Doing business in France? KQ now flies to France’s capital city Paris with its new B787 Dreamliner. msafiri makes some recommendations for a memorable business trip
No city in the world has quite the pull of Paris. There is all the beauty and the romance of course. But more than that, Paris is also a thriving business hub – showcase for one of Europe’s leading economies. Among the global companies headquartered in the French capital are oil giant Total, banks like BNP Paribas and Société Générale, the Vivendi media group, Bouygues for construction and LVMH for luxury goods. There is no single business zone, but central Paris is small enough and easy to get around.
Many of the big corporate names are headquartered in the western arrondissements (as Paris districts are called), near the Champs-Elysées. Others are slightly further out, at La Défense. This is a purpose-built business area created in the 1980s around a vast concrete arch. It is what you see when you look out of town from the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris is well-known for being the most visited tourist destination in the world. But it is also the city with the largest number of international trade shows: some 450 every year at the ParisExpo convention centre and other big venues, drawing around 10 million people. Organisers love it because attendance levels are higher in Paris than elsewhere. That is because business visitors come to work and to have a good time.
According to the Anholt-GFK City Brands Index for 2013, the Paris brand is the third most powerful in the world, behind London and Sydney. The Ipsos Top Cities survey for 2013 ranked Paris second equal with London behind New York. And it came first in the category ‘best place to visit’. Paris has a huge range of hotel accommodation. Public transport is efficient and the streets are clean. Most people you come across will speak some English and in recent years the city has made strides in adding the personal touch to its welcome. It really is a place like no other.
Hilary O’Shaughnessy, 41, who works for an American multinational in Paris, has lived in the Montparnasse neighbourhood south of the river for the last four years. “I love the way you can live in a world-scale capital, and yet ordinary life can be kept at the local level. I don’t even need a car – everything is close by. Montparnasse has some great bistros and restaurants, like La Rotonde where Pablo Picasso used to go.”
Eating out is indeed an important part of life in Paris, especially when you do business. “Whenever I have clients here – from anywhere in the world – I always take them for a good lunch. It’s part of our culture,” says Lionel Freisse-Boudet, International Development Director for a French logistics company. “Here in France, people still do a lot of business over lunch – though it is true we probably drink a bit less wine now than we used to!”
To find out what is going on in Paris, there is a host of blogs and websites – official and unofficial. Some of the best are written by expatriates keen to display the best the city has to offer. Try http://parisisinvisible.blogspot.co.uk/ and www.colleensparis.com. And if your French is up to it: www.pariszigzag.fr which recently won an award for the best Paris blog. The Paris Tourist Office tweets at @ParisOTC and there are English language ‘what’s on’ tips at @G2Paris_France. For newspapers, the International New York Times is still based in Paris and has good coverage of French news and culture.
Getting there: Kenya Airways flies four times a week to Paris on its new Dreamliner B-787 from JKIA in Nairobi. Flights arrive early in the morning at Charles de Gaulle airport, which is about 15 miles north of the city.
Getting around: A taxi to the city centre should cost around €50, though more if traffic is heavy. Alternatively there is a train service on the RER suburban network costing €10 (get off at Gare du Nord or Chatelet-Les Halles), and AirFrance coaches (Les Cars) which cost €17.50. Once in Paris, the metro is excellent and you are never far from a station. A single ticket costs €1.70 and a ‘carnet’ of ten tickets costs €13.70. For maps and more information, go to the official website at www.ratp.fr
Where to Sleep
New: Mama Shelter Hotel
The Mama Shelter Hotel in eastern Paris is making a name for itself as a home-from-home for the international arts and media crowd. Conceived by designer Philippe Starck, it is striking, buzzy and fun. The nearby Père Lachaise cemetery makes for a popular stroll.
• Room prices range from €90 for the basic up to €300 for a suite.
• 109 rue Bagnolet, Tel: +33 143484848, www.mamashelter.com/en/paris
Close to business district: Hotel Scribe
Recently refurbished, the Hotel Scribe is a luxury hotel in the classic Paris style, just round the corner from the Opera and not far from the Champs-Elysées. Built in 1861 it was originally the headquarters of the high-society Jockey Club. Music-hall legend Josephine Baker was a regular.
• Prices start at €300 a night.
• 11 rue Scribe, Tel: +33 144712424, www.hotel-scribe.com
Best value: Hotel du Champ de Mars
Paris has plenty of small hotels that are excellent value. Try for example the Hotel du Champ de Mars, a quiet and quaint establishment a short walk from the Eiffel Tower. The rue Cler market is just outside.
• A single room costs just €105.
• 7 rue du Champ de Mars, Tel: +33 145515230, www.hotelduchampdemars.com
No expense spared: Hotel Bristol
One of the most gorgeous hotels in the world, not just in France, is the Hotel Bristol, situated just across from the Elysée Palace, home of French presidents. Staying here you are quite likely to bump into international celebrities or sporting stars. Woody Allen filmed part of his Midnight in Paris here. The hotel has a Michelin 3-star restaurant, and its own boulangerie.
• Rooms start at €1000 euros
• 1112 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Tel: +33 153434300, www.lebristolparis.com
Cool and quirky: Hotel Bel Ami
Beloved of the fashion scene, the Hotel Bel Ami is in the literary Saint-Germain neighbourhood south of the river. It is a short walk from famous cafes like the Deux-Magots. Roomy and elegant, it is done up in pastel shades to soothe the travel-worn.
• €250 to €750 a night.
• 7/11 rue St. Benoît, Tel: +33 142615353, www.hotelbelami-paris.fr
In the lively Bastille quarter, try The Bottle Shop 5, rue Trousseau (Tel: +33 143142804, www.cheapblonde.com). famous for its wide range of beers. The up-and-coming area for hipsters in Paris is South Pigalle (So-Pi to those in the know) where The Dirty Dick (10 rue Frochot) provides cocktails on a Polynesian theme, such as the Missionary Downfall and the Hurricane. The Candelaria (52 rue de Saintonge, www.candelariaparis.com, Tel: +33 142744128) is a popular bar with a Mexican restaurant. Ask for a guêpe verte (green wasp). Traditionalists flock to Harry’s Bar, founded in 1911 and still going strong (5 rue Daunou, www.harrysbar.fr, Tel: +33 142617114). South of the river there is the wonderful La Palette, whose 1930s bar has been declared a historic monument 43 rue de la Seine, www.cafelapaletteparis.com, Tel: +33 143266815).
To impress: Grand Véfour
Established before the revolution, the Grand Véfour is not just one of Paris’s oldest restaurants, it is also one of the grandest. In the arcades of the gardens of the Palais Royal, not far from the Louvre, it has a sumptuous interior decor and, thanks to Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin, a menu to match.
• 17 rue de Beaujolais, Tel: +33 142965627, www.grand-vefour.com
Best view: Maison Blanche
In the heart of the luxury fashion quarter, the Maison Blanche is at the top of the modernist Theâtre du Champs-Elysées and from its terraces commands a superb view of the Eiffel Tower and central Paris. The view may be extravagant but the decor is plain and stylish. The cuisine is provided by the award-winning Pourcel brothers. There is dancing on Saturday evenings.
• 15 avenue Montaigne, Tel: +33 147235599, www.maison-blanche.fr
Best local food: La Fontaine de Mars
President Obama came to La Fontaine de Mars on his first visit to Paris after being elected. The US embassy gave good advice: this is an honest-to-goodness, traditional French restaurant. The cuisine is from the southwest, home of foie gras and Armagnac. Classic, authentic, excellent quality.
• 129 rue Saint-Dominique, Tel: +33 147054644, www.fontainedemars.com
Where locals go: Le Cassenoix
Away from the richer neighbourhoods, Paris has small local restaurants aplenty, such as Le Cassenoix – a hidden gem just round the corner from the Eiffel Tower. Chef Pierre-Olivier Lenormand trained at the Elysée Palace, cooking for presidents, and offers a delicious three-course supper for just over €30.
• 56 rue de la Fédération, Tel: +33 145660901, www.le-cassenoix.fr
For a short visit steeped in history and glory, go and see Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides Church. Louis XIV built the Invalides complex in the 17th Century, as a retirement home for ex-soldiers. In 1840 Napoleon’s remains were brought back from the island of Saint Helena and placed in the sarcophagus that lies beneath the golden dome. The church is a masterpiece of baroque architecture. The entrance fee of €9.50 also gives access to the Army Museum.
• Avenue de Tourelle, Metro: Varenne, www.musee-armee.fr.
Louvre Art Museum
A half-day is a good length of time to spend in the Louvre Art Museum, one of the richest in the world. The famous masterpieces are there, including the Mona Lisa. But to avoid the crowds, try one of the museum’s themed walks around its vast permanent collection. Subjects include ‘love’, ‘horses’, ‘eating and drinking.’
• Tickets are €12 but you pay more to see temporary exhibitions. You can book online at www.louvre.fr. The museum is shut on Tuesdays.
Palace of Versailles
The essential Paris day out is to Versailles, the sumptuous palace where Louis XIV moved the royal court at the end of the 17th century. The royal apartments and the magnificent Hall of Mirrors form the centrepiece, but then there are the gardens, the opera, the Trianon palaces, Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet – a day is not enough.
• Tickets start at €15. take the RER ‘C’ line from Invalides, or from Saint-Lazare or Montparnasse main line stations. www.chateauversailles.fr
Exercise your wallet
Luxury goods shops like Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Elysées are very popular with visitors. A classic easy-to-carry Paris souvenir is a Hermès scarf. The big department stores such as Galéries-Lafayette and Le Bon Marché are also good for perfumes and the latest fashions. French kitchenware makes a good present, though make sure that knives are packed with hold luggage. The same applies for wines.
Exercise your body
The best places to jog are the Luxembourg Gardens, the Bois de Boulogne (on the west side of the city) and along The Seine river quays. In fact there is a newly pedestrianised section of the quays between the Orsay Museum and the Eiffel Tower, which includes several exercise areas. Cycling is easy: just use one of the city rentabikes called Vélib. They are everywhere. A day-ticket costs €1.70. Paris is not great for gyms – they nearly all require a monthly subscription – but there are plenty of cheap tennis-courts run by City Hall: www.paris.fr/tennis.
Americano coffee: From €3.50 to 8, depending on the café.
Bottle of beer: From €4.00 to 8.
Taxi from airport: Around €50.
Day travel card on metro and bus: €12
Boulangerie croissant: €1.40
Q&A Need to Know
Should I leave a tip? French restaurant and cafe bills include a service charge, so you are under no obligation to leave a tip. Still, it is customary to leave a small gratuity after a meal – even if it is just a few Euros.
Where can I buy a tie? Go to one of the department stores, like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps. Tie Rack has several outlets: www.tie-rack.fr. And if you want to splash out, at 162 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré there is the distinctly upmarket The Nines. www.thenines.fr
What is the accepted form of greeting? A handshake is normal when you meet someone – men or women – for the first time. When you are on more informal and friendly terms, the double cheek-to-cheek kiss known as the bise is common (though not usually between men).
Any local lingo? The best tip for any foreigner coming to Paris is to remember to start every encounter – be it with a taxi-driver, shop-assistant or government official – with the words ‘Bonjour monsieur/madame’. People expect that little formality, and it makes a big difference. Especially if you then switch to English!
What is the local currency? The Euro is the currency of 18 countries in the European Union, so the money you use in France can be used elsewhere. A Euro divides into 100 centimes. Euro coins bear different images on one side, depending on the country where they were issued – but they are all valid everywhere. ATMs are easy to find. Most shops and restaurants take all the well-known credit and debit cards, though some refuse American Express.