Nutter raised some eyebrows last week when he left for the trade mission to France unannounced. The excursion was meant to attract new business to the city and promote Philadelphia as a cycling mecca and tourist destination. Nutter and his wife, Lisa, also attended the Tour de France, which ended Sunday in Paris.
Other Nutter trade trips have been announced beforehand. Asked why this one wasn't, he called it "a timing issue and nothing else."
When he left last Wednesday, "there were still some details that were being nailed down," he said. "We wanted to put out a full schedule."
His schedule was indeed packed. He met with his Paris counterpart, Anne Hidalgo, to discuss joint agreements on climate protection, student exchanges, and arts and culture, he said.
"Invited her to Philadelphia, and she asked me to invite President Obama to Paris, which I told her I would do," Nutter said. "I'm looking forward to a great partnership with her."
He also spent time with the International Cyclist Union discussing the Philadelphia International Classic bike race as well as "the potential for being the host city for the women's world cup" of bike racing, Nutter said.
In Lyon, he met with 20 to 25 business leaders looking for U.S. expansion opportunities and tried to woo them to consider Philadelphia. He said he expected about a half-dozen of them to visit here in the next few months.
Asked whether the trip's timing was appropriate given the limbo status of the proposed cigarette tax to aid Philadelphia schools, the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works, and other issues, Nutter responded by pulling out his BlackBerry.
"They have these incredible new devices called a cellphone. They work internationally," he said. "I've stayed in touch with our team on the ground every day that I was away. So, I'm never completely away."
He added, "It was more than the appropriate time right here in the middle of the summer to promote the City of Philadelphia around the world."
City taxpayers paid for his flights. His wife, a cycling enthusiast, had their hotel room paid for by Advanced Sports International.