France is Open and Here’s What You Should Know
Our trip began at JFK, greeted by our Delta Airlines and Air France friends who escorted us to Air France’s La Premiere Lounge. At check in, the agent checked our documents which now include an original vaccination card and digital negative PCR COVID result. Despite the “newness,” the process was very efficient. Pro tip - use a paper clip to attach your vaccination card to yourpassport.
The lack of the typical business traveler out of JFK was obvious, but that made our journey through security so much quicker. Walking through the terminal on our way to the Air France lounge felt eerie as thestores were empty, some were closed and the overall lack of passengers about.Though the travelers present appeared to be leisure, small family groups or couples, it was nowhere near the bustling pre-pandemic levels. As we made our way to the flight board, there were announcements for other international flights boarding which excited us to see the return of global travel.
At the current stage of reopening on June 13th,which was 2 days prior to the announcement that NYS was opening 100%, the A Flounge amenities were few. Guests could help themselves to wine,champagne, waters, soft drinks and pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks. I enjoyed a glass of champagne and the classic prosciutto and mozzarella in a French baguette, which served as a teaser to the trip ahead and the almost certain culinary treats that awaited our arrival. We were greeted by a“High Contribution Supervisor” who shared more amenities such as chef and served meals would return soon.
It was time to board the plane, which was a breeze. A passenger boarding ahead of me was politely stopped by the Flight Attendant as she was wearing a cloth mask, which are not allowed onboard. The flight attendant gave her a surgical mask, which is required inflight.
Upon arrival at CDG, most, not all, of our group was asked to present our documents: Passport, negative COVID test, and vaccination card. In surveying the group, other than showing our Passport, the documentation requirements were inconsistent. This is likely due to the newness of the process, but not for a lack of safety.
Our group was welcomed by Paris Airport and driven directly to Plaza Athenee. After taking time to refresh and change clothes, we headed to a group lunch at the Plaza Athenee’s, LaCour Jardin. This was the beginning of our culinary journey as the 4-coursemeal essentially awakened our taste buds and our senses after what was for mostof our group, our first transatlantic journey. It was official, we were inParis. Sipping champagne, eating baguettes that tastes like no other! Any jet lag or fatigue was eliminated as we ventured into our meal and conversations,hosted by Plaza Athenee team.
The significance of this moment was not lost on me, or on my traveling companions. After 15 plus months of being grounded, we arrived. We were in France, and we were part of a small group of Americans invited by our partners to spread the word. FRANCE is OPEN and other EU countries were not far behind.
As if the amazing meal were not enough to wake us up, we ventured off on a Paris sightseeing tour on Retro-Tour motorbikes with sidecars. This is an invigorating way to see the key sights of Paris! After the tour, we enjoyed an exclusive visit to The Bourse du Commerce to see the Pinault Collection,
followed by what was essentially a private tour of the Louvre. Our group was lucky to visit now and experience the museum without the crowds since it was announced that all Paris museums will open fully to the public on June 30th.
After the sensory overload of day 1, we returned to the splendor of Plaza Athenee, another quick change, and then off to dinner at the Le Meurice restaurant, LeDali. Here, we took a mini-site inspection to see the not-so-mini Belle Etoile Penthouse Suite. It must be said, all rooms are fantastic but this particular suite boasts unique views of Paris.
Dinner at Le Dali was a combination of old-world Parisian charm with attention to every service and culinary detail. Each diner was givena “sleeve” to place our mask while eating. Who thinks of this!? This was my first in-person dining experience, (yes, still have not dined indoors in theNYC area!) and I felt extremely safe between the fact that our group was fully vaccinated,and the servers were fully masked and tables were fashionably segregated by other tables, furniture, and décor. It was exciting to witness a large multi-generational French family dining to celebrate a milestone birthday. Wewere joined by the EVP Commercial Sales for Air France, who spoke about the goals for opening France and continuing to grow the network.
After we satisfied our palettes, we returned to Plaza Athenee Gardens, the place we started our Paris adventure. A group of usenjoyed a nightcap despite the 11pm-6am Nationwide Curfew. Travel outside of this time required presentation of an “attestation” for essential travel(for example, a hotel or restaurant worker going home after a shift.) This requirement was lifted on June 20th though. Effective June17th, facemasks were not being required outdoors, other than at busyplaces such as a queue to a venue or market. I compared our time in Paris to the stage NYC was in 4-6 weeks ago before protocols started to be lifted. The French were all quite compliant with mask requirements and protocols, which made us feel at ease.
Off to sleep only to awaken, refreshed and back to Le Cour Jardin for a cappuccino, amazing spread of breads and yes, poached eggs with salmon that looks and tastes like nothing you ever enjoyed before!
A nurse was brought into the hotel (cost 100Euro) to administer the PCR test, a current requirement to return to the USA. The test was quick, efficient, and results were emailed to me by 3pm same day.
Next, we were back to the open-air and views of Paris. This time, a mini-cruise along the River Seine hosted by Les Yachts de Paris. The views from the water offer a breathtaking tour of Paris landmarks, among them are Notre Dame, Eiffel Tour,Musee D’Orsay.
After the tour, we were treated to a historical tour of La Samaritaine.This was exclusive as the restoration is essentially complete and preparing forthe opening, currently scheduled for June 23. La Samaritaine offers a“mall” shopping experience in an architectural and stylish setting of an open-airgallery. Every detail is attended to and the private concierge suite ha sthe feel of luxury and comfort with individual guest rooms appointed inbrilliant colors – each in a different color palette, but all in a stylish design that is sure to stimulate the buying behavior of any luxury shopper.
After the morning river tour and private tour of LaSamaritaine, we were went to LaReserve
for a site-inspection and lunch, which would be followed by a private audience with the French Minister of State, Jean-Baptise Lemoyne. By way of OUispeak interpretationservices, the Minister addressed our group and provided insights in hisrecent meeting with President Biden at the G7. He expressed his appreciation for our visit to Paris and our efforts to promote tourism. He spoke aboutprogress with France’s vaccine roll-out and the plan to begin lifting mandates,such as mask wearing outside, dropping the 11pm curfew and museum and venue openings. When asked about a reciprocal agreement to open France tourisms to the USA, he was vague respond, but agreed, this was an important initiative.
Next, the agenda awarded us with some free time (as if we had not been awarded enough!) I took the opportunity to visit ALTOUR France. The hotel hailed a taxi for me and I was off for the 10 minute drive.Seeing our new Paris space and meeting the ALTOUR team was such a treat! They are poised and ready for the return of business travel.
I returned to the lovely Plaza Athenee with enough time torefresh and head out to a site inspection at Mandarin Oriental Paris. Here, we were treated to a tour of the Parisian Apartment complete with a rooftop garden and terrace that would serve as a tranquil retreat for travelers after a day of shopping and sightseeing in Paris.
Our last formal stop on the agenda was Park Hyatt Vendome. After a sight-inspection, we enjoyed a twist on French cuisine and dined at La Terrasse, which boasts an Italian menu, complete with pizza margherita.
At last, the trip was coming to an end. I flew home on anearly DELTA flight to JFK. Upon check-in at Sky Priority they asked to see passport and negative COVID test results and had to sign a declaration of the negative covid test. Passport Control reviewed my documents and posted a green sticker dot on the declaration form, which would be shown at boarding with my passport.
It is evident there is a need for a Universal Health Passport or documentation standardization. Both passport control and the check-in agent took a moment to identify the date of my Covid test results – which is understandable as there are likely many labs and many formats for this documentation.
The DELTA flight home was exceptional, and the in-flight crew was energetic and appreciative to welcome back international travelers.The purser greeted every traveler and thanked them for the business.
Our job now is to get the word out, to share the experience that France, among other EU countries are open or in process of opening.