Getting there is half the trip, right? This post documents our recent time in airlines and airports.
I packed a few critical kitchen utensils, mosquito netting, insect repellent lotion, stainless-steel water bottles; I will try to post a comprehensive packing list at a later point (along with a wish-list of should-have-packed). We checked two big bags each plus 2 carryons apiece, and squeaked by the excess baggage fees. Note for the future: Know the weight/kilo limits for ALL the carriers to be traveled on. 50 pounds is the limit for American carriers. Emirates Airlines charges 30 euros per extra kilogram and the post office isn't always open or convenient. Fortunately the flight wasn't full and the person who checked our bags took pity on us and didn't charge us.
Note for the future: Assume dirty laundry will not fit and leave extra room for it. Also leave extra room for the Darling Spouse (tm) who says "oh, my bag's full, do you have room for this?" and "oh do we have a place for this book?" We were both guilty of these crimes and somehow made it all fit.
Paris gets its own post. Later, once I can link to pictures.
Emirates airlines as a carrier was pretty nice. Comfortable seats. The food was glamorous airline food (dill prawns, truffle-bechamel-sauce pasta) but it didn't really taste good. The best part was the free personal movie/entertainment system. You could view cameras for the front or underside of the plane. We watched a movie and I actually watched a couple episodes of NCIS. The entertainment user interface could've been much better designed though; for instance, it took several screens to simply adjust the volume. Also on the second flight, the screen defaulted to the main movie after only a ten-second-delay. For all the money they apparently spent on it, they could've done more in usability or user studies. Also, it was all in English; our neighbor the next seat over spoke only Arabic and he couldn't make sense of it.
We connected through the Dubai airport. That's not something I ever want to do again. For one thing, prescription sleeping pills (and a lot of other extremely commonly prescribed US drugs) are illegal in Dubai and will get you 4 years in prison. We mailed all our meds from Paris to the Fulbright house in Delhi; it cost $$$ but it sure beats jail time! Dubai had a separate security screening inside the terminal when you transferred planes, and they definitely weren't looking for explosives; didn't have to remove the ziploc of liquids or laptops. They stopped Michael and asked him questions for a couple minutes on where he was going, but they let him go. They let me go.
DBX (Dubai airport) is also a miserable place for anyone with cigarette allergies. The terminal had "smoking rooms" that had single-story glass walls that didn't block the smoke from wafting over; the whole terminal had an undercurrent of cigarette smoke. It gave me a headache but otherwise didn't trigger my cigarette-allergy migraines too badly, as I chugged water and managed to keep my food down. For some reason, the gate was closed until a half-hour before boarding, and the whole terminal aisles for several gates around it were lined with bodies of Indians lying on the floor and sleeping before the flight. We hung out at a little coffee shop that had less smoke in the background. We nibbled pastries and I read Jack Keay's History of India for a couple hours until the gate opened.
The Indian immigration/entry process was very straightforward; much improved from five years ago. For one thing, the waiting area in Indira Gandhi airport is now air conditioned (hooray!) and has its own clean, modern toilets. The airline gave us a single long half-sheet of paper Indian immigration form for use by all people entering India; we didn't have to try to figure out which form to use on our own. They also gave us a photocopied half-sheet of paper with questions on our health for the Swine Flu. We had a line for the health check when entering. The health check line used thermal imaging; the clerk took our papers and stamped them. The immigration line checked our visas and gave arrival stamp. Then we had a very welcome sight of a driver waiting for us. Yay! An enterprising Indian guy loaded up a luggage cart for us and steered us through "nothing to declare" customs. He asked for five dollars in return; we gave him a euro coin and sent him on his way.
Traffic--- well, traffic in Delhi makes me long for the quiet, orderly calm of the DC Beltway during rush hour. From the airport to the hotel, we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic that was somewhat worse than I remember five years ago. Almost all the vehicles were cars or motorcycles, not many auto-rickshaws and only a couple mopeds or Tata trucks. We saw cows on the side of the road, but they stayed out of the main traffic flow. The rules were the same as always though--biggest vehicle gets priority; lanes are a suggestion; honk if you pass by someone, so they don't swerve into you when they're dodging someone else. Lots of people playing pac-man with the lane markers, going down the dividing lines. It might have been worse than normal; this traffic jam was bad enough that a couple of the motorcycles ahead of us crossed the median and went the wrong way down the other side of the boulevard. 'Course that might be normal too.