Daniel Dambreville, the charming publican of Chez Cri-Cri in Roissy, told us that 165,000 people pass through Charles deGaulle Airport every day. CDG is a major hub for visitors to Paris as well as those traveling on to the rest of the world. Opened it 1974, it is Europe’s second busiest airport, after London’s Heathrow. It covers 12.5 square miles over 6 communes, one of which is Roissy. The airport’s location was plucked from a dwindling amount of undeveloped land around Paris in the mid-1960’s, and it has been a boon to the formerly sleepy little communes it occupies.
One-quarter of the airport lies in Roissy-en-France (in fact the airport is also known as ‘Roissy’). To the town’s great benefit the airport has to pay taxes and so forth for the land it occupies. This works out very well for the roughly 2,500 residents of this still largely agricultural town. Monsieur Dambreville told us that in addition to the handsome public garden and a modern and very active cultural center, L’Orangerie, the income from the airport and its satellite hotels allows the town to offer a free vacation every year to residents. (This, by the way, is not that uncommon in Europe. Our Dutch friend tells us that in the Netherlands the elderly and the blind are regularly treated to a small holiday; in our own Rapallo the elderly used to be taken for a week’s holiday in the mountains – a practice abandoned during the current fiscal crisis). And not only do they get a holiday – they also get free heat and free potatoes – all the potatoes they can eat! Wouldn’t that be great??!
The point of all this is to say that it’s great fun to stay over in Roissy if Paris, or a change at CDG, is in your travel plans. It’s a small village, but there are at least nine very comfortable hotels. We stayed in The Campanile, a centrally-located three-star with shuttle service to and from the airport. “Centrally-located” is relative – Roissy is not large, and there are not a lot of non-hotel amenities in the village. The aforementioned Chez Cri-Cri is a lovely place to stop in for a beer and a chat.
If you’re there at mid-day you can have lunch as well.
Next door to Chez Cri-Cri is the elegant little gem, Saint Eloi. It was built around 1650 on the site of a 12th century church which itself was built atop the remains of an ancient shrine (7th – 10th century).
As you can tell, we were there at night, so we were unable to get inside to see the 16th century restored stained glass windows from the inside (restored in 1984), the organ (acquired in 1989 by the municipality – thank you CDG) and the tombs of Jehan Sauvage and his wife Perrette de Thyois:
Across from our hotel we found the seemingly charming restaurant Pomme d’Or:
Under different management it would have been a pleasure to eat there. The hostess was barely polite; she gave us food because she was obliged to. When, for instance, I asked her how old the building was she said she didn’t know. Nonsense. She said I could photograph inside the restaurant, but couldn’t take her picture. Fair enough. So I took this picture of our chicken cooked in beer, which sounded heavenly:
The farfalle were overcooked and completely cold. The chicken was tepid. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best eating-out experience we’ve ever had. They put together a nice cheese plate for dessert, though – hard to ruin good French cheese:
We chatted briefly with this gentleman; what he really wanted to know was how old Speedy is.
Last time we passed through CDG it was a madhouse; there was practically grid-lock of passengers and luggage trying to navigate the terminal. There was none of that this time. For whatever reason everything seemed to be working very well. We had made a point of avoiding the airport because of the crowds and hassel, but having discovered the delights of Roissy-en-France and finding the airport more efficient, we’ll be sure to pass through again.