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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                               Ile de Ré, France


HOUSE KEEPING: Remember when you click on the pictures in "Where's Johnny Jet," they will open up in another window. Just click the "x"(close) in each picture to get back to the newsletter. This should alleviate complaints about closing Johnny Jet. Thanks again for your support, and remember: If you book trips on the web, please go through JohnnyJet.com. (It will save you money).



Last week we left off from l'ile de Ré -- an island off the west coast of France. This week we travel back to California -- with many stops along the way -- before heading out on another overseas adventure.

From l'ile de Ré I took the train back to Paris. I spent a night there so I could have dinner with friends and get up real early (5:30 a.m.) for my morning flight. Unlike most people, I wasn’t flying out of Charles de Gaulle or Orly (Paris’ two major airports). Instead I was going out of Beauvais, Paris’ little-known alternate and remote airport. After driving an hour and a half I realized why it’s not well known: it’s in the middle of the boondocks. Beauvais is 80 km (50 miles) north/northwest of Paris, in farm country. Without the occasional airport sign, I would have thought for sure my driver was kidnapping me. Beauvais Airport serves these European destinations: Barcelona, Bergen, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Glasgow, Katowice, Milan, Oslo, Prestwick, Rome Ciampino, Shannon, Stockholm, Warsaw and Venice. They do this using low fare carriers like Sterling Maersk, Wizzair, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Blue Air and Ryanair. Most Americans have never heard of any of them, except maybe Ryanair.

If you aren’t familiar with Ryanair, you should be. Based in Ireland and 20 years old, it’s similar to Southwest Airlines. Ryanair flies only within Europe (266 routes in 21 countries), and is very popular. This year alone Ryanair will carry over 35 million passengers. They do it by offering incredibly low fares -- sometimes even FREE! Well, sort of. Passengers must pay taxes and charges that usually don’t exceed $28 one-way. It’s still a great deal, but before you book, do some research. That’s because many times these airlines use airports like Beauvais (where they save lots in landing fees by not using a major airport). The problem is there are no trains to or from the Beauvais Airport, like there are to Charles de Gaulle and Orly. A taxi to Beauvais costs you around €150 (over three times the price of the other airports), and Ryanair doesn’t permit passengers the same amount of checked luggage as major carriers. Ryanair allows only 15 kilos (33 pounds). Passengers pay €7 ($8.45) per kilo (2.2 lbs) over, and they enforce it strictly. Don’t let the taxi price scare you, though. You can book a bus between Paris and Beauvais for only €13 (reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance). And you can get around the weight limit by pooling your luggage with your travel companions. But everyone in your party must be on the same ticket reservation. And of course some people must pack lighter than others.

My Ryanair plane was a beat-up 737-200. That was my bad luck, because they have a fleet of over 100 brand-new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. I saw many of them -- I just wasn’t on one. The flight to Dublin was a quick 1 hour, 45 minutes. But don’t expect a hot meal, or even free drinks. Ryanair charges for everything: food, drinks, even water. (And rightfully so: How else do you think they keep their fares so low?) To generate additional revenue, flight attendants even sell scratch-off lottery tickets. Speaking of Ryanair fight attendants: These guys don’t ever get layovers. After every shift they return to their home base (there are 12 bases throughout Europe). One flight attendant told me that in the four years he worked for Ryanair, he spent only one night in a hotel (the flight was cancelled due to a storm). Yikes! I would never want to be a flight attendant for them.

Connecting passengers should be aware that Ryanair (and some other low-fare carriers) don’t have interline agreements. They are strictly a "point-to-point" airline. In layman’s terms, that means they do not offer, and cannot facilitate, the transfer of passengers or their baggage to other flights, whether operated by Ryanair or other carriers. I had to go through Irish customs again, even though I was leaving for the U.S. three hours later on Aer Lingus. This was the first time in my life I tried talking the immigration officer into NOT giving me a stamp (my passport pages are filling up, and I don’t want to take the time to send it to Washington to add more).

I had a few hours before my flight to the U.S., so I wasn’t in a mad dash for the plane. That was good, because I had some last-minute presents to buy, and the Dublin airport has plenty of shops. It also offers all kinds of places to eat, and of course pubs to pass time in. What’s amazing about flying to the States from Ireland is that everyone goes through U.S. Immigration in Ireland. They do this to alleviate immigration lines in American airports. Once passengers land in the U.S., all they do is grab their bags and hand their customs slip to the customs agent. There’s no waiting around in immigration lines, even for foreigners. Everything is taken care of in Ireland by U.S. officials. It’s just like flying from some major cities in Canada and Bermuda.

The only problem with flying between Dublin and the U.S. is that most flights stop in Shannon (a 25-minute flight from Dublin). The "Shannon Stopover" dates back to a stupid agreement made years ago. It was created for the survival of the Shannon airport, which is not used much anymore. Fortunately, a couple of weeks ago a law was passed that will phase out the Shannon Stopover by 2008. I flew to New York on Aer Lingus and the flight was easy and the food was much better than on the way over (order the lasagna, not the chicken).

From JFK I took a $45 flat rate (plus tolls and tip) taxi to the city, where I met my sister Georgette and some of the travel writers she went to the Caribbean with. (Earlier this year, Georgette was kind enough to go on a trip for me to the beautiful island of Martinique -- click this link for Georgette’s Martinique Trip). We had an excellent dinner at a Jamaican/southern restaurant called Maroon. The waiters were friendly, the food was delicious (a mix of jerk and BBQ) and the Red Velvet Cake was to die for (well, maybe not "die," but you know what I mean). Maroon, 244 W 16th St, New York, NY; tel: (212) 206-8640.

From Maroon, Georgette and I hopped in a cab to Grand Central Terminal, then took a Metro-North train to Connecticut. Trains leave frequently, and schedules, fares and tickets can be found online (click the link for Metro-North Railroad). We took the hour-long train to Norwalk, where we grew up. I spent the weekend visiting family and friends, before flying back to L.A. I flew back to California on American, so I got to check out their new JFK terminal. The 2.2 million square-foot, $1.2 billion facility recently opened. Although, the massive, high-ceilinged check-in counter area is something to look at, I didn’t like the overall feel. It was sterile and lacked something -- I’m not sure what. I can’t explain it, except that it felt empty and depressing. Hopefully, it’s because it’s not completely finished.

Although I travel all the time, once in a while I still get jet-lagged. Though it felt like I was in Europe for a month, it was only a week trip. And leading up to this trip I was on a plane every few days (Chicago, St. Louis (link to story), Niagara Falls (link to story). That, combined with little sleep, made me exhausted, and brought on some serious delusional jet lag. That’s never happened before. I woke up lying face down at home in my bed. You know how sometimes you’re so tired, you just can’t move? Well, I was transitioning from the Zen state back to reality -- and before I opened my eyes I tried to remember where I was. This happens to me a lot, but for the first time I thought I was in a place I hadn’t been to in over a year: Japan (link to Japan story). I thought to myself, How cool! I’m in Japan." Then I opened my eyes and thought I’d better call a doctor. I turned on my computer to get my doc’s number, and what did I see in my email inbox? An invitation to try out Japan Airlines’ new Business Class seats, and a tour of places from the best-selling book (now a movie) "Memoirs of a Geisha." I thought, "Maybe I don’t need a doctor. All I have to do is to repack my bag and say sayonara!"

See you from Japan. Yeah, baby!

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

France to U.S.


Beauvais Airport







Flight Attendants

Dublin Airport

Aer Lingus


Food On Plane


Dinner at Maroon

Grand Central

American Terminal


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  • Really like the Island of Re off the coast of France. Seems like a great place to go and relax. Good story and photos too. Sue and Kevin McCarthy - St. Louis, MO
  • Your email is hysterical, esp. the part about the "dragon." I wish I was biking on that little French Island. Melissa C - Bethesda, MD
  • Bonjour, Inspiring! Real life on the road. Details weren't mundane. Introduced another area of France. Agree the French are nice and helpful and that younger people are nearly always helpful. Enjoyed the pictures. Au Revoir!
  • We were on I'le de Re for three days two years ago and it is one of the BEST places. We had first read about it in Town and Country long before it became popular and were determined to go. Everything you could want. Charming. Incredible food, shopping and the nicest people. The English love this place and it is very accessible from London. Couldn't agree with you more. A definite recommendation. Our accommodations were top drawer in an old guard house which is now a B & B. Robyn Kauffmann, Newport, RI
  • I just finished reading your column on South France and Andy and Rebecca's wedding. Beautifully done. I loved it and I thought the pictures were superb. You are becoming a great photographer too. I especially liked the ones of you all walking on the beach. Very artistic. Fred - Bedrock
  • Props for actually using "hanging trou" in an article. Just started reading these regularly and always find entertaining...Thanks! Jill S - Oklahoma City
  • I found this very interesting. I have traveled in France many times and never heard of Ile de Re. I will go there on my next trip. La Rochelle is special. Ben D - Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Loved it! Farideh T –
  • Excellent-I particularly liked the video-great job. Jim H - Queensbury, New York
  • I loved it. I have been going to France off and on for years. French major, worked there for the US Army, have French friends. Went to the Ile de Re with my husband before the bridge. It is indeed a wonderful place. I am thrilled to hear SOMEONE say something nice about the French for a change. Speaking French, I have an advantage, but they are not monsters. I find them very welcoming and cordial. Respect gets returned. Too bad our "President" and his friends never took the opportunity to travel abroad in their younger days. They might have learned a few things about folk in other lands. Enjoying your reports Thanks. L. Ogden - Londonderry, NH
  • I enjoyed your newsletter. The only thing I would do differently is that if I'm traveling just in France, I book my train tickets directly with the SNCF. Often, they have fare sales for non peak trains that cost much less than a railpass, and you can make your reservations on the internet, print up a copy, then just get your boarding pass at the station. If you buy one of the really cheap, non refundable (non exchangeable too) fares, you can print up your boarding pass from home. Bon voyage. Diane O'Neil – Montana.
  • What a great trip you must have had....great trip review...thanks! Barbara S. Jackson -
  • Excellent! Merci beaucoup Bill W – Houston, TX
  • Found your website through Frommers newsletter - totally enjoyed your trip through Ireland as the videos brought back so many memories of traveling with my sister this summer. have passed on your website address to relatives in Ireland, England and the US - your insight into the fun and adventure of travel along with the information needed to smooth the way is invaluable - a THANK YOU from an avid reader on the day before THANKSGIVING! Mary Leveck - Lynden, WA
  • Nice article on Ile de Re and it brings back many memories. Having accompanied students to the area I must agree that "the younger set" are certainly helpful and accommodating. While your friends had rented a house it would be helpful to point out that a few restaurants surrounding the port remain open and offer a nice haven from the chilly air. My last time visiting was by car and I do prefer the ferry. I live in Manchester Center and run a small SuttonsPlaceVermont.com Guest House. Frank Sutton - Manchester Center, VT.
  • Just read your newsletter, it was like I went there myself. I enjoyed some of your creative pictures (the ice-cream cone, the salt stories). Glad you didn't have any dragon pictures! Georgette - Connecticut
  • You should list off-airport parking! I save so much money parking off-site at O'Hare. Customers looking for the best price shouldn’t even bother with the airport economy lot, its still almost twice as much. Off-site is the best. Here's the website of the place I go to: www.prideparking.com. They are cheaper, faster, and offer amenities that the airport doesn’t, like car washes etc. By the way, I love your site. I tell EVERYONE I know! Keep up the great work. Mary – Chicago
  • SUGGESTION FOR JOHNNYJET.COM! Be able to check one-way flights. Jennie M – Denton, Georgia REPLY: Thanks for the suggestion. We are getting brand new search engine this week so viewers will be able to do one way searches.

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Check out this week’s webcams, from desolate Death Valley, California to the breathtaking views of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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Top five off-peak destinations for winter 2005/2006

Winter, typically a slow travel season across-the-board, brings great vacation opportunities to destinations around the world. Some of the top destinations for the 2005/2006 winter travel season experience chilly temperatures, while others remain mild. No matter what temperature, all of our top-rated destination picks experience significant price drops during the off-peak winter season, which may make up for any inclement weather.
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