The final day and the long way home

Abidjan Travel Blog

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May 31, 2010
Flight: 5/31/10, Abidjan (ABJ) to Paris (CDG), Air France, 777, economy
Flight: 6/1/10, Paris (CDG) to Houston (IAH), Air France, 777, economy
Flight: 6/1/10, Houston (IAH) to Austin (AUS), Continental, 737, economy
Our last day of the trip had finally arrived, after three weeks of hard overland travel.  We still had a full day in Abidjan as our flight didn't leave until 9:30PM.  We didn't have much planned for the day, mainly I still needed to find some bubble wrap or cardboard boxes to wrap my kora in.
. I doubt they would let me carry it on as it was an odd shape.  There was also a park mentioned in the LP book where washerwomen come out to do laundry in a nearby creek, that sounded interesting.

There was an interesting mix of people at the hotel, locals, Chinese, French and Lebanese businessmen.  After breakfast we headed out to a nearby supermarket to check on tape or bubblewrap.  What a difference a day makes.. yesterday downtown felt like a ghost town but today the streets were full of people and cars.  We found the supermarket after passing all the stylish Gucci, Hermes, etc. shops, but they did not have bubblewrap.  I did end up buying some twine and wrapping tape.  As we're walking back to the hotel, we passed some discarded boxes sitting against a door.
  They looked a perfect size for the kora so we picked them up and walked off.   A few minutes later a security guard comes up to us (from across the street) and says he wants money for the cardboard boxes.. we say no, they were being thrown out.  Nothing has value until an obruni wants it, apparently. 

We made it back to the hotel and proceeded to wrap the kora.. it's a very awkward shape, essentially a sphere with a long rectangular handle coming out of it off center.  We do the best we can, wrapping it in my mosquito net, plastic bag, then reinforcing with cardboard, finally wrapping with tape and twine.  It's about 10AM and we decide to check out and leave our bags then go out to the park.  We hire a taxi for an hour or so, at 5000 ($10) CFA/hr.
Cathedral, Abidjan
  The park actually was really close, but the washerwomen were on the other side of the expressway.. we had to go several miles past them before there was a turnaround.    The huge fortified UN headquarters was on our left.  We pull up to the creek where there are a hundred or more people washing clothes, scrubbing them in the creek on top of large tires.  Quite scenic, but we're mobbed by people wanting payment for photos.

After the creek, we wanted to checkout a nearby sheep market.. the driver knew where it was but first we had to go past the gare routiere, chaotic jumble of minibuses and shared taxis heading off in every direction.  The sheep market was quite large, hundreds of sheep in pens but not much going on.  On the way to the market, I had noticed an interesting looking cathedral.
Duck confit w/ white bean stew La Croisette, Abidjan
  I'd seen photos of it on the web while looking up photos of Cote d'Ivoire when researching the trip.  We did a detour to the church, a twisted spiral (Le Sanctuarie Marial).

We still had several hours to kill once arriving back at the hotel,  the free hotel shuttle to the airport was picking us up at 5PM.  I had wanted to check out the French restaurant, La Croisette.  It  was mentioned in the book as being very good, also a guy on another blog I follow had recommended it.  We had walked by it yesterday but it along with everything else was closed.  Today it was open, but it was just past noon and they had only just opened.  There were a few expats at the bar but no one else was eating.  The place was very elegant and peaceful, a big change from the rundown streets just outside.
Duck Confit w/ white bean stew La Croisette, Abidjan
  Lots of warm wood on the walls & floor, crisp white tablecloths, etc.  Got the menu and eyes bulged out slightly.. this isn't Paris but they were charging Paris prices!  I chose the duck confit w/ white bean stew.  As we're waiting on lunch, a few more businessmen and women arrive for lunch.  The waiter brings out a tabletop plate warmer, then out comes the huge plate of stew.. looked amazing.  The taste was wonderful as well, buttery beans, melt in your mouth duck, and some kind of country sausage.  Lunch for the two of us came out to be $70, all we had was water and the two main plates!

After lunch, we went to the Cap Sud mini-mall to use internet for an hour, then back to the hotel where we just sat around on the sofas in the lobby for a few hours till it was time for the hotel shuttle.
  It was a few minutes late but no worries we had 5+ hrs before our flight.  Traffic actually wasn't too bad despite it being rush hour.. and it only took about 25 minutes to get out to the airport.  I had discovered another 17 cedis in my wallet, we were able to change these to CFA although not at the best rate.  That still left about $15 in CFA, though I hoped to spend that in duty free or something.

Checkin was easy, this early there wasn't much of a line yet for the Air France checkin.  I hoped to get my bags tagged all the way to Austin (the IAH-AUS was a separate ticket though) but they wouldn't do that.  Next was a fairly long line for immigration, after which we still had a 3+ hr wait for our flight.  The Abidjan airport is pretty nice, new and clean.
  There were a couple of duty free shops and a cafe/restaurant in the area past immigration (but before security).  After getting a drink in the bar, we had just enough CFA to buy a bottle of Amarula, some cookies and two sticks of gum.. totally cleared us out of CFA.

Boarding for the Air France flight was actually on time, as we board the plane there is a hand search of carryon bags.  I still had the packing tape/twine in my bag along with the wooden masks... I guess they didn't like my packing tape as they confiscated it and almost took the twine as well!  It didn't look like the plane was very full given the number of people in the boarding area.  I had checked the seating map online and it looked like the plane was full, so either alot of no-shows or most people hadn't shown up yet!  It turned out to be the latter, as I sat in my window seat and more and more people board the plane fills up.
  I have very broad shoulders so usually get a window seat; if I'm in the aisle I stick out a few inches and invariably get bumped, poked by everyone going down the aisle.  The seats also seemed very narrow and less legroom compared with the KLM flights we had been on.  What made it worse was, two other big guys had the aisle/middle seats next to me.. we're all broad shouldered and to even get comfortable I had to sit sideways smashed in my seat, with nowhere for my legs to go.  I had been more comfortable in the bush taxi with 23-other people, although at least this time there wasn't the guy with polio drooling all over me!

The flight left on time as well, for the 6-hr flight up to Paris.  The routemap showed we would fly right over Timbuktu and Algiers.
  I wasn't able to sleep very well on the flight but was starving and ate all the dinner, fish in cream sauce.  We approach CDG airport, landing on runway 26 R.. then proceed to taxi all the way around the airport to a remote parking stand somewhere in Belgium.  Off the plane, onto the buses which are sweltering hot, then drive back from Belgium through the airport to terminal 2E (why they don't park there to begin with, I don't know..), where we have to wait on the bus for another 20 minutes for some reason or another.. meanwhile the driver turned ON the heat causing everyone on the bus to complain.

Finally, close to an hour after landing we finally get into the terminal.  Luckily our next flight also left out of the 2E satellite.  After the train ride, we go through security again, where they proceeded to confiscate my bottle of Amarula I had purchased in Abidjan, despite it still being in the tamper-proof duty free bag, and despite the sign saying you could bring through duty free liquids in sealed bags.
Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
  I argued with them a few minutes, but they said apparently there's some countries they won't allow duty free liquids through.  I asked if I could drink it right then and there (it was a small bottle :D), but no to that either.  GRRR! G*D* French!  You'd think they'd put up a sign or something, or have let me know in Abidjan.. I guess Paris wants to get their cut of duty free sales or something.  It was only a $10 bottle or so, but it's the principle of the thing.

We still had a 3 hr wait, so grabbed a croissant and OJ and sat out looking at the new Air France A380 sitting out at the gate.. what an ugly plane that is, but I'd still like to fly on one (In first class)!  The flight to Houston was on a 777 and left on time.  This time I didn't feel quite as squished even though I had the same seat#.
  The flight was long, long, long.. but always the last flight home seems like it never ends.  We arrive in Houston to a huge huge line at Immigration; usually coming through in Houston it takes me just a few minutes, but either the holiday traffic (day after Memorial day), or just time of day (lots of flights from Mexico) made the line snake around the barriers 5-6 times.  It moved pretty quickly but still took over an hour to get through there and down to the bag belt where our bags were already waiting. 

My final flight home on  Continental wasn't for another 4 hrs yet.. and I had to pay the $60 (more than I paid for the flight!!) fee to check both my bags as I no longer have status with Continental. Boo!  Pretty outrageous for the 30 minute flight to Austin.
  I debated just renting a car one-way, it might have been cheaper and I'd have gotten home sooner too.  My friend was flying back to San Antonio, so we split ways here.  The final flight to Austin was full, I was toying around with taking the bump voucher but in the end they didn't need volunteers.
hauteboy says:
I think the trip certainly can be done on one's own.. the only deal would be the extra cost for a single room. And I'd also say sadly it would not be a good time to visit Cote d'Ivoire. A friend of my travel buds was hoping to come with us on this trip but couldn't make it; he's now in West Africa for 6 weeks on his own going from Senegal to Accra.

I'm also sure the trip would have been just as enjoyable solo.. since there were three of us we did end up talking to each other and not so much with others, though this was also a limitation due to our not speaking much French.
Posted on: May 26, 2011
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photo by: Bluenose