Paris Has Woes While Disneyland Glows

cafe Hotel de Ville
One of the cafés you'll find if you look over your shoulder.

Plus Francophonie, Commies and the 'A'-Klasse Sports

Paris:- Saturday, 15. November 1997:- Seventy percent of the French go on holidays, which is a big gain over the decade of the '70's. However, in the last five years the percent has not risen and in some areas has even gone backwards.

In 1996, only two out of three French went visiting. Considered to be something from which nobody is excluded, in tough times it turns out to be a luxury and is therefore optional.

Less than 35 percent of the French make three-quarters of all the trips. On average, these few go on 13 trips per year; even if only to weekend homes. Altogether they are away from their main residence for 64 nights annually.

Fully 20 percent never leave home; not even for an overnight. The young unemployed can't afford it and neither can older pensioners.

Although you get the impression that France is a country crazed by winter sports and skiing; nobody who makes less than 10,000 francs a month can afford it. It means that there are a concentration of Parisians who mob the autoroutes and train stations - while the rest of the country sits at home watching the surfing videos that are shown following the evening weather reports on TV.

But the really bad news is in the cultural sector. Since 1991, attendance at Paris' main sites has not merely stagnated, but has dropped drastically - 30 percent on average. Just like that: a million fewer people visit Versailles each year.

While the state secretary for tourism is anxiously waiting for a report to be published next month about this, Euro Disney which runs Disneyland Paris has said that its attendance went up 7.7 percent in a year, to total 12.6 million. Revenues were up 10.2 percent and profits increased by a healthy 7.5 percent.

While Disney noted that each visitor spent exactly four francs more, that is multiplied by 12.6 million. The re-visit rate is high at 34 cafe Saint-Jacques percent and they managed to get good numbers in the first six months of the year, which they consider as their low season.

An authentic Paris café - from which replicas can be made.

Britons, Italians and Spanish added 900,000 visitors to the park; and I have noted the increase in the number of Italians and Spanish around while riding the métro. If I mention this to anybody, they say I am imagining it.

Disney is doing what Paris isn't. For its fifth anniversary the park ran an almost non-stop promotion and it added new features. Both of these actions cost a pile of money to do; but they look as if they are worth it.

How much custom Disneyland gets from Paris is a good question. If the average spent per visitor per day is 251 francs, for a four-head family that adds up to a 1000 francs plus the fare to get there.

I would think the same people who can't afford to go skiing, can't afford Disneyland Paris either - and are thinking twice about going to the Musée d'Orsay as well.

Francophonie Is Alive and Well in Hanoi

What was in question in Hanoi last week, was the "renforcement de la cooperation et de la solidarité francophones, pour la paix et le développement économique et social;" which I am not sure is actually a sentence.

At any rate, 48 delegations from five continents were in Hanoi to talk about talking French. The president of France, Jacques Chirac, is also sort of the world leader of 'Francophonie' and he is reported to have said, "Osons le dire: la francophonie est une entreprise résolument politique..." and he continued, "Chacun perçoit la portée historique de cet acte. Désormais, la francophonie aura une voix et un visage."

This is only a fragment of what else he said during the other 29 minutes of his discourse before the assembled delegations, which was interrupted twice by applause.

The second time was when he announced that France had decided to raise its contribution to francophonie by 42 million francs - for each of the next two years.

In return, the president requested that French be used by international organizations. In fact, he told the delegates that they should insist on its usage, saying it was a right.

In Vietnam, about one percent of its population of 75 million speak French. This country is a neighbor to a country where 975 million of its inhabitants speak Chinese.

The numbers of Japanese, German and French speakers in the world is about equal at around 125 million each; and the three rank individually in about 10th place.

Spanish and Portuguese speakers, if put together, outnumber English speakers by a good margin - although English is considered to be in the number two spot after Chinese.

Death of Georges Marchais On Sunday

Sunday Update:- This morning I was caught with another unmade obit file when long-time French Communist leader, Georges Marchais, died. He was 77.

He ran the Communist Party in France for a quarter-century, from the time of Stalin's inheritors to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He was elected party secretary in 1972 after having joined the party officially in 1947. He ran Georges Marchais against François Mitterrand for president in 1981 and lost by a wide margin in a three-way race.

January 1994 and Georges Marchais steps down as party secretary. Robert Hue is to his left.

He was, as is said in France, a combative militant. When Soviet tanks rolled into Prague he happened to be visiting the Kremlin and was happy to tell French TV-news what a good thing it was - right from the Red Star's headquarters.

As a Red-Commie, Georges Marchais came second to none; and was often accused of taking 'orders from Moscow' which he cheerfully admitted.

There was a bit of murkiness about exactly what he did during WWII in Germany, but he always maintained he was a forced laborer at the Messerschmidt aircraft factory.

François Mitterrand also spent some murky time in Germany during the war. What he did there and the circumstances of his wartime return to France are still unclear, as far as I know.

Georges Marchais also had the misfortune to see the party's share of the national French vote fall from a high point of about 25 percent to the 10 percent it can sometimes poll today.

Nevertheless, he never tired of making TV appearances; once insisting that he was not personally responsible for the lousy weather.

He stepped down as party secretary in January 1994 and the post was taken over by Robert Hue - who looks like a Protestant minister and who plays electric guitars - who is therefore a post-Wall Communist who sounds like a sensible man even if he is a lefty.

Georges Marchais was born in the same year as the founding of the Communist Party - in 1920.

Sports News: Mercedes Stops 'A'-Klasse Sales

In a full-page ad in Friday's Le Parisien, the automobile manufacturer Mercedes-Benz announced that it is suspending sales of its new car - for the 12 weeks necessary to equip all cars with its latest version of ESP - some sort of 'dynamic' regulator of a car's road-handling.

The beginning of the ad stated that the new 'A'-Klasse car had passed German TüV tests with flying colors - without ESP - and that this had been confirmed by 'numerous specialists.' Then the ad stated that, in some tests done without ESP and at higher speeds - the car did find itself 'en situation critique.'

An alert reader sent a clipping from a US paper about this problem; as it concerned BMW's and their tricky stick-shifts. The columnist wrote that he was very surprised that it was possible to put a A-Klasses - Libe Title BMW into reverse by merely moving the gear-lever and without unlocking something first. He also complained about an Audi's red instrument lights and the fact that it was impossible to put a piano into the back seat of one of their cabrios.

This is 'Auto-Bild's' 'trick' photo; the one taken after the car really fell over with no film in the camera and they had to 'trick' the car over again for the photo.

Personally, I have run cars through the TüV in Germany and I was not impressed with their inspections, which used to be at two-year intervals. The administration of it was impressive however; with it being necessary to make an appointment for the inspection three months in advance.

But the thrill of the week came last night when TV-news showed an East-German 'Trabi' being run over a shalom course like the Merc, and the 'Trabi' came through it with flying colors! No wheels lifted off the pavement and it was going 75 kph, near its top speed.

Next, I expect it to be done with a '52 Beetle, a '38 Ford coupe and finally with a lift-truck, which has no suspension at all. French cars are not allowed in this competition since they have all had ESP since about 1935, although some of them only had one headlight on grounds of cost.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of cars I would like to point out that Herr Daimler and Herr Benz invented the car more than 100 years ago, and they named one of their inventions after Herr Benz' daughter, who was named Mercedes - in case you were wondering why a German car has a Spanish name.

Early automobiles did not have ESP and the steering wheel was thought to be a great invention when it was finally introduced. Once cars could be easily turned from one direction to another, the idea to add brakes to them was another pioneering invention in the area of ESP.

Ed's Note:

The trial of Maurice Papon continues, with stair sitters many interruptions, mostly because of his frail health. Each Friday there is 'news' that next week will see new expert witnesses in court and that the 'real' trial will finally begin; but this seems to be put off week after week.

For next week, we have been warned to expect the testimony of a 'surprise' witness - a man who worked in the Bordeaux prefecture at the same time as Papon; from 1942 to 1944. Apparently nobody has been aware of this man's existence until quite recently.

Web sites devoted to the History and Trial of Maurice Papon

The Matisson family were the first to launch a civil case against Maurice Papon, in 1981. Jean-Marie Matisson runs the website, and reports from the courtroom. At the website, click on 'Affaire Papon.'

Another website of interest contains daily coverage of the trial by the Bordeaux paper, the Sud Ouest.

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