dimanche 2 septembre 2012

Terminal M: A Postmodern masterpiece.

Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport was still in its youth when I first arrived in the City of Light.  Having opened to the public 15 years earlier, its eye-catching central cylindrical core, criss-crossed by clear diagonal tubes through which passengers moved not unlike gerbils in their habitats, struck me as futuristic and totally appropriate for this city, which I had imagined sleek and much more modern than my parochial hometown.  I was awestruck.  Not only was I in Paris, but I was in Spaceage Paris!

Sadly, the main building did not age well through subsequent decades and  most travelers transiting through one of CDG's satellite gates would wonder how a city as refined and sophisticated as Paris could put up with an airport that had become such an eyesore.  Arriving passengers would be greeted with long walks down dimly-lit arched hallways whose ceiling tiles had fallen or were in the process of same, floors whose carpet squares were water-stained and mismatched, and a sad assortment of shops, each manned by weary and disinterested salespeople who looked like all they wanted was to be put out of their misery.  By the year 2000, Charles de Gaulle airport probably was thinking the same thing.

But Aéroports de Paris, the company that manages CDG (among other airports) decided to change all that several years ago.  The lightfilled Terminal 2 opened in 2004 (unfortunately with a mishap occurring on May 23rd of that year, when a large part of the 2E ceiling caved in and killed some travelers) and, as of last July, the sumptuous terminal 2M was unveiled.  This shiny new terminal is a real showcase, and is, in my opinion, one of the most attractive examples of airportolgy I've ever walked through.  Talk about spaceage!  From the postmodern furnishings in the public space to the infinity sinks in the restrooms, everything about 2M says "We Are French and We've Got Class."  

Squiggly chairs in the main hall. 

 Jetson's seating

 Prior to Terminal M opening, a hungry passenger's choices were limited to the pathetic cold offerings of chains such as "Paul".  Now you can sample caviar or oysters, though the latter is probably not a good idea before a long and potentially turbulant transatlantic flight

Fushia and orange makes a statement in the women's restroom

Infinity sinks with motion sensor faucets. 

After clearing security, there's a bench area for slipping back on one's shoes.  The touch of French class?  Each seat has an attached shoe horn.

I didn't get pictures of the shopping opportunities, but trust me, all the big French names are there:  Lancel, Longchamps, Hermès, La Maison du Chocolat, Ladurée and more.  All gorgeously displayed and staffed by salespeople that don't look miserable.

Bravo Paris, for entering a solid contender in the "Word's Most Beautiful Airport" contest.  Now, if you could just get Orly to look a little less like a third-world shack, we'd really have some bragging rights.

7 commentaires:

  1. The ladies' restroom colors are awesome! Like 80s lipsticks!

    1. I know, right? I do hope they budgeted maintenance funds for them. Often the French will come out with grand, splashy architecture but never maintain things. So in a few years could be all broken down, tagged and falling apart. Let's hope this won't be the case **cough cough Socialist government cough cough**

  2. Love reading this, coincides with booking my first flight to Paris after many yearning years. How do you think a middle aged woman traveling alone will fare? I guess fear has me cuz despite years of trying, my French is still on ground level. Looking forward to reading all your posts!

    1. You'll be fine. Middle-aged woman have been singing the praises of Paris tourism for years! Enjoy your time here!

  3. OMG. How could you do it to me? Hold me I'm scared!!!

    I plan to go Paris next April, so thought I'd do a little advance planning and check out the layout of CDG airport. The map was a real jaw dropper. It's the most complicated thing I've ever seen for a major airport. Those Frenchies may cook well but they don't do airport design well.
    It's the Gordian Knot of airports . It like one of those English Garden Hedge Mazes

    Anyway I printed out the maps and studied like I was prepping for a calculus exam and after some time thought I had a handle on it. And then here you come along with this damn terminal M. It doesn't appear on any of the present maps. I'll have to pray for Divine Intervention.

    I don't care what color the women's restooms are, I feel a hateful resentment towards terminal M. This is a crippling blow for someone like me who confuses easily.
    Je ne adore pas Terminal M. (That's the first French sentence I've ever written).

    1. M is actually a gate; an "arm" if you will off of Terminal 2. It is serviced by its own underground peoplemover, however, and in that sense it seems like its own satellite terminal. If you are flying AirFrance internationally, you'll probably fly into 2M. It's very nice, as I point out in the post, and a lovely welcome to Paris. Especially before you hit the horrible, grimy and pickpocket-filled RER B.

  4. Would you mind terribly sending the crew of designers to JFK when they have a free moment or decade, as it may take that long to implement any changes that will drag this airport out of the dark ages? Talk about mortifying, what an elegant welcome and lovely first impression to the USA for those unfortunate enough to have to land there!