“I wouldn’t say the room was small but when I talked to myself, one of us had to step outside to reply.”
The old joke by the late English comedian Les Dawson certainly rings true for room 52 at the rather charming Best Western Plus de Neuville Arc de Triomphe hotel in Paris. Couldn’t swing a cat in here? Well, put it this way, I doubt a newborn kitten would fit in, let alone be up for any swinging. If you see any typos in this Blog, it’s because my elbows keep bumping the walls as I type.
I’m on the 5th and top floor of this very old and quirky hotel in the 17th arrondissement. I know that for a fact because I have already ascended and descended the lovely spiral staircase several times due to the Lilliputian confines of the elevator, surely a contender for the Guinness Book of Records smallest hotel lift in the world prize. Since my medical travails of recent years, I am a considerably slimmed-down version of my former self, which is just as well for otherwise I might still be wedged in the lift.
Welcome to The Moodie Davitt Report Interim Paris Bureau, my atelier for four days culminating with a visit to Roland Garros on Saturday for the women’s final of the French Open – a prize we bid on at the excellent DFNI Charity Ball earlier this year. I arrived yesterday from the blazing sunshine of Moscow (30°C today) into the pouring rain of Paris, an unseasonal deluge that gridlocked the city’s roads and ensured the cab ride to my hotel took almost as long as my flight from the Russian capital.
My spirit is still soaring with memories of Moscow. Courtesy of Alexander Baev, Founder & Chairman of RegStaer, I had the privilege of attending a wonderful concert in the State Kremlin Palace featuring the extraordinary talents of Andrea Bocelli, Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov and Olga Peretyatko.
Here is what producer Maxim Berin said of gathering a quartet of such stellar performers for a single concert: “It seemed impossible to gather such opera stars on one stage. The schedules of each of them are settled for many years to come, they are the most demanded artists of today. And yet we succeeded: on June 4, both classical arias and popular melodies will be performed on the main stage of the country.
“This unique concert will undoubtedly go down in history of musical performances; the audience will come to see it from all over the world. This performance can be compared to the concert of Netrebko and Hvorostovsky at the Red Square or to the first concert of the three legendary tenors, Domingo, Carreras and Pavarotti, which took place in Rome in 1990.”
The reality lived up to such promises. And then some. Four majestic, inspirational talents, performing in a magnificent venue featuring one of the most sumptuous stage sets I have ever witnessed. Wondrous.
The concert capped an unforgettable day in the Russian capital, following a long and splendid RegStaer-hosted lunch onboard a riverboat restaurant, from where we enjoyed magnificent views of this historic city from the Moskva River and a glass or two of some very fine wines.
I was in Moscow first and foremost though for professional reasons. Partly to report on the Grand Opening of RegStaer’s splendid new walk-through store at Vnukovo Airport and, even more importantly, to witness the announcement of Dufry’s imminent acquisition of a 60% stake in RegStaer Vnukovo. The deal strengthens one of Dufry’s most successful international partnerships, started in January 2012 when it acquired 51% of a joint venture with Regstaer Group’s business at Sheremetyevo International Airport.
RegStaer has proved to be one of Dufry’s most reliable and trusted partners. Dufry CEO Julián Díaz and Alexander Baev enjoy a very warm personal relationship. That bond has helped drive a highly successful alliance, one that now assumes more critical mass at a key Russian airport that hitherto lay outside the deal.
To be in Moscow at such a pivotal time for the partnership was deeply satisfying professionally. To top it off with such outstanding social experiences in such fine company made it an unforgettable few days.
Postscript: Just as I was about to finish this Blog, the delightful team on reception at the Plus de Neuville Arc de Triomphe offered me a change of room. I am now in room 46, a lot brighter (the room not me) and a bit, though not a lot, bigger. Excuse me for now, I am off to find a cat.