Green and Gentle Land - France?

by Ric Erickson

Number 1.15 - Metropole Paris, Monday, 3. June 1996:- It is has a long time coming, but it looks as if France, and especially Paris, is going green. Throughout the weekend, Parisians have taken to the streets to demonstrate in favor of more room for pedestrians and extensions to the bicycle paths that have been timidly introduced.

This weekend saw 'Europe Bicycle Day' celebrated by 'Sortez les Vélos' at Bastille on Saturday which was followed on Sunday by 'Operation Vélos-Pedestrians' along the city-centre quais of the Seine. The 5th arrondissement had its own Sunday demonstration in favor of 'Promenades et Detente.' Twenty other towns and cites in France are finding more space for bicycles as well.

The national Minister of the Environment, Corinne Lepage, conscious of growing impatience with urban pollution, wrote to all local administrative heads to ask for support and assistance with co-ordination, for 'Le Weekend Vélo.' At local levels throughout France, 'bicycle days' were organized, and although the weather was cool, many in France were on double 26-inch wheels instead of the usual quadruple 13 or 14-inch ones. The minister was scheduled to be at the finish of a bike race at the Observatory in Meudon on Saturday; as part of a reminder of the 25th anniversary of the environmental ministry itself.

The General Council of the Lower Rhine in Strasbourg has a meeting planned for next weekend, to evaluate the effect of a 'Plan Vélo' introduced in 1990, that foresaw the creation of 700 kilometres of bicycle routes.

World Environment Day is on Wednesday, 5. June, and it will be followed by national Environment days until next Sunday.

orsaybooks.jpg (9k)

Orsay CD

Dr Barnes CD

Update on Dodgy CD-ROMs - the Good News

In last week's feature - 'Silver Disc Souvenirs' - I related the story of a friend from Munich and his misadventure with the CD-ROM title 'Musée d'Orsay' that he had purchased at the museum.

(This CD-ROM would not play on his Macintosh because it contains QuickTime VR scenes that require the extra power of newer microprocessors. A technical note on the back of the package says this, in small type, in French. Regardless of what language is used, not many computer users will understand it.)

The CD-ROM was mailed to me and I took it to the museum to see if I could perhaps exchange it for another one - in this case, the one about Dr. Barnes' collection. I found the employees in the CD-ROM section of the museum bookshop to be knowledgeable and they agreed at once to the exchange. We discussed the problem of how to label the packages. There is no easy solution to this problem, and in the museum's case, the origins of customers is so varied that it is almost impossible undertaking.

They are now thinking this over, and I hope they are discussing it with producers of CD-ROMs. They assured me that they would exchange any unplayable CD-ROM returned to them. If you have such a CD-ROM, try and figure out why it won't play; try and think of a suitable title to propose for an exchange, and return the disc to where you bought it.

As this could be in any of the bookstores of the museums in Paris, I will have to let you find the address yourselves. If you are reading this here, then getting the address - from The Paris Pages' museum listings - should be easy. Also check to see if the museums have Web sites, and you may be able to institute a direct dialogue about your problem. The practice of this is new, so don't expect a well-functioning service to be in place - and the physical exchanges will have to be via hardmail.

And Now the Sports News

When mankind is not slogging through life in search of food and defending his household from marauding wild animals, he is supposed to be playing. In fact, it is the only 'natural' thing man does; playing starts without training at baby age.

Besides all the good citizens trying out bicycle seats this past weekend, a great many more eyes in the world are following the French tennis 'Open' at Roland-Garros, or followed the Formula One Grand Prix in Barcelona yesterday, and thousands of other 'sports' events as well.

If I was not writing this, I could be outside, falling off my own bike. I grew up where you could play tennis for free in city parks and if you were adept at sneaking through fences, you could play golf for free as well. Admittedly, I never played tennis (wonky eyes) and I abandoned golf around 13 (wonky eyes again - the ball is on the ground, but where is the ground exactly?).

This is leading up to the admission that I have been neglecting 'le racing.' I tell you, if you don't care for sports on TV and feel unsafe on a bike or in a soccer stadium, horse racing has definite attractions - and Paris has a lot of horse racing.

All the tracks have big stands so you never have to buy an entry ticket in advance. You can sit under cover or walk around under the open sky; you are not nailed to a seat. There is time to waste between races and the catering service at most tracks is splendid, with a variety of price levels - and the tracks themselves are great open airy green places where you can see the sky.

Jockeys are neat little people in flashy dress and the horses are beautiful animals. If you are not a big bettor - maybe just a bit of Loto (you don't play, you can't win!) - you can still place modest bets by picking up overheard tips while standing in line waiting to bet, and this adds immediate interest to the outcome of each race as you have something to lose - or win. You have a 'stake' in the race, which is more than you have if you watch tennis on TV (unless your lady friend is a bettor).

The annual 'Prix du Jockey-Club' (French Derby), the premier European race for three-year-olds, was run off yesterday at the beautiful track at Chantilly for the first time. Between the races at Chantilly, the giant screens carried trotting races from a small track in the Bretagne, at Pontchateau, and Saturday's Le Parisien had some huffy comments about this.

The 'five stars' in the French racing heaven are the Prix du Jockey-Club, the Prix de Diane, the Arc de Triomphe, the Prix d'Amérique and the Grand Steeple-Chase. Le Parisien thinks that a 70-year-old tradition of consecrating special days to these races is not improved by the doubtful benefits of having a little 'more action' - and wonders what sponsors like the United Arab Emirates think of it.

At any rate, the distance was 2,400 metres, the prize was 2.5 million francs and there were 15 starters, due to a couple of late English entries who each threw a quarter-million into the pot, allowing the Jockey Club to have the race classified for the combo bets of Quinté Plus, Quarté Plus, Tiercé and so on. I do not have the results, but the Spanish colt, Helissio was the favorite on Saturday, picked 18 times by the Paris racing press.

Warning - Transport Strikes

I almost forgot this. Mark Thursday, 6. June on your calendar. The unions CGT and CFDT have put out a strike notice for all Paris and Ile-de-France public transport, which includes métro, RATP buses, the RER lines and the suburban SNCF train services. There have been a series of rapidly changing local strikes lately, but this is the first time since December that the two biggest transport unions have agreed on a duet. This day of union action is supposed to send a message to the government, which is itself planning to meet later in the month.

There are still a lot of unresolved issues left over from last December's strikes, and the only reason the unions haven't addressed these before now has been lack of agreement on a common approach. There is no time left in the French calendar before summer for a sustained action, so I expect the unions will try to throw as many feet onto the streets next Thursday as they can.

Coming Events:

The Month of Molière is being celebrated in Versailles this month, with much activity planned. The actor, Francis Perrin, will be leading a troupe around to various locations in Versailles throughout the month, performing various pieces by Molière and restaurants will be putting on special menus at the performance locations. There will be expositions - 'Autour Molière' - and a series of eight concerts of baroque music in the chateau, with a choir doing Bach's 'Mass in C.'

Information Festival: Tel.: 30 97 84 48.

The usual couple of URLs:


Cyber-Search Contest, Wednesday, 5. June:

Exposition and Conferences:
Online '96: Wednesday, 5. June - Friday, 7. June, at La Défense, in the CNIT :

Formula One:

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