Enter your email for updates:
Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

J’Adore Paris!

Filed under: Fun, Personal, PSI Shows, Travel

Hi from Philly!

I just returned from Paris, France, where ASI senior vice president and I spent the weekend after the fabulously successful PSI Show in Dusseldorf.

France is my favorite place in the world, and Paris is my favorite city, so the cloud of snark and sass that usually envelopes me dissipated, and I was in my giddy, glorious happy place. The food, the wine, the architecture, the haute fashion and hot guys with those knee-weakening accents… Mon Dieu!

Rich and I stayed in this tres cool boutique place called Mon Hotel www.monhotel.fr, owned by a good friend of my good friend Philippe Varnier, CEO of Polyconcept — the parent company of Leed’s, Bullet Line and Journal Books, and the largest hard goods supplier of ad specialties in the world. Mon Hotel sells out for the French Open and Fashion Week, with the best athletes and top models staying there. The decor is very chic and very French — the walls in the rooms papered in suede and the elevator, lined with red leather. In fact, up until a few years ago, the hotel was the site of Paris’ most well-known — and best — brothel. Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, “going out with a bang, not a whimper.” ; )

See below for an array of amazing photos from Paris. Next up on Michele’s Amazingly Excellent Adventures is the PPACanada Show in Toronto. Let me know if you’ll be there. And for all my friends at the PPAI Vegas Show who have been calling/texting/e-mailing, I miss you too! More next week…


— M

Patrick Politze, CEO of the European Promotional Products Association (EPPA), addresses a crowd of journalists from around the world to signal the opening of the 47th PSI Düsseldorf Show. Second from the left, seated, is Michael Freter, the new managing director of PSI — a super nice and supremely capable guy. The show was fantastic, and at this press conference, survey data was released on the state of the European market. To find more information, go to www.psionline.de.
An example of a booth that does it right: Gildan displayed its new shirts under Plexiglas, making for a very unusual floor in its booth. Not only did that draw attendee attention, but at the end of the first day, they served Italian wine, meats and cheeses to guests. Trust me on this, in Europe, exhibiting is like an art form.
Here, Miranda Rodenburg, Polyconcept’s top-selling salesperson in the Netherlands, spends some time with CEO Philippe Varnier. Philippe tells me that Miranda beats her own sales figures every year (impressive in a down economy), and is so passionate about her customers, that she advocates on their behalf as if they were her own children.
Rich Fairfield, ASI’s senior vice president/publisher and my boss, loved these little chili pepper buttons on this restaurant uniform. Another version had little skulls for buttons.
I loved these designated “Relaxing Zone” signs around the PSI Show floor, which indicated rest areas. The show was so busy, however, they were rarely in use. I should have gotten one for my office back at ASI, which is most definitely a “Procrastinating Zone.”
Some of ASI’s magazines on display in the Relaxing Zone, so people could check them out. Due to ASI’s strategic partnership with PSI, they were so graciously accommodating and welcoming to Rich, Ron Ball and I. To them, I say Danke Soviel!
Some of you have asked about the Polyconcept “hotel boats” on which Rich and I are nicely invited to stay every year. Well, here they are. Because Polyconcept brings so many staff people to work it’s 20,000 square foot (yes, you’re reading that right!) booth, usually between 150-200 people, they bring in these boats on which everyone sleeps and eats, and which is docked right near the convention center. It cuts down on the cost of hotel rooms, meals and taxis, with one boat for the staff and one for top clients, guests and the executive team. With restaurants, bars, an exercise room and a concierge, it has everything you could want — even life jackets should you get tipsy and fall into the Rhine.
Willem van Walt Meijer, the new CEO of MidOcean, the second-largest hard-goods supplier in Europe, after Polyconcept.
As an example of how intricate the booths at the European shows can be, check out this one from Koziol. And I would say this is moderate compared to some…
When Rich and I arrived into Paris on Friday night, we had dinner with my friend Yann Leca, the ever-charming CFO of Polyconcept and his lovely wife Severine, shown here. They took us to a fabulous restaurant called “Les Ombres“, atop the Primitive Art Museum at Quai Branly, on the left bank of the Seine river, next to the Eiffel Tower. The stunning view was only exceeded by the amazing company.
Here’s me, Severine and Yann, on the restaurant’s terrace with the Eiffel Tower as the backdrop. When you’re surrounded by something as spectacular as this, realize just what a sublime place Paris really is.
Rich, me, Severine and Yann… because you just can’t have enough great photos in front of the Eiffel Tower!
On Saturday afternoon, Philippe’s assistant of 14 years, Marie-Francoise Boulenger, took me to the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre. It was an amazing day and Marie-Francoise, who is a fifth-generation Parisian, was the best host one could ask for, but towards the end I was getting a little tired. Right before we left, I turned a corner and came face to face with the Venus de Milo. To which I can only say, thank you, Marie-Francoise, for reintroducing my jaw to the floor.
On Saturday night, Philippe Varnier and his exotic wife Martine (shown here) took Rich and I to a very hip and delicious restaurant called Kube, in which all the food was indeed served in cubed form — except the steak tartar and the chocolate mousse dessert, which were served in little syringes. Literally, you inserted the syringe into your mouth and pushed down on the plunger.
Here’s Rich and I, surrounded by lit bears, to signify the chilly temperature inside the Iced Kube bar, atop the Kube restaurant.
As a special surprise, Philippe took Rich and I to the Ice Kube bar above the Kube restaurant. Once we climbed the stairs, we were each given parkas, gloves and fur hoods, to allow for the below-zero temperatures. You see, the bar was sponsored by Grey Goose (cue the sounds of celestial trumpets and angels singing) vodka, my favorite of all drinks, and everything in it was made of ice — the floors, walls, chairs, cups. Once you were parka’d up, you were given access through an igloo entrance. Here’s Rich, looking shell-shocked…
Philippe Varnier, Polyconcept’s CEO, entering the ice igloo on the way to Grey Goose heaven.
I quickly decided that when I die, I want to be frozen into one of the walls at this bar — like a preserved woolly mammoth — smiling and holding a Grey Goose cosmopolitan, so that will be my image in perpetuity.
Philippe and Rich, getting in touch with their inner-Eskimos.
Rich, holding court in an ice chair, drinking his second Grey Goose cocktail. It should be noted that neither Philippe or Rich are the streamlined drinker I am, so by the time we left, they were “happy,” to say the least. In fact, as we exited the restaurant, we all noticed the luminous full moon… at which Philippe and Rich both HOWLED in unison. And no, I kid you not. Let it never be said that I — and my precious Grey Goose — don’t have a potent affect on men. ; )
Click above to see a video of the Ice Kube bar in Paris, where the temperature is about 10 degrees below zero, the floors, walls, chairs and cups are made of ice and where they give you a parka, gloves and a furry hood to wear before you enter. The bar is sponsored by France’s Grey Goose vodka (my favorite!), and each visitor gets four Goose-based drinks, such as cosmopolitans and lemon drops, while visiting. In this video, Polyconcept’s CEO and industry celeb Philippe Varnier jumps around to stay warm. You’ll understand… I get cold just watching this… ; )