Mr. Butler Goes to Paris – Part II

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

More travel insights…

I got settled in and then decided to go out and explore a bit.

The three star Hotel I am staying at, Hotel Du Lac, is right next door to the Civic Center. There is a four star hotel on the other side of the Convention Center – the Hotel Grand Barriere. These buildings front on Avenue General de Gaulle overlooking a really cool lake with sail boats and fountains. On the east side of the lake by a nice park is a Casino. Apparently, it is like a private club (similar to the Casinos in Monaco), but because I am staying here, I have a card that gets me in the door at least once. I guess if I lose enough they would let me come back and give me another card. No bother, I do not gamble well.

After visiting with some natives, it turns out that the laws in France require Casinos to be located “on or adjacent to water”.  This sleepy little suburb had this really cool natural lake and someone decided to put a casino there, then the hotels came in, the conference center and then economic development blossomed.  “Build it and they will come!”

A little farther east is the main drag. This is apparently a small town that has revitalized itself. General de Gaulle Avenue continues straight on another mile or so. It is maybe 50 foot wide building to building – 25′ drive and 12.5’ sidewalk on either side. One way traffic crawling along (NO ESCALADES to be found).  Shops and shops. Lots of clothing stores, shoes, lingerie, kids clothes, chocolate shops, pastries, a few bistros (better pricing if I could just figure out what was on the menu), and pharmacies. There are people walking all over the place (no place to park anyway). No wonder these people are so skinny, there isn’t much on the menu to eat and they walk a lot.

I had on my Levi 501s and a jacket. I saw some 501s in one window – ninety nine Euros! Feeling pretty good about my wardrobe right now. I am not skinny, but I am styling. They dress pretty nice here, too. Tailored clothes (for skinny bodies) and women wearing tight jeans and 3″ spike heels! How do they do that?

Bingo! I found a McDonalds! The menu is different – no supersize here – but more affordable. I see lunch at least taken care of. A nice bistro farther on has 12 Euro meals and outside seating so I can smoke my cigar and sip a cocktail.

There are a few small markets for necessities. No cheese or meat markets like we found at the Opera Cadet in Central Paris last time.

This commercial strip runs to the train station. I will need to get back down there and figure out where to board the train to get into Paris Saturday. I am just not going to do another $75 cab ride.

I also scored a bottle of Scotch for the room. Only 19 euros (which is what one and a half drinks at the bar would have cost). I have glasses here in the room, but they do not have ice here. Last time Buffy and I were in Paris I couldn’t get ice for the room, so I called down and told them I tripped on the stair and needed ice for my ankle. They scurried up with a bucket. I might try that again or just have my nightcap neat.  Interesting, they drink most of their drinks without ice.  When I ask for a Scotch on the rocks, they bring me a skinny pour (small shot) and on puny ice cube in a big glass.  If they paid any attention to marketing they would use smaller glasses with really heavy bottoms to make it at least look bigger.  Twelve euros – $18 per drink.  Ouch!

I took a side trip back a few blocks around this area to look at the housing. Tiny little parcels with three and four story homes. They usually have fencing all around it, and if they have 100 sf of green it is made up of four patches. Our landscape architects would have to really work those patches hard! The rest is paved and they park their cars there. Few garages were seen. The streets are narrow and one Escalade wide. Two of those smart cars can pass. I think my Escalade is bigger than their delivery vans. I saw one van with a pop top and a ladder sticking out. It was maybe seven feet long, so they have a hatch that pops up and they stick stuff in the top.

I saw fewer smokers this time – at least here. We were in Paris in 2000 and it seemed like everywhere you looked they were smoking inside and out. Not anymore. They are catching on.

I finally caught up with Phillippa – couldn’t figure out the hotel phone, so I used my iPhone. I am sure that 30 second call will bite me later. Phillappa is a transplanted Australian working for the people who run the conference.  She speaks French and English well so as long as I stick close to her, I might get fed and watered properly.  I met Phillipa, Jack Pelton, the CEO of Cessna, Gordon Schultz from Greensburg Ks. and Robert Bell, the Chairman of the Department of Economics at Brooklyn College (he also wrote a book called “The Green Bubble” ). By the time we got to dinner it was 10 PM and I didn’t get to bed until midnight (that puts me at a full thirty six hours without any sleep).

That pretty much wrapped up my Thursday activities.  It is always interesting to compare what we have and do with other countries.  More later.