Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Direct EasyJet link to Paris and the 3 Ducks Hostel

by David Kerr

EASYJET sometimes gets a bit of a bad press these days. Occasionally this is deserved, but often it is unfair. Recently I had a mad dash to catch my Belfast bound flight in the new sparkling Luton Airport. I was the fifteenth passenger to check in but the last one to board the aircraft.

When I checked in the clerks told me to watch the departure boards for details of the proper departure gate. I passed through security, bought a newspaper and had a leisurely breakfast of dried fruits, yoghurt and granola with a lovely pot of tea. It was sheer bliss!
After what seemed like a few minutes I checked the departure board. My flight details were flashing, ‘LAST CALL’ at Gate 18.

I galloped down the corridor in double-quick time. I only just made it. As I collapsed gasping into my seat the flight attendant closed the door of the Airbus behind me. I was scarlet with embarrassment as my fellow passengers looked on disapprovingly. Honestly, I never heard a single announcement. If I had missed the flight it would not have been EasyJet’s fault. It’d have been mine alone!

For my flight to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris I would be more prepared! I would not relax until I found out which gate my flight was leaving from. It worked. After passing through security I checked the departure board every ten minutes. I was the first passenger to notice the ‘Proceed to Gate 21’ sign and made my way there well ahead of everyone else. All went smoothly. I got a great seat with plenty of legroom. The flight even managed to leave a little ahead of time as nobody emulated my Luton experience.

The flight attendants were polite, friendly and efficient which made the time spent in the air pass quite pleasantly. We even got into Paris CDG fifteen minutes early! Transition through Passport Control and the baggage reception carousel went without a hitch.

Once into the main area of Terminal 3, it is a short walk to the RER railway station. Those with lots of luggange can take a shuttle bus. Eight Euros takes you into the gare du Nord where you can take an underground or mainline train to just about anywhere.

Gare du Nord is by far the scariest railway station I have ever been in! It’s a nightmare to find your way around its three levels – every one heaving with thousands of people – when you’ve never set foot in the place before. As I chased around the massive station for the best part of forty-five minutes I nearly took a panic attack. Eventually, more by luck than judgement, I found my way to Metro Line 4, changed to Line 8 further along the network and ended up at my destination, the Commerce Metro station.

Travelling around Paris is very easy if you invest in a Paris Visite card. This entitles you to travel on any SNCF Ile-de-France train, any Metro and RER train and on RATP and SNCF trains and buses around the city and the funicular railway that takes you up to the Sacre Couer basilica. This comes with a booklet of coupons that offer discounts on quite a few of the city’s major attractions. A three-day ticket costs just 18 Euros.

Don’t despair if you fancy a trip to Paris but have little or no money. There are quite a few places where you can stay a fortnight for the price of a night in the fancy five-star hotel down the road.

I stayed three nights in the friendly 3 Ducks Hostel, close to the Commerce Metro station. A night in a four-bed dormitory will set you back 16 Euros a night in the low season. The price includes a continental breakfast of orange juice, tea or coffee and a baguette with jam and butter. Private rooms are also available at a higher rate.

Reception is in a pleasant bar that gives access to a rear courtyard. This must be lovely in the summer. The rooms are arranged around three sides of the courtyard on the ground floor and an overlooking first floor balcony. Other doors on the ground floor of the courtyard conceal three lavatories, two showers and the guests’ kitchen.

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