19 June 2006
I soon discovered that I was not actually in Paris. Instead, we were in a small town called Le Mesnil Amelot, just outside of Terminal 2. This distinct fact is important, because no French taxi driver knows there is a Radisson SAS attached to Charles-de-Gaulle. When you ask for them to take you there, and show them the brochure, they're awfully confused. Some of them even suggest the Sheraton, which is actually inside Terminal 2.
What this meant was that to get to town, I had to take quite a bit of transit to get there. So the first night at the summit, I spent sitting in the hotel hot tub. Oh, and then going for a brief swim in the frigid pool. But the hot tub was much nicer. Then I did a token amount of exercise, because I knew I was going to get lazy at this conference. As I always do.
A continuing theme in this travelogue will be about food. And why not? France is a country renowned for its food. I was determined to try some of its best. But my early hopes were quite dashed.
The hotel was not living up to my standards. Or any standards, really. The breakfasts consisted of the tiniest of baked goods. I managed to eat one of their so-called croissants in one bite. And it wasn't even flakey. Their pain au chocolat was equally disappointing, with merely a smidgen of chocolate. As for the coffee, it was unmentionably bad. I had to make my own café au lait to make up for the fact that it was awfully bitter.
Lunch was a cold buffet that was exactly the same every day. They had smoked trout, smoked salmon, and boiled prawns. Oh yes, and fish terrine and pâté galore. But the main dish, the pièce de la resistance was always broiled salmon, garnished with sliced cucumber, in apsic. That's right, dishes that come straight from The Gallery of Regrettable Food. Why were these people serving food that was out of vogue in the seventies?
Supper was a three course affair that was absolutely terrible. We'd start off with some sort of insipid starter like salmon terrine in aspic. Then we'd have thinly pounded steak that was mostly fat and gristle. It would be flavourless while the accompanying vegetables would be limp and over-salted. Dessert was the saving grace, but that's only because they were bought in.
Another conference-goer, who was a professional cook in a previous life, was just appalled by the state of the food. And we were being charged large sums of money for essentially slop. Not only that, the kitchen consistently failed to serve meaningful vegetarian or vegan dishes. They were all missing protein, let alone flavour.
After the first day of such treatment, I resolved not to eat supper there again. I would take my chances with the town.