France's Flying No Smoking Zone

photo: bistro au moulin vert

The Moulin Vert in the Rue des Plantes near Alésia.

'Shipwreck of the Week'

Paris:- Sunday, 5. November 2000:- France's national carrier Air France has taken the unusual step of declaring France a no-smoking zone by banning the noxious habit on all of its flights, as of Tuesday, 1. November.

Air France has been practicing 'no smoking' on interior flights since 1990 and on European flights since 1993. The measure was announced loud and clear by radio France-Info, but according to Le Parisien it is being handled in a very low-key manner by the company.

In fact the measure wouldn't be worth mentioning, if it hadn't slipped out that Air France will supply 2 mg nicotine tablets to passengers who request them. Radio France-Info said one of these was equivalent to about four hours of trans-Atlantic inflight non-smoking.

Intoxicating Books

The Bibliothèque Nationale's big new super large library in east Paris has its ups and downs, but its downs seem to predominate.

After a fire on Friday, 6. October which closed it for a month, 16 employees where struck byphoto: peniches, seine a mysterious gas attack last Friday, and some were not fully recovered by Monday.

On Wednesday night a security guard was stricken by the unknown pollution and taken to hospital. While management tries to figure out the cause, the north side of the site has been shut down.

On Thursday, employees' representatives issued a strike warning, claiming that the reopening after the fire has been premature. On the same day, 700 researchers were allowed back in after having been locked out for a month.

'Shipwreck of the Week'

For the second fall season in a row, France's well-being has been seriously menaced by a shipwreck.

Ten months ago the rusty bucket of a sludge barge named 'Erika' sank with a load of stinky and sticky goop, which quickly escaped from the wreck and ruined many hundreds of kilometres of France's Atlantic coast and endangered the livelihood of the fishing industry.

Last Tuesday, TV-news viewers watched with astonishment as a fairly new chemical tanker slipped out of the grasp of ocean-going tugs, and sank off the coast of France.

Since the horrible lesson of last year's 'Erika' disaster France has not been idle, but the seas are a somewhat lawless place, and getting dozens of countries to agree on their management is neither easy nor swift.

Since maritime salvage experts proved to be unable to move quick enough last time, the government swiftly invited Greenpeace to share its experience in dealing with the new menace.

As of today, the wreck of the 'Ievoli Sun' is on the bottom about 20 kilometres offshore from the island of Cotentin, and is leaking its cargo - some of which is supposed to be highly dangerous chemicals.

Because of the unsettled weather - a flat-out storm - everybody is watching what they can, but are unable to do anything. A super ocean-going anti-pollution tug was ordered from Hamburg and it arrived on the scene today.

Check Your Nursery for Masterpieces

About two weeks ago an old man of 80 paid a visit to the art expert Emmanuel Servage, to ask him to take a look at a painting he inherited about 50 years ago.

It was tacked to the wall of his grandchildrens' bedroom like a poster. After a little carefulphoto: cafe zeypher cleaning, the date of 1818 or 1819 became apparent, as well as the signature of Eugène Delacroix.

Mr. Servage did some research and asked around, but the painting appeared on no lists of works - not even on the list of stolen artworks - by Delacroix. The piece was immediately installed in a bank vault.

The next step is to send the painting to a committee of the Louvre's specialists, who may take up to two years to make an examination and a pronouncement.

About six months ago, the same Mr. Servage turned up an unattributed painting by Nicolas Poussin in an attic, possibly painted in 1640. This painting has been at the Louvre for six months already.

Last week, the Louvre asked to be allowed to examine the second painting without delay.

Sports News

Tour de France 2001

While the doped bike-racers' case ground its way through the courts last week in Lille, the Tour de France organization announced the route for next summer's race. For some reason, west France will be deprived of this summer spectacle.

France's favorite three-week bike marathon kicks off on Saturday, 7. July at Dunkirk and wanders out of France to Belgium, which would be nearly as bike crazy as France if it were a bigger country. Big thrills are expected on the fifth day of racing, with timed team trials from Verdun to Bar-le-Duc.

The Tour will reach the Vosges mountains on Bastille Day and will be pedaling up and down Alps three days later. After a day of this and a short flight to the Pyrenees, mountain riding will resume on Friday, 20. July.

After two days of high altitudes, the Tour will head through the centre of France to Paris and wind up with its usual roundy-roundy on the Champs-Elysées on Sunday, 29. July.

According to the calendar, France will probably close for its August vacation on the previous Friday - so you can expect to have a fine view of the final stage in Paris.

Other Marathon Sports News

Last week I made a horrible, howling, blunder here by hinting that Metropole's exclusive sports reporter for the recently completed 'World Series' had become a 'nearly-ex Mets fan,' due to the Yankees winning the baseball playoffs.

I was told - in a personal high-priority mesage direct from Queens via the Internet - in no uncertain terms, that Mets fans are 'sticky' - they stick to their fandom through rain, hail, snow, sodden hot dogs and so on and so forth - including lackluster playing by the 'home' team.

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