Phil's Travels - Paris
Paris (June 2014)
Back to back with Malpensa, the following morning I caught an early Eurostar train from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. It is such a pleasure to travel this way, much more efficient and comfortable than flying. Arriving in Paris I was greeted by huge crowds, not waiting for me, but crowds of people trying to figure out which trains were running. Of course, the French railway workers were in the middle of a week-long strike.
The reason for my visit to the City of Light was to give a presentation at the new Melia La Défense - a crash course on the global hotel sector. The Metro journey from Gare du Nord to La Défense involves a changeover at Châtelet, which leaves a lot to be desired. It took me 10 minutes to walk the underground warren with a million other lost individuals.
The Melia is still under construction, so safety boots, fluorescent jacket and a hard hat were de rigueur. We had a quick lunch in the rooftop bar space, with stunning views to the west, the Eifel Tower, La Grande Arche de la Défense and L'Arc de Triomphe. Everyone was complaining about the lack of mobile and data signal, and the excuse we were given was that the French military were testing something on the network and it was affecting signals across the country. The presentation was hosted in a Portakabin complex back on solid ground and I hope I was able to shed a little light on our industry. I had to leave shortly after the formal sessions and before the end of the meeting as I did not want to miss my train amongst the transport chaos.
My return trip through Châtelet took a lot less time, which means the signage the other way has to be flawed, a national skill that the French unfortunately excel at. I got to the Eurostar terminal in good time and hung around the departure area (still without mobile/data signal) wondering yet again just how poor Gare du Nord is compared to St Pancras. As I mused on such critical matters, I bumped into an old friend who was also without signal and heading back to the sanity of London. He had been visiting the mega Le Meridien Etoile with a view to remodelling its public areas for the new owner.
I love visiting Paris, not only because it is the city where my mother was born and raised, but also because it is so beautiful and full of history. However, I do find myself sighing with relief when I get back to London that I work and live in London, where things are cleaner, more organised and the signs point in the right direction.