Turning black and blue in the City of Light

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.
Time for a last minute pre-Rugby World Cup glass of Champagne in honour of the host country (and, alas, likely All Blacks conquerors) at the superb Intervals bar on Hong Kong International Airport’s spectacular Sky Bridge

As you can see by my headgear I’m a flying Kiwi again, bound for my fifth city in six days, which is going some even by my standards.

Intervals offers magnificent views over the airfield. I will be on one of those planes soon enough.

After a much-needed six hours of sleep, I’ve opened my Moodie Davitt Report Interim Bureau on Thai Airways (TG) 930 out of Bangkok en route to Paris. We’re flying over the Black Sea towards Bucharest (something perhaps I need to do after all this travel), some 2 hours 40 minutes out of the French Capital.

Why Bangkok? Why Paris? Why the Kiwi cap? Well the first question is easy. That’s because we are hosting the Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) + Hospitality Conference & Awards there on 12-13 September and therefore routing out of Hong Kong through (and back from) the Thai capital made time and financial sense.

Paris? And the Kiwi cap? Well, as many readers will know, they are interrelated. You see, on Friday a certain rugby match takes place in Paris between the host nation of the Rugby World Cup and my beloved – but recently beleaguered – All Blacks. What a mouthwatering prospect for the opening match of this great tournament.

The Metaverse-inspired Thai Airways inflight safety video must rank among the most beautiful ever made

There’s history between the two teams. Sporting history of the dramatic and sometimes bitter kind. The All Blacks beat France in the inaugural Rugby World Cup final in 1987 held in Auckland, New Zealand. Twelve years later, France came from (miles) behind to famously upset the seemingly unbeatable All Blacks at Twickenham in 1999 (I was there and remain traumatised by the second half brilliance of Les Bleus and the unravelling of the men in black to this day).

In 2007 the same thing happened (aided and abetted it must be said by a Mr Magoo-like refereeing performance by Englishman Wayne Barnes that still makes hardened men across the land of the long white cloud nation splutter at the very mention of his name).

Black or blue? Or simply a nice red? I have the perfect wine to celebrate with or to drown my sorrows.

Then in 2011, at Eden Park, New Zealand, redemption at last for the All Blacks as they regained the Rugby World Cup after 24 years of being labelled perennial ‘chokers’. A very long time between drinks. But it could have been much longer. This time the referee seemed to be very much on our side in an almightily tense 8-7 victory to the men in black over, yes, Les Bleus.

I know one (now retired) French travel retail beauty sector executive who was so incensed by referee Craig Joubert’s display he wouldn’t (or couldn’t talk to me for months.)

Not that there’s quite so much at stake on Friday. It is the opening game rather than a knock-out one. But have no doubt that it will be about as intense an atmosphere as you could imagine as black meets blue, the very same colours that the players’ bodies will bear after a no doubt fearsomely physical encounter.

I’m the grateful guest of L’Oreal Travel Retail Managing Director Vincent Boinay at this grand occasion but I’ll also be doing plenty of fascinating interviews while I am there. Watch this space on both the sporting and travel retail front.

I have brought with me the perfect bottle to either celebrate victory or drown my sorrows. It is a 2009 Minervois (an AOC in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region) produced by French rugby and winemaking legend Gérard Bertrand.

It was bottled in 2011 to celebrate the Rugby World Cup final in New Zealand between the two sides. I was given two bottles after that match and shared the first one way back in 2015 at a restaurant in Cardiff just before the France v Ireland pool match in the wonderful company of Rémy Gomez, former President of Beauté Prestige International. The French wine that day was excellent, the French rugby awful as they went down 9-24 to the men in green. A sign?

One of that quintet of cities I mentioned having visited in recent days was Chongqing. What a majestic place. If you have not been there – and most westerners have not – put it right at the top of your bucket list. My mind is still swimming in a brilliant whirlpool of memories from my necessarily truncated visit.

As reported, I was there for the dual opening of the DFS Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Boutiques and the inauguration of Starry Galleria, the expansive, multi-brand, multi-retailer zone in the domestic Terminal 3A.

What a retail offer this terminal now boasts, the extensive DFS boutique and sunglasses store being complemented by an array of standalone boutiques in beauty (Dufry) and luxury (self-run), the latter including visually ravishing Gucci and Cartier stores.

I stayed at the superb InterContinental Chongqing Raffles City, a hotel that really does deserve that much-abused term iconic, not just for the magnificent architecture but also for the wondrous views over the mighty Yangtze River and its tributary, the Jialing River, as they converge like the ancient friends they are.

The InterContinental Chongqing Raffles City towers into the sky, offering a majestic panorama matched by few hotels in the world. Photo: IHG.com

If you are visiting Chongqing of course you simply must try the local cuisine – more spicy than even Friday’s big match. It’s not often you can say that watching your dinner is as pleasant as eating it but that was certainly the case as I enjoyed an outstanding meal as memorable for the colour as for the (spicy) taste of the cuisine in the good company of our China Chief Representative Zhang Yimei.

More on the Chongqing story coming soon via our website and forthcoming TFWA World Exhibition and Trinity Forum magazine. But first there is a rugby match to watch.

We’re now just 2 hours and 26 minutes out of Paris and around 64 hours from kick-off at Stade de France. My spine is tingling at the prospect. This is arguably the greatest French side in generations while the All Blacks have stumbled badly over the past four years. But hey, on their day, they can beat anyone. And, dare I say it, will.

Blue or Black. Whatever your hue, there will be a cry. ✈