Friday, October 12, 2007

This Started Out As A Good Trip But Then...

I spent the past few days in Paris, a trip that started out quite well. It wasn't a perfect trip by any means - I had been hoping to stay in the center of Paris, preferably at my favorite hotel next to the Tuileries, which used to be an Intercontinental but now has turned into a Westin. Alas, the quoted rate was 700 euros - a little too rich for my blood and not likely to be approved through the corporate travel dept.

So instead, I stayed at the lovely Hilton La Defense, which was incredibly convenient for the office and conference I was attending, but which had the charm of a gnat. La Defense was built 40 years ago as the "Manhattan" of Paris - a ghetto of high-rise office blocks and a large, sterile convention center. The hallmark of La Defense is La Grande Arche, built on the same grand axis as L'Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées.

However, it is a convenient RER A ride to the center of Paris. So on the day I arrived, I decided to power through my jetlag by shopping in town (of course!). I took the train to Les Halles, and proceeded to have a big wander of many miles back over to the Arc de Triomphe. I stopped at E. Dehillerin along the way - a cookware store whose reputation is legendary, but which is a far cry of the stylings of a Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table. This was more like a hardware store for cooks, with opinionated sales people who have an elaborate routine for paying and wrapping your goods. I bought a lovely copper saute pan from the south of France, made by Mauviel - copper lined with stainless steel, which apparently is amazing to cook with. Those of you who know me may well ask why on earth I would need such a spectacular saute pan - well, it's very pretty too. And I've since checked the prices - even though it seemed rather expensive in Paris, it's probably twice as pricey here in the US.

I strolled for a while, stopping for a quick sandwich at Paul, at Michel Cluizel to pick up some chocolates and of course the obligatory stop at Mariage Frere for more tea that I can't quite drink up in time.

I ended up having a rather big lunch at Dalloyau - I intended on having a little Croque Monsieur, but saw a wonderful Filet de Beouf avec des Pommes Pont Neufs go by to another table, and picked that instead. It was an excellent steak and the potatoes (glorified poufy french fries) were nice. To feel virtuous, I ate the little side salad first. I finished with a nice pot of Earl Grey and a little Tarte Citron.

I had to rush back to the hotel for a conference call but after that, visited the large mall in La Defense known as Les Quatre Temps (Four Seasons). Very efficient mall, but like the rest of La Defense, with the charm of a gnat.

So you may ask, after all that shopping and eating, why would this not be classified as a great trip? Because I'm currently sitting in the lounge at Frankfurt Airport, having missed various direct flights and currently booked on a multi-stop itinerary that, if all goes well, will get me home 12 hours after originally planned. Let's just say that both United and Lufthansa will be receiving some scathing survey feedback shortly.

Update - I arrived home at 3:30 am, approximately 11 hours after my scheduled arrival...such is the glamour of international business travel :-)