Far More Than You Wanted

photo: cafe le centre ville, montorgueil

The best thing about shopping in Paris is all the warm
places to sit down.

To Know About the Euro

Paris:- Tuesday, 18. December 2001:- Despite all the other news - interns on strike, huge traffic jams, fires, stick-ups, clochards freezing to death, blizzards, - the real 'news' is obviously the arrival of the 'euro.'

But before I get into this, you will probably be pleased to know that France's gendarmes 'won' their illegal non-strike against their own military establishment, gaining 1000-franc a month raises, plus promises of 50,000 real bullet-proof vests, new cop cars and trucks, new housing conditions and no less than one new computer for every two members of the service - which is the equivalent of the national police. Up until now, they have been using their own personal computers.

What was probably the most astonishing of all, was a front-page photo in French papers showing demonstrating uniformed but hatless gendarmes having a face-to-face with anti-mutiny CRS troops with their battle headgear. In the photo it looked as if neither side was going to blink.

Instead, the ministers of defense, finance and the interior blinked and caved in to the demands of the underpaid and under-equipped police force, and the country returned to its fragile state of civil peace.

The labor action by the gendarmes - who are not allowed to have 'labor actions' because they are a military unit, operating under military laws - provedphoto: dolls, teddys, pass jouffroy yet again that governments will allow situations drift on endlessly, until those with grievances take to the streets to protest - even if they could be court- martialled for it.

Paris' passages - with treasure troves of toys.

Technically speaking, the protest actions by tens of thousands of gendarmes throughout France, was mutiny. Yet, for perfectly obvious reasons, no one will be charged with this offense.

In fact, the gendarmes' 'malaise' has caught on with other police forces - many of which do have a 'right to strike.'

In a larger sense, the sensational action by France's national police force has pointed out a fundamental flaw of the French form of government and business management in general.

When there is a grievance and it is not treated seriously, the French seem to be able to put up with inattention or indifference for a long time with only a bit of grumbling. But time after time, events show that ignoring grievances cannot last forever.

What does seem endless, is the government's and business management's inability to grasp this simple fact - which is proved over and over again, year in and year out.

For this reason, the next time you are locked out of the Louvre, try to remember that the people who are on strike are probably embarrassed to be working for employers who are dumb enough to prefer you to be locked out rather than listen to their own employees.

'Nobody wins strikes' - does not seem to be a true fact that is taught at French management schools.

The Euro Is a Winner!

Last Friday morning, governments in Ireland, Holland and France woke up not knowing if the euro would be accepted or ignored by Europeans - not really knowing if there is such as thing as the European Community. I bet a lot of very high and worried officials skipped their breakfasts and started biting their fingernails instead.

Last Friday, 'kits' of euro coins, worth 100 francs, went on sale in France, and possibly Ireland. Inphoto: horsemeat butcher, montorgueil Holland, euro 'kits' worth a lesser amount were offered for free. It was the turn of the Belgians, Luxemburgers, Italians, Spanish, Austrians and Finns on Saturday.

The French surprised the government and themselves by going out and buying them as if they were a strictly limited one-time offer. Before noon signs were all over Paris saying the kits were 'sold out.'

Not only is racing popular with bettors, Parisian eat horses.

In fact, authorities had ordered 50 million of the 'kits,' containing exactly 15.25euro 3 sign. They were 'on sale' at banks, tabacs, 17,000 post offices and in some stores - and most sales locations had a limit of one kit per customer.

Although the Banque de France claimed that it was able to satisfy 92 percent of the 'demand' in the Ile-de-France region, this was only because the 'sold out' signs went up so quickly. Other surveys and polls about the interest in first-day demand for the euro were half wrong as well.

It wasn't until Monday night's TV-news that residents in France found out that Germany's euro launch had taken place, with about the same result as is France - a huge sellout on the first day, with long lines of eager euro-fans in banks, sparkassen and post offices.

Apparently the official fingernail biting went on throughout Europe for the weekend until it was seen how the hard-DM Germans would react to the new currency.

For the moment - actually for the next two weeks - these distributed euro coins are play money. To makephoto: euro calc, parisien purchases in euros right now, only cheques and cards are bring accepted.

My very own 'euro' calculator will soon be a rare souvenir of the franc era.

I didn't get my 'kit' because I had forgotten about it until I saw the 'sold out' signs. Like some few others, I also prefer to make the big switch when the currency is really legal tender on 1. January.

On Sunday, even though I wasn't very fast out of the starting gate, I managed to get Le Parisien's Sunday offer of a france-euro converter - for the price of the paper's Sunday edition.

So far, all I have been able to find out about how it works, has been to verify that 1euro 3 sign equals 6.55967 francs.

Euro Prices for Métro Tickets

After the SNCF's limited half-price offer for the New Years period expires and the Paris' public transport free ride ends at noon on Tuesday, 1 January, the RATP's ticket prices in Paris will be posted in euros.

Here are the new prices, which will be posted in euros, and in francs:-

  • 1.30euro 3 sign - for a single métro/bus ticket
  • 9.30euro 3 sign - for a 'carnet' of 10 tickets
  • 5euro 3 sign - for a one-day 2-zone Mobilis card
  • 16.75euro 3 sign - for a weekly 3-zone Orange card
  • 44.36euro 3 sign - for a monthly 2-zone Orange card

You can also pay - in cash only - with francs until Sunday, 17. February. Métro station ticket sellers will accept cash payments in a mixture of euros and francs until this date too, if you are brave enough to try it. Bus drivers will accept both too, but not mixed. All change will be rendered in euros.

Automated ticket vending machines will only accept euro coins. They will also accept French and international payment cards just like they do now.

Beginning on Monday, 18. February, city transport prices will be posted in euros only. Francs will no longer be accepted for transit payments.

Tickets bought with francs can be exchanged for euros at banks, post offices and the Banque de France up until Sunday, 30. June 2002.

La Poste - has announced that its standard 3-franc stamp will cost .46euro 3 sign, which is rounded-up slightly. Older 3-franc stamps will remain valid after the beginning of the year. Postage stamps purchased inphoto: passage jouffroy France are for use within the country, or for mailing to other countries. To post a letter to France from a foreign country, even in the EC, do not use a French 'euro' stamp.

Passages may not be over-heated, but they are always dry.

Cheques - if you have a franc-value cheque book, it cannot be used after 1 January 2002. You are also advised not to use French euro-value cheques in euro-zone countries because the banks are being greedy with their charges. Use plastic instead.

If you have received a franc-value cheque issued during 2001, it can be cashed - for euros - by a French bank for one year plus eight days after its issue date.

Cash - after the beginning of this year, banks will only issue cash in the new euro currency. Both franc coins and banknotes can be exchanged for euros at banks in France until Saturday, 29. June 2002. Doing this at your own bank will save you commission charges. Otherwise, franc coins can be exchanged for euros at any branch of the Banque de France until 2005. The deadline for banknotes is 2012.

ATMs - the story is that all 37,000 ATM distributors in France will switch from francs to euros during the night of 31. December - 1. January 2002. According to a RATP lady I spoke to, all of the Paris transit ticket vending machines will make the switch - for both cash and cards - at the same time. No doubt the same is being said of all vending machines throughout Europe.

Whether this turns out to be true or not, you do not have to change your plastic card.

Scrambled Money - euro coins have a 'euro' side and a national side. Euro banknotes may be the same. Do not be surprised to receive euro coins in France with Italian reverse sides. France has had to 'borrow' several tons of Italian euro coins because of a three-week strike at its coin mint. No matter which EC country is featured on one side of the coin or banknote, all euros are euro 3 signuros.

Opportunity of a Lifetime - is expected to be the case for counterfeiters, especially at the beginning of the euro-era when ordinary folks are not too familiar with the new currency. People who are in the money handling professions have been taking fake-euro detection courses, so these may be the first to tell you that you've been stuck with a fake. Try to be relaxed about this.

More Good News

Despite a decree dating to 1996 that comes into effect on the first of January, France has decided to ignore it for the time being on account of it being extremely annoying to car owners. The decree says in effect, that no car containing asbestos can be sold without it first being removed.

This 'forgotten' decree was dug up by the army. The army assumed it would become the 'law of the land' and began junking its older jeeps and trucks, instead of flogging them to unwary citizens.

But since these civilians were truly unwary, and the muscular old-car lobby went into high mobilization - citing the impending 'worthlessness' of zillions of franc's worth of classic old junkers - well, the government did the 'right thing' and dropped the whole business until some date in the vague future.

One of the reasons the decree was left to wither turned out to be the fact that the mechanics who would have had to rid the older cars of asbestos - would have been the most exposed to it.

The only remaining questions are, how many of these 'surprise' decrees are lurking around the law books, and how many of them have been suspended until 'some date in the vague future?'

Internet Life

When Metropole started its 'Internet Life' in 1996 the plan was to throw out all 'dated' topical material, and treat Paris as if it were a 'right now' event. This would have meant the weekly renewal of the 'Au Bistro' and 'Scene' columns would have forced the week-old versions into oblivion.

Somewhat oddly, the server's robot-produced reader statistics have always shown that readers do look at old - nay, antique! - 'Au Bistro' columns. Luckily, the first plan was in use for only a short time before laziness set in, and everything was simply kept online - as what has turned out to be a sort of an ongoing 'history.'

Early in December Christophe Blondel wrote, "I was just going through the Web using Google with the keywords 'Airbus' and 'glider,' looking for more details about the last close-encounter between a gliderphoto: foie gras and an airliner - in which the airliner was an Airbus. And there appeared your web page the story about the Airbus-glider collision of 1999, which I had not anticipated, even though I of course knew the story.

To counter winter's chills - a tasty excess-fat shop.

"I do not know what you exactly meant when writing that 'the glider wasn't supposed to be so high,' but that may have been misleading, for even though the Airbus pilots actually did not 'suppose' that they could find a glider there, the glider, as the inquiry rapidly showed, was perfectly allowed to be where it was.

"According to the regulation of that time, the fault of the collision was entirely due to the fact that the airliner pilots had entered a 'visual flight rule' volume without, so to say, opening their eyes wide enough. Like sailboats at sea, sailplanes in such areas always have a priority over motorized planes."

In fact, Christophe Blondel said that there were many other mistakes in the short article. For example:-

"By the way, you were also slightly wrong in writing, 'The glider pilot brought his machine back to its base in one piece too,' for the Airbus had actually torn a half-metre long part of the glider's tail off, and the tail of an aeroplane may be a vital part of it."

Apparently motorless gliders have to share a lot of 'visual flight rule' airspace with powered aircraft, and there's just so much space to go around. But as a glider pilot, Christophe Blondel was actually curious about the instances of airliners becoming gliders by running out of gas.

There have been two of these incidents, both with successful landings. But because of the high speeds involved, Mr. Blondel thinks all airline pilots should have training on gliders.

Mr. Blondel belongs to a glider club located near Paris. In case you are interested in gasless flight, give his club's Web site a look. Ignore the pop-up ad until the attractive page loads, while getting ready to read some well-written French.

I wish to thank Mr. Blondel for pointing out the mistaken 'facts' in the original article, and for taking the time to write much more about 'ticketless' flying than there is room for here.

Now, all I have to do is remember to go back to the original article, and add a 'forward-to-the-future' bit of code to it, which will link it to this 'correction.'

As huge as the Web's search engines are - even Google - they have not recorded all of Metropole's contents. To find out what this magazine contains, you can use its own powerful 'Search Metropole' feature.

MuseumExperts Com/Fr - is a two-sided Web site for museum professionals and for the people who go to them. The 'Sitem' part deals with the nuts and bolts behind the displays and the 'Sime' part features up-to-date news about what is going on at the museums. The idea, created by Jean-François Grunweld, has been put online by France's Ministry of Culture, with the URL of http://www.museumexperts.com.

Winter Weather Alerts

This service from our friends at France-Météo gives warnings about near-term violentphoto: one of roissys rabbits weather that might be dangerous to your health, or, on a lesser scale, cause you some discomfort if you happen to be outside without an anchor or up a snowy mountain without a flask.

The latest of these alerts concerned normally sunny southern France, which got a ton of snow plopped on it. Paris with its simple zero temperatures does not qualify as a 'danger' area.

You asked for it - here is one of Roissy's famed rabbits in person.

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

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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