started crossing our first highway. With luggage. And this time, I had a very large suitcase in addition to my little carry-on bag.

We crossed another highway, with Frank cursing the whole time. “I really, really, really don’t think we should walk. You can’t walk to airports,” I said again. “I really don’t think I’m going to walk,” I said again, as we got ourselves to the sidewalk-type thing on the side of the highway. I didn’t care if it meant I had to spend the night in the Nice airport, at that point. It was daylight, and I had seen taxis drive by, so I knew that at least they existed. Frank seemed lost, and said “It looks like we have to!” At that point, we ran into another guy looking for the airport, and he said “yup, I’m just going to walk there, I don’t see how else to get there.”

Oh jeezus. Okay. I didn’t like the idea of being stranded at the side of a highway in the south of France, but fuck if I’m going to walk to another goddamn airport, this one being the second-biggest airport in France, with a huge piece of luggage. There was a gas station across the street, I figured I would go over there until I figured out a plan.

Then, I spotted it: a cab coming off an exit ramp. “Go get that cab!” I yelled at Frank. He did! He crossed the highway to the medium strip, stopped the cab, and convinced him to drive the 3 of us to the airport. The driver was awesome, he sped quickly to their gate first, and then to mine. Incidentally, our gates were really far from each other and way more than one kilometer from where we started. Yeah. Sounded familiar. We dropped Frank and Kara off at about 6:25pm, they handed me 10 Euros for the cab, and we all wished each other luck. I knew there was no way I would make my flight, but I felt happy just knowing I was in a car on the way to my gate. Nice has a really nice airport, after all, and if I was forced to stay there through the night it wouldn’t be that bad.

The cab ride cost 16 Euros. I handed the guy a 20, and raced inside to Easyjet. Yes, the gate had been closed and there was no way I could get on the plane. However, they knew about the strike (it was an airport worker’s strike) and gave me a later flight with no additional fees to pay! I would still be able to make it home, I wouldn’t have to pay extra money, and I didn’t have to walk to the airport. Easyjet doesn’t fly that often, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up that there would be another flight to Paris that night that wasn’t full.

All I had to do was kill three hours. The airport windows looked out on to the beach, so I gazed out the windows, read a book, and ate. And there we have it. I just hope the Brits got on their flight with no problem… it kind of made me wish I had at least gotten their names.

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