Mr. Butler Goes to Paris

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

So, I went to Paris (France, not Texas) to present a paper on Sustainability in a New Mixed-Use Development – The Crossroads here in Springfield. Quick trip – painless – right?

The trip was set up by Bill Killian of Killian Construction and one of my clients. The people in Greensburg, Kansas had been invited to present their incredible story. They told the organizers about our development at 60/65 and how we were taking a sustainable route. They wanted to hear about it, so off I go.

Right off the bat it looked like a good omen. I scored an exit row seat and a aisle seat with no one next to me. The only problem was that it would be ten and a half hours (a virtual lifetime) before I could leave that seat and stretch my legs. Customs was a breeze. The French customs agent looked at my almost ten year old passport picture, chuckled and stamped it. What? I still feel young and skinny!

The cab fare from the airport to my hotel was 45 Euros! A $75 cab ride. Ouch! I checked into the hotel. This is in Enghien les Bains, a suburb of Paris. While the freeways are huge and typical, once you hit the off ramp, the streets are skinny little things with houses right up on the street. Wind through miles of little streets and funny little roundabouts to get to the hotel which is on a really cool lake with a casino next to it. No little shops or bistros anywhere in sight. Suburbia in France is different.

I got into my room. It is a 3-star hotel with a rack rate of 185 euros in low season ($307.00). The room is 14′ x 20′ maybe. Bathroom is tiny. Double bed. Similar to a low end limited service hotel. They charge for everything here – Internet is $23 per day. Spa/fitness/pool: $50 per day. I have to wonder if they meter the number of toilet flushes?

I shower and clean up (I really needed to after twenty hours without any sleep) and I head off to get a light lunch. The hotel restaurant menu has no soup, sandwiches or lunch items – all full blown meals at the cost of 30 euros each, plus salad for 12 euros and bottled water for another 5 euros. I have to multiply everything by 1.66 to see what I’m paying. Okay, skip the hotel restaurant and head to the bar to see what bar food they have. Damned little.

I settled for Steak Tartar (which was a treat for me) and a small bottle of water for 18 euros! No McDonald’s anywhere to be found. The bar is full of people holding business meetings. One table has three people at it, sipping wine, working on laptops. It was 2 p.m. and they were still there when I came back three hours later. Apparently, lunch is a business meeting time and they stretch it out as long as they can. They would probably crap blueberries if I took them to Lucy’s (fast food Chinese) for a quick lunch and back to the office to work in 15 minutes.

No free wifi in the lobby. I have still not had any real sleep. I will try to stay awake until about 10 p.m. and then crash. I head back up to the room and am waiting in the room for someone to bring me an extension cord. There are no outlets by the bed for my CPAP machine. In fact, there are a total of three outlets in the whole room: one in the bath, one by the desk, and one on the floor in the hall, I guess for the maid to use.

I check the TV. All French. No CNN or ESPN. There are movies but I bet they are all dubbed over in French. Why waste the money to see a first-run movie with a bad French dubbing?

I need to go find Phillippa, the lady who is running the Symposium and get my schedule and make sure she has the PowerPoint loaded. Tonight I meet with the other international presenters and get the low down on what this event is (this is the fifth one).  Hopefully, I will be better rested tomorrow. After the presentation, I plan to do some scouting around and see what there is to see here.

That’s my story for the first day. Not as exciting as the chicken feet or cooked turtles from my trips to China, just different. It makes me appreciate all that we have here and how little we pay for it. More later.