Saturday, August 22, 2009

More adventures in Paris

Now that I have paid hommage to the french and their food , it's time to rip into them, non?

We flew with Qatar airways to CDG airport in Paris. The flight was ideal ( I think the nail marks in his arm , my special way of coping with turbulence , have faded now ) and we arrived in Paris without too many issues .

On our return journey , we debated about what the weight restrictions on luggage were and eventually concluded that it was 30kg per person . I did think at the time that this may have been wrong , but as we didn't buy too many souvenirs ( mostly fridge magnets , caricatures and a few items of clothing ) we reckonned we would be alright. Oh , how wrong we were !

A word of warning , when arriving for a flight in CDG , do not arrive any later than three hours early - you never know what could go wrong. We got there two hours before the flight and started to queue. While we were at the end of this line, and had to wait for about half an hour, I certainly didnt feel we were pushing any time limits and had even contemplated a few more fridge magnate purchases in duty free.

When we finally reached the counter, we met with our french Qatar Airways representative. Let's call him Pierre for arguments sake. Up goes our luggage onto the scales and , wouldn't you know it , we are 16kg over between the two of us. At this point , I decided to let him take over negotiations. In my experience with the french , if they know you speak french , they can be twice as venemous with their insults, so I kept schtum . I also have quite a short fuse when dealing with arrogant pups.

Pierre ( beginning to shriek) : You are heavy , you are heavy ! You must pay , quickly, quickly .

Him : Really? I thought it was 30kg? I'm pretty sure the ticket said 30kg.

Pierre: Non , non , non , non , non ! You arrive late, you have too much luggage and now you are telling me it's ok? ITS NOT OK? What did you expect when you arrive so late like this?I cannot help you . You must pay , NOW , go to that counter over there ! WAIT ! I HAVE TO GIVE YOU TICKET!!

Him : Ok , how much is it? Where do we pay?


Him : We were queueing for a long time , we weren't late. Ok , just tell me where to pay please ...?

Pierre at this point continues to scream like a scorned lover , delaying us by another ten minutes . He lectured us and there was lots of tutting and rolling of eyes. We went over to the special " over weight counter " and discovered that we owed 600 Euros . I started to hyperventilate slightly and ran back to Pierre .

Her: Look , we can't pay that much , it's crazy , please , give me the bags back and we will ditch some of our luggage .

Pierre : NON

Her : WHAT???

Pierre : Non ! I am not letting you on the flight . It's too late, I am closing , your luggage is staying here now .

Her: You can't be serious . We will throw luggage away . We will make it lighter ! Please ! We are sorry , we didn't know !!

Pierre: You should have come early if you will make problems like this.

Pierre prompltly made a "hmmph " sound and turned his back on us! I'm pretty sure they take assault fairly seriously in airports, so it was probably for the best when He ushered me to one side in a bid to damage control . After some intense apologising on our part, Pierre finally decided to let us rip open our bags and pull out anything we deemed unneccessary . In the cull , we lost boots, jeans and sweaters while we transefered ipods and speakers to our handluggage and hoped for the best. All the while ,Pierre continued to scream at us !

When we re-weighed our things, we apparently had reached an acceptable weight . I nearly wanted to point out that we had both gained a stone since the last flight ( the french hate fat people ) and what was he gonna do about that , eh?? But common sense , or , um , fear, prevailed and we continued our humble apologies . The charitable soul decided that , actually , he would let us on the flight . We took our tickets and ran like bats out of hell to passport control . We weren't late initially , but we certainly were now. Further more, it seems that entire Kuwaiti polulation has decided to drag themselves away from the cafes of the Champs Elyisee and head home , so the non European passport queue was chronic . ( Were there any Kuwaitis who weren't in Paris this August?? )

When we finally got to the closing boarding gate , I am pretty sure we were flagged for swine flu , what with the red faces, the wheezing and puffing . The air hosts were lovely , gave us water, and seemed to realise something had happened to the two bewildered passengers. Maybe they knew we had just had a lovers tiff with Pierre. I have never met anyone so unprofessional and stroppy in my life. I felt like we were breaking up with the guy in a restaurant and he had decided "Screw this, I'm going to make a scene "

While he is not the first French man to scream at me , and certainly won't be the last , I never fail to be utterly gobsmacked at how unbelievably arrogant certain individuals can be. It's amazing how a little power can go to someone's head isn't it !

si le vin est bon...

I'm only too aware that when a person goes on holiday - it's easy to compare your standard of living for those two weeks with how a person lives on a daily basis in Dubai. Of course, Dubai always comes out as the underdog in these stakes. let's face it , 45 degrees, dust, sand and having to constantly repeat yourself over and over for clarification doesn't inspire much love when you think about it with a cynical approach!

For the sake of sparing you all from my usual aimless rants , I am going to talk about just one aspect of my holidays this year ; the food! We have just returned from a fabulous two week stay in Paris , where Lebanese and Irish contingency of our families met , and managed not to fight , nay , even got on like a proverbial house on fire ! With the formalities out of the way ,we were left to savour some of the more important features of our parisien adventure - eating!

French bread , cheese, wine, you name it - the French seem to get it right when it comes to all kinds of eating - be it dining out or cooking at home. The quality of raw ingredients are so superior , that for the first time in a long time, I could have happily munched on a tomato with bread all day and not felt the need for something "tastier" which I so often do here in Dubai !
Little bistros , never to be reviewed by restaurant critics , managed to serve up the most simple and tasty dishes at such value. This is what makes france different from so many other countries in the world. The french seem to have such a respect for the enjoyment and qaulity of food , they view is as a right , not merely an option, to savour superior meals at a fraction of the cost. The availabiliy of such beautiful produce is restricted to none and available to all . It is classless and not reliant on the quantity of your pay cheque- thus making it attainable by the majority .

Now lets flick over to Dubai. Horrible , insipid fruit and vegetables, pumped with all manner of chemicals and pesticides languish in the aisles of Spinneys et al . While many a shwarma stand can produce award winning food , quality at a pocket friendly price seems to stop here. Maybe it's my cooking skills that lack the imagination needed to produce such mouth watering dishes( distinctly possible ) but something tells me it's not all that simple.

As consumers, we are told that we can vote with our feet when it comes to quality of food. The more organic , high quality produce we buy , the cheaper and more widely available it will become. How I wish that would actually happen here in Dubai! Despite putting on a stone ( yes , a full stone ) in two weeks , I am sure that I would be inspired to eat healthy foods here if only it were as flavoursome, cheap and as widely available as it was in Paris. Well , that's my excuse and I am sticking to it . I would love to see an entire organic produce section in spinneys that is far bigger than the processed foods aisles.

The first thing I ate when I came back to Dubai? A packet of koka noodles and a can of Fanta orange. If this continues , I am not merely heading for a heart attack , but I am also staring down the barrel of having to buy an entire new wardrobe or donning a cover all abaya for the coming months. So far , I am uninspired to consume anything labelled "fresh " here. It's 7 am and I have just wolfed down 3 hobnobs for breakfast . This blog may just turn into a weight loss obsessed foodies blog . You have been warned !