...Continued from page 1

The official number for 2002 is 28.7 million visitors, with only 60 percent actually counted as overnighters in hotels. The figure also includes residents of France from outside the region.

As it does every year the Tour Eiffel tops the Parisian most-visited list, with 6.16 million visitors in 2002, followed by the Louvre with 5.72 million paying art seekers. For freebies, the Notre-Dame cathedral is the winner with 12.5 million visitors, followed by Saint-Denis with eight million sightseers. In all of the Ile-de-France, it is Disneyland, another pay-per-view attraction, that is absolute top of the pops with 13.1 million paid entries.

For foreigners visiting Paris, Americans are in the lead - although 12.5 percent less than in 2001 - followedphoto: fiat 500 by Britons and Japanese. If I remember correctly, the numbers for France as a whole are quite a bit different - with other Europeans outnumbering any offshore nationalities.

And here is... this week's only 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

But as long as we are dealing with vague kinds of numbers, Paris estimates that the average visitor spends 171 euros per day. The hotel costs most with a bill for 57 euros per day, followed by 44 euros for shopping and food and drink bring up the rear with a daily outlay of 43 euros. Transport costs five euros on average, and 84 percent goes to the RATP for métro-bus tickets.

Despite all this positive news, the official Tourist Office, which has been on the Champs-Elysées for 30 years, is going to move because of a tripling of its rent. This could come as early as this summer, but may not be until next year.

Fish Sports News

While International Women's Day was being celebrated on Saturday, the six-month trout fishing season opened in France. Actually, the season doesn't begin in the Ile-de-France and some other northern departments until the 4th Saturday in the month.

Open for fishing are only the 1st-category rivers, usually thought to contain trout or salmon. These rivers may be few, because only 10 percent of rivers in France are judged to be ecologically correct, while 61 percent are considered merely 'average.'

Last year nearly 1.5 million fishing licenses were purchased. A 'complete' fishing license, allowing all types of fishing, costs between 54 and 80 euros, depending on the department where it is issued.

Sport fishing is generally done in the mornings, followed by a picnic. Fishing may be resumed in the afternoon, but it kind of depends on what amounts of refreshments were consumed during the picnic.

Other Wet Sports News

For the first time in 152 years, a Swiss boat has won the America Cup sailing trophy. This is also the first time in the history of the competition that the winners have even been European, thus ensuring that the next round of the prestige competition will be held in waters next to the 'old continent.'

New Zealand supporters glumly applauded, while a small contingent from Switzerland rang joyous cow-bells as the huge pot was passed from the losing team to the winners.

Team New Zealand, led by Tom Schackenberg, vowed to get the pot back in 2006, when the competition will next be held somewhere nifty in European waters, close to zillions of free-spending tourists.

On this side of the equator, the competition has started - to decide exactly where Switzerland will chose to defend the trophy. Marseille, Sète, Toulon-Hyères and even Saint-Tropez are the hopefuls in France.

The Swiss team trained at Sète in the summer of 2001, and this will be the home port of the French team, led by Stephan Kandler.

Other ports will be trying to capture the races. These include Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Genoa, and Cascais in Portugal. Switzerland, although it has a large ocean-going fleet on the high seas, has no deep sea ports.

Our Flying Friends

Largely unnoticed by the Daguerrotypistas recently, was the inauguration of a rooming house for pigeons in the Rue Vercingetoix near the Porte de Vanves.

The ceremony was attended by the mayor of all Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, and the mayor of the 14th, Pierre Castagnou, and other high-rankers such as Yves Contassot and Yves Cochet.

The mayor announced that 'family planning'photo: marche, limours for pigeons in Paris was now a reality. The pigeon's 'maisonette' sits on top of a three-metre high pole, that looks a bit like a wooden church with four round entries.

The spice, nuts and olives stall at the marché in Limours on Sunday.

The bird-house contains 75 gray pigeons captured in the 14th arrondissement. They have been interned for five weeks, until they get used to their new home. The whole effort is designed to convince the pigeon-couples to only have one set of chicks per year, instead of six or eight.

Also, the idea is to get the pigeons used to staying in one place instead of doing their thing all over everywhere. If the experiment is successful, other apartment buildings for pigeons will be erected all over the city.

Meanwhile, this is supposed to inspire residents to get rid of stray pigeon nests - and to quit feeding the birds. There is now a fine of 450euro 3 sign for doing so. There are an estimated 80,000 free-range pigeons in the city.

Online Weather Warnings

We are in a weak grip of spring now and it seems to be going about it about as seriously as in any past year, which is not 'seriously' at all. France-Météo's online alert service is very short-term. Its level '3' and '4' warnings are changed to colors for TV presentation, with orange indicating 'beware.'

Mainly these warnings will about areas beyond the area of the Ile-de-France. But spring is spring and even Paris is not completely immune to it.

If you are curious or need to know more about France's tentative spring weather, give the Météo-France Web site a hit, for its short-range forecasts.

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