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Organizer's Guide to Paris - Beautiful, historic Paris is a major European business hub that’s also rather good for life’s little pleasures – just mind your s’il vous plaîts and mercis.
Mild on the whole, with pleasant days continuing into October and early November, Paris is balmy in springtime and hot, occasionally scorching, in summer. Winters are chilly, and often bitter from December to February. Frequent rain showers are a given.
French officials usually speak good English, but don’t count on anglophone transport staff, gendarmes or retailers. If you make an effort, even on the level of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, it will
help relations no end. Always utter a greeting on entering a shop, and use
the ‘vous’ form of address unless you’re sure that informality is appropriate.
Flights to Paris are frequent and can seem good value but the convenience and comfort of the Eurostar beats the schlep in from Charles de Gaulle airport (often referred to as Roissy). If you do fly, there’s a 30-minute fast train into Gare du Nord.
Paris is compact and easy to get around quickly, with much of the centre walkable. The arrondissements, or municipal districts, are arranged in a spiral, from the 1er and 2ème in the centre to the 20ème in the east. Taxis can be hard to flag down – better look for a rank – and drivers aren’t as savvy as their London counterparts. The Métro system is easy to use.
Paris hosts innumerable trade fairs, and is very much geared up in terms of business hotels and conference facilities, not just in business areas such as La Défense and Montparnasse, but also in upscale central areas such as the Champs-Elysées.
Arrange a market tour and a demanding, hands-on cookery class with a French chef (many of the top cookery schools put on classes in English); or a private wine-tasting session in the style of a TV quiz show, with teams, buzzers and a compere; or even a ‘blind tasting’, in a pitch-black room.
Pigalle and Montmartre offer classic ooh-la-la Paris nightlife, or there’s a more alternative, relaxed scene in the 11ème. The swankiest bars are in the 1er and the 8ème.
Cultural differences between Paris and London shouldn’t be underestimated: whereas London is a global city, informal and fast-paced, Paris is still very French. Etiquette is observed, with behaviour more conservative on the whole, and business structure is strictly hierarchical.
Paris Business Tourism & Travel: 020 7061 6610
This feature first appeared in the Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2011.