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Take me home...France 2001France 2001 Part OneFrance 2001 Part Two

 FRANCE 2001 - Part One

Each year I am fortunate enough to attend an insurance conference in Monte Carlo on the French Riviera. We use this conference as a way to meet with many of our European reinsurance markets that we do not see at other times during the year. I traveled with my "Client From Heaven", Maura Dyer, and this year we planned to stay an additional three days in Provence after the conference.

Monte Carlo

Saturday, 8 September, 2001 - Philadelphia - Washington DC - London
I got up and had a nice morning at home, then stopped at the warehouse to check on the progress. They have nearly finished the framing on the first floor on the right side (study, bathroom, laundry, mechanical). I took a couple of pictures, discussed some options for the kitchen and went home to get ready to leave.

I packed my suitcase - Alien was not happy - and called downstairs for a cab. I made it to the train station with whole seconds to spare *whew!* We were delayed for twenty minutes or so in Baltimore, but made it to Union Station eventually. My car service was waiting for me and we drove out to Dulles airport. I checked in and went to the British Airways lounge where Maura was already waiting. We snacked on some cheese and crackers until the flight was called.

Shock and surprise - they have revamped the Business Class seating: rather than two seats together, half are now facing backwards, with a privacy screen between. The seats fully recline, so that one can stretch out and sleep. I had the window seat, facing backwards, which was a little disconcerting during take-off. They served us dinner and I watched a movie called "Heartbreakers" with Sigorney Weaver, then slept for about two hours.

Sunday, 9 September, 2001 - London - Nice - Monte Carlo
I awoke with about an hour left to go. We landed in London, and transfered through to Terminal 1 for our connection to Nice. We met up with Andrew Fisher, our London broker, in the lounge. I napped on the plane to Nice, and we arrived about 11:30 local time. We collected our bags, changed money and caught a cab to the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo.

After settling into our rooms, we met at Le Pistou, the restaurant on the roof of the hotel, for lunch. Maura had a green salad, Andy had the crabcakes and I had my "usual", Salade Nicoise. After lunch Maura and I spent a little time by the pool, reading and napping, until it was time to get ready for the evening.

My company, Guy Carpenter, hosts a big cocktail party at the Hotel de Paris on the Place du Casino on Sunday evening of the Rendezvous. It is very well attended with a huge amount of food and free-flowing champagne. I saw many of my friends, colleagues and associates there - it was nice to catch up. After, we went to another cocktail party hosted by one of our reinsurers on a terrace overlooking the harbor.

We have been going to Monte Carlo for several years now, and have found several wonderful restaurants during that time. Each of us takes turns hosting dinner one evening and this year each of us found a new restaurant to try. This year Andy made reservations at Le Grille, the restaurant atop the Hotel de Paris. It was spectacular, and we had seats overlooking the lights of the harbor. The ceiling above our heads was painted with the constellations, and every half hour or so, the ceiling panels would pull back to reveal the real night sky above. We all had wonderful steaks, and a lovely bottle of Bordeaux wine for dinner, and waddled home very happy.

Monday, 10 September, 2001 - Monte Carlo
We met for breakfast at Le Pistou and headed over to the Cafe de Paris for our first meetings. We found a table and stayed there for the morning, visiting with several reinsurers for half-hour meetings.

Le Pistou was booked for lunch, so we went to Rampoldi, an Italian restaurant near the Casino. I had Salade Caprese and a green salad for lunch - it was enough food for two people. We returned to the Cafe and continued our afternoon meetings. We had a little break before dinner and I had a relaxing soak in the tub.

We went to another reinsurer cocktail party, this time at the Hermitage Hotel. It was my turn to host dinner, and I selected a new restaurant called Le Bar et Le Boeuf (The Sea Bass and The Beef). It was a half hour's walk from the Hotel, but it is right along the water, so we had a leisurely stroll.

We had a table outside overlooking a beautiful Japanese garden and the ocean beyond it. As the name implies, the only entrees are Sea Bass and Beef, although they had many variations, as well as several starters. I had a Caesar salad and Filet with foie gras, and we had a terrific bottle of Chateau L'Angelus, a Bordeaux wine from St Emilion. We appreciated having the walk back to the hotel after the delicious meal.

Tuesday, 11 September, 2001 - Monte Carlo
We had a breakfast meeting with two of our reinsurers from Odyssey Re. After breakfast we went to the Cafe and found a table for our morning meetings. We had lunch with one of my former colleagues, Peter Hughes, who now works for Standard and Poor's. We all took a break before our final meeting of the afternoon, at 4:00. I tried to log on to my e-mail account, but couldn't get through, so I took a shower and got ready to meet Maura and Andy. When I found Andy he asked if I had seen the TV, and told me about the horrific events at the World Trade Center. We found Maura and went to the Cafe for our meeting.

My company's world headquarters was in 2 World Trade Center, floors 48-52. We had 702 employees there and another 35 located in the other tower. Our parent company, Marsh & McLennan (MMC), had a total of 1,900 employees between the two towers. MMC had offices in 1 World Trade Center, floors 93-99. These were the floors that were hit by the first plane, American Airlines 757.

We had our meeting at the Cafe, but everyone was understandably distracted and concerned about the attacks. People kept interrupting our meeting to ask me if I had any news or had heard from any of my colleagues. We finished and went back to Maura's room and watched in stunned horror as they showed the first tower in flames and the second plane smashing into 2 WTC. Then we learned of the Pentagon attack and that there was another plane missing over Pennsylvania. They also announced the ground stop for the entire United States and that inbound flights were being diverted to Canada.

Maura called home to make sure her brothers were safe - two of them were traveling, but were not on the hijacked planes. I phoned several people in my office, but didn't get any response. We usually have at least one or two people visiting our New York office on any given day - I was up there just the Friday before the attacks - so I was very worried about someone from my office being up there. I called David's wife, Kim, at home and she said she had heard from him and that no one from the Philly office was scheduled to be in New York that day. What a relief.

It was a strange feeling to see everything that was happening to our country from so far away. Even with all of the danger, our first desire was to be home with those that we love, and it was very unsettling to know that we couldn't get there even if we wanted to.

We continued watching the TV until it was time for dinner. We walked across to the other side of the harbor to a restaurant that Maura had found. It was right on the water and we had a very nice, albeit subdued, dinner. We caught a cab back to the hotel and went to the Piano Bar at the Grand Hotel. We ran into Peter Hughes and he joined us for a while, all discussion at our table and every other table being about the terrible events in the states. I watched the news coverage until I finally fell asleep.

Wednesday, 12 September, 2001 - Monte Carlo - Cannes
We met Andy for breakfast and got ready to leave. We all shared a cab back to the airport where we said goodbye to Andy who was heading back to London, and picked up our rental car. They gave us a dark grey Mercedes Benz - not too shabby! We found our way to Cannes and located our hotel, the Noga Hilton on La Croisette. Our rooms weren't ready so we went to the hotel's restaurant on the beach and had lunch. We checked in and stowed our stuff and went back to the beach for a little sun.

Noga Hilton Cannes

Cannes Beach

Flowers at the Beach

I checked in with the office - from what we could tell, most of my Guy Carpenter New York colleagues were safe. My e-mail system was down - our server was in the WTC - so I had Carol send anything important to my home e-mail address. I met Maura for dinner around 7:30. The hotel's concierge had recommended a little Bistro nearby, but they were full so we continued on and found another place. I had a salad with goat cheese croutons and grilled shrimp and it was pretty good. We walked back to the hotel and made a few phones calls - Carol confirmed that US airspace was still not open so we would have to keep checking to see when we would be able to return.

Thursday, 13 September, 2001 - Cannes
Maura and I walked down the street to a little cafe and had cafe et croissants for breakfast. We got the car and drove to Biot, about a half-hour from Cannes. Biot is famous for its glass blowing and we watched the artists at work and bought a few souvenirs.

Biot Glassblowers

Biot Glass Being Heated

Biot Glassblowers

After Biot, we drove to St Paul de Vence, a walled city not far from Nice. We walked up and down the streets and shopped - we also ran into my former boss, Jed, and his family! He had been at the Rendezvous and they were staying over until the weekend as well.

St Paul de Vence

Maura in St Paul

St Paul de Vence

Jed and Bryn - St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

Windows in St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence

Maura in St Paul de Vence

Dry Ice in the Trough - St Paul de Vence

Curiosity - St Paul de Vence

We had lunch at a cafe in St Paul, retrieved our car and drove back to Cannes along the ocean. We went up to the pool on the roof of the hotel, but it was very windy, so we didn't stay too long. We asked the concierge to make reservations for us at the Bistro we tried the night before, and we walked over around 7:30. It was very good and we were glad we tried again.