Some of the News That's Fit to Print

photo: cafe l'atlas at buci
Instead of street-eats, sit down at the Café l'Atlas
at the Buci marché.

Elections, Traffic Jams and Date Changes

Paris:- Sunday, 27. September 1998:- I don't know why it has taken me so long to change the date on this column from Saturday to Sunday. Too many big events - most elections for example - happen in Europe on Sundays, and if they are French elections I can get pretty good results before midnight.

Then there are Paris' own events, such as today's automobile parade on the Champs-Elysées. Since the Hôtel de Ville has promised us many more extravaganzas, many of these will be on Sundays too.

Making the day change, puts Metropole's news up-to-date with its Monday publication date, without me having to fiddle around with phoney 'updates.' After the magazine goes online, I have the rest of Monday to fiddle a siesta if I want to.

Sunday's Programmed Champs-Elysées Traffic Jam

This morning about 20,000 Parisians and their friends came out in the pouring rain to see some cars on the Champs-Elysées. It is hard to know how many more would have come if the weather had been fine, because there are always plenty of cars on this street.

The first to descend from the Arch de Triomphe was a 1898 Panhard M2 E. The last of the 'old' cars was a 1973photo: parisien: 100 ans autos Alfa Romeo. TV-news on Saturday evening showed the fine old cars being parked overnight at Longchamp, also in the pouring rain.

Some constructors made a proper show of it. Lancia had carnival in Venice mixed with Comedia dell'Arte. There were Brit Rollers, German 'rollers,' movie 007 cars, American pastel zoomers from the '50's, and a horde of French antiques. In all, 700 oldies rolled down the avenue.

These were followed by the 900 of the cars present-day constructors will be showing at the Automobile Salon, starting next Thursday at Paris-Expo. There are not a lot of auto showrooms on the Champs-Elysées these days, so this was a rare commercial treat.

Considering last Tuesday's 'no cars day' in Paris, the contemporary cars were followed by the low-energy models, some powered by EDF. After these came the constructor's new models, the ones to make their world debuts at the salon.

See this week's 'Café' column for details about this year's 100th Mondial de l'Automobile. Read next week's Metropole for a report about the Salon.

Half-Hearted No Cars Day in Paris

Last Monday's Le Parisien had ample information about the areas of the city where there would be 'restricted circulation' on Tuesday.

If drivers had ripped out the newspaper's handy map and taken it with them on their travels, a lot of the ensuring traffic jams might have been less annoying to everybody.

As it was, delivery trucks form a large part ofphoto: parisien: sans voitures weekday traffic - and these go where they have to go. On normal days, one of these making a stop in a narrow street can completely upset the traffic pattern of an entire quarter.

On Tuesday, Le Parisien published their map again, in a big front-of-the-paper, seven-page section about the subject.

Currently there are nine projects under consideration for improving traffic flow or giving streets to pedestrians. Two of these are given a good chance of realization and four others only have average chances.

Handicapped Demo for Public Transport

Last Monday several hundred demonstrators blocked a bus at Châtelet, to protest the general inaccessibility to public transport for handicapped persons.

TV-news showed a film of a man in a wheel-chair as he tried to get from his home in the suburbs to a location in the city's centre. The commuter succeeded, but he had to put up with long waits for some few elevators, waits for assistance from public transport agents and some generous assistance from other travellers.

He also pointed out some places where he couldn't go - deep métro stations without elevators for example. The city and its public transport partners are conscious of these problems - but these are problems that should have already been considered as long ago as 1918.

A few years ago a guide was published for Paris and the Ile-de-France that shows which stations are passable. The guide also lists the assisting facilities at major sites and attractions as well as at airports and train stations.

To be frank, the guide also has a métro map which shows no accessibility. There is a logo to indicate accessible stations, but the only ones on the map are at RER stations. When the guide was printed - possibly in 1994 - the entire RER network had exactly four stations were no aid was required for access.

Since then, but I do not have details, some of the RATP's buses are new designs which permit access to persons in wheelchairs. For a long time now, some bus lines have had audio systems announcing busstop names for the blind.

For the latest info, contact the CNRH, by writing to 236. rue de Tolbiac, 75013 Paris. The Fax number is 33 1 53 80 66 67. You can also send an email to and I have just been reassured you will get a reply.

Troubled Service On the RER Line 'C'

We have our little local strikes which are partial so they are usually not worth mentioning because they mainly inconvenience residents.

This may not be the case with the RER's line 'C' which has been running a 50 percent service - one train out of two - recently on account of a strike by employees. This line, which runs through Paris on the left bank, serves both Versailles and Orly airport.

To or from Versailles, an alternative is to use SNCF trains. From Orly, there is the Orlybus, which runs into the centre of Paris. The RER line 'C' strike continues tomorrow.

The German Elections in France

The French are always a bit preoccupied with affairs in Germany and this has resulted in fairly major coverage of the current national elections there.

TV-news has had a lot of reports from the big building site that is normally known as Berlin; with special attention paid to voters living in areas that were for a long time in the DDR.

Regardless of the Communist Party being perfectly respectable in France, any resurgence of it in former East Germany is remarked on - although there is no hint that we should be sleepless on account of worry about any 'Red Menace.'

Because France currently has a government with socialist leadership, there was a lot of attention paid to the character of Gerhard Schröder, the SPD's candidate for chancellor. Lephoto: tf1: auto parade Parisien ran biographies of both Schröder and Helmut Kohl in yesterday's edition.

Today's old car parade on the Champs-Elysées, in the rain. Image: TF1-TV

As election results came in tonight, these were interpreted by Daniel Cohn-Bendit on TV. As one-time 'Danny the Red' in Paris in 1968 and now a 'Green' in the Frankfurt government, he can give an 'old boy' spin to German events that many French '68ers can believe.

With Danny in mind, it is interesting to note that Herr Schröder joined the SPD when he was 19 and became president of the 'Jusos,' or young socialists, in 1978. By mainstream SPD members, the Jusos were once considered to be their party's 'Red Wing.'

Also unusual for a politician in a basically conservative - or should it be cautious? - country, Herr Schröder has been divorced three times. He is now happily married again. A 34-year old journalist, Doris Koeps, is going to be Germany's new 'first lady.'

After the election results were announced in the SPD's favor, Chancellor Kohl, 68, said he would not seek re-election as the head of his party, the CDU, thus indirectly announcing his retirement from active politics.

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