L'aéroport de Roissy-Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is one of the two key airports in Paris, along with Orly Airport. It covers what were once four villages: Roissy, Mesnil-Amelot, Mauregard, and Tremblay. FedEx's facilities are built over an area that used to be a prostitution center, and the Air France terminal complex is built over what used to be a gypsum mine. While the runways were being built, construction crews discovered a Celtic tomb complete with chariots. But that was before the airport's time, of course: CDG opened in March of 1974.

Today, CDG is the eighth busiest airport in the world and the third busiest in Europe (only a smidgen behind Frankfurt), with 48 million passengers and 1.5 million tonnes of cargo moving through every year, two-thirds of Paris's air traffic.

There are two main terminal complexes at the airport. Terminal 1, which opened first, is a big circular concrete doohickey surrounded by seven satellite terminals. It is used by Aer Lingus, British Airways, bmi british midland, Northwest Airlines, South African Airways, United Airlines, and US Airways, along with other airlines.

Terminal 2, the "three-loop figure eight" that The Custodian speaks of, was originally used exclusively by Air France, but is now shared by a number of airlines, including Air Canada, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. It is divided into five lettered halls from 2A to 2F, skipping 2E: the idea is modular design, and Aéroports de Paris can add up to five more halls to Terminal 2 if they need to in the future. The first of the halls was completed in 1981, and the most recent one opened in 1999. (Incidentally, this was the same strategy used at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.)

There's also a smaller Terminal 3 used by charter outfits.

Like most big airports, CDG is not without its stories. One fellow from Iran, Mehran Karemi Nasseri, was deported from France in 1988 for not having proper refugee papers, and he ended up living in the airport for over a decade, inspiring a film called Sir Alfred of Charles de Gaulle Airport. Apparently, he's still living on the bottom floor of Terminal 1, having refused several offers from the French government because he wants to move to Britain.

If it weren't in France, I wouldn't mind living there, either. Paul Andreu's space-age design (same dude who gave us the Grande arche de la Défense) makes CDG one of the coolest-looking airports around, along with the similarly not-functional Kansai International Airport. U2 would agree: they shot their music video for "Beautiful Day" at de Gaulle.


I travelled through CDG for the first time in the summer of 2004. It was my first time in Paris. Predictably, a strike shut down the airport for half the day, so by the time we got there, it was also my shortest time in Paris. Not too long after that, one of the terminals collapsed. So maybe the place is cursed by Celtic ghosts. Who knows.