One of those nights at Orly...

When I was a young girl growing up in Southern France, I’d spend a few weeks in Paris, every other year. Versailles could have been my best memory ever or maybe the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.

Not at all, the big thing was a visit to Orly.

At the time, Orly was the only airport in France and it had open terrace roofs from where you could watch planes take off to distant lands.

In 1963, on the radio, there was this song called: «Dimanche à Orly» (Every Sunday, I go to Orly).

«Every Sunday, I go to Orly. From the airport, I see planes taking off to every country... I’ve got plenty to dream for my whole life...»
Then the boy in the song goes on saying that at night he’d listen to the songs of the «Boeings» up there in the sky... He is in love with his night-birds! (And please understand that our sky scenery was definitely American. Another reason to make me dream!)

What a song!!!! I still remember it, silly as it was!

Then it happened that "they" closed the terrace roofs (times were getting more dangerous) and then "they" opened Roissy... And then we started flying all  over the world.

It no longer was very exciting to go watch the big birds taking off... All you wanted was to get aboard one of them and take off... Because the rocking 70’s were there!

Those were the happy times of low-cost chartered flights when you didn’t even know whether or not you’d make it back home... because the flights could be cancelled just like that for a mere lack of funds and then you had to go get help at your nearest embassy.

Or you were supposed to fly to New York from Paris. But instead, at the last minute, a bus would drive you from Orly to Amsterdam where you'd wait for hours and hours. Then your long-awaited plane would land and refuel in Iceland! No food, no drinks! (Now, who's complaining about low-cost companies?)

Who cared at the time? We were the flower children, happy to be alive and eager to mingle with other cultures and foreigners not to say strangers.

Those were also the times when a lot of small airports opened everywhere in France. Taking a plane then and there was a lot of fun! Those planes all flew from and to Orly because Roissy was ab-so-lu-te-ly our international airport.

So I flew from Roissy to distant places and I flew from Orly everytime I’d go down South from Paris because it was definitely faster than going by train! (Then they invented the TGV and the small airports lost their passengers and closed because it became faster and cheaper to go by train!)

So I quit going to Orly this much...

Until a week ago, when Swee'Pea got onto the last Air France flight from Nice arriving in Orly, and we went to pick him up.

The last flight from Nice was also the last flight to get to Orly, that night.

We were there at 10 p.m. and you know what...

Orly had turned out to be really spooky... Where were the bustling and rushing passengers we were so used to? The  flight announcements? The noisy personal messages? The planes? No sound. No one there. The airport was completely empty!

Suddenly I felt my teenage memories were vanishing completely, sort of drained away by the emptiness and the loneliness of my beloved airport.
I was lost in a strange and unknown world. And I’m not sure I liked it at all.

And then Swee'Pea arrived!

*Good Night, and Good Luck*


Myrna said...

Orly looks nice, if empty. When Nancy and I went to Italy, we flew into Bergamo (on Ryan Air from Frankfurt) and stayed there overnight, waiting for the Torries to meet up with us. They were on an early morning flight from London. It was very odd to be in that totally quiet airport all night, but the hustle and bustle started again when the sun came up! :o)

Patrick Layton said...

Wow, I kind of wish that I grew up in the 70's for that cheap, carefree travel!!! It's not silly to remember fond memories :) They make for fantastic stories!