Some of the best business trips I have ever done have been to France. I am not referring to the meetings, but to all the elements around it, Paris specifically. I always take the opportunity to wander around, get lost and discover some side street with amazing cafes or little bistros. I have often chosen to walk an hour or so from the Gard du Nord to my hotel, where ever that maybe. Ok, google maps is a life saver, it keeps me in relatively the right direction, but I highly recommend getting lost in Paris. The trick is to stay away from the overpriced tourist areas and find those amazing side streets.
Paris really does feel grand. The history and the impressive Palace of Versailles are quite something. Walk around and breath in the culture.
First things first, if you are travelling from the UK I would recommend taking the Eurostar. You leave London and arrive in central Paris. Taking the train is much more relaxing than flying. You have better views and it is easier to work and you can take calls. I occasionally travel business class when I really need to work on the way as the carriages tend to be quieter. Otherwise, I suggest taking Standard Premier as you get more leg room and decent food.
If you are on a tight budget, then Standard is perfectly acceptable, I just found it that bit harder to relax as the carriages always seem noisy.
In the main cities, I would certainly recommend Uber. It just works, especially if you struggle to communicate in French. Talk to the drivers if you can, I’ve had wonderful suggestions on places to visit from them.
If you prefer, licenced taxis in France are of a good standard. Now there were some clashes between taxis and Uber, I never experienced this but I did see many protests. I believe the issue is getting better.
If you wish to get around France, the trains are pretty good. I use Rail Europe to book my tickets, as it is very straightforward. Once you select your country at the top of the page, it directs you to the relevant site.
The road system is good, easy to use and navigate around, though like in most EU countries speed limits can change a lot, quickly, so pay attention. Once out of the cities, the roads clear and there is little traffic. It makes driving nice and easy.
Food and Wine
Perhaps not on your first trip, but it is common practice to go for lunch or dinner together, enjoy a nice meal and a bottle of wine. This seems to be more common practice in France than I have experienced in any other country where sometimes I struggle to get a coffee.
I do not recall a client I have not enjoyed a meal with in France, all with a good bottle of wine. Sometimes several.
If you are choosing the venue or looking for somewhere yourself, I highly recommend Chez Papa. The food reminds me of my childhood holidays in the south of France.
Ok, it does not look gourmet, but it tastes fantastic. It is homely food in the truest sense. I visit the restaurant each time I am in Paris. If you look for me, I will be the one with a distant expression, reminiscing about a Jean de Florette-esque old world. Seriously, watch that movie. Even now I have the enchanting music playing in my head.
You may have worried about whether you are expected to offer a handshake or a cheek kiss. Unfortunately, the rule for the cheek kiss is not so simple. The number of kisses varies depending on the place. A guide I use is Paris 4 kisses, rest of Frane, 2.
If this worries you, you will be relieved to know that on a first greeting you will typically be received with a handshake. After that, go with the flow, but in most business situations a handshake is the default.
Where ever you may go in France. Look for that picturesque side street. Visit the boulangerie, order the fougasse, visit the cafe and enjoy the view. I can lose a day in France, in the right street.