'Euro News of the Week'

photo: bar, le comptoir elysee, rus miromesnil

This week only - a Paris bar instead of a 'bistro.'

Senator - Profession, Unemployed

Paris:- Monday, 1. October 2001:- Outside of a barrage of euro-flak, there isn't supposed to be any 'euro' news until the new money goes into circulation in January, and counterfeiters get their act together and their product out into the streets.

But! At Venlo in Holland, some gent waltzed into a fishing tackle and bait shop and bought some fish bait - this is a really true story! - and paid for it with a five euro note.

The bait shop owner, while accepting the five euro note as being worth about ten florins, was also aware that the new money isn't in circulation yet.

Somehow - Le Parisien doesn't explain this - the Dutch Central Bank found out about this transactionphoto: grand palais and snitched the news to the European Central Bank, which went into orbit.

They, good detectives, smell a rat - not fish bait - and figure it has to be some sort of inside-job. Because, besides central banks and counterfeiters, no ordinary consumers have any euros yet.

The Grand Palais is called 'grand' because it is big.

When last heard from, the European Central Bank was muttering about 'heavy penalties.' Meanwhile, the mystery fisherman had probably fed his five euros-worth of bait to some silly fish, who shall remain nameless to protect their identities.

Telephone Follies

There is a neat little film called, the 'Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain,' which surprised just about everybody by drawing about seven million movie-goers, which is pretty good in France for a film from nowhere.

The story goes a bit like this - timid Nino is too chicken-hearted to give his telephone number to the love of his life, sweet little Amélie. Then he gets the great idea to plaster his phone number on a wall where she will see it.

She does, and calls the number, but Nino has forgotten that he works in a sex-shop, which stupefies Amélie when she figures it out.

Meanwhile in real life, a Paris jeweler is sitting in his shop minding his own jewelry business, when all of a sudden hordes of complete strangers are calling him up to order things from his sex-shop.

Many of the first to do so where calling from Luxembourg, where they had seen the telephone number - which only appears in the movie for a few seconds. The filmphoto: wheel, concorde, daylight opened in Paris on 26. April and the phone calls are still coming in.

The jeweler can't change his number, which he's had for 20 years of jewelry business. The movie's producers say they asked France Télécom for an unused number and France Télécom says this is what they gave out.

The big wheel at Concorde is called 'big' because it is grand.

Apparently it is all going to be 'fixed up' but nobody - not the movie's producers, not France Télécom, and not the jeweler - are talking about any figures.

According to Le Parisien, the unwitting victim of this booboo thinks the movie is a 'good, little film,' and nothing more. On the strength of it, Audrey Tautou who plays Amélie, has gone on to much more serious films.

But, like some people say, the first one is always the best one.

Elected To the Senat

Among the few ladies elected recently to France's Senat, one of these has been sworn in - figuratively speaking - earlier today.

Since she is not only the only lady to be elected to this august body, the newsworthy aspect revolved around the new Senator's characteristics. She is a Communist and she is unemployed.

Imagine how surprised her unemployment office is going to be when she finds the time to break away from her strenuous Senat duties, to trundle along there and inform them that she has managed to land a job for the next nine years.

In unemployment jargon I think getting a nine-year job would qualify her for declaring that she has a 'CDI' - which stands for 'Contrat Durée Indeterminé.'

If the good lady had only landed a temporary part-time job at McDonald's sweeping floors and emptying trashcans for three months, she would have a 'CDD' - or 'Contrat Durée Determiné.'

Internet Life

If you have been concerned - as I once was - about the location of the missing Château or Palais des Tuileries, you can stop worrying.

Herve Muraccioli has written to tell me that some of it isphoto: wheel, concorde, night on holiday at the Château de La Punta, near Ajaccio on Corsica.

I was not too happy with the access to this Web site, which may be hosted for 'free' by Chez.Com. Everything 'free' - except for the Café Metropole Club! - has some sort of catch these days, and Chez.Com threw up an annoying extra window telling me about their 'free' email offer.

Concorde's big wheel is even 'grand' in the dark.

This hindered actually seeing much of the Château de La Punta, and I did not actually get to the part about the Palais des Tuileries being on holiday there.

But I leave it here for your examination - even though I know I'll have to come back in a couple of years and remove this link because Chez.Com isn't going to be in the 'free' business forever.

No More Mr. Nice Guys

In France, bad surprises are reserved for back-to-work and school, and the New Year, and this year is no exception. Internet access providers have saved September to surprise their clients with massive increases on access rates - with pluses as high as 60 percent.

AOL-France for example, had an 'unlimited' monthly rate of 199 francs, which has been boosted to 328 francs, about equal to slightly over 50 dollars. Other operators have been less greedy, but like the mobile-phone people they all have their complicated 'formulas.'

Many of these involve flat-rates for so-and-so-many hours of connection - such as three hours per month. They offer little perks too, such as crediting unused minutes from one month to the next.

Apparently these massive hikes are due to the high costs of attracting new subscribers, which the access operators have now decided to pass back to the subscribers.

Recently, the operator called 'Noos' has been offering ultra-fast Internet access via TV-cable, with 99 channels of TV included, for 199 francs for the first three months.

This is supposed to be not only 'unlimited' access, but high-speed too. But one of Metropole's club members told me his new 'Noos' access is slower than his old Wanadoo dial-up connection, which he has retained 'just in case.'

The odd thing is that 'Noos' has done the same thing before. When new subscribers complained about the lack of speed with the high-speed cable connection, 'Noos' claimed that too many of them were online at once, and some users were abusing the 'unlimited' aspects of the offer.

When I went online in 1994, fairly high flat-rates for so-and-so-many hours of connection were normal. A little later, when another operator came along and offered a modest flat-rate for 'unlimited,' I switched in a flash.

What really doesn't make sense is my first operator is no longer with us, and I'm still wired to the second, and still pay the same rate. I guess I must have 'paid off' the cost of signing me up - in 1996 - and am sort of getting a 'free' ride.

The real question is - what business school did these Internet providers go to? My guess is that it was the same one the mobile-phone operators attended. It must be called the Stupid Business School - the one with the slogan, 'Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.'

Apparently the lesson is to give away whatever it is that they're selling, until they think it's safe to turnphoto: fountain, place concorde around and gouge their customers, and expect them to stand still for it just because the access providers' lawyers have written clever contracts.

If 'grand' and 'big' at Concorde get overwhelming, you can opt for 'nifty.'

This could blow sky-high if any one of them tosses out the 'lesson' and simply offers an unlimited access for a modest flat-rate, without gimmicks and other colored ribbons - and all the other 'free' stuff that only the customer is going to pay for, eventually.

Small wonder that so few people in France bother going online, and think the Internet is probably a rip-off. Small wonder that so many people are right.

One-Stop French Tourism Re-Run - The URL for this started out with a description of what was supposed to be one jumbo Web site that included links to all the major sites dealing with 'everything you wanted to know about tourism in France.'

However, this proved to be less than advertised - or I got an 'E' with it - but finally I got to somewhere that seemed to show promise.

This seems to be the 'Tourisme en France' Web site, which has versions in French and English, and the URL here is for the version in English - but don't be surprised if its text seems to be in French - much as the 'French' in Metropole is as 'French' as I can make it, like the phrase 'Tourisme en France.'

Your Paris Web URLs

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankYou' here.

'Vigilance Météo' Officially Begins

For about six months now I have been mistakenly saying here that Météo-France's 'Vigilance-Météo' service is available, but according to tonight's TV-news and to Météo-France's Web site, the warning service has had its official start only today.

This consists of assigning four colors to departments in France liable to be attacked by hurricane-speed winds, torrential downpours, heavy storms, tornados, blizzards and/or avalanches - and it is updated twice daily, just in case.

There are a lot of departments in France - too many to show their names. But as your cursor glides over the map, the department names pop up, and when 'Paris' pops up, you click on it. When I did this nothing happened, because the area of the country where Paris is, is all green - which means it is A-OK as far as weather dangers go.

Tonight's map did show northwest France in yellow. I think the TV-weather lady said some winds were expected up along the channel coast, and maybe heavy rains.

If you are curious or need to know more, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts. The 'Vigilance-Météo' area is on the page's top left.

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