Tourist Zone - Saint-Germain

photo: bistro le relais de belleville

A bistro in Belleville that is probably closed
on Sundays.

Intello Consumerism On Sundays

Paris:- Sunday, 26. November 2000:- The intent to reclassify part of the Boulevard Saint-Germain as a 'zone touristique' was reported here some time ago. I forgot the update, which is merely the news that this reclassification has taken place. Maybe this just happened.

No matter how you count it, the re-zoning only involves two blocks - from the Rue des Saints-Pères to the Place Saint-Germain. The re-zoning was done for the purposes or on the grounds of sport, recreation or culture, or all three.

But its main purpose was to allow three bookstores to open on Sundays. The position of the smallest one remains unchanged and it will remain closed - because it is already open six days a week.

The two other bookstores welcome the change. Accordingphoto: cafe, gateaux orientaux to La Parisien, neighbors of the quarter, Sunday strollers from other quarters and tourists from all over the world will also welcome the change.

One Parisian, who lives 'nearby' - in Montorgueil, near Les Halles - likes the idea of being able to browse and buy books on his day off - but wants only bookstores allowed to be open.

All of the designer-name textile shops in the area are probably working very hard at the moment to figure out how they can fit within the sport, recreation or culture limits.

It shouldn't take them more than 30 minutes to think up some good excuse to open seven days a week too.

Health Insurance Goes Plastic

The national health system in France - if you are eligible for it - works like this: your doctor checks you out and you pay her or him with a cheque or in cash. In return you get a paper that you sign and send in to a health insurance centre.

When it gets around to it, it sends your bank two-thirds, or half, or ten percent of what you paid the doctor. If you have a complementary coverage arrangement, you try and get it to pay the remainder, or a part of it.

All of this requires quite a bit of paper to fly around for the most minor consultation. It is very logical to suppose that the administration of all the papers involved costs a lot of money.

The plastic card with a chip in it was invented in France, and this is being slowly introduced into the national health system. When I asked my doctor about it some years ago, he - it was a him then - cackled like a lunatic.

He didn't know who was going to enter all of his patients' information into the database; and 'cackledphoto: rue de belleville like a lunatic' because he suspected it would be him, and if things worked out right, he would retire first.

Now I have a new doctor, and I still don't have a plastic 'smart card,' partly because I don't want to hear a lady doctor cackle like a lunatic. But she is quite dynamic, so she might actually like the idea.

From a patient's point of view, having all of one's medical details on a plastic card would make it easier to switch doctors, or go to a specialist, without having to retell one's whole sorry medical history every time.

And, who knows, it might even be possible to draw cash out of an ATM with one; if one had a 'credit' with the 'Secu,' as the national health insurance is familiarly called.

Now I read that ordinary housewives are getting their cards 'topped up' at a shopping mall out west where I used to live, instead of having to go to downtown Versailles to do it, or 40 other inconvenient places scattered around the quite large Yvelines department.

What I don't understand, is why somebody in the midst of a shopping spree would suddenly feel an urge to check out their medical 'smart card,' unless they had forgotten their name or blood-type or something.

But, apparently the reason for doing it is to update the card's memory, and be able to shop at the same time. Last week, at one hypermarché alone, 270 people did this - out of several million who live in the whole department.

While 270 may seem like a small number, it was about four times the number of people who went to downtown Versailles or the other 40 Secu centres to do it.

New card readers are expected to be installed elsewhere soon. One is planned for Bois d'Arcy but the report doesn't say whether prisoners in the jail there will be allowed out on parole in order to use it.

Parisians Ignore Winter Holidays

Le Parisien seems mildly upset about this. It says Parisians make up a third of all those taking part in some sort of alpine holidays, but the figure has slumped by 12 percent since 1995.

According to the paper, slightly more than a third of all the French, do take winter holidays. The problem seems to be that larger numbers are avoiding cold, snow, over-crowding, high prices, plain danger and other winter-type inconveniences in favor of going someplace sunny.

This reflects a fundamental problem with France itself, which has abundant mountains and many places for sunshine-type seaside holidays. Neitherphoto: cafe, val de loire, apt building one nor the other has been gifted with enough suitable weather for year-round operation.

Actually, this spreads the touristic business around fairly evenly - from one extreme to another - and the people who should really complain are those in the middle with neither snow on high nor sun on the beach.

These poor souls are probably cattle ranchers, who have tried to promote farm holidays - only to be stabbed in the back by all the French who are now refusing to eat beef.

If you don't know what this is about, and love the idea of cold, snow and extreme heights, France has 372 winter sports stations and their season has just officially begun.

Brainless Non-News

On Friday, Sony sold half a million Playstation Two game consoles in 17 European countries and collected billions of francs and other currencies for its efforts. New stocks should be available in about 10 days in case you missed out.

Sports News

Last week's only 'Sports News' was a boring ballot-count competition in Florida, and it seems as if the game managed to come to a provisional end with a winner being declared without a final score. Anybody who placed bets on this match couldn't have expected this result, which will be the equivalent of the ball landing on the 'zero' in roulette. When the house takes it all, the players will mope.

Web Life:

URLs: You Can Help

The answer is now clear why nobody has been bombarding this section of 'Au Bistro' with their favorite Web URLs for Paris.

By accident - by getting no results - I have found it impossible to find certain kinds of information because of the plague of 'Dot.Coms' that have bought their way to the top positions on the search engines - thus leaving the Web sites with actual information in positions from 25 to 50, if they are listed at all.

Although this situation is an annoyance, I believe it is a temporary one. 'Dot.Coms' are going bust faster than they are being created these days. But while they are around, they continue to focus their tunnel-vision on their hopeless B-Plans.

Doing this leaves a widening 'hole in the market' for information - which they ignore - both the 'hole' and information itself. Thanks to questions posed by readers, I am getting all sorts of ideas for 'hole-pluggers.'

It's only a matter of time until I can get these filled with all sorts of useful information. But I better do it soon because Metropole's 'Dot' is a lot bigger than its 'Com.'

Other than this bit of mild philosophy, I have come across only one useful Paris URL during the past week.

Online Purchasing In France

Le Parisien has chosen to ignore its other horror stories about plastic card fraud this week in Friday's edition, to tell its readers how to buy stuff online with plastic and without excessive amounts of fear.

So far, only about five percent of the French who are online have ever bought anything online. Useful and hard consumer information is not easy to come by in France, but the Unionphoto: le president, chinese resto, belleville Fédérale des Consommateurs and its magazine 'Que Choisir?' has just gone online with some useful tips for potential consumers.

I didn't know this, but about 650 French 'Dot.Coms' have insured themselves - or their customers rather - up to the tune of 50,000 francs in case of online fraud. In all there are three of these insurance firms.

After being reassured, you might want to shop around a bit for some French goodies. To compare prices, try Le Guide, which also has some legal advice in addition to its consumer tips for timid types.

Mindless Repeat - the 'Mois de la Photo' Again

Photo Gallery is worth a look according to regular long-time reader Dana Shaw. Visuel Image is said to be especially rich. Enough words; just for looking. As a last shot, check out ArtCom's take on the Maison Européenne de la Photographie - which is mentioned elsewhere in this issue.

The 'Official' Weather: Gloomy Becomes 'Winter'

Météo France is still featured because many people find Paris weather news exciting. From enough distance, it probably is. This is the official source for France's TV-weather people, who have just changed their 'look' but not their forecasts. If you don't get French TV where you are, you can get the weather from where they get it. Because it is 'official' - meaning: as true as possible - don't expect forecasts to exceed 24 hours.

All photos; Rue de Belleville, Friday 24. November.
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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