It’s most definitely not worth flying into Heathrow anymore. It always was a grim place, the trip thither or thence enhanced–this was many years ago–only by the beautiful Deco Firestone factory on the north side of the road. Then some swine bought the Firestone building and knocked it down overnight before the preservationists could muster and resist. The crawl down the A4 now lacks all allure, and the airport itself gets progressively uglier as the years roll by. In recent years the “war on terror” was blended in with innate British petty-minded obstructionism, culminating in the “one-bag rule,” which has now entered the history books as a classic illustration of the incidental consequences of political ambition.
In August 2006 British Home Secretary John Reid, an ex-Communist Scottish bully of low mental caliber, disclosed a plot by Islamo-fascist chemists (homebrew division) to take liquids onto planes, blend them in the lavatory and then consign all on board to a fiery doom. The British press praised Reid’s fearless mien and expressions of resolve to battle Terror whatever the cost, and he was touted as a possible successor to Tony Blair. Reid decided to keep his name on the front pages by banning all carry-on bags at Heathrow, thus instantly paralyzing the busiest airport in Europe.
After a while the rule was somewhat relaxed. Transit passengers were told that they were allowed to carry one bag, roughly the size of a laptop case, through Heathrow. So the walk-in closets that passengers routinely drag onto planes had to be loaded into the belly of the plane along with the pet cages and stowaways at point of origin, and Heathrow remained paralyzed.
Landing at De Gaulle airport north of Paris, though, is pleasant. You take a commuter train to the center of town, and then the Métro, in my case to the Arts et Métiers station in the Marais, from where I trundled my bag to the Rue du Temple, handy for the Jewish Museum, the rehabbed Musée de la Chasse, several score small jewelry manufactories now run by the Chinese and the National Archives. There were a couple of Velib’ stands along the street, where you can rent a bicycle with a credit card, peddle around and lock it back in a stall at any other stand in Paris, assuming there’s an empty one available. These are nice bikes: not complicated by the eighteen gears that now destroy all pleasure on bikes in the States, but the traditional three. The saddle is not the odious knife edge but a comfortable pad. The bell works and so do the lights fore and aft. On some there is even a basket.