Just the mention of Paris evokes a sense of something ancient and magical ... ah, Paris and its 'je ne sais quoi.' Yet in a perfect twist of old and new, its local airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, actually adds a modern, fresh chapter to the city's 2,000 years of history. As an airport so well-connected to the globe it was an obvious choice for a contemporary hotel like citizenM to set up shop for weary travellers in search of a comfortable night’s sleep.
Whilst Paris Charles de Gaulle airport may only be a few decades old, it has certainly had its fair share of interesting passengers – or in this case, inhabitants. We're not going to make quips about haute couture and the proverbial runway – no, let's talk about Mehran Karimi Nasseri.
Whether you're a film buff or not, you've probably heard of Nasseri (if not, you're welcome), and his curious story. Of course, in true Hollywood fashion Steven Spielberg dressed up the true story; changing a large amount of the real details (throwing in a fling with a glamorous air hostess for good measure) – who wants the whole truth, right?
So let's get on with it: Nasseri’s tale is a pretty unusual one. Although it's important to note he's not the only one who has found himself in such a strange predicament. Whilst most passengers can expect to spend a portion of their travel time waiting in the airport for flights, Mehran Karimi Nasseri's wait in the terminal of Charles De Gaulle lasted an incredible seventeen years.
Having endured a life of imprisonment and torture, Nasseri was expelled from Iran in 1988. And so, this country-less man boarded a plane and made his way to the UK where he hoped to start a new life. Unfortunately, for our protagonist, whether his story of a stolen bag was true or whether he had simply left Iran without his passport or papers, British Immigration rejected his entry and put him on a plane straight back to France.
He was arrested when he touched down on French soil and was held for a small time in the zone d’attendee along with others who could not provide identity and immigration papers. With nowhere to go and no one accepting responsibility for him, Nasseri was granted a freedom of sorts within Terminal One – wondering where Spielberg got his imaginative movie title from?!
From 1988 to 2006, Nasseri spent day and night squatting in Terminal One whilst a lengthy legal battle played out between France, Belgium and Britain over where he would land. Whilst the years and years of almost unbelievable legalities played out, Nasseri set up home in the terminal by fashioning a sort of home from chairs and tables he’d borrowed from the airport and his own luggage.
Although many of those who encountered Nasseri said he made little effort to speak or interact with them, airport staff who grew to know him donated newspapers and airport vouchers, which allowed him to buy food and drink throughout his time there.
Unlike many who would find being imprisoned in an airport terminal for longer than 24 hours a total nightmare, Nasseri seemed to accept it, spending his days (and days and days…) reading, studying economics and writing in his journal. In fact, when Nasseri was finally handed his papers in 1999 by the French Government, he was reluctant to leave. Even when he did, Nasseri always returned to the home he’d made in Charles de Gaulle. Finally, in 2006, Nasseri left the airport. Refusing to stray far, he is believed to have made a life for himself in a shelter in the suburbs of Paris.
Ah, the glamour of the City of Light. Nothing like seventeen years in CDG Terminal One to stir such feelings of awe and wonder for Paris.
Though it would have been unavailable to Nasseri at the time, there’s a much cooler and convenient place to spend the night at CDG, located just off Terminal 3. Passengers landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 3 are just a five minute walk from citizenM hotel. That’s a welcomed distance between carrying luggage off the plane to placing it down in their hotel room.
And if you’re arriving at Terminal 1 or 2 or by TGV, you can take the free shuttle CDGVAL (you can catch it between the TGV-RER station Aeroport Charles De Gaulles 2-TGV and terminal 2F) to Terminal 3- Roissypole (also known as RER station Aeroport Charles De Gaulles 1) and walk to citizenM from there.
Trains run every 4 minutes between 04:00 AM and 01:00 AM.