Interesting Times In Paris

photo: tabac le mondiale

New, Hard 'Euro' To Hit Old Europe

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 28. December 1998:- Hello folks! This is Metropole's last issue of 1998. Between last Monday and today nothing happened except Christmas has come and gone. When I looked on Wednesday, Paris was still here.

I meant to go to Paris on Saturday to make sure it is still here, but my suburban bank was closed and I couldn't make the train fare.

I do not really think the controllers would have been working, but they had those strikes - so they may have been waiting to pounce on all travellers going downtown to exchange broken electric ties or get batteries for their new digital cameras.

France's first 'Euro' Loto went off last Wednesday and some lucky moron - I am too dull to be a lucky moron - won a carload of gazillions of old francs, zillions of new francs, or mere millions of as-yet non-existent 'Euros.' Thephoto: shopping on haussmann winner has probably already turned to jelly while waiting for Monday, 4. January to find out what the real-world rate is going to be.

Last Wednesday; eager shoppers watching 'Xmas' eggbeaters being demonstrated.

One older lady, who still calculates in 'old' francs, lamented about the fact that the exchange rate so far, is not a nice and easy round number, like 6.50 - after about 40 years of not being able to lop two zeros off an 'old' franc to get the 'new' value.

But she's trying. She understands the exchange is going to be something like 6.5932 francs to one 'Euro.' Somehow this is easier to understand than just wiping off two zeros from a franc. The 'Euro' is new money - hard money for new times.

For me, although I've never lived in a 'dollar-zone,' I routinely take the pulse of the French economy by figuring out if an express café in a bar costs less than, more than, or about the same as a dollar. Right now, the dollar is around 5.60 francs.

This means, on Monday, 4. January 1999, a standard express café in an ordinary bar in Paris is going to quit costing more than a dollar, and start costing less than a 'Euro.'


What overall effect hard money will have on 'douce France' is unknown. Undoubtedly the beginning of 1999 was chosen as the start-date because we're all going to so confused by the millennium pop-bang-crackle that by the time the hangover has worn off, we'll be glad we've got something solid left.

But by then, I bet a café, a 'carnet' métro ticket, or a litre of leaded super, will each cost more than a 'Euro.' Heaven knows what a baguette will cost. We live in interesting times.

Attention Arc de Triomphe Fans!

Some people may not know that it is possible to go up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and play being king of the Champs-Elysées, but its true fans know this to be true and truely love it. The ticket-takers and other personnel are unobtrusive, so it may come as a surprise that they walked out on strike on Saturday - and the Arc de Triomphe is closed today. For those who do know know about the lookout at the top of the Arc de Triomphe, this action poses no problem. For its true fans, these days are dark indeed.

Last Minute e-Shopping

Since it is still the season and you may still be searching for last minute ideas, this week's repeat of the Super Giant Jumbo shameless plug is again for the writers and publishers who have placed their wares on Linda Thalman's WFI server, for online 'e'-sales.

The people below are real and live in or near Paris, have done their research here - so what they're offering are 'Paris' products - some of which are only available via online purchase. Despite what all the gloom merchants may say, ordering goods online is no more risky than having hot pizza delivered to your door.

I am fond of author Thirza Vallois. We had an excellent chat and walk in the Quartier Latin once. Therefore the first plug is for her excellent 'Around & About Paris' series of in-depth books about Paris.

While I don't know the artist Alain Kleinmann, he also offers several of his books and 'An Artist' is his latest, I think.

Last summer I blew a chance to meet Rachel Kaplan at a garden party, because nobody thought to introduce us. Her Web site is called 'French Links' and on it you can find her 'Little-Known Museums In and Aroundphoto: 1999 paris marathon Paris' and 'A La Découverte des Plus Belles Routes Ile-de-France.' She also has written books about obscure museums in London and Berlin.

Suzanne Forster's 'Insider's Guide to Paris Hotels Under $100 a Night' might be very handy, especially if I ever get around to offering the 'Metropole Paris Euro-Converter' and keychain. In the meantime, her prediction that this 'spellbindingly rich cultural center needn't clean out your savings account' may be true if you savings account isn't all that skimpy.

'Jeanne Feldman's Best Buys in Paris' is subtitled 'A Shopping Guide to Discounts and Bargains in the City of Light.' What is hinted at sometimes in Metropole, is set out in full in this book about how to shop and get away with it with some money to spare for necessities, such as food and drinks and hotels for less than a hundred bucks a night.

The 'Leeds Good Value Guide to Paris Restaurants' by Adrian Leeds - is not only about 'good value,' but also about finding it in tidy surroundings. Once, while having lunch with Adrian, she was o busy making notes about the tablecloths and curtains, that her meal got cold. Mine was fine through.

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