This had all the potential to be a disaster. Air France…CDG…Italy, three entities that are not well loved by yours truly. However, a good friend from college was on leave from the war in Afghanistan and it was our duty to drink copious amounts of rose and in general make a nuisance of ourselves. The things we do for friendship.
Air France AF 1226 CDG-VCE
If I don’t like Air France and I hate CDG, then I loathe them even more so when my trip to the airport begins in the pre-dawn blackness. I dragged myself out of bed at an ungodly hour and made for the nearest taxi stand (close to the Odeon metro). I had been mildly worried that I would have trouble finding a taxi at 5 AM, because I thought they would all be engaged driving home the drunks still out from the previous evening (this was a Friday AM). After 15 minutes of waiting at the stand taxi-less, I realized that my fears were well founded.
Just when I was about to start panicking, a woman at the end of her shift pulled over and agreed to take me to CDG. She explained this would be her last run of the day, and I was relieved she had taken pity upon me.
Since I wasn’t checking any bags, it was an easy process from curbside to the gate. I had been pre-assigned a seat in row 5 and upon check-in was able to move myself up to row 4. As I have previously explained, Air France seats have extra leg room in the first seven or so rows. The placement of “business class” is flexible based on how many J fares they sell, so if you can assign yourself a seat up front, you get more leg room without paying the usurious rates they charge for the paltry intra-euro business service.
Upon boarding, I was pleased to see that this A320 had not been retrofitted with Air France’s new and “enhanced” intra-europe seat. I have previously discussed this “improvement,” which is in essence a lighter seat with less padding and no recline that lets Air France slightly improve their profit margins at the customer’s expense.
Venice/Bauer Palladio Hotel
The flight to Venice was pleasant enough. On arrival, my driver was not waiting for me. A quick call to the hotel sorted everything out. I was on edge after this initial hitch. As I mentioned, I am no great lover of Italy, and I have never been enamored with the service I have received in any Italian hotels.
The car from the airport got me as close as they could to the Bauer Palladio and then handed me off to a boat and driver. A chat with the boat driver en route to the hotel put me in better spirits, but I was still itching for a fight. I have to say I almost wanted the desk staff to be rude so that I would have an excuse to let loose my righteous indignation.
The staff at the Bauer gave me no such chance. From the second they met me at the dock they were excellent. Attentive, kind and friendly, I have to give nothing but high marks to the hotel and its staff.
I arrived shortly after nine in the morning. I had previously contacted the hotel and informed them I would be arriving early and requested that my room be made ready. After a brief five minute wait during which I was offered a beverage, one of the desk staff gave me a tour of the grounds and then escorted me to my room. She informed me I had been upgraded to a canal view room and showed me the layout of all the switches and dials. Again, excellent service, excellent staff.
I spent a grand total of about five minutes in the room and awake, so I cannot comment on the quality of the restaurant, bar or spa, but I will say the rooms were well appointed if a bit small. I am told the spa is excellent, but again I cannot speak from first hand experience. There is a fitness center adjoining the spa, and there are pleasant gardens off the back of the property. The hotel, which was previously a convent is a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World.
All in all, I would recommend the Bauer Palladio, with one caveat. The location is not superb. It is across the water from Piazza San Marco and many of the other tourist attractions. This is not an issue for most as there is a free shuttle that runs every 30 minutes from the Bauer Palladio to their sister hotel the Bauer Pallazo on the other side of the water. However, this service stops at midnight, so any late night revelers are forced to pay their own way back.
After countless bottles of rose, the requisite drinks at Harry’s and a nod to Hemingway, it was back into a water taxi and off to the airport to return to Paris.
Air France AF 1727 VCE-CDG
Along the water route to the airport, I noted that there are several places that would be great to tie a boat off and watch the aircraft come and go from VCE. Not sure what the regulations are re. tying off in the vicinity of the airport though.
The water taxis drop patrons off a brief walk away from the main terminal at VCE. Again, with no checked bags, it was a cinch to go from doorway to gate. I grabbed a seat by the window and watched the action on the tarmac until it was time for boarding.
When the first group was called, I attempted to board and the gate agent tried to stop me since my seat was in the first 10 rows and they were boarding the back of the plane. After a minute or so she realized I was an AF elite and thus entitled to board. She apologized and led me along. Despite my desire to pick a fight on this trip, I was thankfully not obliged. Perhaps poor customer service and rudeness is more of a southern Italian thing? The flight was uneventful, I had my glass of water and savory snack and in no time we were touching down in CDG. I hopped the RER to the Saint Michel stop and had a pleasant stroll back to my apartment.