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 so busy making notes about the tablecloths and curtains, that her meal got cold. Mine was fine through.

'The Best Biking Guide to Paris' is a brand-new book by Rose Burke. Rose has been writing about Paris since she arrived here with her husband in 1994 and began to look for a parking place. Last year when I met her she said they'd given it up and gotten bikes instead; so this book is not based on theory.

Rose has also included route directions to two-wheel dream spots such as Versailles, Auvers-sur-Oise and Giverny. Quote Rose: "Paris is kinder to cyclists than most: geographically, meteorologically and psychologically." Rose obviously knows where the hills are and how to avoid them.

Finally, but by no means last, Editions Ellébore Paris has books and videos in French, and you can check out the titles in their catalogue. Many of the titles are for books about better living and improving your lifestyle. You may think living in France automatically takes care of this, but you can never know enough.

In Tocqueville This Week:

The editor of The Tocqueville Connection sends me an email each week with the highlights of their current issue. Since Tocqueville's main theme is Franco-American understanding - how unlikely! - I give it a plug here, in case any of you are worried or concerned about this.

I am neither because I think France has some relations with about, as CNN might say, 498 countries and territories, scattered islands and asteroids, worldwide - and this is who Metropole is for. Tries to be for, that is. Just France and the United States alone, makes an unbalanced world.

This week, because my Web surfboard is in the shop, I can't go and look at Tocqueville myself, and find its hidden jewels under the headings of 'French Style' or 'Op-Ed.' I give you instead Tocqueville's original blurb:

"Romancing the Seine: For Americans in Paris, it's all baguettes and boutiques but France wants to be much more than that... Differing responses to globalization... Chirac eyes early campaign... Decision time in Champagne... Euro challenge to the dollar... Millennium dazzles at the Louvre..."

As a blurb, it is not bad at all.

I would like to know what France wants to be more than... baguettes and boutiques... to Americans. 'Boutique' is a world-word, like 'disco' and if the whole world knows what one is, then France isn't doing too badly. American kids took disco, spunphoto: fauchon it backwards, and inflicted Rap on us - which in turn has spawned 'DJ' fever, making music lovers and musicians unhappy - but this unhappiness has no nationality.

Fauchon - where 'Les Riches' stand in line to shop, instead of pushing caddies around.

'Differing responses...' is like saying France has baguettes and the United States has Wonder Bread. They differ, but it's nothing to worry about. Diplo relations can continue.

France's President, Jacques Chirac, 'eyes early election' and 'decisions in Champagne,' are mysteries to me. The 'Euro' is a mystery to everybody; except the world's treasuries and banking community, which believe it will be reality on Monday, 4. January. Watch out, dollar!

'Millennium dazzles at the Louvre...' is almost intriguing enough for me to dialup, tune-in, but heck! It's holiday time, right? As of today, the Louvre still has 288 years to go before it hits its first Millennium. By then, I bet the lines to get in will be really long.

Web Surfboard Gets Annual Checkup

Web surfing is getting its annual overhaul here and I don't expect to get it back from the shop until early next week; which will be next year. No new URLs means you are stuck right here, so you might as well read the whole thing and look at all the photos. Even the old ones.

Metropole's New Year's Card?

I am not making this up. At the very moment I wrote the word 'France' for the 35,896th time last week, I remembered that I told myself ten days ago to do a Christmas Card for everybody and to put on the cartoon page. The part I am not making up, is I remembered a week ago I forgot to do it. Geez.

It is a small consolation, but I will immediately start to think about a New Year's Card, for 1. January 2000, right now. Again.

Bonne Année! Happy New Year!


Over the past week a number of readers have mentioned their inability to reach Metropole's server in France. Do not adjust your set; stay on the same station. Not just France, but all Europe shuts down for the holidays. It used to be just Britain, but now we all do it.

This means that somebody has left a crucial Internet junction server to fend for itself, and it too has apparently gone on holidays. From where I am, about 30 kilometres away, I can access Metropole's server and all its Web sites. It is alive and spinning merrily around, but is probably wondering where you have gone.

Regards, Ric

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 2.52 - 29. December 1997 - Thiscount down Eiffel Tower issue featured the columns - Café Metropole - 'Parisians Love Paris' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'Maurice Papon: 'I Know Nothing'.' The issue had two features: '1997 - One Finger Taps for Metropole' and 'La Langue Bien Pendue' by M-R Erickson. Last year's holiday season continued with 'Noël Program IV - Even More Opera, Ballet, Theatre, Concerts and Events.' The 'Emails' feature was called 'Emails: Liquid Research at Le Procope.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week posed the question, 'Which way to Dakar?' - as if even Parisians don't know.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 369 sweet little days left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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