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France Is Holding Its Breath

Paris:- Saturday, 22. June 1996:- 'Comme ci, comme ça' is what the weather is called, although I have never heard anybody use this phrase. Only so-so. Nice days, windy and stormy days, with a fair amount of change - just as we have a fair amount of news this week.

Euro '96 Football

Even though France's loss to Holland in the quarter finals of the Euro '96 Cup football tournament tonight, was discounted in advance with headlines early in the week with 'The Right to Lose!' - the French team confounded the nation, by winning.

In regulation time the two teams battered away at each other with no success to zero each, and in an overtime sudden-death shootout, France scored the last shot and gained a five to four victory at 22:05 over Holland and an entry ticket to the semi-finals.

As I write, rockets are blazing into the night sky, horns are tooting, petards are exploding - while spirits are probably lower than sea level in the low country. I even hear chanting. In the semi-finals, France will face the UK or Germany at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, 26. June at 20:30 CET. The final will be played at Wembley on Sunday, 30. June.

Fête de la Musique

Friday's 21. June Fête de la Musique was heard all over town all day - and night. The 'new' SNCF blitzed the Ile-de-France region with copious advertising for extra trains, running all night, and probably won a lot of new friends with a flat-rate tariff of 12 francs round-trip, good until 10:00 this morning.

Newspapers printed the program in Friday's editions with Le Parisien having a list for Paris by arrondissements and Libération having the national program. Big concerts happened only at République, which apparently got 40,000 rock fans.

When I passed the Air France office on the Champs-Elysées yesterday there was a rock and roll band playing inside, a block further on there were two 'ethnics' in front of the Maison d'Alsace. Just about every little square and small place had something musical happening - in addition to the guy usually playing the cello in the métro at Etoile.

Libération's Music URLs :
-Brassens: -Brel: -Gainsbourg: -Miossec: -Rap:


voievelo.jpg (13k) Bicycle Lanes

On Wednesday, the City of Paris allotted 5.5 kilometres to 1.5 metre-wide lanes on city streets specifically for bicycles. The marked route starts at the Assemblé Nationale and runs east on the boulevard St. Germain, turns left at St. Michel, and runs northwards up Sébasto to Gare de l'Est.

The city hopes to have a total of 25 kms of bike lanes in operation by the end of summer. Nothing is perfect however. I noted that on the boulevard St. Michel the lane is temporarily suspended on account of construction blocking the other side of the street. Besides a marker on the pavement, there are blue signs with a silhouette of a bicycle - in case motorists can't see the one on the road.

Try as I might, by reading a whole week's worth of bicycle sports news, do you think I can find a concrete start date of this year's Tour de France? The closest I could get was one oblique mention of it being a week from a couple of days ago - which will make it this coming Saturday or Sunday, either the 29. or 30. June; but before our next issue date.

Important Birthday

This July, the bikini will turn 50. The designer Louis Réard could not find a model to show off his invention, but a dancer at the Casino de Paris, Micheline Bernardini stepped out of her clothes and into history, allowing herself to be photographed holding a box of matches, at the Piscine Molitor. In a report in its 6. July 1946 edition, Paris Matin said, 'Casino de Paris nude dancer, Mlle Bernardini obtained a lively success. Her suspicion of a bathing suit, baptized 'bikini,' caused an explosion of applause.'

There was probably a pun intended here, as the miniscule bathing suit was named after a tiny atoll in the Pacific that the United States had used for atomic-bomb testing.

The word entered the dictionary in 1965, but the inventor passed into obscurity - although the brandname of Bikini lasted until 1988. Thursday's Le Parisien had this nice excuse for a two-page spread, showing the original photo, plus seven up-to-date 1996 models ranging in price from 99 francs to a really micro-tiny Chanel model for 2300 francs, designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Sorry, but we don't have a photo for this.

trocpools.jpg (15k) Open Air Refreshment

The opposite of dumb luck is no luck at all. A week ago, on the cloudy day of the ride on Bus 80, I got photo of a couple of kids in a fountain in a little park in the 15th arrondissement. On sunny Wednesday, I saved a shot to capture the kids I was sure would be in the fountains just below the parvis at Chaillot - and nobody was in the water. Then yesterday, Libération had a feature on public fountains with a photo of kids in the 72-jet fountain in the André-Citroen Park, with a short list of other fountains, among the 95 in the city. No bikini photo, so here's the fountain shot - without the kids.

The Euro Arrives... in 930 Days

This was a headline in Tuesday's Le Parisien, so counting on my fingers, today makes it only 924 days remaining.

What startled me was finding out that the long-promised 'Ecu' is now the 'Euro.' I was not consulted and I was happy with the former; it was somewhat more original than what it is now, but... so, hoping to get a good poster shot I went to where they make these things, the Monnaie de Paris, the mint.

You can see it clearly from the Pont Neuf, on the Left Bank, just to the right of the bridge on the Quai de Conti. There is the mint itself, a museum and a boutique is around the corner in the rue Guénégaud. There are two boutiques really; one for jewelry and the other for coins.

When you go to the mint to buy coins you get new ones, in mint-condition as they say, and you can get ones today that won't be officially in circulation until 1. January 1999, so it is not like racing off to a going-out-of-business sale - except maybe for the Ecus.

The Monnaie has two lines: a series called 'Trésors des Musées d'Europe' and another named, 'Monuments d'Europe.' Six of the latter are in Ecus, with two in the newer Euro denomination. The heavy silver models (22.2 grams) are 260 francs - for a face value of 15 Ecus/Euros, and the half-ounce gold ones run at 2900 francs. The newer 'Trésor' series of five coins cost 220 francs for heavy silver, 2900 for half-ounce gold and a whopping 5000 even for one ounce of mint gold. 'Le Penseur' by Rodin in silver, is in fact, sold out. All prices include value-added tax.

eurocoins.jpg (8k) The money boutique at the Monnaie de Paris is quite an interesting place. Imagine, shopping for money! It is a nice little boutique full of money for sale - brand-new money - not like some crass exchange kiosk - although these can be interesting too if they are near the Bourse; because people come into them with wads of all sorts of strange paper. Anyhow, if you are stuck for a gift for somebody, try giving money. Coins made at the mint are also on sale at the boutique in the Louvre, in post offices and by correspondence. For info, Tel.: 40 46 58 55. (The very bright blob in the photo is the result of a light angled just... wrong... on one of the gold Euros.)
Demo City:

- 15th Lesbian & Gay March, today, from the Carrefour de l'Odéon to place de la Nation, started at 13:00. Organizers expected 100,000 participants, but as I was half-watching the football, I did not see the score. I nearly didn't see the the last football shot either.


- Sunday, 8:00, on the right bank of the Seine, from the underground of the Tuleries to the underground at Henri IV; on the left bank from Quai Anatole-France to Quai Branly: by Operation Bicycles-Pedestrians.

- Sunday, 10:00, in the streets of the 5th arrondissement and at 14:00 on the Quais of Valmy and Jemmapes (in the 10th), and from Loire and the Marne (19th): Operation Strolling and Relaxation.

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