Meet our roving reporter, Asian millennial Judy Free, who is on a mission to circumnavigate the travel retail globe in 80 days, albeit virtually.
Judy is a modern-day version of Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s ‘Around the world in 80 days’. Click here for the full background to her intrepid journey, which started at London Heathrow Airport.
Like Phileas Fogg, Judy is intent on discovering new sites and adventures — albeit those of the digital variety. At each of her 80 virtual stops she is exploring the relevant airport’s website, its product ranges, activations, and restaurant offerings. She will also offer up some jet-setting travel tips for both virtual and real life travellers; and if some duty free shopping happens along the way, then all the better. Because after all, the world is literally at her fingertips, and her next big adventure is always just a click away…
In the immortal words of Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea”, writes Judy Free*. Paris never fails to captivate the soul. Its dimly-lit cobblestone streets, crowded brasseries and breathtaking museums have all made their way into our wanderlust-induced fantasies.
Who can deny the inimitable allure of people watching in a French café? Who can resist strolling along the Jardin des Tuileries on a beautiful spring day, or exploring the chic independent boutiques of the Marais?
Paris is the city of lights; its romance is undeniable. It is the city of the impressionists; Manet, Degas, Pissaro. And it is the city of Chanel, Hermès and Dior – the latter a romance my little fashion heart can barely contain! Oh, if only Monsieur Dior could dress us today, wouldn’t that be the dream?
It is no wonder, then, that Paris is the fashion capital of the world. This is where Charles Frederick Worth first created the concept of haute couture, and where the legend of Coco Chanel was born.
No wonder stiletto-clad fashionistas flock to the storied halls of Galeries Lafayette and the perfectly manicured boutiques of Avenue Montaigne. After all, no one does high fashion like the French, and those of us who are just passing through are more than willing to spend a pretty penny to cop their oh-so-effortless Parisian style.
However, any savvy millennial traveller knows that the best shopping happens before take-off, and so we turn our eye to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the next stop on our whirlwind tour of the world. If you’re skipping the Eurostar and opting to take your journey up to 32,000 feet, then Paris CDG is your gateway to and last stopping point at the French capital, with me as your dedicated virtual tour-guide. Now, Allons-y!
A love/hate relationship with Paris CDG
In recent years, Paris Aéroport – the company that runs both Orly and CDG airports – has made some significant strides in improving both its retail offering and its customer service. It has also opened several high-profile restaurants, inspired by Thierry Marx and Gilles Choukron.
It seems that these efforts have paid off. In consultancy Skytrax’s top 100 airports ranking for 2018, which surveyed over 14 million people from more than 105 countries, Paris CDG was ranked 32nd. Just four years ago it languished in 95th place. The sharp improvement in its shopping and dining offer has played an important role in that climb up the league table.
However, the question still remains: Do these improvements translate to the virtual world as well? Let’s find out.
A lot of style, but not so much substance
Overall, the Paris Aéroport website looks great. Light, bright and breezy with key design elements that reference some of France’s most iconic motifs.
The website’s theme features small references to Paris’s art deco past, an homage easily recognised in its minimalist logo. The contemporary red, white and blue colour scheme and the pared-back interface satisfies a lot of my design criteria and invites users to explore further.
Compared to other airport websites, which often look busy and overly corporate, Paris Aéroport has certainly elevated itself by adding an element of style. By showcasing only the essentials on the homepage, it presents a beautiful virtual storefront that puts the airport’s best foot forward. However, a deeper dive into the website shows there’s still a lot to be desired.
No online shopping? C’est pas possible!
Let’s break this down. First of all, while you can see all of the brands available in Paris CDG, you can’t actually shop any of them online. I know what you’re thinking. How in the world is there no online shopping available in one of the world’s biggest and most important airports?
Considering how much of a draw luxury shopping is for travellers to Paris, the lack of online shopping is a huge missed opportunity. The worst part is that you can see all the amazing brands, but not have any access to them online. Just a logo that clicks into a directory — talk about reverse retail therapy!
Paris CDG does have a Shop and Collect service but that is only scraping the service of what such a major gateway could do online.
You can never go wrong with Chanel
Since we’re in Paris, let’s talk about my favourite boutique – Chanel of course! According to Madame Chanel, “Fashion changes, style endures”, and in Chanel’s case her timeless style is one that will endure for centuries to come.
The Chanel boutique in Terminal 2E will definitely satiate your cravings for quilted purses, pearls, and Camellias. Beyond the fashion, one of my favourite things about Chanel is that no matter where you go, you are treated to that wonderfully refined Chanel customer service. And for this shopaholic, the value of great service endures just as much as great style.
A Taste of Michelin before your flight
One of Paris CDG’s efforts to improve its customer experience was to make the most of the nation’s impressive culinary reputation by introducing a number of buzzy new restaurants helmed by various Michelin-star chefs. My personal favourite is Teppan by Thierry Marx, found in level 2 of Terminal 1.
Firstly, there’s nothing like a good bowl of noodles pre-flight to soothe any travel-related anxieties. Secondly, Teppan highlights Thierry Marx’s impeccable culinary style and precision through a perfectly executed Teppanyaki menu. And while Thierry Marx is infamous for Molecular Gastronomy, Teppan shows that he’s pretty good with simple cuisine as well.
Ending on a positive note with Paris Worldwide
Paris Worldwide is Paris Aéroport’s official magazine, and is probably the best thing about the Paris Aéroport website. What the website lacks in functionality, it makes up for in this wonderfully curated travel guide.
Paris Worldwide presents a selection of things to do in Paris that goes off the beaten track. It offers a cultural agenda that includes dinner at Privé, a visit to a Giacometti foundation, a trip to the Beaupassage, and reservations at a restaurant inside a private Montmartre mansion.
You won’t find a discount code for a visit to the Tour Eiffel in these virtual pages (and that’s a good thing). Instead, you’ll find a personal and considered agenda of truly wonderful Paris discoveries — curated by the locals themselves.
Au revoir Paris and Buongiorno Rome!
Before we leave Paris Charles de Gaulle behind, we make one last pit-stop for a mint-green box of macaroons from Ladurée, because it is simply unacceptable to leave Paris without these sinfully sweet dessert sensations in tow.
In true French style, Paris Aéroport Charles de Gaulle has a certain quality that’s difficult to pin down. The merits of its sleek web design and fabulous airport magazine are offset by strained customer service and a website that just misses the mark. And while recent efforts have enhanced its reputation with world-weary travellers, there’s still some way to go for Paris Aéroport to rank with the best-in-airport class.
As we prepare for the next leg of our journey into the land of breathtaking frescos and the winding coastlines of the Italian Riviera, we wonder, what will the city of Rome, and its gateway airport, have in store for us? I guess you’ll have to tune in to find out.
Signing off, Judy Free
*Footnote: Judy Free is the alter ego of Millennial Hannah Lynn Tan, a London-based fashion and lifestyle journalist. Hannah (pictured below) has worked for Vogue USA, Cent Magazine, Lifestyle Asia, Mega Magazine, and as Features Editor of TWENTY6Magazine for over two years. She is a regular contributor to The Moodie Davitt Report’s fashion, beauty and digital/social media coverage.