26 hours in Paris

11 08 2011

OMG. They let me out of the institution. Unchained me from my desk. Uncaged me from my glass cubicle. Released me into the great wide world. I finally got to go on a “business trip,” my first official mission out of the office in more than three years.

To Paris.

Snapshot from a taxi. (August 8, 2011)

Of course, it’s not that I haven’t been out of Switzerland in the last three years (I have, quite a bit actually, on vacation, personal leave or a long weekend). But travel just has a whole different quality about it when you know you are not footing the bill. Even the complimentary croissant in Economy Class tastes better when someone else is paying.

First of all, you are wearing different clothes. See you later, fleece and jeans and sneakers; make way for … a blazer and jeans and pumps.

Second, you get to finger your Blackberry with impunity, as if you have some absolutely lifesaving, crucial, time-sensitive nugget of information to deliver before take-off. Other people think you are on some kind of important and top-secret operation, even if you’re really just playing “Word Mole” to pass the time.

Third, upon arrival at your destination airport, you have no qualms whatsoever about grabbing a taxi into town, and paying 60 euros ($100) for the privilege. Even though public transportation probably would have been faster, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.

And of course, at the end of the day, you have even less of a moral conflict when paying the restaurant bill after that fabulous dinner with friends you haven’t seen for at least five years. (After all, you had to check to see if your expense account was still active, and if they still accept your corporate American Express card.)

Remember, it was your idea to order that second carafe of wine.

And of course, don’t forget that you do sleep much better in the hotel’s 1500-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets than you would if you are paying for that overpriced hotel room yourself, or sleeping in your own bed, at home. Just sayin’.

Though Paris is at the lower end of my personal worldwide “Top-10” list (another topic for another blog), a lot of great memories came back to me as I sat in the back of a taxi, speeding through the arondissements. Like the time a friend and I blew kisses from the Eiffel Tower (her idea – God, we were young then), or when I attended a week of lectures at an elite French university, or when I watched World Cup soccer matches on the big-screen at the Trocadéro public viewing area, or when I saw the Mona Lisa for the first time.

My business trip to Paris was a short but sweet affair, exactly 26 hours on the ground, from touchdown to take-off. It was all very pleasant, with the most pleasant bit being the change of scenery.

I returned to my office as scheduled and am starting to wonder if there will be a next time, and when. Maybe next time I can stretch it to 48 hours or, goodness me, perhaps even 72 hours. Or maybe I will go and just not come back. (I wonder if my officemates would notice I’ve escaped…?)