Category Archives: City reviews

Tips from an adopted Parisian to enjoy the city during LeWeb


This week I’ve won a fantastic competition run by Conferize – the prize is 1 ticket to attend LeWeb! As a very curious person and a lover of conferences, I’m overly excited about the opportunity to attend one of the most fresh and forward thinking events in the world.

So I thought that I’d take this opportunity  to write a blog post on what to do in Paris during LeWeb. Now, I’m not French, but I feel like an “adopted” Parisian: I’ve spent a lot of time in this city and for almost 2 years I’ve been working for a Paris-based start-up company, so I come here every month and I hang out with locals. Paris is absolutely one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s so huge that obviously there are a million things to do here, but I’ll share with you my favourite off the beaten path spots and tips for business travellers like you.

Getting around the city and to LeWeb:

First of all, the closest airport to the venue is Charles de Gaulle, in case you don’t have your flight ticket yet! From CDG airport you may take a taxi (check out the discount LeWeb offers here) or the train, which stops in most central train stations. Beware that Uber taxis may be more expensive, because of the conference.  If you arrive via Orly, there are trains but also buses from AirFrance.

One of my favourite things about Parisian airports is that the wifi is fantastic: Barclays offers unlimited wifi for free (there is a paid premium version, but unless you have to do a video conference call, I think you’ll be just fine). Also, here’s a great tip: if you want to bring a nice souvenir, some macarons from Ladurée will always be appreciated! And you can find Ladurée outlets in both Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports.

Ladurée outlet at the airport

Ladurée outlet at the airport

If you’re into running, this is probably not the best time to be in Paris because it’s quite chilly and it rains often. Also, the city has an stunning number of beautiful parks that are perfect for doing sports, however in the winter time they close early, by 5 or 6pm. Therefore, I usually just run in the street or around parks.

Another practical tip: if you run out of toothpaste, need to buy some basic clothes or whatever you left at home, Monoprix is a great place to go: you’ll find many of them around the city.

Places to visit:

As I said, there are many things to see in Paris but here I offer you an alternative plan, popular between locals. A very nice way to spend half a day is to do this tour: first off you start your stroll at the Canal St. Martin, and walk from Gare de l’Est to the Bastille. Then you can spend some time in the 4th, 6th and 7th arrondissements. I especially like Le Marais (the 4th): it’s gorgeous (it’s the oldest quartier in Paris) and it’s full of relaxing cafes and fashionable shops. I also love St. Germain des Pres (the 6th) and the Jardin de Luxembourg, probably one of the most beautiful parks in the city. Also not so far away is the library Shakespeare & Company, where Ernest Hemingway and many other writers have lived. If you’re a book lover, this is your paradise!

Canal St. Martin

Canal St. Martin

Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare & Company

Afterwards you can continue onto the Musée d’Orsay and the Voie sur Berge, which boasts many shops and cafes on top the river. At the Voie sur Berge you may have a drink or two in the famous Rosa Bonheur. And if you still have energy, you can end the trip at the Palais de Tokyo, which hosts amazing contemporary art collections.

Rosa Bonheur in Voie sur Berge

Rosa Bonheur in Voie sur Berge

If you’re into art, you may also want to visit the recently launched Louis Vuitton Foundation, whose building is from architect Frank Gehry. And if you’re feeling Christmassy,  head to the Champs Elysées or the Galeries Lafayette to contemplate their Christmas decorations.

Foundation Louis Vuitton

Foundation Louis Vuitton

Finally, if you want great views of the city without going to the super touristic Eiffel Tower, you can go for a ride with a hot air balloon!

Places to eat:

Not too far from the area where the convention centre is, in the district of Batignolles, there is a charming street called Rue Legendre (closest metro station is La Fourche). This street offers a wide range of nice restaurants famous between locals. One of my favourite ones is an Italian restaurant called Fuxia.

Rue Legendre, Batignolles

But if you want to try authentic French cuisine, I recommend you go to this typical French Bistro called Le Restaurant du Marché. Their food is top quality (my personal favourite is their Parmentier du canard) and the customer service is great. It’s a bit far from the centre of Paris, but you’ll probably not find any tourists there!

Inside the Restaurant du Marché

Inside the Restaurant du Marché

Parmentier du canard

Parmentier du canard

Other restaurants that stand out in Paris are Le Cornichon, Le Cantine du Troquet, Afaria or Sanukiya (best for Japanese ramen). If you’re looking for upscale restaurants, then I recommend Le Chateaubriand or Le Dauphin.

And for a quick bite, la Briochée Doree is a nice alternative to McDonald’s! It’s a large French chain, you’ll find shops in most streets.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and please do let me know if you have any questions!

Enjoy Paris and see you at LeWeb!

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Tips from a local to enjoy Barcelona during EIBTM


It’s that time of the year again.. it’s EIBTM time! EIBTM has always been my favourite industry trade show: it’s an event that’s close to my heart, I always find value in their networking and educational activities, and it takes place in my hometown, Barcelona! If you’re travelling to EIBTM next week, don’t miss my tips to make the most of your trip. Be it the first time you visit the city, or your 20th, I believe you’ll find something interesting here!

At the airport:

Barcelona’s airport is quite large but modern and efficient. It’s easy to find your way around, security lines are quite quick (I’ve never had to wait for longer than 6 or 7 minutes) and there are many services that you can use. If you’re on a budget, I recommend eating at Pans & Company. The shop is located behind Burberry’s (at the left of Zara) and has many sandwiches, salads and pastries that are good and much cheaper than at the other airport restaurants.  If you don’t mind spending a bit more, you may like the new Illy shop with the famous Italian coffee and some food. The bar is located next to the A gates (on the left side of the terminal, usually a bit far from most departure gates).

If you have time to spare, I recommend having a look at Natura shop, it’s got interesting presents and souvenirs. Finally, the wifi is available for free but only for 15 minutes, and the signal is rather poor (for better quality, you may use Skype credit for example, or a subscription service like Boingo). If you, like me, spend time working at the airport, know that in El Prat it’s hard to find sockets, so bring the batteries charged!

Terminal 1, Barcelona-El Prat airport

Terminal 1, Barcelona-El Prat airport

Getting to the city:

When you arrive at the airport, you can take a taxi or the Aerobus to the centre (a return ticket costs 10,20€). It leaves every 5 minutes or so from both terminal 1 and 2 (during off-peak times there is less frequency). You get to the final destination, Plaça Catalunya (Barcelona’s main square) in around 30 minutes, but it stops at a couple of places before too.

One word of caution here: beware of taxis.. even the licensed ones (which are the ones you’ll find at the airport’s taxi stop). If they know you’re a tourist, they may take you on a lounger route! It’s happened to me a few times (I don’t have a strong Spanish accent, so people often think I’m a foreigner). The way to avoid this is to check in advance what’s the quickest way to your destination (perhaps ask your hotel, or ask me!) and tell the driver that’s the way you want to go. And don’t let them fool you! Having said this, most taxi drivers are nice people. Also, beware that not all taxis have credit card terminals, so if you don’t have cash, ask in advance if you can pay by card (or ask the driver to stop at an ATM machine, I do that often!).

Getting around the city and to EIBTM:

Taxis in Barcelona are not expensive  (if they don’t take you on a longer route than necessary!) but if you’re going to be using the metro (which it’s quite efficient) or public transport in general, I recommend you buy a ticket with 10 trips (called T-10). You can buy them at any metro or train station (but not on buses, for example). Bear in mind that the closest station to EIBTM (Fira Gran Via 2) is not a metro station but a train station (from Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat). You can take the train at Plaça Espanya, there you’ll see plenty of signs to EIBTM. The same T-10 allows you to take both the metro and the train.

The weather is quite mild, but depending on the year it can be much warmer or colder, especially now that the weather is all over the place (just 2 weeks ago people were still going to the beach, while now we’re wearing winter jackets!). It doesn’t rain much, but you should bring an umbrella just in case.

If you’re into running and jogging, the 3 most popular public spaces to go to are the Diagonal avenue (especially towards the two ends), the Montjuic mountain and the beach (especially the Mar Bella or Vila Olimpica beaches).

Running in Diagonal Avenue

Running in Diagonal Avenue

Places to visit off the beaten path:

There are many events parallel to EIBTM, but if you want to do something on your own, you can try going to Rambla del Poblenou for a real Ramblas feel (the original “Las Ramblas” is the biggest tourist trap in Barcelona). Here I recommend going to Can Recasens, a favourite between locals: stunning venue and delicious (and quite cheap) food. However, I strongly recommend you to book in advance. Also, beware that they do 2 shifts for dinner: at 9pm and at 11pm, so you can only go at those times. Just in case you don’t know yet, Spaniards tend to have dinner quite late, from 9pm onwards. But it’s such a touristic city that you won’t have problems having dinner earlier, in most restaurants.

The Rambla del Poblenou

The Rambla del Poblenou

Can Recasens

Can Recasens

Entrance to Can Recasens

Entrance to Can Recasens

Something I also recommend you to do is going to Mirablau (for coffee or cocktails) or Mirabé (for dinner). They are next to each other, sitting on top of the Tibidabo mountain, and both offer breathtaking views of Barcelona.

View of the city from Tibidabo

View of the city from Tibidabo

Another option is to try the new El Nacional, in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia (the well-known boulevard filled with luxury shops). It is a huge venue with different spaces that offer all kinds of options to eat and drink quality Spanish food. The place is strikingly beautiful too. However,  the queues to have dinner may be long (I waited for over 30 minutes).

If you are looking for Spanish tapas, there are obviously many places to choose from but I usually go to a chain called Taller de Tapas, there are quite a few in the main areas. One of the most acclaimed restaurant for tapas is “Cal Pep” in El Born (a beautiful district not far from the centre), but it is extremely busy (and closed on Sundays), so be aware (it’s a bit pricey too).

A nice experience is to have a cup of hot chocolate with churros at one of the cafes in Petritxol street, a small street parallel to Las Ramblas. All cafes are quite similar, just choose the one you like the most!

Xurros with chocolate

Hot chocolate with churros

The Sagrada Familia may be very touristic, but it is worth paying a visit if you’ve never been (and if you have, maybe too, as it may have changed!). Finally, if you have half a day left, you may want to visit Sitges, a picturesque coastal town just 30 minutes away from Barcelona (you have to take the Renfe train at Estacio de Sants station). It is one of the most beautiful towns in Spain.

Sitges

Sitges

If you have any questions or would like other tips, please ask me! And if you do visit some of these places, please share your experience here.

See you at EIBTM!

 

The collaborative economy debated during Catalonia’s World Tourism Day event


The 1st of October is the World Tourism Day and to celebrate it, Catalonia’s Tourist Agency put together a memorable evening. The event started with a conference where leading industry experts discussed the hottest topics in 2 roundtables at the Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre. It was followed by an awards ceremony and a dinner at the magnificent Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).

The topic of the first session was the role and impact of the new collaborative economy in the tourism industry. In many countries around the world, and in Spain in particular, there have been many debates lately around services like Airbnb, Uber or BlaBlacar. Should the government allow them to exist? And, if so, under what conditions? Everyone seemed to agree that, like it or not, collaborative economies are here to stay. I completely agree (as you may have read in a previous blog post, I’m a big fan of and regularly use Airbnb and Blablacar, both for personal and business trips). The conclusion was that, since they are here to stay, governments might as well tax their activity (currently, you only pay VAT on the fee of using the service, not on the service itself). Also, the CEO of Roommate hotels, Kike Sarasola, pointed out that businesses must outsmart these new companies. He says he’s just been listening to the needs of people and improving on Airbnb weaknesses (such as not having a 24/7 reception or a luggage locker), and he’s being very successful.

Roundtable discussions

Roundtable discussions at Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre

The second roundtable was about what tourism should look like in Catalonia. Do we want to keep attracting students and backpackers who come for the cheap beer and the beach? (read this article on an incident that happened recently with drunken tourists in the city). Should we look for more tourists from Russia and other emerging countries that spend most of their time shopping in Passeig de Gracia’s luxury boutiques? Currently, Barcelona is one of the top destinations in the world (both for holidays and business tourism), and its popularity seems to doesn’t have a limit. Every year the number of tourists visiting increases, to the dismay of some Barcelona inhabitants, who are fed up with all the negative consequences of attracting so many tourists.

All the speakers agreed on one thing: tourism is Catalonia’s cash cow, so this industry should be maintained. But not at all costs. I especially liked Miquel Puig’s contributions. Miquel is an economist from the University of Barcelona who claimed that if we want to keep our generous welfare state, we must increase salaries. Otherwise, everyone is paying for tourism (for example, waiters have such a low income and therefore pay such low taxes that all citizens have to pay for their healthcare costs). To put things into perspective, Miquel mentioned that in countries like Austria or Switzerland, or even France, salaries in the tourism industry are so much higher, and as a result there is more quality. Because it should be about quality, not quantity. I fully agree with him.

Maria Reig, president of Reig Capital Group, also made some interesting observations. She pointed out that Catalonia has many attractions but it is not taking full advantage of them. Ms. Reig recommended to explore highly profitable niche sectors such as medical tourism (she explained how the city of Munich, Germany, has successfully exploited its hospitals to attract tourists). She also highlighted how Catalan businesses tend to be too competitive between them. Instead, they should be more collaborative. Indeed, collaboration is the buzz word nowadays!

After the conference I went to the awards and gala dinner, where the president of Catalonia, Mr. Artur Mas, gave a speech about how encouraging are all the new initiatives taken by the industry, especially by many small businesses focused on sustainable tourism (who won most of the awards of the evening).

MNAC Entrance

MNAC Entrance

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

The dinner took place inside a wonderful room within the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is one of the main museums of Barcelona and has been adapted to host events as well. Did you know the museum hosts the largest collection of Romanesque art in the world? At night, in front of the museum there is another popular tourist attraction of  Barcelona, the Montjuic fountains. There is a fine show every evening at the top of the hour.

Dinner at MNAC's magnificent Sala Oval

Dinner at MNAC’s magnificent Sala Oval

The food served was local and traditional

The food served was local and traditional

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

What do you think about the collaborative economy and its impact on tourism? Do you think it should be banned or regulated?

Nantes: a hidden gem in France for business events


As you might have read in my previous post, I was recently invited to attend the TBU conference (disclaimer: I was kindly invited to attend by Visit Nantes and Atout France, but all opinions are my own). When I first read Nantes in that e-mail invitation I must say that the name sounded familiar to me, but I knew very little about the city. Most of my French colleagues have never been to Nantes. And indeed, many people that attended the conference (which came from as far as the US or Australia) had not even heard about the city. But we were in for a surprise, and we all had a wonderful and unforgettable experience!

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