...Continued from page 1

Aux Armes Citoyens!

The reason the Fête Nationale is in July is that it is summer, regardless of the weather. In this country it is considered a safe time to celebrate revolution, especially if a lot of Parisians are out of town. This doesn't mean it is particularly dangerous – but the French do like to party.

For this reason the fête starts the night before, this year on Friday, 13. July. In addition to many public parties put on by various units of the Sapeurs–Pompiers – firemen – there will be a grand bal populaire organized by the city at the Bastille , which will spread to include the Marais, Les Halles, Notre–Dame and the ever–popular Quartier Latin. At the Bastille this year's theme is Africa, meaning I guess, drums.

On Saturday 14. July, some people who may have gone to bed early may take themselves to the area of the Champs–Elysées to watch the military parade with its soldiers, sailors, police, Foreign Legionaries, tanks, aircraft fly–over, and new president of France, in the stands of honor in the Place de la Concorde. I think this happens starting at 11:00. It usually draws a huge crowd, and because of fanatics and shooters, security is tight. Be prepared to be pushed around.

photo, fountain in the cour caree Sunday's water music.

After the president leaves to go to his garden party at the Elysée, soldiers and sailors spread around town, for free eats and drink. If you are not in uniform, forget this, and build up your strength. If you are not a nabob forget about the garden party too. This year only UMPs are invited.

In the evening on Saturday a good time to get to the Champs de Mars is 22:30 if you want a view of the firework display. About a quarter–million folks, some with strollers and babies, will turn out for this free show. This is far less controlled than the morning parade but seldom presents any problems. A good view is possible from the Ecole Militaire end of the field. Leaving, métros might be a bit over–full.

Announced but without details, there's supposed to be a music concert at the Tour Eiffel on Saturday, 14. July, featuring Michel Polnareff and Tokyo Hotel . This is apparently sponsored by the president's house, the Elysée, to honor France and Europe. Yay!

Strikes of the Month

Nicolas Sarkozy, France's new president, made some campaign promises. One will be to ensure that there is a minimum service of public transport during strikes. Another is to ensure that there is a 48–notice before strikes. Transport operators will be able to use strike–breakers to ensure the minimum service, and Mr. Sarkozy has insisted that strikers will not be paid.

photo, boat rental, tuileries Boat rentals in the Tuileries.

This is inspiring stuff, or would be, if it wasn't what already happens. Wildcat strikes have always been rare in France – most strikes are already announced in advance. When there is a transport strike, there has always been a minimum service, from two–thirds to one–quarter of normal traffic. In the past strikers were not paid for being on strike. The only new element is to use strike–breakers to ensure minimum circulation, and it can't be any surprise that the unions will object to this, perhaps by having a strike.

Meanwhile it is July, a traditionally strike–free month, as is August. It is very unlikely that there will be any strikes while Sarkozy passes his new laws this summer. But the rentrée is always an interesting time. Expect the summer to be officially over about 15. September and then it'll take two weeks for everybody to get back in the groove – so, if you've come to France hoping to catch a strike or two, you are probably out of luck until October at the earliest.

Allo Taxi?

Forget the past lack of a central taxi phone number. Those were the bad old days and we are sorry they lasted so long but this IS 2007, and late is usually better than never. To get a taxi where you are, call 01 45 30 30 30, and hope it is not raining, not rush–hour, not a national strike day or not anything else anormal.

Final note:– a new terminal at Roissy kind of opened – it was announced – but it apparently has no name. If you get to the end of Terminal 2 and see sections E and F, then that big thing beyond is the new terminal. It has been built to accomodate the new Airbus A380 which is not quite ready for service yet but put on a great show at Le Bourget recently. The Terminal E that partly fell down, is still being reconstructed – the no–name thing is not its replacement.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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