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
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
how it goes
Starting January 1, 2002, the new
Euro bills and coins will be available at banks and at post offices across
For 45 days after that, both Euros and francs will be accepted
w After midnight February 18, 2002, there’ll be one currency in France,
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
on in, climb the stairs and get ready for a
bizarre experience at Deyrolle on Rue du Bac.
have tackled France:
from a distance...
field in Provence
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
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:
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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