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How to make the most of those airport layovers

How we all hate those airport layovers!  Of, at least most of us do—endless hours of boredom, questionable airport food, endless CNN broadcasts (often in a language you don’t understand) and waiting, that just tend to wear you out.  But…quite often direct flights are more expensive than those that require a layover so we end up with layovers.  Most of us hope to spend as little time as possible between flights; however, trying to avoid long layovers can come with its own set of problems. 

In this day of flight delays you sometimes you get a close (too close) connection that can cause you to skip that rest room that you really needed to use (should have gone on the plane!) and run breathlessly through the airport as you hear the dreaded announcement “final call” for your flight.  And as it sometimes happens, this is from one end of the airport to the other.  Of course the standard airline response to these close connections is:  “well, it’s a legal connection”.

Our advice is to opt for the longer connection in many instances.  The advantages?  Well, you may get to see some sights that will add to the pleasure of your trip without spending much more.  Here’s an example from one of our readers:

One time my husband and I had a flight on British Gatwick Express train to center LondonAirways arriving at London Gatwick around 9:00 a.m. and our Croatia Airlines flight to Zagreb did not depart until 7:00 p.m.  So we did a bit of research and found out that the Gatwick Express train could zip us into London in less than an hour.  The “helpful” guy at customs told us it wouldn’t be worth it, but fortunately we ignored him. 

The result was a delightful day in London, catching a city tour bus, taking a cruise on the Themes and of course some fish and chips in a local pub.  Got back to the airport with plenty of time to spare and had some great memories of our day in London even though that was not part of our original plan.  Did not hit any Catholic sites that day but still it was a pleasant time.

Some people often extend their layover to an overnight stay.  Often this does not change the airfare so long as it is less than 24 hours.  Of course you will have the cost of your lodging but assuming you are some place interesting then it’s a great way to get even more enjoyment out of your travels.

Check out any Catholic sites that may be nearby: perhaps a chance to visit a nearby shrine or even attend Mass.  Two examples among many are the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport or the Shrine of Our Lady of All Nations near Amsterdam’s SchipolAirport.  And you can easily whisk in to Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport and catch Notre Dame, the Miraculous Medal or one of the many other Catholic sites in Paris.

Or if you are not up to going anywhere but are just dead after that long overseas flight and have a later departure that day, consider grabbing a hotel room for a day rate.  You can catch a few hours of sleep, take a shower and be bright eyed and bushy-tailed as you resume your journey later that day.  Many airport hotels offer day rates at less than the normal nightly rate and a Google search for “Airport Hotel Layover Rates” will even pull up a couple of websites dedicated to just that.  Be sure to leave a wake-up call!

How about you?  Do you have a suggestion on any Catholic sites to visit during a layover.  Let others know.

 

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Great Travel experience: Staying at a Chateau in France

Like many independent Catholic travelers, we like to try unusual things.  Although staying in a chateau is not terribly unusual, it was the first time for us and therefore we considered it outside the norm.  For some reason, we just don’t seem that keen on B&B’s.  Can’t explain it—just prefer hotels.  Perhaps we feel less privacy when staying in someone else’s house rather than a hotel. So when planning a trip to Normandy (mainly the Catholic pilgrimage site of Pontmain, Mont St. Michel & the D-Day beaches) we decided to try a chateau just to see what it was like.  We hopped a train (our favorite way to travel in Europe) from Paris to Lisieux to visit the Shrine of Saint Therese of Lisieux.  It’s only a little over an hour by train and so we spent a day there and then caught the high-speed TGV to the city of Rennes near the Normandy coast where we picked up our rental car.  From here it was a short drive to the Chateau de Bouceel, our choice for this trip.

Chateau Bouceel  in Normandy France
View of the Chateau Bouceel in Normandy France

As you can see, the setting was like something out of Downton Abbey (minus the staff & the British accent).  The chateau itself was beautifully maintained and definitely had atmosphere.  The chateau briefly housed the German army officers for a few months in the summer of 1940 but they later moved elsewhere since the chateau did not have electricity at that time.   The owner pointed out the front steps where his father, as a member of the French Resistance in World War II, was arrested by the Gestapo and was due to be shipped off to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he would no doubt be executed.  However, the rail lines had been bombed and since by now the Allies had landed on the Normandy beaches he eventually was freed by the Allies.   With all this history, staying here was a unique experience.

Breakfast at the Chateau Bouceel in Normandy France
A great way to start the day: fresh croissants, coffee, orange juice, cheese and more

We had a car and made day trips to nearby Mont St. Michel, the Normandy Beaches and Pontmain among other sites.

 Our host had a book of cartoons (in French), the cover of which is shown below, detailing his father’s experiences during the war which he signed as follows:

Chateau in Normandy note in book To the brave young heroes from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia….who gave their life and without whom my dad wouldn’t have come back, this book wouldn’t exist….I wouldn’t be here to sign it.

Let’s never forget!

Chateau France BookPeople who prefer a chateau or B& B cite advantages such as individually decorated rooms, direct contact with the owners or the chance to mingle with other independent travelers.

Those who prefer hotels cite the more flexible check-in times (often you cannot come and go as easily), more anonymity, usually a restaurant on the premises.  So I guess it is just a matter of taste.

Certainly, in our case, the chateau fulfilled all our expectations and then some.

How about you?  Do you have any experiences you would like to share with everyone?