As airports go, Roissy Charles de Gaulle is quite lovely. What else can one expect from the French, non? Even at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m., which is when I walk out of the plane, the place looks ready for a photo shoot. It makes for a pleasant way to spend the four hours of my stopover before the next flight. But first, I have to pass through security before going up a set of escalators to the terminal where I will depart. (I encountered this additional security check for the first time last year when I flew through Zurich; my typical European stopover airport, Amsterdam’s Schipol, did not have it.) The departure gate is one of many that line two hallways that stretch out in opposite directions from the top of a U-shaped courtyard. It’s filled with chairs and couches in various shapes, which manage to be both comfortable and chic.
I am drawn, as always, to the places that sell delicious treats—Ladurée has an outpost here, as do bistros that sell caviar and Champagne. The latter is a bit much on both my wallet and my just-flew-3000 miles tummy, but I plan to get some macarons before I head out.
Before peeking through the stores that open into the courtyard, or the massive duty-free section at the base of the U, I take a trip to the bathroom. A picture seems necessary to convey the classiness–
Si belle, n’est-ce pas?
With teeth and hair brushed, I feel marginally human, despite my blood-shot eyes. Though I resigned myself a long time ago to the fact that I would never be one of those travelers who look like they stepped off a magazine cover, I try not to give up on hygiene. Especially in Paris, bien sûr.
I walk around the airport for a while without being weighed down by my bags (seen in above photo), thanks to the free baggage carts that lounge around in discreet corners by the phone and internet kiosks. I love these early morning times, when airports are mostly quiet, with just the presence of a few staff and fellow passengers to break the silence. After being stuck with several hundred people in a confined space for eight hours, even an extrovert needs a bit of downtime.
As I wander down one of the hallways to see what else they hold besides gates, I come across a wall sculpture? garden? living mural? that is extraordinary. I try to capture it with my phone camera, which is usually a competent little thing, but it is one of those times that I miss having a wide-angle lens.
Satisfied by the discovery, I wander back to the courtyard and into duty-free, where I peer at every aisle. Apart from the standard fare of cigarettes and alcohol—though here you also have Gauloises and fine wine—there is an assortment of delights. Chocolates, bien sûr, but also chocolat chaud, cute tins of biscuits, saucissons, fromage, huile d’olive, caviar, sel—in other words, a fine foods grocery. I am madly tempted by all of it, but stick to chocolates and cheese for this trip, promising myself some more on the way back (U.S. Customs does not permit meat, vegetables, seeds, etc). The staff is très polis, seducing sleepy-eyed buyers into surrendering to their id. They encourage me to use a shopping basket, which I decline with “Non, merci, c’est dangereux!” before lapsing into “I don’t want to buy too much”; the GQ model-like salesman replies silkily, “But I want you to, mademoiselle.” Oh, mon dieu!
I extract myself from this siren song only to stop by Ladurée’s counter and pick up a dozen macarons. They are catnip to me. I have no baking skill and despite having bought these at the New York location, it feels imperative to get some while in Paris.
Once I have the pretty pastel box in the signature bag, I’m ready for the next leg of the journey. Like an army, I march/fly, on my stomach. On y va!