Flight Attendants Share The 8 Things They Wish Passengers Would Stop Doing

stop doing

Nothing brings people together like complaining about air travel. The cramped spaces. The overpriced airport drinks. The shared, deep-seated fear of sudden death.

Whether you’re commiserating with the stranger sitting next to you about the hours-long flight ahead or commenting on your friend Jenny’s Facebook post that you, too, are terrible at abiding by the baggage guidelines, you can rest assured that empathy is available to you even if solutions aren’t.

Sofia Sforza/Unsplash

But what if they are? What if you’ve been so blinded by your own suffering that you’ve failed to see how you might make things go a bit more smoothly for everyone involved if only you followed the instructions of those people whose job it is to oversee your plane ride, cater to your plane desires, and field your plane complaints?

We searched out a few flight attendants to talk about the annoying things passengers do on airplanes. Some of them are pretty obvious; others, not so much.

Flight attendants really wish their passengers would stop…

1. Ordering Hot Drinks on a Short Flight

“I hate it when passengers order hot tea or hot chocolate on a flight less than an hour,” says one flight attendant with several years of experience who asked to remain anonymous (we’ll call her Tammy). “Flight attendants must wait about 15 minutes to start service, and must take away all drinks and service items about 15 minutes prior to landing.”

Flight attendant serving passengers onboard a Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 737 (iStock)

“That leaves 30 minutes to set up and serve over 100 people, assuming we don’t have to sit even longer for turbulence. Waiting for that hot water spigot to slowly pour your hot water for your mixed hot beverage seems like an eternity. And that drink that takes three [times] as long to make than anyone else’s will not even be cool enough to drink before it has to be collected for landing. It is often returned full.”

As we’ve mentioned before, it’s not always a great idea to order hot drinks on an airplane in the first place.

2. Getting Way Too Comfortable

On Dec. 28, 2016, Los Angeles–based comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani went to Twitter to deliver a “Tweet storm” outlining the story of his five-and-a-half-hour-long flight a couple days before, during which one passenger decided to remove his pants and sit in his boxers with his feet propped up on either side of the in-flight television screen installed in front of him.

feet boxers

Nanjiani tweeted, “After 4 hours, a flight attendant finally said ‘Could you please put your feet down? People are walking through here.’ 40 second stare down.” Five minutes later, the man “thrusts one foot back up like a fist raised against an unjust sky.” Nanjiani also noted that the passenger would “slam his fist on the armrest” any time he didn’t immediately get a flight attendant’s attention.

These actions, understandably, were met with disapproval from the attendants—and probably most of the humanity—on board Nanjiani’s flight.

According to our flight attendants, that’s not so unusual. Of particular annoyance: Passengers who prop their feet up on the wall in the bulkhead.


“Do you put your feet on the wall when you are a guest in someone’s home?” one flight attendant asks. “You shouldn’t. It’s tacky.”

3. Using The Plane Like Their Personal Space

One post on the Instagram account passengershaming made this abundantly clear. The picture features a tired young baby lying in the aisle.


A flight attendant captioned the photo: “Oopsie! I swear I didn’t mean to run over your baby with the 250lb beverage cart – my bad. Let me comp you a free drink!”

And while you should never let your kids play in the aisle of the plane, you really shouldn’t encroach on the galley (the area where flight attendants take their breaks, organize drinks, and perform other essential tasks).

“The galley is our office,” our flight attendant says. “It’s our tiny cubicle. It is not only where we have to do most of our work, but it is also where we eat our lunch, and try to take our 15 minute union break. We spend most of our time serving the public. Please be considerate of our personal space, because we don’t have very much of it to begin with.”

4. Taking Their Shoes Off

Sure, passengers have to take their shoes off during security screenings, but there’s no reason to expose your feet once you’re in the air.

Just a tip: That water on the floor is not water.

If you’re rude enough to share your foot odor with other passengers, at least put your socks on before you head to the bathroom.

“Just a tip: That water on the floor is not water,” one flight attendant says. “The lavatory is not thoroughly disinfected throughout the day. That’s gross.”

5. Pretending That They’re at Whole Foods

On most shorter flights, your options for complimentary food and drink are pretty clear, mainly because they’re listed clearly in the in-flight menu. Typically the flight attendant will come around asking what you want to drink and offering a snack (or two!). If it’s a longer trek, like an international flight, those options may expand to full meals, of which you’ll have a couple of options to choose from. (Vegetarians, you may only have one.)


If you’re willing to actually shell out some cash money for your fare, your options will expand, but even then, they’re still limited to what’s available on the plane.

Apparently it’s these restrictions that cause some passengers some real bafflement.

“Don’t get picky with airplane food,” advises one flight attendant, who said we could refer to him in this article as JumpseatPhilosopher (“in case I go back to my blogging,” he explained). “It’s not a buffet. We can’t run around the corner and get you something else.” Sounds fair.

6. Treating Flight Attendants Like Servants

This might come as a surprise, but when you walk onto a plane and a flight attendant says, “Hello,” you should probably return the greeting.

“At least make eye contact,” Tammy says. “A smile and acknowledgement would be better. Anything else is just plain rude.”

Flight attendants during pre-flight safety demonstration (Nov. 22, 2014) (iStock)

Oh, and when your flight team gives you a safety briefing, pay attention.

“Most people who sit in the exit row do it intentionally, because they are frequent flyers and know that is where they can get extra legroom,” Tammy says. “They know flight attendants are required to brief them on every flight. Don’t act like the rules don’t apply to you, [just] because you’ve done it before. It takes a few seconds out of your day to do what you’re supposed to.”

7. Wasting Time While Ordering

If you’ve been on a flight even once, specifically a morning flight, you already know one of the most important questions that will be asked of you: Would you like cream or sugar in your coffee?

You probably know that because the question has been seared into your brain through constant repetition, like the chorus of a song you’re not really into but can’t quit singing: “Would you like cream or sugar?” Pause. “Would you like cream or sugar?” Pause. “Would you like cream or sugar?” And so on.


We get it. We are but fragile humans, creatures of habit and conformity. It’s how we were socialized—follow the rules! If the person ahead of you (and the person in front of that person) waited patiently to be asked both, “What would you like to drink?” and then, after saying coffee, “Would you like cream or sugar?” isn’t it proper that you should also wait?

No, gentle reader. “Know how you take your coffee,” JumpSeatPhilosopher says, “and tell us that when you order.”

8. Ignoring The Rules

Of all of the possible flight faux pas, this is the big one.

Rules are there to protect you, and it is easier and more pleasant when everyone just does what they are supposed to.

“Rules are in place for safety, not to inconvenience you,” Tammy says. “Everyone must abide by them, and being noncompliant is selfish and makes everything more difficult for everyone.”

Universal Pictures

“Don’t illegally obtain documentation saying little Fido is an ’emotional assist’ animal because you don’t want to pay the pet fee, and then act surprised when he bites the unaccompanied minor. Don’t continue talking on your phone when we are all waiting for you to take off. Don’t insist on using the lavatory during turbulence, and expect to be compensated when you are injured.”

“Just follow the rules! It’s simple. They are there to protect you, and it is easier and more pleasant when everyone just does what they are supposed to. And don’t be a jerk. Everyone has bad days, but flight attendants are expected to never take theirs out on you. Return the courtesy. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Steven Thompson/Unsplash

And while we’re letting flight attendants vent their frustrations, don’t get it twisted—in general, they love their jobs, and they’re happy to provide their passengers with anything they need.

“Despite all the bad behavior we may encounter on a daily basis, flight attendants also have a chance to connect with really wonderful people as well,” Tammy insists. “The really good ones make our day. Most people are just trying to get from point A to point B, and do so without incident. The bad apples are actually the minority.”


10 Most Misleading Travel Terms


If you spend enough time comparing hotels, flights, and tours, you’ll eventually realize that many words have very little meaning in the travel industry. You might think that there would be some sort of common agreement on travel terms across hotels that would define what makes a suite a suite or a deluxe room better than a standard room, but no such agreements exist. Travelers are often surprised to find that what they booked is not quite what they expected.

Here are some travel hype words you should take lightly, and that might even signal you should do a little more research.

‘Deluxe Room’

Whether you travel once a year or year-round, you’ve probably run into this word over and over again comparing hotels. But do you know what it really means? Across hotel websites, “deluxe” is a travel term usually used to upsell a room that is the same size as a standard room and looks like a standard room, but usually only has one feature that makes it any better.According to Merriam-Webster, the official definition of “deluxe” is “notably luxurious, elegant, or expensive.” When it comes to travel, though, it could mean anything from bedsheets with a higher thread count to the addition of a coffeemaker. So when it comes to selecting a “deluxe” room, the only part of that definition you can really count on is that it’ll be slightly more expensive.

Before deciding to upgrade to anything deluxe, make sure you understand exactly how much more you’re paying for. Otherwise, you might find yourself paying a hefty margin for a fancy word.


While it’s not as vague and thrown-around as often as “deluxe” is, “suite” is another word that doesn’t seem to have a concrete meaning. For some, a suite might mean multiple bedrooms, or at least a separate living room and kitchen area. However, when you’re comparing different hotel suite options, they can range in size and layout dramatically.

Even hotels that market themselves with the word itself in their names, such as Candlewood Suites or Comfort Suites, often have vastly differing opinions on what the word means. At Candlewood Suites, accommodations can be a bit basic, but there are multiple rooms and a full kitchen. Suites at Comfort Suites don’t necessarily have multiple rooms and extra amenities, but may be a little bit bigger than your standard hotel room with a few “deluxe” touches thrown in.

‘Boutique Hotel’

Let me start by saying that I adore boutique hotels. I love their small-scale attention to detail and that each one has a distinct look and design. That being said, “boutique” is a relatively new and trendy word that gets thrown around far too often, and few people know its true definition. Some people say that a boutique hotel can only be considered such if it has fewer than 100 rooms—but if that were the case every truck-stop motel across the country could slap the word “boutique” above the vacancy sign.

If you really want to experience a boutique hotel, look for something petite and artsy. A boutique hotel should feel like an independent hotel with its own distinct, locally focused style—even if it’s owned by a bigger hotel conglomerate. For example, MGallery is a boutique hotel brand owned by Accor Hotels. In Melbourne, Hotel Lindrum pays tribute to the building’s history as a pool hall. In Prague, the Century Old Town Hotel is an homage to Franz Kafka, the city’s most famous author. True boutique hotels use design to evoke a historical connection to their location.


What’s the difference between a five-star hotel and a four-star hotel? It depends who you ask. When you’re looking for hotels across booking sites like Expedia or Travelocity, it’s not uncommon to see different “star” ratings on the same hotel. Depending on the source, hotel star ratings are based different things: Expedia, for example, takes into account “hotel amenities, media reviews, customer experience, and professional benchmarks” to come up with a rating. Meanwhile TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) simply displays an average of customer reviews.

You could spend hours trying to compare all the different ratings of one hotel to decide how good it is, but should you? Probably not. Ratings are arbitrary and the rules are constantly changing, so it’s better to do your own assessment of what you need in a hotel, and how well it will suit your needs.

‘High-Speed Internet’

Having typed in many hotel Wi-Fi passwords for access to lagging Internet, I feel comfortable saying that the phrase “high-speed internet” is one common travel term that doesn’t mean anything. With fluctuating numbers of guests, hotel internet is notoriously finnicky and vastly unreliable—especially when traveling abroad or to rural areas.

If you need a fast connection on your trip, don’t ask the hotel about its Internet speed. Instead, check out Hotelwifitest.com (SmarterTravel’s sister company) which collects Internet speeds of hotels across the globe. Do a quick search before you book if you’ll need fast Internet, and if you’re unfamiliar with internet speed measurements, run a quick test from your home connection for comparison. This will give you a good idea if the hotel’s Internet will be better or worse than what you’re used to.

‘Hotel Fitness Center’

Nobody really expects a whole lot from the hotel fitness center, do they? Personally, if there’s a treadmill, some weights, and a yoga mat—I’m happy. While it’s not uncommon for fitness rooms to be on the small side, some are seriously claustrophobic excuses for a “fitness center,” and the equipment can be pretty basic. Also, keep an eye out for fitness rooms that aren’t necessarily located in the hotel: Many hotels, especially in large cities, have a deal with nearby full-service gyms that allow hotel guests to use their facilities. While it’s nice to be able to use a real gym, you might not be as motivated to work out if it’s located a block or more away from where you’re staying.

‘Walking Distance’

For those who hike the Appalachian Trail, “walking distance” means from Georgia to Maine. For those of us who are running late to dinner downtown, however, walking distance better mean under 15 minutes. Probably one of the most subjective travel terms in the industry, never take “walking distance” at face value, and always consult Google Maps.

‘Access to Public Transportation’

Like walking distance, “access to public transportation” can mean just about anything. If you’re relying on public transportation to get around, it’s more helpful if your hotel is located on a major stop than if you have to walk 20 minutes to get there. Similarly, this phrase could mean the hotel is near a bus line that will take you to another bus line that will finally connect you to the main subway, when you really only want to buy a pass for the subway. If deciphering bus schedules and managing transfer tickets isn’t your idea of a good time, make sure to map out the routes you’ll take before you make the booking.

‘Continental Breakfast’

I’ve spurned too many sad displays of near-stale white bread  to ever feel contented by the phrase “continental breakfast.” So what is a continental breakfast? The term has British origins, originally referring to the light breakfasts of mainland Europe, and Merriam-Webster officially defines continental breakfast as “a light breakfast (as of rolls or toast and coffee).” But when modern travelers, especially Americans, hungrily approach a hotel breakfast spread, we want options and, at the very least, a waffle maker. If access to a quick yet substantial breakfast is important to you, call ahead to see what the hotel really offers in their continental breakfast. If you don’t think that will be enough food for you, scout out some nearby cafes or brunch spots instead.


While this may be a fine word for a historic bed and breakfast or inn, be wary of any hotel describing itself as “quaint.” It might just be old. If scratchy sheets, peeling paint, and musty smells aren’t your idea of “quaint,” you might want to shop around for a more modern hotel.

8 Best Places to Skip the Line in Europe


Europe is home to some of the world’s most incredible museums and monuments, visited by millions of tourists each year. But when you visit one of them on a summer day, it may feel like you’re standing in line behind all those millions of people at once.

The Best Places to Skip the Line in Europe

Is surveying Paris from the Eiffel Tower or admiring the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican worth a two-hour wait? Sure — but why stand in those lines if you don’t have to? Below are eight popular European attractions where buying a skip-the-line ticket is well worth the advance planning.

1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Schwangau

Neuschwanstein is the ultimate fairy-tale castle, in a spectacular location high in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. Wait times can be longer than an hour during busy periods, and if you haven’t reserved an entry time in advance, you could be locked out for hours until the next available time slot. You can reserve your tickets online and then pick them up at the ticket center in Hohenschwangau.

Buy your tickets at the Hohenschwangau website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld – Viator Agent

2. Vatican Museums, Rome

The Vatican Museums are chock-a-block with incredible statues, paintings and artifacts — not to mention the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling. It’s common for visitors to wait two hours or more to get in, and not just in the summertime; Rome is popular all year long. A variety of advance tickets are available, including nighttime tours and guided visits.

Buy your tickets at the Vatican Museums website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld – Viator Agent.

3. Eiffel Tower, Paris

According to a City A.M. report, the average traveler waits a whopping two hours to visit the Eiffel Tower. Buy your ticket online in advance, and you’ll skip the line at the ticket counters. There are two admission options: one that takes you to the second floor and one that goes all the way to the top. (You can also take the stairs to the second floor.)

Buy your tickets at the Eiffel Tower website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld-Viator Agent

4. Acropolis, Athens

Long lines, hot sun and lack of shade make waiting to visit the historic jewel of Athens a punishing prospect during the busy summer months. One way to skip the line is to buy a special ticket package that includes other popular sites such as Hadrian’s Library and the Ancient Agora of Athens; you can purchase the joint ticket at one of the other sites, which have much smaller lines. (See info here.) If you’re not interested in the other sites, though, you can book an advance ticket — or a tour with skip-the-line privileges — using the links below.

Buy your tickets through Viator or GetYourGuide.

5. Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Looming over the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle protects centuries of history within its sturdy stone walls. Its popularity means that queues can stretch up to an hour at the busiest times of year; fortunately, you can buy tickets in advance that are good for entry during a certain time block on the day you select.

Buy your tickets at the Edinburgh Castle website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld – Viator Agent.

6. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

This ornate basilica just might be the world’s most popular unfinished building. Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece has been under construction for more than a century, with an estimated completion date of 2026. Despite the lingering scaffolding, visitors flock to the church in massive numbers, with an average wait time of an hour and a half, according to City A.M. There are multiple advance ticket options, including a basic ticket and one that offers an audioguide and/or access to the towers.

Buy your tickets at the Sagrada Familia website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld – Viator Agent.

7. London Eye, London

Dreaming of a lofty ride in London’s famous Ferris wheel? You’ll spend an average of 2.5 hours queueing, according to City A.M. Fortunately, you can buy your ticket in advance online; the Eye’s website offers a variety of tickets and packages.

Buy your tickets at the London Eye website or through GirsTraveTheWorld -Viator Agent.

8. State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

It would take days, not hours, to see all the treasures in St. Petersburg’s most famous museum, so don’t waste any time standing in the line to get in — which some travelers have reported can be as long as two or three hours. You can buy an admission ticket online in advance and wander the galleries at your leisure; you may also want to consider booking a private guided tour, which sometimes includes early access before the museum opens to the public.

Buy your tickets at the Hermitage website or through GirlsTravelTheWorld -Viator Agent.

Why You Can’t Get Up to Go to the Bathroom Before Takeoff


You should always go to the bathroom before boarding an aircraft.

It’s not just your mother’s advice, it’s also an issue of security and international aviation law.

Last year, a man was removed from a Delta Air Lines flight when he tried to using the toilet before takeoff — even though the aircraft was not moving. In this particular case, most of the people on the flight sided with the passenger. However, they did not understand one crucial piece of aviation safety: A pilot cannot legally takeoff with a passenger in the lavatory.

The issue doesn’t change from airline to airline. The reason why is similar to most other standard procedures during takeoff and landing. They are the two most (relatively) dangerous times of the flight. Passengers must remain in their seats and with a clear, unobstructed escape route.

In the event that a pilot must perform a hard landing, nobody would want to be trapped in the toilet. There aren’t any safety features in the lavatory (like a seatbelt) that would keep a passenger in place, however there are many potentially painful sharp edges. In the event of an emergency evacuation, a passenger could also become trapped in the restroom and unable to escape.

According to Gizmodo, one of the more gruesome reasons the “takeoff toilet” is banned is that in the event of a fiery, fatal landing, emergency response teams can identify bodies based on seating charts.

The one loophole that passengers may have is a 2010 ruling from the Department of Transportation stating that during a tarmac delay, airline crew must make the toilet available to passengers. But as soon as the plane enters an active taxiway, everyone must remain in their seats.

Flight attendants say that the best time to use the airplane restroom is immediately after the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign and before drink service begins.

12 Clever Ways to Use Plastic Bags When You Travel

Plastic bag

When it comes to travel, plastic bags aren’t just for your 3.4-ounce liquids and gels. Before every trip I throw a half-dozen plastic bags of various sizes into my suitcase. Cheap, waterproof, and often reusable, they always seem to come in handy.

How to Use Plastic Bags When You Travel

Although I bring eco-friendly cloth bags to the supermarket each week, grocery-size plastic bags seem to accumulate anyway—so I like giving them a second life on the road. Odds are you have a few other types of plastic bags hanging around your kitchen, too, such as gallon-size freezer bags and smaller bags for sandwiches and/or snacks. All of these can prove useful when you travel.

Because plastic is so damaging to the environment, I’ve also included alternatives to plastic bags and some tips for how you can reuse plastic bags when you travel.

Keep Your Phone Dry

When I’m planning to be outdoors in the rain, I put my phone into a zip-top sandwich bag before slipping it into my pocket. That way it’s still at my fingertips but it won’t get damaged by water. Back at your hotel, leave the bag out to dry so you can use it again on the next rainy day.

Isolate Dirty or Wet Items

If your boots are muddy from a hike or your bathing suit is wet after a swim, seal them off from the rest of your suitcase by putting them in a grocery bag or a large zip-top plastic bag. I often put my dirty laundry into a plastic grocery bag or a small garbage bag as well, though there are plenty of good cloth laundry bags that you can use instead.

Wash Delicates

An Allurette Washer is a good long-term investment if you wash delicates often while traveling, but for occasional use, a gallon-size zip-top plastic bag is significantly cheaper and works just fine. Put the garment into the bag with some water and soap, seal it shut, and use your hands to rub the clothing from the outside. Give it a rinse or two, et voila! Clean undies, right in your hotel sink or bathtub.

Turn the bag inside out to let it dry, and you can use it again for other purposes or to wash more clothes later in your trip.

Hold Documents

Sure, a travel document organizer looks a little more elegant, but a gallon-size plastic bag works almost as well to hold things like boarding passes and printouts of flight and hotel confirmations. Just put the sheets of paper in the order you’ll need them and fold them in half inside the bag. The plastic will protect your documents from an unexpected bout of rain and can easily be reused on multiple trips.

Make an Impromptu Ice Pack

Whether you’re trying to keep drinks cool in your backpack or you need a cold compress for an achy knee, a zip-top plastic bag can do the job. Fill it with ice from your hotel, seal it, and you’ve got an instant ice pack. Sturdy freezer bagsare best for this purpose, as they’re less likely to tear or leak than sandwich bags, and they’ll last longer.

Compress Your Clothes

You can buy compression storage bags for travel, or you can make your own poor man’s version with large, zip-top plastic bags. By putting your clothes into the bag and rolling and pressing all the air out, you can condense the size of your clothes and fit more into your suitcase. Just be mindful of your airline’s weight limits.

Again, buying the sturdiest bags possible, treating them gently, and storing them in a safe place between trips will let you use them multiple times.

Organize Your Clothes

One- or two-gallon plastic bags can also take the place of packing cubes in keeping your wardrobe organized in your suitcase. You can have one bag for underwear, another for socks, and so on—or put each complete outfit into its own separate bag. Because the plastic is clear, it’s easy to find and grab what you need.

Organize the Rest of Your Belongings

Snack-size plastic bags are perfect for holding little items like cotton swabs, jewelry, or bandages. I also like using small plastic bags to protect tissues and/or toilet paper in my daypack.

Avoid Hotel Germs

That luxury hotel room might look gorgeous, but studies have shown it’s almost certainly covered in germs—and the TV remote is one of the worst offenders. Avoid it by slipping it into a bag and pushing buttons through the plastic. Another alternative: Give it a good going-over with alcohol wipes—which can also be stored in plastic bags if you have them in bulk containers at home.

Clean up After Your Dog

If you’re traveling with your furry best friend, you’ll want to bring a roll of plastic bags to clean up during walks. Even better, consider a biodegradable alternative.

Clean up After Yourself

On road trips, it’s a good idea to pack some kitchen-size garbage bags to collect all the food wrappers, banana peels, and other detritus that builds up along the way. To minimize waste, empty the bag at a rest stop and reuse it—as long as it hasn’t gotten too odorous.

Smaller plastic bags, like grocery bags, can serve as mini-trash bags during a hike when you don’t have easy access to a trash can—or as a storage spot for waste items on a long flight while you’re waiting for a flight attendant to come by.

Make a Rain Poncho

Speaking of garbage bags, they can serve as a rain poncho in a pinch—just cut out openings for your face and arms.

8 Master Techniques for Navigating a Flight Cancellation

The first rule of travel planning and avoiding mishaps is using a travel advisor. I highly recommend ME!  If you have a cancelled flight, cancelled hotel room or any other problems, you have backup with a certified travel agent.  And now on with our tips…….

Do the words “flight cancellation” instantly make you shudder? If you’re a frequent flyer, chances are you’ve had to deal with the feeling of helplessness that comes when flight trouble strikes. On average, 100,000 flights are cancelled every year – or between 1 percent and 2 percent of all flights. Flight cancellations often leave passengers wondering the same thing: Now what?

First and foremost, take a deep breath. Keeping your cool is key to preventing what could be a minor hiccup from turning into a major hassle. Remaining calm also makes it easier for airline personnel to help you navigate your way through the flight cancellation. Smile, practice patience, and consider these master techniques that can keep this interruption from becoming a huge headache.

Find Out the Reason for the Cancellation

The reason behind the flight cancellation is important for figuring out your plan to cope with it. There are two main categories that force flight cancellations: “force majeure” — events outside of the airline’s control — and internal problems. The reason behind the cancellation is a big factor in just how much the airline can and will do to help you deal with it.

Close up of digital airport sign reading 'Flight Cancelled
Source : Adobe Stock

Know Your Rights

No matter the reason for the cancellation, airlines have a nearly universal policy of rebooking passengers on the next available flight. You can also ask for a full refund in the event of a flight cancellation. If your flight was cancelled for a reason within the airline’s control, then you might be eligible for extra benefits like meal vouchers and hotel accommodations. Every airline has its own policies, so it helps to know before you go, especially if you’re on an international trip.

Be Proactive

Ideally, you’ll be notified of the cancellation via email or text before you even get to the airport. But if you’ve already arrived, then get in line as instructed, and get on the phone with the airline. The airline’s customer service specialists can often help you faster over the phone than in the waiting line. Plus, they might have more information than the crew on the ground and can help you arrange for any alterations to your connecting flights.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Before you sign anything or accept any compensation, make sure you know what you are entitled to. Don’t like the flight they’re offering? Ask for a different one. Most airlines want to keep their passengers as happy as possible, so don’t be afraid to explore all options before accepting their first offer.

People waiting in line to talk to a customer service agent at an airport during daytime
Source : Adobe Stock

Take Charge of Your Plans

The airline will try to meet your needs, but if you’ve tried negotiating for a better flight or other benefits and you aren’t getting anywhere, then consider asking for a full refund, and take charge by rebooking on your own. Travel apps can help you research other available flights quickly from your smartphone while you’re waiting for information.

Call it a Night

If it’s already late, or if you’re facing weather-related flight cancellations, then book a room ASAP at a nearby hotel. Don’t forget, there are plenty of other passengers in the same predicament, and hotels will most likely fill up quickly. Book fast so you can wait for the next available flight in comfort.

People waiting in line to talk to a customer service agent at an airport during daytime
Source : Adobe Stock

Call Your Credit Card Company

The card you used to book your trip may offer built-in protection for trip delays. As soon as your flight is cancelled, file a claim with the airline, and check with your credit card company. Some cards offer additional compensation if the flight cancellation meets certain criteria.

Keep Your Boarding Pass

Make sure you hold on to everything related to the cancelled flight. Many airlines won’t acknowledge even legitimate claims if you don’t have all your documentation.

A flight cancellation doesn’t have to be a disaster. Use the extra time to get out and explore, rest, and recharge, or enjoy a little more time with your traveling companions. How do you cope with unexpected travel delays?

Write a comment and use ME!!! Virtuoso Travel-Cynthia Cassell

Fly Here, Not There: Don’t Be Misled by these European Airports


Two years ago I was lounging around in my apartment in Paris when I saw a great deal to Milan, Italy. $30 each way! I was thrilled and really wanted to do a one day adventure to see Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.

Then I checked to see how far the airport was to the city, WOAH!, 45 miles from Milan, and the departing airport from Paris was 90 miles. That would be impossible for a one day quick excursion. I am glad I checked everything out before booking.

A Guide on Which European Airports to Avoid if Visiting the City Center

While airport names in the States are relatively straightforward, a handful in Europe can really stretch it. Think you’ve got a fantastic deal to Brussels? It says Brussels South right in the airport field on the booking website – wrong, Brussels Charleroi is closer to France than it is the Belgian Capital. Now that deal you thought you scored might result in a €100 cab ride or being crammed on an hour-long bus to the city center; just for flying to the misleadingly named airport. As a traveler who’s made some of these gaffes myself, I don’t want you to make similar mistakes, so I’ve compiled a list of airports to avoid and which options are the best when flying throughout Europe.




Fly here: FRA – Frankfurt Airport

Located just 12 km/7.5 mi southwest of central Frankfurt, odds are this will be the airport you’ll arrive/depart from if traveling through Frankfurt. As Germany’s busiest airport, over 100 airlines offer service to Frankfurt (FRA). Transportation to the city center couldn’t be easier. FRA has dedicated regional and long-distance rail stations and its direct connection to the Autobahn allows for drivers and taxis to reach the city center in 10–15 minutes.

Not here: HHN – Frankfurt-Hahn

This airport’s name was so deceptive its title was even challenged in court, but the case was lost. With its location of 120 km/75 mi away from downtown, HHN is as close to Luxembourg as it is Frankfurt. Mainly served by Ryanair and Wizz Air, you’ll want to avoid flying here if your intentions are to visit Frankfurt city center.



Fly here: LIN – Linate

Considered the secondary airport in Milan, it’s the first in my heart. Just 7km/4mi east of the city center the airport is also part of Milan’s ring road, making it reachable by any direction. Unfortunately, there is no metro or rail service to LIN, but it’s simple to get to with local buses, coaches, and of course Italian taxi drivers.

If you have to: MXP – Milan Malpensa

Milan’s primary airport, Malpensa (MXP) is located 49 km/30 mi northwest of the city center. With the largest flight network and the only area airport offering nonstop flights to the U.S., MXP is the airport most will arrive/depart from. Even though the airport has a reliable rail network to the city center (30 minutes) and busses (60 minutes), I’d still recommend flying into Linate (LIN) if given the opportunity. Malpensa, however, is the best option to fly to if you plan on visiting Lake Como or other destinations in the Italian Lake District.

Not here: BGY – Milan/Bergamo Orio al Serio

Mainly served by low-cost carriers, Milan/Bergamo (BGY) is 45 km/28 mi northeast from the center of Milan. While BGY is almost equidistant from the city center as MXP, the airport doesn’t have the public transport network that the other two area airports do. There is a limited bus system but the ride is over an hour, and if you’re thinking of taking a taxi expect to fork over in the neighborhood of 80 euro. Ouch.



Fly here: LCY – London City

London City Airport (LCY) is the only airport that is actually within a borough of London. Located just 11 km / 7 mi east of the heart of the city, LCY is the best option when flying into London. Unfortunately, it’s a small operation and doesn’t have the sprawling destination list that other area airports boast. From the airport downtown is reachable in 20 minutes by taking the Docklands Light Rail, allowing to connection points to the Underground and Overground network.

LHR – Heathrow

London’s largest airport is located 23 km / 14 mi west of the capital. As the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic, this is the airport you’ll most likely find yourself at. Connected to the London Underground via the Piccadilly line, this is your cheapest and best option for getting into downtown.  If you are in more of a hurry, the Heathrow Express’s nonstop service to Paddington station only takes 21 minutes but can be on the pricey side if you don’t purchase in advance.

If you have to: LGW – Gatwick

As the only airport to the south, Gatwick is only a better option than the other two airports above if you are heading down to Brighton area or staying in South London. Situated 47.5 km / 29.5 mi south of Central London, if traveling by road, Gatwick requires a little over an hour and a half travel time to downtown, if you’re lucky. Although it is not reachable by the underground, LGW has a decent rail network. The Gatwick Express travels nonstop to Victoria in 30 minutes while other rail services will take from 35 to 45 minutes to reach Central London.

Not here: LTN – Luton

Luton Airport just claimed the top spot as Britain’s worst airport for delayed flights. And delayed you’ll be if you are flying from this far out airport located 47 km / 29 mi northwest of Londontown. Another stronghold for low-cost carriers, LTN, should be avoided if you are hoping for a quick connection to downtown. While there is a train station nearby, it requires shuttle service from the airport, and from my experience, the trains to Central London run on a sporadic schedule that isn’t always conducive to the arrival times on many flights. A few coach companies offer transfers to the city at reasonable prices but travel times can easily take over an hour with traffic.

STN – London Stansted

At 68 km / 42 mi away from Central London, Stansted wins the award for being the furthest away. While the deals from this low-cost carrier stronghold are tempting, the transit and hassle of getting to this airport are not worth the discounts. There is a Stansted “express” service to/from London’s Liverpool Street station but that journey time is just shy of an hour long. If you are flying from Stansted, beware of your arrival/departure times. After a flight delay on Ryanair, I arrived at the airport only to find out that the trains and buses had ceased operations for the night, leaving me to dish out for a costly taxi ride.

SEN – London Southend

Southend is the only London area airport I’ve never flown into, and for a good reason: its location! At a distant 58 km / 36 mi away from Central London and its hour-long train ride to downtown has crossed this airport off the list for me. Don’t be tripped up by its name either, located due east of London; Southend (SEN) isn’t south of the city at all, it gets its name after the nearby town Southend-on-Sea.



Fly here: BRU – Brussels Airport

While this airport is still pretty far from the city center at 37 km/23 mi away, it’s the best option compared to the other airports that serve the Swedish capital. The Arlanda Express high-speed train service will take you to downtown in 20 minutes for 280 SEK ($32 USD) one-way. Fixed taxi rates start at 450 SEK, which is a little over $50, not the cheapest option but fairly reasonable for pricey Scandinavia.

Not here: CRL – Brussels South Charleroi

When they say south, they mean it when it comes to Brussels South Charleroi Airport. Situated 46 km/29 mi south from downtown Brussels, you can get to the French border faster than you can to the city center. Served by low-cost carriers, don’t fall victim to the Brussels title in the airport’s name it’s a 45- minute drive and about €100 taxi ride to the city it’s supposed to serve. I should mention, there are bus options to Brussels city center from CRL for about €15, but they take close to an hour. And if your flight gets delayed like mine did and you arrive after midnight, the next one isn’t until 4:30 am.



Fly here: ARN – Stockholm Arlanda

While this airport is still pretty far from the city center at 37 km/23 mi away, it’s the best option compared to the other airports that serve the Swedish capital. The Arlanda Express high-speed train service will take you to downtown in 20 minutes for 280 SEK ($32 USD) one-way. Fixed taxi rates start at 450 SEK, which is a little over $50, not the cheapest option but fairly reasonable for pricey Scandinavia. If you want to cut some other costs in Stockholm have a look at our handy list of cheap eats in the city.

Not here: NYO – Stockholm Skavsta

Marketing at its finest, this airport uses Stockholm in its title despite being 100 km/ 62 mi away from the city center. Served by low-cost carriers Ryanair and Wizz Air, Skavsta is a long hour and a half bus ride to downtown Stockholm.

VST – Stockholm Vasteras

Like Skavsta, Vasteras is about an hour and a half from Stockholm proper. Situated 110 km / 68 mi west of downtown this airport really stretches out the Stockholm name in its official title. It’s a minor airport and only has flights on Ryanair from London (STN), but still, don’t think of flying here as a cost-saving option unless you want to spend most of your trip riding on a bus.



Fly here: OSL – Oslo Airport

Oslo Airport is located 35 km / 22 mi northeast of the Norwegian capital. A hub for both Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian Air Shuttle, OSL is the airport of choice if you are planning a trip to Oslo. With a railway station beneath the airport, connections to downtown are easy using the Flytoget express trains that whisk you to the city center in about 20 minutes.

Not here: TRF – Oslo Sandefjord/Torp

Sandefjord Torp (TRF) airport is a staggering 110 km / 68 mi away from Oslo’s city center. Travelers arriving at TRF airport will find themselves two hours away by bus or train from downtown Oslo. Mainly used by low-cost carriers, buyers beware. Along with that super cheap flight deal, you must budget extra time getting to/from this out of the way airport.



Fly here: VCE – Venice Marco Polo

At only 8 km / 5 mi away from the hustle and bustle of Piazza San Marco, Venice’s main airport Marco Polo (VCE) is the choice arrival spot for visitors. From the airport, you can travel in style to the floating city by water taxi. If water taxis aren’t your thing, VCE also has rail and bus options that will take you to the city center in about 20 minutes.

Not here: TSF – Venice-Treviso

Served by low-cost carriers, this airport is unofficially called Venice-Treviso, which is a bit misleading as the airport is 31 km/ 19 mi away from the city center. While this isn’t as bad as some other airports on this list, if planning a trip to Venice you’ll have a much easier time flying to its main airport Marco Polo (VCE).



Fly here: BHD – George Best Belfast City

At just 5 km / 3 mi from the Belfast city center, this airport is one of the most convenient in all of Europe. Unfortunately, this single runway airport doesn’t have a vast network of flight options, but if given the choice, try to fly here over Belfast International (BFS).

Not here: BFS – Belfast International Airport

Belfast International Airport is situated 21 km / 13 mi west of downtown. Overall, it’s not too far away compared to many of the other airports listed here. However, I prefer BHD as my choice when flying into Belfast. As far as public transportation goes, Translink operates an express bus service that will get you to the city center in just over a half hour.



Fly here: WAW – Warsaw Chopin

Odds are, you’ll already be flying into convenient Warsaw Chopin (WAW). Just a short 10 km / 6 mi separates the arrivals hall from downtown Warsaw. Trains, local buses, or taxis can easily reach the city center in a little over 20 minutes. After that quick trip into downtown, there’s no shortage of sights and events going on in ECentral Europe’s best city for frugal travelers.

Not here: WMI – Warsaw Modlin

Warsaw Modlin Airport is 35 km / 22 mi northwest from Warsaw proper. Since Ryanair exclusively serves this airport, it’s pretty easy to avoid flying to. If you do choose to fly to WMI, the only option to travel to the city center is by taxi or bus coach, with travel times taking about an hour.

Header image by gopixa via Shutterstock

Is Credit Card Insurance Enough?


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“Does my credit card provide enough free travel insurance?” We often hear that question, and the answer, as with many questions, is, “It depends.”

Book your next trip with Girls Travel The World

Many credit cards these days—especially premium cards—include substantial travel insurance benefits when you use the card to buy tickets or arrange accommodations. In most cases, the top-dollar benefits are trip-cancellation/interruption (TCI) and medical coverage. Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $1 million in travel accident coverage and $10,000 in trip cancellation coverage. That’s more than enough for many travelers, but not all travelers. Whether those benefits are enough for you depends on you, your card, and your trip.

1. Dollar amount: A million dollars or so of medical is probably enough for most travelers. But whether $10,000 per person is enough TCI depends on your trip. It is probably enough if your exposure is mainly in airline tickets and prepaid hotel accommodations. But it might not completely cover a high-end luxury cruise. And many cards offer less than $10,000. But as long as your exposure to cancellation penalties is less than the maximum credit card payment, the credit card coverage should be all you need.

2. Covered reason: However you arrange it, TCI is a “named peril” insurance, which means it will pay off only in case of a covered reason—an event or contingency that is specified in the contract. If you hope to rely on your credit card’s insurance, make sure you’re comfortable with the policy’s list of covered reasons. For the most part, as far as we can tell, credit card lists are about the same as separate-policy lists, although some may be a bit less inclusive. If the list covers your needs, the credit card coverage should be all you need.

3. Pre-existing conditions: With any TCI, pre-existing medical conditions are a major point of contention. Most TCI policies, from any source, exclude medical and TCI coverage due to a recurrence of flare-up of a medical condition which you knew about or for which you had been treated within a specified period up to 12 months prior to your buying the policy or paying for the trip. You can arrange for many separate policies to waive that exclusion if you buy the insurance within a short time after making your first trip payment. But, as far as we know, no credit card policy allows you to waive the exclusion for pre-existing conditions. This should be no problem if you’re in good health and haven’t been seeing doctors, but if not, this is a deal-breaker for credit card medical insurance.

4. Geographical: Credit-card TCI and medical coverage is typically limited to travel outside your country of residence. That’s also true for most separate policies. If you need insurance for a domestic trip, you need to buy a separate policy; otherwise, your credit card is good.

5. Age: Credit card medical and TCI may impose an age limit on coverage. A typical premium card, for example, can cut medical coverage off at age 80. Clearly, if you’re over that age, you can’t rely on the credit card—although you’ll probably face really stiff premiums when you try to buy a third-party policy, too. But if you’re under that age, go for the credit card.

6. The small stuff: Many cards include coverage for lost, delayed, or damaged baggage; many provide payments for expenses if your flight is cancelled or delayed. These contingencies are included in most separate travel insurance, too, but the credit card values should be useful enough to rely on the card.

7. Secondary coverage:
Except for a very few premium cards, most card-based coverages are secondary, meaning the card covers only those expenses that you cannot first recover from an airline, cruiseline, tour operator, or your regular medical and property insurance policies. Rental car collision coverage on most cards is also secondary. Some separate policies provide primary medical coverage, which can be a big plus. But the credit card is good if you can handle the process of paying or charging to the card and claiming from some other source later.

When you book with Girls Travel The World you are advised to purchase the supplemental insurance that will cover your trip over and above  what your credit card will cover. It’s very inexpensive for the peace of mind for a relaxing trip.

Things I learned today about the Louvre


Louvre Article


Les Tuileries: The Phantom Palace of Paris

The Parisian residence of kings and emperors disappeared almost 150 years ago, but its shadow, and its ghosts, remain.

This is part of our weekly series, Lost Masterpieces, about the greatest buildings and works of art that were destroyed or never completed.

PARIS — There is an enormous void in the heart of Paris.

The millions of visitors who walk over, around, and through the empty space every year take little notice, and most are only dimly aware they tread where a grand palace, home to kings and emperors, once stood. It is just not there, after all.

But when the great Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei was commissioned to rethink, restore, rebuild, and, one might almost say, resurrect the Louvre Museum in the 1980s, that nothingness became something of an obsession.

What’s missing is the Tuileries Palace, the royal residence that once formed the western side of the Louvre complex. Without it, the symmetry of the city, the harmony, the feng shui, if you will, is seriously askew.

Imagine, for a moment, that this is 1870. If you stood at the front door of the Tuileries and looked in the general direction of the setting sun your eye traveled straight down the main promenade through the Tuileries Gardens, through the Place de la Concorde, where an obelisk stands like the needle in a gun sight, and on upward along the Avenue des Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

Such was the Grand Axis of Paris, the spine of a city that dearly loves its classical proportions, grand perspectives, and carefully calculated geometry.

Goethe, alluding to the Pythagorean roots of harmony, both aural and visual, said, “Architecture is frozen music.” Part of the wonder of walking through Paris is its architectural harmony, like a frozen classical symphony.

But in this part of the city, once you took away the Tuileries Palace, things didn’t quite line up anymore. The rest of the Louvre complex, developed on much older foundations, is not square with the axis.


The history of what came to be called “The Grand Design” for the Louvre and Tuileries palaces is long and, really, very bloody.

The Louvre itself was first built as a forbidding fortress able to block passage up the Seine River in the 12th and 13th centuries, when French kings were off fighting the Crusades.

It did not become a royal residence until the reign of the great French Renaissance king, Francis I, in the 16th century, and even then it was a dreary shadow of his magnificent palaces at Blois, Chambord, and Fontainebleau.

In 1564, Catherine de Medici, the powerful mother of three kings, decided to build a new palace directly to the west of the Louvre, perpendicular to the Seine, looking across open gardens and marsh that came to be called, after the heaven of heroes in Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields.

Built on a site where roofing tiles, tuiles, had once been made, it was called Les Tuileries.

But, as happened so often in the building’s history, this grandiose work was interrupted by war.

The ferocious religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants raged after the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre which was inspired, in part, by Catherine’s machinations.

The slaughter began in and around the Louvre with calculated assassinations, but it spread as mobs took to the street with gruesome enthusiasm.

“I do not know if it is the smell of gunpowder, or the sight of blood which excites me, but, mordi! I have a taste for slaughter,” says one of the characters hunting around the Louvre in the Alexandre Dumas novel about those times, La Reine Margot.

Henry IV, Catherine’s ex-Protestant ex-son-in-law, eventually emerged as king and tried to pacify Paris with building projects. He also married Marie de Medici, another scion of the great Florentine family.

In 1610 when a Catholic fanatic murdered Henry, his son was not quite 9 years old and Marie became regent. Among her projects, a tree-lined path extending from the Tuileries gardens out through the fields. The axis of western Paris began to take shape.


Marie’s grandson, Louis XIV, was a restless young monarch, and his ministers hoped that they could keep him in Paris, the nation’s capital, by turning the Louvre and the Tuileries into a truly grand residence, a royal city within the city.

The man they hired to do the job was the Italian Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a painter, sculptor, architect—the designer of the beautiful colonnades around St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican—and arguably the most famous artist of his day. But in the end, Bernini’s designs for the Louvre were rejected.

They were very Italian, without visible roofs, and the interiors were rather inconvenient, with badly placed latrines, among other problems.

Another architect, meanwhile, took on the job of completing the Tuileries Palace. As Alexandre Gady writes in Le Louvre et Les Tuileries: La fabrique d’un chef d’oeuvre, “the building was now truly worthy of a king, and had sumptuous, richly decorated apartments.”

It blocked completely the western view of the Louvre, which was angled slightly behind. Its central element was a high dome above a grand suspended staircase, and from its terrace one looked out on the Tuilerie Gardens completely redesigned by the great landscape architect André Le Nôtre, who also planned a grand promenade extending from the center of the gardens through stands of trees, to the base of a low hill in the middle distance.

But Louis XIV was losing interest in the Tuileries. He had turned his attention to a hunting lodge he decided to make the center of his court and of France: the Palace of Versailles, and he ruled from there for the next 44 years after spending his last night at the Tuileries, which was also his last night in Paris, in February 1671.

Bernini, back in Rome, sculpted a monumental statue of the Sun King on horseback. But when it finally was delivered to Louis, after the artist’s death, the monarch hated it. In 1685 he had it relegated it to an obscure corner of the gardens at Versailles. Only 300 years later, and almost in secret, would it suddenly be given new prominence.


By the latter half of the 18th century, the idea that the old Louvre should be turned into a royal museum had been floating around for several decades. The building served as a workspace and home to several artists favored by the court, and also several royal academies. It hosted more or less public expositions of art, and the great figures of the Enlightenment paid frequent visits.

The Tuileries, meanwhile, had become again the royal residence. In 1715 Louis XV had been moved there from Versailles when he was just five years old. (One can only imagine the little boy-king in the enormous spaces of that elaborately decorated palace.)

During the nearly 60 years of Louis XV’s rule, the main promenade through the Tuileries gardens had become a broad avenue reaching all the way to the top of the hill nearly three kilometers away from the palace. By then, it was known as the Champs Élysées.

The ill-fated Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, became king and queen in 1774, and Louis, hoping to show that he was a man of his enlightened times, moved to make the Louvre a true royal museum.

Then came the Revolution.

After the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 and riots in October, Louis brought his family from Versailles back to Paris—to the Tuileries—thinking this would put him closer to the people whom he still hoped were his people. But for the next three years, his presence became the object of revolutionary fury and the Tuileries Palace was denounced as a “refuge for tyrants.”

After the royal family’s failed attempt to escape in June 1791, they were effectively under arrest in the Tuileries, until the palace was attacked and invaded in August 1792, the king imprisoned, and the monarchy abolished.

A few days later, the newly invented guillotine was set up in the Place du Carrousel between the Tuileries and the Louvre, and a “royal agent” named Danglémont beheaded.

The killing machine stayed there, its blade hissing down again and again, until the show moved out to what’s now Place de la Concorde, where more than 1,000 people, including Louis, Marie Antoinette, aristocrats and finally revolutionaries lost their heads on that same straight line leading out from the western entrance of the Tuileries Palace to the top of the Champs Élysées.

Even during The Terror, classical symmetry played its role in the Parisian political theater.

When Napoleon Bonaparte consolidated his power after the Revolution, the Tuileries became his imperial palace, and the Louvre Museum the great repository of the treasures he brought back to France (one might say looted) during his conquests.

The fabulous collection of ancient Egyptian art and artifacts, the bronze horses from Saint Mark’s in Venice, and what seemed countless priceless objects were added to the already stunning collection of paintings and antiquities housed in what was quickly becoming the most magnificent collection of art in the world.

In the Place du Carrousel, more or less where the guillotine had been, Napoleon erected a victory arch in marble reminiscent of those in Rome, and, once again, placed it along the magical line that ran through the center of the Tuileries. At the other end of the the axis, he began work on a much bigger arch, the Arc de Triomphe, which would not be completed until 1836.

But the man who made Paris what it is today, this city of so many wide boulevards and grand perspectives, was not Napoleon I at the beginning of the 19th century, it was his nephew, Louis-Napoleon, who managed to get himself elected president in 1848, then staged a coup d’état in 1851 and in 1852 declared himself Napoleon III, the new emperor of France.


Under the Second Empire, the whole of Paris became a construction site, as buildings were demolished and wide roads cut through the city, not least, so troops could move more easily to suppress unrest.

One of those thoroughfares was the avenue linking the Opéra Garnier, the center of music and dance begun under Napoleon III, with the Louvre, now recognized in all of Europe and the world for its extraordinary collection of art.

In the Tuileries Palace, Napoleon III and his beautiful empress, Eugénie, would hold court side by side in the throne room beneath a violet canopy made of velvet emblazoned with the gold seal of the empire. But even in the imperial abodes, construction was under way, as the emperor’s architects worked to join the museum more closely to the palace.

The imperial “small apartments,” some of which are reproduced in the modern Louvre, were decorated in an over-the-top opulent style known as neo-Louis XV, with carved wood, and masses of gilt. Paintings were everywhere, including the ceilings, and enormous chandeliers showered the rooms with candlelight flickering through cut crystal.

Napoleon III was, for a time, the most powerful man in Europe, but, like many a dictator, he misjudged his own strength. In the 1860s (with the United States weakened by its Civil War) he launched an invasion of Mexico and tried to create a subsidiary empire there under a hapless Hapsburg prince. In Europe, he waded into the wars of Italy, and fatally misjudged the rising power of the Prussians.

The Germans defeated Napoleon III on the battlefield, imprisoned him, and eventually sent him into exile in England. They laid siege to Paris, shelling the city until it surrendered and stationing a garrison there. The empire had collapsed, a new republic was declared.

The workers of Paris rose up to form their own government, The Commune, until the remnants of the national army regrouped at Versailles, and marched into the city on May 21, 1871, routing, and in many cases summarily executing, the communards in what became known as The Bloody Week.

On the night of May 23, a typesetter and former soldier who had risen to lead some of the Commune’s forces, Jules Bergeret, went room to room in the Tuileries with a pair of accomplices drenching the rich furnishings with kerosene, systematically setting the building alight.

Soon the blaze turned the Paris sky red and the 200-year-old building looked like an enormous grate full of burning embers. The dome over the center collapsed into the monumental stairway, and the flames began to spread toward the Louvre.


Today, if you walk down from the iconic Winged Victory through the Louvre’s Daru Gallery, you will pass two marble plaques, poorly lit, that attract virtually no attention.

One is devoted to Henri Barbet de Jouy, the curator of the Louvre in 1871, and members of his staff, who stayed in the building throughout the shelling of Paris by the Prussians and the revolutionary chaos of the Commune, doing their best to protect its treasures from thieves and from the mob, and largely succeeding.

But on that morning of May 24, as the Tuileries fire roared toward the grand galleries of the Louvre and a battle raged outside, where communards had blocked the quay along the Seine, Barbet de Jouy despaired.

There was only one source of water near the wooden bridge that linked the Louvre to the Tuileries inferno, and there was no way to stop the flames, he thought.

The second plaque in the museum, next to Barbet de Jouy’s, is dedicated to Martian de Bernardy de Sigoyer, commander of the 26th light infantry battalion of the regular French army. When his troops had deployed in the Tuileries Gardens, the palace already was in flames.

He saw the danger to the national heritage, and indeed to the world heritage, if the fire spread.

Going against standing orders, he had his men attack the first communard barricade with bayonets and broke through. While some of his troops took positions in the museum windows, covering the quay down below, others mounted to the roof, hacking away at the wooden bridge that joined the museum and the burning palace, and forming a bucket brigade to douse such flames as broke through.

Thus, as the plaque reads, by Bernady de Sigoyer’s “energetic initiative were saved the palace and the national collections of the Louvre.”

Two days later, the heroic officer’s bullet-riddled body, stripped of weapons and boots, was found about four kilometers from the museum, near the Place des Vosges in the Marais. The circumstances of his death never were elucidated. As for Jules Bergeret, the man who torched the Tuileries, he fled to England, then to New York City, where he was naturalized an American citizen, worked as a house painter, and died in 1905, apparently of natural causes.

The ruins of the Tuileries, charred and crumbling stone, remained in place for more than 20 years before, finally, in 1883 they were torn down.


A century later, the architect I.M. Pei and his associates were well aware of all this dramatic history, and also of the fact that then-President François Mitterrand had made their work the centerpiece of an even bigger project that would extend the “Grand Axis” far beyond its old limit to reach an enormous square-shaped Grande Arche in the architectural ghetto to which the city relegated most of its skyscrapers, La Défense.

When the main courtyard of the Louvre, the Cour Napoléon, was a parking lot for bureaucrats in the finance ministry, which used to occupy the north wing, the discordant angle of the old building was not so striking.

But Pei’s solution for a spectacular entrance to receive millions of visitors was a glass pyramid squarely placed in the middle of the courtyard.

And, inevitably, one’s eye, one’s sense of symmetry, one’s innate feng shui, wanted that pyramid to be the end point of the immortal axis. But there was no way to make that happen.

“The Tuileries had been the end point,” said Yann Weymouth, who was the supervising architect for the project at the time.

So there was no anchor, no closure, if you will, and “that bothered us,” he told me over the phone from St. Petersburg, Florida, where he is designing new museums. “As you came down into the Cour Napoléon through the small Carrousel Arch, it didn’t focus on anything.”

As Weymouth recalls, I.M. Pei and Michel Laclotte, the director of the Louvre at the time, “talked a lot about what we could put there.”

Laclotte thought of the Bernini statue of Louis XIV out at Versailles, and a sort of jest, indeed, a beau geste, started to take shape.

Pei had been worried all along that his plans for the Grand Design might meet the same fate as Bernini’s did more than 300 years before: a summary rejection after a huge amount of work. (One notes there are many bathrooms in Pei’s Louvre.) And French critics had been quick to excoriate the proposal for the glass pyramid.

So, with very little fanfare, the equestrian statue was reproduced in cast lead around what Weymouth describes as “a gorgeous stainless steel armature” and put in place in the southwest quadrant of the courtyard.

Today it is hard to imagine the Louvre without Pei’s gorgeous pyramid.

But many of the tourists who sit on the oddly angled base of the Bernini statue to pull sandwiches out of their backpacks, or just catch their breaths, never bother to look up.

I go there every chance I get. It offers, I think, one of the most spectacular and historically fraught perspectives in the world. One sees, as if through a surveyor’s transit, the monuments and boulevards along the axis all the way to La Défense.

One also sees what is no longer there: the courtiers trysting in the gardens; the guillotines of The Terror; and the Tuileries Palace.