Blog: Paris in a nutshell
Dave Leggett | 3 October 2008
I am back from Paris now. I wish I had had longer, but the simple fact that there is never enough time at shows is inescapable. I had a number of interviews scheduled yesterday (here's one with Fritz Henderson - look out for something else from my half hour with him to be published on Monday), plus there were other people to meet, stands to find and it was a case of looking at the cars while in transit from one place to another.
Wednesday night was notable for a couple of fairly lavish preview events I went to.
Toyota had a new Avensis unveiling near the Place De La Concorde. I got dust all over my shoes finding the place (as my colleague Jenny Steel remarked, 'Why are the streets of Paris lined with kitty litter?'). Sea bass with rice was good. The car looked like another very competent Toyota. They turned the handle and out it came. Toyota customers will be getting even more for their money, allied to the usual Toyota reliability. It doesn't come with added wow in terms of appearance though, but D-seg cars seem to be morphing into each other these days to play safe.
Ford pushed the boat out a bit in a cavernous cellar by the river. Aussie singer Gabriella Cilmi ('Sweet About Me') was performing. The girl can sing and the band's not bad either. New Ford Ka looked good, but I had quaffed a few cocktails by the time I actually found the car. Frank Ebbecke, a guy who used to do work for ad agency JWT was in there. Great to see him again after quite a few years and he was looking slim and well. Last time I saw him I think it was about 4am at the Prague Hilton and we were retiring to our rooms after a long, long session at the bar with a guy who had claimed to be in the SAS and kept us most entertained with his tales, true or not. One of those, 'quick nightcap?' jobs.
We had a good chat about Moscow, where he now lives, and how things are in Russia but it would perhaps have been better if we could have actually heard each other over Gabby's full throated rendition of a Led Zeppelin song (yes, really).
It was also good to see Matthew 'Beechy' Beecham just before I had to hop on the Metro. He said Noman Lamont was at the show and when I queried that, he absolutely insisted. Have you seen him yet Dave? Eh? He's speaking, Matthew insisted. We spoke on the phone so I didn't get time to press him until we met up a bit later.
So that would be the Norman Lamont, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Major administration of the 1990s? What would he be doing in Paris at the auto show? What would he be talking about? Off-licences and media intrusion into a politician's life? Black Wednesday and where it all went wrong? Industrial policy of some sort? Perhaps he's a big Francophile on the quiet...
I was starting to relish seeing Lamont with his colourful, no-messing persona. Perhaps I'd have a drink with him and a few laughs after he'd finished doing his duty on behalf of a slightly desperate Tier 1 that had acquired him as a non-exec board member. Alas, and to cut a long story short, it was another Norman, not Lamont. Matthew had had one of those crossed wires in his head we all get from time to time. I was actually disappointed when Matthew realised his mix-up on names and hit his forehead with the palm of his hand (hey, we've all been there - me more than most, actually; I am simply appalling with names).
I was still smiling about that one much later on the train. Eurostar got its act together and the journey back by train to Blighty was fine. My earlier rant was justified, but let's face it: I paid just GBP89 to go from cental London to central Paris in under three hours - and back again. It's a pretty good service at an attractive price, even if they have a few problems every now and again, so I' ve calmed down.
And I could go off on a rant about the lamentable state of the media facilities at the Paris showground, but I'll leave it. It's been that way for a long time. A lot of people in Paris also smoke tobacco, drink pastis instead of gin before dinner and eat goose liver pate for fun. Good that visiting different places is still, well, different. C'est la vie, I guess.
Like me, most people move on and haven't time to complain. I don't expect Paris 2010 to have a well equipped media centre. Why change things? C'est la vie.
Changing the subject and going to an altogether calmer place, the silver trees, blue light and birdsong in an area of GM's massive exhibition area - where the green tech was being shown - provided a moment of minor delight. It's hard to be impressed by the stand designers when you have seen so many, but it's always refreshing to see something that has had a bit of artistic thought and is well executed.
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