Do You Remember

photo: bar a huitres, bd st germain

Blazing February sun - spotlights the Bar à Huitres,
near the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

The Franc?

Paris:- Monday, 18. February 2002:- This morning at 00:01 the French franc ceased 641 years of loyal service, to be replaced by the new European currency with the highly imaginative name of 'euro.'

This is pronounced in French as 'uhro' because 'e's are generally unpronounceable in France. Thus, at the marché five slices of tasty jambon may be quoted as costing 'cinq uhro quarante-trois,' which is the same as 5.43euro 3 sign, which is also how it would be written.

Sometimes euro sounds like 'oro' or a small inadvertent belch, so you have to listen carefully and just try to separate the more familiar number sounds from unfamiliar euro-sounds.

Last night, at the Bercy ministry of finance, Laurent Fabius shared some Champagne donated by taxpayers with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and 600 finance ministry workers andphoto: metro cite other dignitaries as replica-franc flags were dipped for the first and last time while stiff-like-boards replica-euro flags were hoisted for the first time - and possibly the last time, if they are not intended as a permanent display.

The entry to métro station Cité - right where Paris began.

TV-news has presented a number of video-clips showing the vast operation of collection and bundling of old and now useless francs. Paper notes have holes punched in them and are counted and bundled and packed in shrink-wrap, while coins are weighed into standard-weight heavy-duty plastic sacks.

These are being assembled at various points around France, and then they are being shipped by train to huge collection centres, guarded by the army. The paper will be turned into confetti and recycled, and the metal will be melted and recycled. Goodbye francs.

According to a poll done for Le Parisien, the French do not particularly regret the disappearance of the franc. Okay, 49 percent regret it at least a bit, 35 percent not at all, and nobody has 'no opinion.' The missing 16 percent will only say they 'don't really' regret anything, so these should be added to the 35 percent.

A Franc History

The franc is recorded as first appearing on Friday, 5. December 1360 in Compiègne. It was coined during one of Europe's '100 years' wars in order to pay a ransom for the release of Jean Le Bon.

Charles V, son of Jean Le Bon II, introduced a new model franc and this was accepted 'throughout the kingdom,' which was not nearly as big as France is today.

Some time later, in 1641, Louis XIII wanted to get control - a habit of all the Louis' - of all the money so he minted three coins - 'les Louis' - and banned francs. The French, as is their custom, used the 'louis' but went on calling them 'francs.'

The franc came back on Saturday, 15 August 1795, when it was introduced by the Law of Thermidor, Year II, to replace the 'livre,' which roughly means 'pound.' This new franc was decimal, unlike the cross-channel 'livre.'

Under Napoléon, a 'franc germinal' was introduced by the 'Law of 7. Germinal, Year XI' whichphoto: resto el sol y el luna corresponded to Monday, 28. March 1803. The one- franc piece was silver. The Banque de France, created three years earlier, was also instructed to put paper money into circulation.

More sun, on the Latino restaurant 'El Sol y el Luna' in the Rue Saint-Jacques.

'Sous' disappeared under Louis Napoléon after 1850 and were replaced with centimes. The symbol of France, Marianne, first appeared on coins in 1858. Other countries liked this so much that the franc was adopted and imitated.

The first World War was not kind to the gold-based franc, and it dumped in value to become only a shadow of its former worth, until the 'new franc' was introduced in 1958 - which whacked the last two zeros off 'old' francs. 'New francs' became plain 'francs' in 1963.

The last francs, both coins and bills, were decorated with traditional French symbols, plus references to modern France. Some people, not just in France, do regret the disappearance of some of these later designs - especially when compared to the euro's one-size-fits-all graphics.

Other Franc Notes

Tonight's TV-news has had a report that hundreds of millions of francs have 'disappeared.' By this, it is meant that the Ministry of Finance does not know where they are. Since francs are no longer legal tender, Bercy thinks these 'missing' francs may not by traded in for euros - which will represent a huge windfall for the treasury.

Various charitable organizations in France have been collecting francs. The Croix-Rouge estimates that it has recovered 50.5 million, but thinks the figure is short by about 16 million francs uncollected so far.

Other collection points, at airports for example, believe that as much as 75 percent of what they've piled up in coin boxes is probably foreign currency. In any case, so many are collecting so much that it is registered in tons rather than face-values.

Hospitals in Paris will continue collecting francs until the end of this month. The Association of Paralytics in France, the League Against Cancer and the Catholic Committee Against Hunger will continue their collections until the end of March. The Croix-Rouge will maintain its operation until the end of June.

Some Francs Worth Gold?

Some francs minted in smaller numbers than usual may be worth far more than their face-value if they arephoto: rue chat qui peche in very good or uncirculated condition. For example, a 1967 5-centime piece could bring as much as 46euro 3 sign.

A test-run of 10-centime pieces done in 1962 may be worth 69euro 3 sign per piece and a 20-centime piece minted in 1966 may be worth 31euro 3 sign. The prize goes to a 1976-model 50-centime piece that may value as much as 300euro 3 sign.

Within only a few metres of the Rue Saint-Jacques - the Rue du Chat Qui Péche.

Check your foreign change collection for a French 2-franc piece with a date of 1991. It may be worth 228euro 3 sign at a coin dealer's.

Other Francs - Turn-in Deadlines

Banks in France and post offices will continue to accept francs for conversion into euros until Saturday, 29. June, but this service is only for their regular clients, and the amounts must be deposited.

However, if you can find your way to any branch of the Banque de France, or the various offices of the Trésor Publique, you can change all pieces and notes that were legal before the introduction of the euro - into euros, in cash. This operation continues until Thursday, 17. February 2005.

The deadline for banknotes alone is Friday, 17. February 2012. For more information about this, consult the Web site of the Banque de France.

Remember the Franc!

An idea like this could have only been concocted in a café, like this one was. Last summer some good fellows were standing around in their favorite bistro having a quick one when somebody wondered 'what the state intended to do for the franc as a memorial?'

Since the state has no intentions of doing anything, this left the way clear for citizens to act. Two likely sites for a memorial - Chamalières where bills were printed, or Compiègne where the francs began in 1360 - but both refused the honor.

So Franqueville-Saint-Pierre, a small town of 8000 on the outskirts of Rouen, was chosen by the association created for the purpose after all the other places in France with names beginning with 'Franc' had declined the honor.

Next May the association expects to lay the first stone of what will be a 12-metre high, three-winged, tricolor memorial, featuring a four-metre diametre one-franc piece.

The whole thing, which will revolve with the wind, will be located in the centre of a round-about on the Route Nationale 14 that joins Paris to Rouen.

The only remaining problem at the moment is finding enough euros to build the monument and its necessary museum. For fixing up the around-about, constructing the memorial and building the museum, 2.5 million euros will be required.

So far, all possible official donors are deaf. This includes the minister of finance, Laurent Fabius, who enjoys this area as his electoral district.

The association is not giving up on this idea of showing pride in the history of the franc. If they get the money required, they hope to see the inauguration of the memorial on Bastille day, 2002.

Info About Euros

Details about trading-in old francs for euros also appeared in earlier issues. For additional information concerning deadlines for cash, cheques and other tips, hit this link. For some common 'euro' prices, see the 'Au Bistro' columns in recent issues.

The Election

With 61 whole days left to go until the first round of the national election for Président of France, I think I can skip election news for at least one issue. Tune in next week - for the latest election promises, right here.

Internet Life

After a brief period of 'vanishing' pages chaos it appears as if Metropole's server has settled down to do its thing in a regular manner. Other than this good news, I have no other 'Internet Life' to report this week. This, in itself, may be 'good news.'

Winter's Downhill Re-Runs

It is winter in the mountains somewhere outside of Paris and these now seem to have snow on them. But it is also the period of school holidays in France, so the mountain resorts may be a bit crowded. All the more reason to check out the Web sites below.

If the northern Alps area seems tempting, you can find out more about them from the Alps-Sensations Web site.

For general high-altitude thrills, I think Hiver.Com has had a plug here in past years, without them ever sending me a thankyou to ensure that I put one in this year.

Winter Weather Alerts

Warnings about impending violent weather that might be dangerous to your health - or on a lesser scale, causephoto: pont st michel you some serious discomfort if you happen to be at sea without a compass or up a snowy mountain without a cheese sandwich - are provided by a service from our friends at France-Météo.

One winter alert for drivers in Paris - the Seine's speedways are underwater.

You are supposed to use this service before you get into situations you won't want to be in. Using it afterwards will not help you at all.

Paris is not an exciting weather area. The alert service is mainly for northern, central, mountainous, eastern, Atlantic coast, southern and offshore areas of France that occasionally 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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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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