Paris Style At a Discount

photo: bistro, rue st charles
A typical tiny bistro, in the Rue Saint-Charles.

More 'Cultural' Strikes

Paris:- Sunday, 3. January 1999:- Discount frenzy started in Paris yesterday and Parisians flocked downtown with or without New Year's hangovers to mob the shops; to search for that cute little skirt for 800 francs - knocked down from 1600.

These annual sales, which are officially regulated, will continue until 13. February. The main rule is, stores may only sell what they had in stock a month before the first day of the sales - they cannot re-stock or bring in special 'sale' stock.

This means that as the sales continue, pricesphoto: le parisien, 31.12.98 tend to drop even further. However, despite the crowds yesterday, some of the best stuff got snapped up. If you wait until Friday, 12. February, you may get an article for 90 percent off, but it might not be exactly what you had in mind.

I thought the 'last' New Year's Eve would be the next one; but maybe Le Parisien knows better.

Watch for the 'Soldes' signs which designate the official sales. All items 'on sale' must have their original price clearly marked, and signs saying 'no returns - no exchanges' do not exonerate merchants from their legal guarantees protecting buyers against defect goods.

For items not specifically marked with a 'sales' sticker, you can always haggle - even at times when the 'soldes' are not official. The rule in Paris is, an eyebrow raised at almost any price, should get 10 percent off.

The main items 'on sale' are clothing; and at this time of year this means winter garments. This means that this year's style is 'on sale.' If you don't care, or shop carefully, a year-old style can certainly be worth it at half price. Most discounts are in the 30 to 50 percent-off range.

Sales Alternative

If you can't find what you want on or by 13. February, why not pop over to the Théâtre de Paris and see Gerard Depardieu starring in 'Les Portes du Ciel,' an original piece by Jacques Attali, an ex-advisor to the late President Mitterrand. I think it's about Carlos Cinco, who was a very interesting man in very interesting times. The play is set for 90 performances. Info. Tel.: 01 48 74 25 37.

Background to the 'Cultural Strikes'

Last week it was the Arc de Triomphe's turn to turn away visitors wanting to examine the wonders to be seen from its summit. TV-news showed the Arc's staff holding big banners, saying 'On Strike.'

I examined the situation one day last week and found visitors muddling about its base, but the strikers were probably on their lunch break.

The reasons for this series of strikes at a variety of Paris monuments is emerging only by fits and starts. Le Parisienphoto: arc de triomphe, 30.12.98 has been saying that success has been the spoiler, with record crowds overwhelming museum and monument staffs.

Hapless visitors reading the Arc de Triomphe's insprictions last week, instead of taking in its magnificant view.

Apparently the Culture Ministry has not budgeted for any extra staff to handle the current extra traffic. In the case of the Arc de Triomphe, 50 of the 70 workers are not full-time employees. They are paid the minimum wage and by the day; and some have been in this situation for 15 years.

The time-bomb which has been ticking for years, went off when next year's budget was announced. It foresees the creation of no new permanent positions.

This puts between 2,000 and 3,000 'cultural workers' into a prolonged no-future situation at a time when many cultural sites are having boom times. According to sources, at any given time 10 percent of the Louvre is closed due to lack of staff.

This weekend, security personnel at the Louvre are sort of on strike. Visitors are complaining about two-hour waits to get into the Pyramid, and then other long waits inside to buy entry tickets.

With the long Christmas school holidays, many residents are taking the opportunity to visit the cultural sites. They too are complaining about the poor reception - with the difference that their visits may not be the only ones they'll be able to make in their lifetimes.

Box Office

In France, the movie 'Titanic' moved 20 million to buy tickets to watch flickering shipwrecks; making its box-office take France's biggest in 1998. Film-goers liked it - and all other movies - so much, that attendance was up 15 percent throughout France.

Le Parisien laments that films produced in France saw their box-office score drop from 34.5 percent of ticket buyers to about 25 percent.

However, the three biggest-drawing films after the 'Titanic' were all French, and combined they outdrew the 'Titanic' by about two million spectators. They were 'Le Dîner de Cons,' 'Les Visiteurs 2' and 'Taxi.'

France's secret weapon for 1999 is called 'Asterix et Obélix Contre César,' and it stars Christian Clavier, Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni. Watch for it to hit Paris' screens on Wednesday, 3. February.

Once More: the Winter-Sports News

Again this week there is good news and there is bad news, snow freaks! Contrary to my previous report, all of France's alpine areas are now not covered by lots of snow. Warm weather thawed them out and the metres of snow simply vanished - leaving many skiers to play parking-lot hockey on roller skates.

Oddly, this has led to the discovery that there are snow-covered mountains in Corsica, where TV-news showed skiers swooping down from snowy mountain tops with the Mediterranean sea asphoto: moulin de la galette, 30.12.98 a background. This so excited the TV-news people, that they immediately declared it to be unique in the world. It is not.

The Moulin de la Galette in the Rue Lepic, just below Montmartre's summit.

One thing Corsica is, however, is relatively free of skiers. The skiing area shown on TV was abandoned some many years ago, and is only semi-officially open; manned by local volunteers.

Besides skier-free slopes, this also means skiers can get a table when dining, instead of having to stand while eating; which is inconvenient while wearing skis, hats, gloves, goggles, sun-screen, and holding onto poles.

In case you've missed this Christmas season skiing opportunity, remember that French schools' winter holidays start on Saturday, 6. February - so you have a five-week opportunity to experience relatively un-over populated skiing areas nearly by yourself between now and then.

The Dakar

For 20 years this winter race was called the 'Paris-Dakar' but this year there was no preliminary of any kind in the Paris region, so 'Paris' seems to have been officially dropped from its title.

If, like last year's start in Versailles, the start had been here, it might have had the weather going for it. Instead, it started in sunny Granada, and the first stage was called off on account of rain.

Now the troupe is in Africa, and TV-news is still giving it a big play, by sending images of racing cars and motorcycles zooming along unpaved roads in the middle of nowhere, or taking shortcuts through big patches of sandy nowhere. Bonne route!

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