...Continued from page 1

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 transit prices will be posted in euros only. Francs will no longer be accepted for transit payments - or any other sort of transactions.

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 standardphoto: poster, le monde mag, histories d'e 3-franc stamp will cost .46euro 3 sign, which is rounded-up slightly. Three-franc stamps will remain valid for some time yet. Postage stamps purchased in 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.

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 - as of now, banks will only hand out 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. Otherwise, franc coins can be exchanged for euros at any branch of the Banque de France until 2005. The deadline for banknotes is 2012.

Exchange - the simplest way to get the best rates is generally from ATMs. Street banks like to make a lot of commissions on exchange transactions, so you may get a better deal at the many exchange-only shops around the city. These generally post their current rates clearly. If there has been no alteration to custom, the daily 'fixing' for new dollar-euro rates is posted at 14:00.

ATMs - the story is that all 37,000 ATM distributors in France have been switched 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 made the switch - for both cash and cards - at the same time. No doubt the same has 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 do not. 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 last year.

Apparently all of the 500euro 3 sign notes circulating in France are from Germany. Merchants in France may be reluctant to accept them because nobody is rich enough in France to go shopping with them.

No matter which EC country is featured on one side of the coin, all euros in Europe are euro 3 signuros. Do not accept euros made in non-euro countries.

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. The first fake 100euro 3 sign note turned up in France on Saturday, 12. January.

It was used at a SNCF ticket window in Seine-Saint-Denis, where it passed the phoney-money detector but not the sharp eyes of the SNCF agent who alerted the police. Other lesser-value, poor quality phoney notes have turned up in Réunion.

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.

Internet Life

Will take a nap this week on account of this writer feeling like taking a nap right now. Sometimes these little snoozes are caused by pages slow to download. These may be spiffy if you are willing to wait long enough, but they are not in the spirit of the Internet at all.

Winter Weather Alerts

This service from our friends at France-Météo gives warnings about near-term violent weatherphoto: renovated concorde fountain, madeleine 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 second Concorde fountain to be renovated is now on view for all.

Paris, with its simple zero temperatures and generally light breezes does not often qualify as a 'danger' area. The alert service is mainly for central, eastern and southern areas of France that regularly have more extreme weather than the Ile-de-France region.

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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