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Logical Start to Tour de France, in Holland

Paris:- Saturday, 29. June 1996:- The 83rd and current Tour de France 21-day bicycle 3900 km odyssey started about 17:00 today at 's Hertogenbosch in Holland. There are 22 teams with nine members each, and hopefully all of them will arrive safe and sound for the final sprint on the Champs-Elysées on Sunday, 21. July.

This is not the first time the 'Tour' has started outside of France; the first time was in 1954, and then it was Holland too. According to my sports experts at Le Parisien, the riders to watch are Miguel Indurain, who is trying for his sixth victory and the Frenchman, Laurent Jalabert, who currently holds the world's number one rating.

Although I've cited these two, the Tour de France competition is a team sport and the number of days involved are many and the distance to be travelled long, so certain winners can not be guaranteed.

Notice, if you will, how neatly television coverage fits the Tour de France between the Euro '96 football matches and the beginning of the Olympics in Atlanta, with only a few days overlap at either end. The will make for a non-stop sports' summer.

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Euro '96 Football

On Thursday, morning opinion in the Bar-Tabac surprised me - proving once again that learning is a lifelong process. I went in, expecting the lament of 'No Joy in Mudville.' But my weed retailer said, about the sudden-death French - Czech semi-final shootout to decide the winner - anybody could have won, just like flipping a coin.

The skill required is considered to be minimal as the shooter is nearly in the goal and the goal is wide. The match was described as lackluster; and victory for the Czechs by one shootout goal... was not considered a shameful defeat of the French team.

I had not seen the companion semi-final match between Germany and England - and this, according to my cigarette pusher, had indeed been a match worth watching. That it too ended in a shoot-out victory for Germany was irrelevant - the match was hard fought one; appreciated as pure football entertainment.

Silly Europe Week

Britain's 14 continental partners have finally convinced the island nation to 'do the right thing' and I am therefore happy to announce that 'Silly Europe Week' is over, just before entering its fourth month.

Metropole first reported on this story in issue number six at the end of March and there have been several updates since then, just to show that our attention span is longer than seven days. Radio and television news announcers probably not only say 'Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy' and 'Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease' in their sleep, but they can effortlessly spell them too.

There is apparently no truth to the rumor that Britain finally threw in the towel because Germany beat England at football on Wednesday evening: thereby reversing a loss suffered in 1966 at Wembley Stadium - and this added the necessary weight to the insistence of the 14 European Union members, that Britain should try a little harder to do its share in eradicating consumer doubt about eating beef of any sort.

Rollers for Fun and Transport Roller skates with the wheels in line instead of at the four corners have been around since 1990, but this year in France they are selling like... um, baguettes? 'vin ordinaire?' According to a dealer, the real launch was during the transport strikes late last year; when bicycles were sold out, desperate commuters turned to skates.

Some people have found they are ideal for getting around the city - so long as there is a shower available at the end of the journey. Others like the idea that the rollers are hard to steal if you take them into the office with you. Kids, of course, are going nuts with them - speed skating on sidewalks, doing jumps.

roller2.jpg (17k) In the parking lot the other night as I was coming back from Paris, I spotted this new roller, with knee pads, leather gloves and bicycle helmet on, twirling awkwardly around. When I got closer I saw it was my own, about three centimetres taller than normal. Half an hour later there was a huge wail at the door, and here was number one son, with unmatching front teeth - a corner of one bonked off by a... knee pad, as a result of an over-ambitious balance correction. Since then, he has improved his style considerably, and I think his grin has more character.
Ile-de-France; Birthday

Most islands are surrounded by water, but the 'Ile-de-France' is surrounded by... France. The area around Paris, formerly informally known as the 'région parisienne' officially became the 'Ile-de-France' on 1. July 1976.

This is the egg-white and Paris is the yolk. The two form a megacity of 11 million inhabitants; expected to be 14 million by 2000. The original boundaries are being pushed outward - a new airport is being planned to the south, well beyond Orly.

I mention this here to clear up any confusion about the name, because I use it fairly frequently. I didn't know the name has been official for less time than I've lived here, so I thought it might be useful to pass it along. If your travel agent offers you a place to stay in the 'Ile-de-France,' you can be sure that it won't be much more than a 40 minute ride from the centre of Paris.

ferris.jpg (17k) Events :

Fête des Tuleries - daily from 12:00 to 24:00, until end of August. Métro Concorde or Tuleries. This 'fête' in this location is hundreds of years old, and features a giant ferris wheel, many modern amusement park rides and merry-go-rounds; all facing the arcades of the rue de Rivoli. One merry-go-round dates from 1871 and it was exported to England just before the occupation and has only recently returned to its homeland, 100 percent intact and original. A night ride on the giant ferris wheel will offer a spectacular sight.

Fête des Loges - at St. Germain-en-Laye, and at the western end of the RER 'A' line. This is the 344th annual edition in this location, to the west of downtown St. Germain-en-Laye. There are 14 restaurants out here in the forest, plus 200 amusement park rides.

Demonstrations: Repeaters:

- 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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