Feeling bleu in Paris but absolutely FAB-ulous in Bangkok

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Well, I never felt more like singin the blues
’Cause I never thought that I’d ever lose
– Guy Mitchell, Singing the Blues

A mock-up Eiffel Tower takes pride of place during the exhilirating Rugby World Cup opening ceremony

“Allez les Bleus!”

I guess the nice immigration officer woman at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport couldn’t help herself when she saw the kiwi on my cap.

“Oui, allez les Bleus,” I replied with a weak smile.

“Allez les Bleus!” Oh no, even the man at the security checkpoint was in on the act.

“Oui, oui, alles les Bleus,” I responded, as I took my laptop out, placed it in the tray and trudged wearily on to pick up my things off the belt. Allez les bloody Bleus…

Time for this Kiwi to take flight

Truth be told I was feeling pretty bleu myself as I made my way through Paris Charles De Gaulle Terminal 2E on Saturday morning. Not only was I sleep deprived and facing the prospect of my second 12-hour flight between Paris and Bangkok in four days but my beloved All Blacks had been put to the sword the night before in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup by France 27-13.

I will console myself by believing the result did not matter that much. After all, the All Blacks can still qualify for the quarter-finals if (and, based on recent performances, it is far from a given) they beat Namibia, Italy and Uruguay in the remaining pool matches.

The two sides line up for the national anthems but there was only team singing after the match
All Blacks great Dan Carter made a star appearance before the match, surely the only New Zealander to get his hands on the Rugby World Cup this year

Alas, even if they do, the fate of meeting South Africa (surely now the tournament favourites) or Ireland (along with France my equal next pick) awaits. Allez les Noirs and they will certainly have to.

Further consolation came with the sheer privilege of being able to attend such a great sporting occasion, a showdown preceded by an extraordinary – and definitively French – opening ceremony co-directed by actor Jean Dujardin that showcased in deliciously eccentric style the country’s traditions in gastronomy, sports and the arts.

A bicycle-riding baker arguing with a cockerel, a baguette shaped like a rugby ball, a giant mock Eiffel Tower, and 280 performers acting out a joyous ode to French savoir-faire and art de vivre, the ceremony had it all.

Oh how we could have done with All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams on the field

Including the obligatory flyover with the jets trailing the hues of the Tricolour behind them and the sight and (almost) sound of French President Emmanuel Macron having his speech drowned out by a cacophony of loud boos and whistles that rang around the stadium. And then the match itself, the All Blacks flattering to deceive, the French turning up the temperature even further on a swelteringly hot Parisian night just when they needed to. Allez les Bleus indeed. They look good.

We might have lost the match but there was plenty of consolation in the splendid company of my gracious L’Oréal hosts. Pictured with me from left to right are L’Oréal General Manager  Luxe – Travel Retail Worldwide Baptiste Beau; President, L’Oréal Travel Retail & Member of the Executive Committee Vincent Boinay; and L’Oréal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus
How nice to catch up with L’Oréal Deputy CEO Barbara Lavernos who I knew well during her three-year stint running L’Oréal Travel Retail between 2011 and 2014
With JCDecaux Chief Executive Officer Jean-Charles Decaux (above) and Vincent Boinay (below)

After my usual round of airport store and F&B visits at Terminal 2E (excellent on gourmet food, very good on luxury, spirits and wine, underwhelming on beauty) and the long flight to Thailand, I have woken to a magnificent view of the mighty Chao Phraya River from my 23rd floor room at the Millennium Hilton in Bangkok.

I am here for our Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) + Hospitality Conference & Awards, which makes a welcome return after a four-year, COVID-driven absence.

Les Halles gourmet area is the highlight of the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 2E commercial offer

Back to Bangkok for the second time in four days. But this time I will be staying a lot longer.

Nice to receive such a warm greeting off the plane by Zow from Airports of Thailand. Stanley? Alas, yes, the family secret as per my passport (Stanley Martin Middleton Moodie) is exposed to the world.

Thanks in particular to the recent Dufry-Autogrill merger and Lagardère Travel Retail’s recent acquisitional activity (including the fine US F&B operator Tastes on the Fly in recent days), never has airport F&B been in the spotlight as much as it is today.

I’m proud of having conceived this event back in 2010, long before such a spotlight was ever shone. And having helped judge the 250 or so entries we received for the 2023 FAB Awards – to be revealed during the  Gala Dinner on 13 September – I realised how very far airport food & beverage has come in the past 12 years since we ran the first FAB at Manchester Airport.

That was in the freezing January of 2011 (rendered even colder by the conference hall’s heating breaking down, giving way to my description of the event as the Frozen Food & Beverage Conference), a far cry from the lovely warmth of Bangkok as FAB makes its Asia debut.

What a fine line-up our winners on Wednesday will collectively represent. Like the view from my Bangkok Interim Bureau and, yes, Les Bleus, a case of absolutely FAB-ulous. ✈