France Is On Holidays

photo: l'enchanson, bar a vins

Closed for August, or just closed for the afternoon?

Is the Water Safe?

Paris:- Sunday, 6. August 2000:- Basically what the French want to do on holidays is nothing. This is why there is a great popularity of the 'all-inclusive' vacation.

For a flat price, everything is included. If this is not the case, the French tend to spend 40 percent of their vacation budget on eating. This compares to 28 percent put out for shelter. Activities take 12 percent and the travel itself costs nine percent.

Each time either eating or activities come up, the cash or plastic has to come out. Better to forget all this weary trouble, and buy the whole caboodle in advance.

After all the idea of a holiday is to take a rest. Never mind that all the advertisements show everybody running, jumping, flying, hitting balls, climbing, walking, running, surfing, cycling; moving - like crazy.

Meanwhile, 31 percent of the French do not take 'all-inclusive' package vacations at all. They go to their parents or relatives or friends' places. Some do a combination of two weeks here and two weeks there.

Others who go camping, don't do so to save money - 'camping industrial' is not cheap. But with all the time spent on the campsite, there is plenty left over to watch the kids do their summer homework.

Camping even offers more time to sit around eating, which is what French men like most. Their wives like it too and this is why they prefer the 'all-inclusive' packages - so somebody else makes the beds and does the dishes.

Nobody ever polls the kids to find out whether they appreciate having to do summer homework, while the rest of the family sits around the table, getting stuffed to the eyeballs.

As far as this goes, I have never actually seen any kids doing summer homework, but some parentsphoto: ile de la cite, square henri iv swear by it, according to newspaper stories. 'They'll forget everything,' is the theory I think.

Here is a choice: sit on Samaritaine's roof or sit down by the Seine.

Pollsters don't know what to do with the 23-odd million French who do not go on holidays or have vacations. These are probably considered to be miserable misers. More likely is they can't afford a subscription of 1500 francs for five days of golf lessons.

Meanwhile, another class of the French are buying their holidays in the form of second residences in the mountains, on the coasts and even in the interior. They are doing this in record numbers.

In 1999, about 31,000 agricultural properties were converted into civil use - but mainly for primary residences by people fleeing the cities - looking for permanent vacations?

But Is the Water Safe To Drink?

In the past 11 years, the percentage of French who drink tapwater has dropped from 72 to 58 percent. According to the ever-present polls, many think tapwater tastes horrible.

Actually a lot of the water in France is 'hard,' it has too much chalk in it. If you ever see what this does to the inside of your dishwasher, you'd think twice about drinking it too.

Even though an enormous number of water fanciers think the piped water is polluted or 'dirty' in one way or another, they only drank five more litres of bottled water between 1998 and 1999, for a total of 89 litres.

I think doctors say we should all drink a litre of water every day, so some of us are either shorting ourselves or we are drinking something else.

School for Private Dicks

The University at Melun is the only one in France with a course of preparation for becoming a private detective. For the diploma of private investigator, 25 students are looking at the course for clues.

After the success of its first cycle, the university is thinking of preparing a course for 'directors' of private detectives.

photo: fete forain slide, tuileriesAccording to one professional, the present course lacks professionalism - because its lacks actual practice. There is a proposal to add 400 hours of apprenticeship with a detective agency, plus the second cycle.

This means that if you drop out of the course after the first cycle, you will not be Inspector Maigret.

Attendance probably picks up in the evenings at the Tuileries' rides and attractions.

Private eyes don't work much on divorce cases anymore. Now most snooping involves economic intelligence. There are 2900 registered detective agencies in France and professionals want some sort of legal statute.

With students coming on the market with mint diplomas in hand, the time 'for rules' could be now, they say. Apparently one of the detectives' major activities is seeking PSAs - rotten-skunk debtors who have disappeared without politely leaving a forwarding address.

Divorce cases still come up, when it comes to deciding who gets the kids and how the fortune is to be divided. P.I's in France do not carry guns and can arrest nobody. They slooth.

A Month of Movies for 98 Francs

All the movies you want to see in a month is the offer by the cinema chain UGC. You have to sign up for a year, but if you like lots of first-run movies and don't mind the selection offered by one chain, then it's a lot for a little.

This plan ran into a hiccup with the competition watchdogs but is back on the rails again and drew waiting lines of two hours to get the photo-ID card that goes with it. Now the chain has a system for making a card in five minutes.

Before you think this might be a good way to spend a month in Paris, or Bordeaux - you have to sign up for a year and give UGC authority to debit your bank account every month.

Operators of the Pathé and Gaumont chains are watching the project closely. Also watching, are the smaller independent cinemas - that mostly show classic movies and cult films.

One such cinema, Le Brady, is owned by the director Jean-Pierre Mocky. With ticket prices of 35 francs per film, if his cinema sells every seat it will still operate at a loss of 8000 francs a week.

He is thinking of offering a card too - one movie a week for a year for 300 francs. All he needs are 750 cinema fans.

Free Phone Calls - Temporarily

A software glitch at a mobile phone operator's server prevented recharging prepaid cards Thursday evening. This left the operator, with eight million clients, the choice of cutting access to everybody, or to let everybody call for free.

This they did. Somehow - maybe everybody but me knows how - the word got around and everybody went on a phone-call binge. One young ladyphoto: arc du carrousel managed to be onlne for nearly 48 hours non-stop, with many calls to family - a large one - friends, casual acquaintances and complete strangers in Africa.

Visiting Paris was hot work one day last week - Tuesday.

Long before the first hour-long call was over, her phone's battery conked out. She switched to house-power and talked on. When word got around - quickly! - the operators' network was saturated.

Local calls with the special-offer subscription cost as little 1.87 francs per minute, but the maximum cost is 12 francs per minute. The operator regained control of its network on Saturday and hasn't added up the bill yet.

Web Life In France:

This was a little low-key this week. For those are thinking of taking in a festival of two instead of staring at jiggly banner ads on a flickering monitor, the URL below is for you.

Repeat: Summer Festivals

Take a look at the Ministry of Culture's Web site for the section "Organismes" and then look for the Festivals category, and should find nearly 1000 events on this summer throughout France. And a lot of it is really great.

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