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 A neighboring café has simply withdrawn Coca-Cola from its list of fare.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 sightsers; too small to see here.
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