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Welcome to Armchair France

 

Armchair Uzès

la Vie Quotidienne

octobre 2001
Uzès, France


The Euro is coming...two month countdown
L'Euro vient...en deux mois

Just over two months until the Euro makes it entrance in France and other participating countries (the UK and Switzerland will not be participating). More than 300 million Europeans will make the switch starting in January 2002. In preparation, a small town in the Somme region took "batting practice" this month with a week-long faux-Euro session to test the practicalities and ease with which its citizens would make the transition. A supply of plastic Euromoney was handed out to be used during one week in local stores, markets, and the bank. Per the mayor, all went well. Down at the cafe, locals said it was like playing with monopoly money, or monnaie de singe (monkey money).
     And so, everyone seems to be getting ready to make the switch. Well, everyone except factory workers in Chamalières where new euro bills are being printed, or rather not being printed. Rotogravurians have been on strike since mid-September, for the usual improved conditions and wages. The Bank of France claims to have enough currency to fill commercial needs (90% completed), but they'd like to have those additional billion or so bills available in case of a rush on money during the first quarter. Meanwhile, spend up those loose francs while you can...you've got until June of 2002 (see right). 

The new Euro bills and coins start seeing action in January 2002
Eurocoins.jpg (34903 bytes)


Franc to Euro:
how it goes
 
w Starting January 1, 2002, the  new Euro bills and coins will be available at banks and at post offices across France.
w For 45 days after that, both Euros and francs will be accepted as payment.
w After midnight February 18, 2002, there’ll be one currency in France, the Euro.
w If you’ve still got francs to burn, don’t burn them…you can exchange them for Euros at any French bank or la Poste until June 30. After that, you’ll have to go to the National Treasury or Banque de France to exchange your francs for Euros…you have 3 years for pièces (change), 10 years for billets (bills).


A good time to be in Paris?
C'est l'heure d'être à Paris?

Paris and springtime go together like...well like New England and the fall (click here for Fall Foliage photos). But if you dislike standing in line or waiting weeks for restaurant openings, this might well be a good time to experience Paris. Because of the recent terrorist attacks and threats, there has been a significant drop in the number of foreign visitors to the City of Lights…primarily those from the US and Japan. Hotel reservations have dropped 15% from normal levels, and restaurants are getting lots of cancellations (as well as lots of last-minute reservations). Security in Paris is tight, as in all major international cities, with all public trash cans sealed, increased police and military presence on the streets, and heightened airport security procedures -- multiple ID checks, luggage screening, highly sensitized metal detectors. At the same time, airfares are reasonable, there's the new TGV (trés grande vitesse) line to and from Marseille, and bargains abound.
     Meanwhile, a recent check of the French press reveals that, in spite of this reduced traffic at tourist spots, government workers at many of these sites continue their periodic strikes, causing off-and-on-again closings of major museums and monuments. Be sure to check ahead before heading out to beat those shorter lines:  There might not be any lines because the place isn’t open. Better yet, take this opportunity to visit those less well known gems, including the Rodin Museum, the Catacombs, the Cluny, the Carnavalet, the Orangerie. And don't forget the hundreds of churches that offer art, beauty and a little peace and quiet. The site www.paris.org has lots of info on Paris's many museums and much more.

StChap5.jpg (139429 bytes)

The windows at Sainte-Chapelle, one of the many gems of Paris...
hundreds of churches and chapels
where one can find beauty and a
bit of peace in the city.


Captain Haddock and Tintin, at the National Marine Museum in Paris
thru mid-December 2001.

     Speaking of lesser-known museums, the National Marine Museum (le Musée Nationale de la Marine, near Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower) has been hosting a fabulous exhibit centered around Hergé and his beloved comic book character, Tintin. This popular exhibit, already visited by a quarter of a million fans, has been extended through mid-December, and features original manuscripts, a playing/reading area for children, and the actual objects and plans that Hergé used to lend authenticity to the wild and crazy adventures of Tintin and his cohorts. If you’re not familiar with Tintin and les bandes dessinées, take a look at www.tintin.com or visit the kids' section of your local bookstore. But remember, Tintin is as much for adults as for kids!
     Another current exhibit in Paris that looks like a "don't miss" is the Paris-Barcélone de Gaudí a Miró at the Galéries Nationales du Grand Palais near the Champs Elysées. A bevy of avant-garde artists, including Picasso, Dali, and Miró, had spent significant time in this Catalonian city (see Barcelona photos) before making their way to Paris. This exposition brings this influential group together for the first time as it explores their origins, influences, and their art. The exhibit runs through January 14, 2002.

     If you’re wandering the Left Bank area of Paris, take a stroll down Rue du Bac with its mix of quirky and chic shops. Stop in at number 46. Don’t be fooled by the dusky exterior or the rangy window display of moth-eaten mammals. In fact, keep an eye out or you’ll walk right past it. Go on in, climb the stairs and get ready for a bizarre experience. The Deyrolle family has run this taxidermy-and-more shop since 1831, and their collection of stuffed animals (exotic, farm, domestic), birds, insects, drawings and more is not to be missed. In fact, you can have your favorite pet lovingly stuffed here starting at 3,800 francs ($500). The shop is one of those odd little pieces of Paris that are so worth seeing.


ParisTaxiderm.jpg (196264 bytes)
Go on in, climb the stairs and get ready for a
bizarre experience at Deyrolle on Rue du Bac.

Two anthropologists
have tackled France:


Margaret Mead,
from a distance...


...Laurence Wylie, 
in the field in Provence

 

The French are different?
Les Français sont particuliers?

Cultural anthropologists might have a field day with France…and some have. In the 1950s, Margaret Mead and her colleague, Rhoda Métraux, authored Themes in French Culture, coming up with some interesting and controversial observations about the French way of life, centered around le foyer, the family. As part of Columbia University’s Research in Contemporary Cultures project, a celebrated team, including Mead and Métraux, attempted to put together cultural ethnographies of European societies “from a distance” rather than “in the field.” Mead, who would have been 100 years old this December 16, never actually visited France for this study (although Métraux was married to a French anthropologist). Together with a team of researchers, they created an analysis of a western culture based on in-depth interviews with French people living in New York and studies of French films and writing. The book has just been reissued, with a new introduction by Katherine Anderson-Levitt, who opens her remarks with “You have never read a book quite like this one.”
     In the same era but from a different tack, Laurence Wylie is a sociologist/anthropologist who actually lived “in the field.” His classic A Village in the Vaucluse, originally written in the 1950s with an update in the 1970s, is a warm and human account of life in the provençal town of Rousillon (disguised as Peyrane to protect its privacy). This book, not in the style of Peter Mayle, rather is a detailed and more thoughtful examination of rural village life in the postwar recovery period. Among his observations:  the French are profoundly shaped by their early schooling (formation), they are by nature suspicious and conservative, and they tend to band together as family or community against the outside world. The past 50 years have certainly affected rural life, but these characteristics seem to remain. Interestingly, Mead's observations from afar were much the same. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

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