France Is Nearly Full Up

photo: cafe de la musique

Like a lot at La Villette, the Café de la Musique is cool.

The Food Wars, Part II

Paris:- Sunday, 1. August 1999:- Despite last year's boost from the World Cup being played in France, the number of tourists visiting the country has taken a jump over last year's figures and the number for France is expected to top 70 million this year, up an estimated five percent.

The largest number of foreign visitors come from other European countries, with Germany leading the horde with an estimated 14.6 million in 1997, followed by the British, who numbered 10.5 million.

All of the Americas sent 4.5 million visitors, with the majority coming from the United States; well-outnumbered by the Italians. The average stay for all visitors - to see the Louvre, travel around, lounge on the beaches - was an average of 5.6 days.

The French meanwhile, have had their noses full of bucolic farm holidays, and remembering last year's lousy weather in Brittany, have stormed southwest and Mediterranean beaches. The Côte d'Azur is 'complet.'

The Domino Crêperie Attacks Coca-Cola

The 29. July deadline for Europe to knuckle under to the US demand that it allow imports of hormone-treated beef hasphoto: cour napoleon, louvre passed and I assume the US has whacked serious surtaxes on French imports of truffles, Roquefort, foie gras and mustard.

Paris' big spaces can be full of people and look empty.

Officially, France may be keeping quiet about this. Not so Dijon restaurant operator, Luc Olivier. He put up a sign at the entrance to his small crêperie, saying, "At the Domino, from now on 'Cola' is 'taxed' at 500 percent." This effectively raises the price from 10 francs to 50, which is over eight dollars a pop.

The 'Mouse that Roared' has the full support of his cliental and has been getting calls from interested fellow boycotters, who have been suggesting he start an association.

This is too complicated for Mr. Olivier. But he has been nevertheless surprised at the snowball effect of his action. A neighboring café has simply withdrawn Coca-Cola from its list of fare.

A l'Heure de l'Apéro

This is French for what I call cocktail time and apparently in summer it takes on a special meaning, because vacationers have the time to indulge in it.

'Two little glasses can cause no harm' is the general feeling. This is not the same as the workday blitz into a bar or café for a quick nip on the way home from the factory or office. A summer without an 'apéro' doesn't taste like holidays, some say.

France, along with Italy, is the country with the greatest variety of alcoholic beverages, specifically concocted for the afternoon cocktail. These have nothing in common with the torpedo effect of an ice-cold vodka martini, which is a volatile high-octane mixture of booze and booze.

Even Pastis, taken normally or as an 'apéro,' is meant to be watered five times; which sinks its alcohol content to around six percent - which is little more than beer and less than all wines.

Another popular 'apéro' is called Kir and it consists of a drop of Cassis - black-current - added to dry white wine. If done with a wine of quality - Burgundy - and the amount of Cassis added is modest, this is a first-rate 'apéro' - good at any time of the day.

A variation of this is the Kir Royal, which is Cassis added to Champagne or to sparking wines from the Loire or the Jura. Straight Champagne makes a good 'apéro' by itself too.

A 'tour de France' of 'apéros' would be too long to put in here, because Le Parisien's featurephoto: metro exit etoile & arc about it lists 16 by name - not brands, but types. Some names you see around, like Suze, Pineau, Muscat de Rivesaltes, Picon, and Banyuls from the eastern Pyrenees.

The top of the Arc is rimmed with sightseers; too small to see here.

A lot of French on vacation dispense with all the pretention of special names and glasses, and simply drink rosé - pink wine. A lot of this is over-priced and under-quality because it is in as heavy demand as some soft drinks. Quality rosé can be had, but its price is usually disproportionately high.

For kids who fancy the fizzy orange drink Orangina during the winter, they can switch to pink Orangina 'Rouge,' which contains the Brazilian additive, Guarana.

All agree the alcohol-free beers and wines do not get anyone off and I can personally confirm this. There have been attempts to put boozeless 'apéritifs' on the market and every one of them has flopped.

The main problem with these is not their lack of alcohol but their lack of a convincing taste. I have heard there are reasonable fake-beers in Germany, but the fake-pastis 'Pacific' went nowhere despite an advertising campaign lasting over several 'apéro' seasons a few years ago.

The Balloon Goes Up Too

Since the balloon rides at the Parc André Citroën started on 1. July more than 10,000 have taken the flight up, and down again.

This has been a big surprise even to its operators, who expected no more than 6000 passengers for the whole summer. They attribute the success to the 66 franc-a-flight price. According to the report, many who live in the neighborhood of the park in the south end of the 15th arrondissement, have taken the trip.

Weather, which can keep the balloon tied close to the ground, has been a factor of its popularity with flights being possible 80 percent of the time. The operators are now trying to get permission to make night flights.

Meanwhile, the giant 'hour-glass' with its 40 tons of sand is not drawing great crowds to the Jardin des Plantes, mainly because it is not set to start keeping time until the eclipse, on 11. August.

Some people think the giant 'sablier' is a waste of public money but others appreciate its scientific aspect; to operate over a long period of time - until June 2001 - and the fact that it is outdoors.

The Good Life In Paris and the South

A recurring theme in the pages of Le Parisien concerns the 'quality of life' in Paris, the Ile-de-France, or in France in general.

About ten percent of the residents of France live in the Paris area; from choice or necessity. It seems as if the newspaper thinks Parisians need regular reassurance for continuing to live here.

Thus, a subhead says 'Parisians Have Benign Illnesses.' There are 35 percent fewer allergies than the national norm, for example, because there is more pavement. People are less fat in Paris than elsewhere. By 'benign,' it is meant that 'life is poisoned,' but not fatally threatened.

Six maps of France show a low rate of mortality for the Ile-de-France,photo: tuileries garden & wheel a large number of hospitals and doctors; and low rates for cirrhoses, heart disease and tumors.

The Tuileries are not empty - all the people are in the shade.

TV-news must of had the same report, but read it differently. They brought back a video from the Gers department and with it a story about its residents living longest there. This also shows up on Le Parisien's maps, with cirrhoses in the central south only two-thirds of the Parisian rate.

The diet of the residents of Gers is interesting as it apparently only consists of two items: goose fat and garlic. TV-news said they didn't drink or smoke much either, and showed a group of older gents having a wild time with a game of pétanque.

Sports News:

The football season officially began again last night and the Paris team PSG will again officially try to win a few games. I say, good luck!

Meanwhile, it is also football player-transfer time and the sums being announced for trading players are astronomical; some running at the 100 million-franc level. There is also talk of individual players being paid a million 'new' francs a month. Just remember, you help pay for this and it doesn't matter whether you give a hoot for football or not.

Other, Important Sports News:

See 'The Friday Night Roller 'Rando'' in this issue.

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