A Family South African Safari – A Pit Stop in Paris

A Family South African Safari

1 – Introduction
2 – A Pit Stop in Paris
3 – Tanda Tula
4 – Londolozi Founder’s Camp
5 – Safari Photos
6 – Cape Grace Hotel
7 – Cape Town Activities
8 – Emirates First Class – Thoughts and Observations
9 – Conclusion, A Few Safari Tips and Future Plans

The one upshot of taking two consecutive red eye flights to get to South Africa was that we had an afternoon and evening in Paris.

We had taken the kids to Paris for nearly a week back in 2012 (trip report here) and they had a wonderful time.  My wife and I have also visited several times and I’ve stopped in Paris countless times of business trips.

For this visit, I arranged for a private car (a little van) and a driver to look after us.  Though not inexpensive, it was a luxury that made the stopover much easier.

We were fortunate that it was unseasonably warm – perhaps in the low-double digits centigrade.

Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower.  We have been to the top before and didn’t buy tickets in advance, so we got out at the Trocadero and walked through the brief gardens, across the bridge and under the tower.

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

There was a Christmas village nearby, so we walked through there as well.  Lots of useless stuff for sale.  We did let the kids get Nutella crepes, which they loved.  We walked outside for about an hour, which was wonderful.

Next stop was to get tickets for the Catacombs, where we planned to return to later.  We were fortunate and got tickets for the last entry of the day, at 6:45pm.

From there, it was onward to Laduree for macarons, something both kids had keenly requested.

Yum!
Yum!

We moved on to the Orsay as our principal stop for the day.  The queue was only about 20 minutes.  The Orsay has one of my favorite collections in the world.  While I’m not a big musuem-goer, I could spend hours here.  The kids held it together for about one and half hours  – then it was unambiguously time to go.

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Next, we headed back over to the Catacombs for our scheduled entry.  On the way, my daughter (9) was looking at the brochure for the venue and we could tell she was becoming frightened.  (Indeed, the brochure reflects a seemingly endless collection of skulls.)  My wife and I asked her if she’d rather not visit, and she quickly took us up on the option to skip.  Perfectly understandable, so we did not go back.

We had talked about an early dinner in Paris, but it was clear the kids were wiped out, so we decided to pass.

We made one final stop for small souvenirs for the kids on Rue Rivoli then asked the driver to head up the Champs-Elysees (not the most efficient route, but beautiful at night at Christmas) then onward back to the airport.

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While certainly not the deepest visit to Paris, in light of the circumstances, it made a delightful stopover.  The kids remembered some things from our prior visit (even pointing out our hotel from three years ago!).  I’m happy to see them feel at ease in a European city.

We had a few hours to kill in the Air France lounge.  The kids had access to wifi and a self-service buffet, so they were fine.  I did my best to keep my eyes open.

* * * * *

SkyPriority is fairly meaningless on A380s, as easily 100 pax can use the premium channel, if not 200.  We were about 20th in the queue and finally got to the front – and were told we needed a documents check – which was done at a nearby gate.

To exit South Africa with children, effective earlier in 2015, you need to show original birth certificates indicating that both parents are traveling together.  We were aware of this and had both kids’ birth certificates, and a certificate of marriage (belts and suspenders, I guess) ready.  While I understand why they do this, not once prior had Air France advised us that they’d check our papers going in to South Africa.  They could have done this at original check in or at the lounge.

Having not been advised of the additional check, we had to go join a different queue at a nearby gate for our papers to be checked.  Then, we went to a separate queue for a check of the check!

By the time we got back to the main gate, the SkyPriority line had shortened and we boarded quickly.

Our flight was delayed a little over an hour due to a passenger having a stroke while we were at the gate.

Our host arranged for an escort to meet us at the jetbridge in Jo’berg and to serve as our advocate through immigration and customs.  While our escort got into a shouting match with one airport staffer managing the queue, the immigration agent processed us very quickly.

Disappointingly, when we arrived in Jo’berg, two of our six bags did not make it.  Despite arriving three hours early at JFK, Air France failed to load the two bags at JFK.  We ultimately learned that one bag was then routed via Atlanta on Delta to JNB and the other a day later on our same Air France flights, but details were scarce for some time.  This was frustrating.

Four of our bags were for the bush and two for Cape Town.  The missing bags were one from each category.  Our host was planning to take our two Cape Town bags and route them directly to the Cape Grace Hotel.  They sorted out all of the details with Air France and the one bag arrived at Tanda Tula (at Air France’s expense) on our third day.  My son was very resilient borrowing some clothes and allowing for quick washes.

I understand that when there are tight connections or irregular operations, bags can easily get separated.  I’ve had misrouted bags before and typically don’t get upset, as there is typically a good reason for the event.  There was no excuse for what played out here – just sloppiness on the part of Air France ground staff at JFK.

Our host arranged for our shared private flight to be held due to our delay on Air France.  When we arrived at the private terminal, we were told by the charter staff not to mention the reason for the flight delay.  Of course, as soon as we boarded the plane, the first officer made a statement apologizing for the delay, saying the flight was held to accommodate a late arriving group.  Since there were only two groups on the plane, it was pretty clear who was the late one!

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Departing Jo'berg
Departing Jo’berg

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A little over an hour later, we made a quick change of plane (to get on a smaller plane) for a ten minute flight to Tanda Tula’s airstrip.

Pilots filled the plane we arrived on with fuel. No concept of union rules here.
Pilots filled the plane we arrived on with fuel. No concept of union rules here.
Plane onward to Tanda Tula
Plane onward to Tanda Tula

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Were met planeside by our guide and were quickly in the bush!

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The report continues here.

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