Going green in Grasse and finding solace with Cloudy Bay in Discovery Bay

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Ok, I know I created ‘the website that never sleeps’ but this is ridiculous. Welcome to my Interim Nordic Kitchen Helsinki Airport Bureau, a location that, alas, at 01.15 in the morning looks worryingly as though it may not be too interim.

My 40-minute connection ex- Nice Côte d’Azur Airport en route to Hong Kong International always looked precariously tight. In fact, having done my best impersonation of a record-breaking 800 metre runner to get through the Schengen-immigration zone and to my gate, it’s turned out to be very loose.

Having arrived breathless at my gate five minutes before the scheduled 00.35 take-off, the words ‘New info: 00:45’ on the gate display screen looked none too promising. The words that followed soon after confirmed it. ‘Estimated: 02:45’.

‘Estimated’ is not a word you want to hear when you’re travelling by air. Especially at this hour and when you’re transiting. And even more so when they’re accompanied by the words, “There is a maintenance issue with the aircraft.”

What about my maintenance, I ask? This is the distinctly non-glamorous side of being a travel retail publisher/road warrior. Still, I have learned to be sanguine about such situations. There’s nothing you can do about it, and would you prefer the aircraft not to be maintained?

An apoplectic older man at the check-in counter clearly doesn’t hold that opinion though, muttering away not so merrily in what sounds like a whole lexicon of Finnish curse language to an unamused check-in assistant, culminating in the universally understandable “No more Finnair!”

It is not the staff member’s nor Finnair’s fault of course. The airport staff and the ground maintenance crew are all doing their best to get us flying.

Helsinki Airport is a barren, slightly eerie place at this hour of the morning. All the shops and – with the welcome exception of Nordic Kitchen – F&B outlets are shuttered. In fact the only other facility that is open is the Christmas Cabin, seven months early by my count, which may or may not be a bad omen regarding my ‘estimated’ departure time.

The two staff in the HMSHost-run, 24-hour Nordic Kitchen are doing their best to keep up with a long line of dispirited passengers, several of whom have decided to cheer themselves up with pints of beer or glasses of red wine. Not sure I can handle a chilled lager or ale at this hour and the vino can wait until Hong Kong so I have made do with a hot chocolate and a toasted sandwich and am working away until my laptop battery dies. Not a charging point in sight, the only minus mark I would give this decently pleasant eatery.

With Coty CEO Sue Y. Nabi – for many reasons one of the people I most admire in our industry – in Grasse on Saturday evening

It’s a shame my whistlestop visit to Nice from Singapore is ending like this but such is life. I still wouldn’t have missed the chance to witness the brilliant unveiling of Coty’s new clean, green, vegan Orveda OmniPotent Concentrate serum and Infiniment Coty Paris fragrance – dual projects described by Coty’s hugely admirable Chief Executive Officer Sue Y. Nabi as “a new chapter in the Coty story and in the future of the beauty industry”.

What’s this? Cannes in May? Go with the flow, I say, and see you again five months hence for TFWA World Exhibition. I am pictured above with (from left) Coty Director of Corporate Affairs, Global Communications Aurélie Petit; Coty Senior Global Communications Manager Anna Hua; and Ivan Letessier, Editor-in-chief of Figaro Économie.

It’s been a privilege to attend a launch that has the feeling of something very big about it and an even greater honour to meet Sue Y. Nabi. And, hey, I got to discover the music of the evening’s star act, LP, and am now permanently hooked.

Pity I packed the samples away in my suitcase though. I suspect I may need some hugely innovative anti-aging treatment by the time I finally reach Hong Kong.

A case of the Grasse is always greener…


Well, that ‘Estimated’ turned out to be right on the money. So much so that I turned around in my Interim Nordic Kitchen Bureau and saw the place was suddenly empty. Last passenger on with the Final Call alert flashing. I would have been none too impressed with myself if I had missed this flight.

This is a long old journey now with Finnair to Hong Kong, courtesy of the closure of Russian airspace. So even a solid six hours sleep left me roughly the same again to get back to work. A couple of breaking news stories later and some 21 hours after departure from Nice, I am back in Discovery Bay. But not alas, in my own bed.

Helsinki to Hong Kong the long way

My wife Yulim caught COVID in Hong Kong during the Singapore show and is still testing positive, so venturing home is not an option especially as I have to travel to Singapore, Doha and London in coming days. So I am holed up in Discovery Bay’s only hotel, the Auberge, and was even able to pop out to my local supermarket to grab some snacks.

Wine was not required as I had already bought a bottle of Cloudy Bay Chardonnay from Duty Zero by cdf on arrival. Cloudy Bay in Discovery Bay, another chapter in an ever-unfolding travel retail journey.