France News: France Economy, DSK TV Interview, Eurozone, Sarkozy, de Villepin

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:50 pm -

France’s Economy

France’s economy was the major concern this past week and will continue to be as financial leaders who met in private sessions in Wroclaw, Poland discussed various options.

The European debt crisis led Moody’s to downgrade two major French banks and place a third under review.

According to The Washington Post, French banks probably have enough capital to deal with potential losses on their Greek holdings. But the banks are being subjected to a loss of confidence that’s making them increasingly vulnerable to volatility in financial markets.

American money market funds — an important source of dollars for the banks — have shied away from French banks Société Générale SA and Crédit Agricole SA since the debt crisis intensified over the summer, stated the Moody’s report.

BNP Paribas’s shares tumbled on Friday. According to Reuters, two Paris-based traders blamed the drop on expectations that Moody’s may cut Italy’s credit rating after the market close on Friday. BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole are the two French banks most exposed to Italian loans.

Geithner gets cold shoulder

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner delivered an unusually direct plea for immediate action to his E.U. counterparts He urged leaders to move with more unity to head off a potential new wave of financial crisis on the continent that began in Greece, but has spread to Spain and Italy. Geitner received a chilly response, according to The Washington Post. Many European finance ministers who heard Geithner speak in Poland seemed to bristle at him intruding on their affairs. Europe’s leaders pledge support for the single currency as talk among some is of default.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Financial Times/EPAGermany’s Merkel: “the euro will not fail”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, “The euro will not fail,” after the country’s powerful constitutional court rejected a series of challenges to the multibillion-euro rescue packages agreed upon last year for Greece and other debt-strapped members of the eurozone (Financial Times.)

In a passionate restatement of Germany’s determination to defend the common currency, the chancellor welcomed the court’s judgment as “absolutely confirming” her government’s policy of “solidarity with individual responsibility.” Germany would continue to demand drastic debt reduction from its eurozone partners in exchange for providing them with financial guarantees, she said.

IMF head Christine Lagarde. Photo: Financial Times-BloombergIMF’s Lagarde threatens to withhold Greek loan

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said the IMF may withhold its portion of an €8 billion ($11billion) aid payment, saying Greece must re-ignite its pledge to deliver on commitments,” adding that its “momentum had slowed down.” (Financial Times)

“If there has been no implementation, there will be no financing,” Lagarde told CNBC, in describing the IMF’s lending practices.

The eurozone’s finance ministers decided to give Greece until October to fulfill its commitments.

TF1 screen shot from video. @TF1 France TVStrauss-Kahn: First Live TV Post-Release Interview on TF1 Tonight

DSK will be interviewed tonight on the news station TF1 at 8p.m. Paris time. According to France24.com, it’s expected he’ll be questioned about his political future, the future of his party and the current crisis of the euro and more.

French Socialist candidates pledge to tax rich, cut deficit

In a televised debate covered here in video by euronews, each of the six leading contenders for the Socialist party’s presidential candidacy pledged to raise taxes on the rich and continue international commitments to reduce France’s deficit if elected in next year’s election. Next month’s primary elections will focus on France’s sputtering economic recovery and the country’s high unemployment.  Proposals will be presented ranging from tougher regulation of banks to youth employment programs.

François Hollande, the current favorite to win the Socialist nomination was quoted by Reuters as saying, “I do not like outrageous wealth, I do not like indecent remunerations, I do not like selfishness.” He pledged to increase taxes on the richest French to help fund proposals such as increasing funds to be spent on education. Hollande said he would target France having a balanced budget by 2017.

Dominique de Villepin cleared of smear campaign allegations

Dominique de Villepin, the former French prime minister, has been cleared by an appeals court of involvement in a smear campaign against President Nicolas Sarkozy, his bitter political foe in the run up to the 2007 election, per The Telegraph.

The dropped charges ends a six-year legal battle in what was known as “the Clearstream Affair” because of its links to the Luxembourg-based securities clearing house.

This leaves Villepin free to challenge Mr. Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

The same article reported that after de Villepin was cleared, he said, “I’ve come out of this test even stronger than before, and even more determined to serve my fellow Frenchmen.”

UK PM David Cameron & France President Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Libya: Sarkozy and Cameron visit Tripoli

According to the Guardian U.K., President Sarkozy wants to take credit for helping to establish a workable post-Gaddafi Libya and wants France to succeed where the US failed in Iraq. The Guardian added Sarkozy hopes to rectify his public image as being impulsive and lacking diplomacy by showing he can win over others as part of an alliance of world partners.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Sarkozy went to great lengths to stress they did not go to Libya seeking lucrative construction contract and preferential terms on oil deals. But, politics are politics and both France and the U.K. took lead roles in Libya.

New Muslim mosque opens

Last Friday, more than 2,000 Muslim men went to a former barracks on boulevard Ney on the edge of Paris that was turned into a mosque to accommodate Muslims who pray in the streets of the Goutte d’Or. The French government is trying to ban the public practice by giving people places to pray. But this solution does not solve everything and most probably, some people may object. For more, see video news report by TF1 French TV.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

France News: Sarkozy Holds 9-11 Memorial, Galliano Guilty, EU Economics, Chirac Trial, Strauss-Kahn

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:48 pm -

U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin & France President Nicolas Sarkozy at Paris 9-11 Memorial. Photo: ©APSarkozy holds Paris 9-11 memorial

France President Nicolas Sarkozy commemorated 9-11 at the U.S. Embassy in Paris on Friday. The French President said, “On this day of September 11th, every French person felt hit. The barbarians chose New York as the epicenter, but it could have been Paris.”

U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin said in an interview with the Associated Press that the U.S.-French relations have improved since September 11th, 2001, and “I don’t think it could get better.”

G-7 leaders meet to discuss economy crisis

According to Business Day, finance heads and bankers from the world’s most powerful nations met in Marseille on Friday and Saturday to discuss the economic crisis. The euro zone has been dramatically affected. The optimal way to manage currencies is a critical topic. France and Germany are particularly exposed to EU loan defaults, including those of Greece, Italy, Ireland and Portugal.

G-7 Finance Ministers in Marseille. Photo: ReutersU.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner stated, “Unless the debt crisis is resolved soon and is accompanied by significant structural and fiscal reforms, Europe faces poor growth prospects.” Avoiding a recession and reassuring the financial markets are two pressing challenges according to the French publication Le Point.

France was the first country to approve measures aimed at increasing the flexibility of the euro zone rescue fund and providing Greece with a second tranche of aid.

The Financial Times reported that members of the senate, France’s upper house of parliament, gave their approval on Thursday to increase the European Financial Stability Facility’s scope.

“Countries must act now, and act boldly, to steer their economies through this dangerous new phase of the recovery,” said Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund in a quote published in Investment Week.

Reuters has reported that Germany and France have sent a letter to the European Commission pressing for a financial transfer tax.

John Galliano. Photo: ©Reuters-Gonzalo FuentesJohn Galliano guilty of racial abuse, symbolic cash damages

British fashion designer John Galliano was convicted of making “public anti-Semitic and racist remarks” in a Paris bar in February 2011 and October 2010.

Following the incidents, Dior terminated Galliano. He didn’t appear in court in Paris and was fined €6,000 and ordered to pay a symbolic €1 in damages to his victims plus pay the legal costs of five anti-racist organizations, who were represented at his trial in June. To read more, access The Independent UK.

Chirac trial will proceed without his presence in courtFormer President J. Chirac. Photo: Getty-Independent

The trial of former French President Jacques Chirac on corruption charges will proceed without Mr. Chirac having to be present, a court decided Monday, citing the poor state of Mr. Chirac’s mental health, according to the New York Times.

Mr. Chirac, who is 78 years old, has been diagnosed as suffering from anosognosia, that causes a substantial memory loss.

Anosognosia is often seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Mr. Chirac’s lawyers contend that in his case, this may be an outcome related to a 2005 stroke.

Mixed responses to Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s return to Paris

Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his wife Anne Sinclair returned to Paris to a quasi-hero’s welcome. By some that is. Many feel that Strauss-Kahn, once the Socialist Party’s best hope for winning next year’s presidential election, still has a role to play in public life. He’s considered to be a talented politician and one of the few credible economic thinkers on the French left.

As finance minister from 1997 to 1999, he paved the way for France’s adoption of the euro by cutting the budget deficit and reducing debt. He restored the IMF to relevance by building consensus on reform and helping Europe to overcome its divisions in the first Greek crisis of 2010.

On the other hand, the Financial Times reports that many feminists and others are inflamed that the former head of the IMF has not made amends.

Court orders man to pay ex-wife damages for lack of sexual relations

A judge in Nice cited French civil code article 215 when he fined a 51-year-old man nearly €10,000 for not fulfilling marital obligations with the woman who is now his ex-wife, per The Telegraph. The judge in southern France’s highest court in Aix-en-Provence ruled: “A sexual relationship between husband and wife is the expression of affection they have for each other, and in this case it was absent. By getting married, couples agree to sharing their life and this clearly implies they will have sex with each other.”

This is not all the French news to report but these are some of the highlights. Stay tuned.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

France News: Gaddafi, Libya, Hillary Clinton, Syria, DSK, Sarkozy & Carrefour

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:47 pm -

Sept. 1 meeting in Paris re: Libya's future. ©AP PhotoSixty world leaders met in Paris to discuss Libya

Sixty world leaders met in Paris last Friday on the 42nd anniversary of Moammar Gaddafi proclaiming himself de facto leader of Libya. Even though the whereabouts of the dictator aren’t precisely known, officials from Libya’s ruling interim council met with foreign officials and donor groups to discuss financing needs for the weeks and months ahead as Libya starts its rebuilding process.

The conference included the United Nations and nine other multinational organizations. The New York Times reported France President Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron convened the meeting. Both are hoping to have first rights to Libya’s oil supply.

The two men had jointly pressed for military intervention and it was their air forces that have executed many of the bombing runs that protected rebels and enabled them to seize the capital, Tripoli.

According to France24, world leaders agreed to free up billions of dollars in frozen assets to help Libya’s NTC (National Transitional Council) restore vital services.

In addition, short-term aid and longer-term loans will also be needed to help the North African state stave off a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. State Department estimates the NTC could need $500 million for humanitarian needs, $500 million for civilian fuel and power and $500 million for food and health services.

These loans would require approval from International Monetary Fund, World Bank and USAID. For this to happen, the interim government would have to receive approval from the IMF, which would require approval from its 187 members.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy took a leading role last March being the first country to recognize the NTC. Sarkozy plans to visit Libya as soon as Gaddafi is found, and according to the Guardian UK Sarkozy hopes this will elevate France’s reputation in the Arab world and his status in the public’s opinion polls.

U.S. Sec of State Hillary Clinton, Paris, Sept. 1, 2011. Photo credit: ©ReutersClinton says al-Assad must step aside in Syria

In Paris, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the world community should escalate pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by targeting Syria’s oil and gas exports and force him out of office. “The violence must stop and he needs to step aside,” Clinton told reporters in Paris after a meeting Thursday on Libya.

The United Nations cites that more than 2,200 people have been killed since the beginning of near-daily protests across the country protesting Assad’s regime since last March.

Sarkozy comes under fire

An explosive new book states that President Nicolas Sarkozy received illegal contributions for his 2007 presidential election fromLiliane BettencourtL’Oréal’s cosmetics heiress. In addition Le Monde claims the French secret service spied on the journalist by tapping his phone calls.

DSK & Anne Sinclair at NY's JFK airport on Sept. 3, 2011. Photo: ©NY TimesDominique Strauss-Kahn returns to France

Dominique Strauss-Kahn returned to Paris today after meeting with his former colleagues at the IMF last week, including its director and his replacement, Christine Lagarde. Strauss-Kahn received a standing ovation after his speech where he said that his four years at the IMF were some of the most meaningful of his career.

According to Reuters, the French Socialists are uneasy and are distancing themselves from DSK, who was a leading presidential contender before being accused of sexual assault. Stay tuned.

Carrefour SA posts losses

According to Bloomberg News, Europe’s largest retailer, Carrefour SA, posted an unexpected net loss in the first half of 2011 and abandoned its growth target for the year amid the economic slowdown.

The French retailer reported a net loss of 249 million euro ($359 million) in the first six months of the year contrasted with a 97 million euro profit in 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s news after the rentrée.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

More French Dining Etiquette for Foreign Guests in a French Home

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:46 pm -

Last week’s what to do and not to do when dining as a guest in a French home drew lots of responses. So welcome to Part Two with more tips and etiquette lessons.

It’s better for foreign travelers to know the unwritten rules and expectations of guests than to commit faux pas because you’re unaware of cultural differences coupled with subtle nuances.

My own faux pas

Before continuing, it’s only fair I confess the (OMG) crise I committed when I was younger. I knew how to use finger bowls and that you shouldn’t pick up and chug-a-lug the water complete with the thinly shaven lemon slice.

However, I had an embarrassing experience once at a very fancy dinner party when served what looked like a small cup with a lid, which I politely declined by saying I didn’t want an after-dinner coffee. The waiter explained what I’d nearly missed and I clearly lived to tell the anecdote.

Pot de creme au chocolat. Photo: L'Atelier Vi.

Yes, I did indeed want that pot de crème au chocolat, a thicker-than-thick chocolate dessert with a tiny dollop of crème fraîche.

The next day I bought a dozen of these adorable demitasse cups with covers to use at our next dinner party so we could (at least try to) appear more French than the French. That was more than 20 years ago and perhaps it’s time to bring them down from the top kitchen cabinet to show them off again.

Fork in left hand and not just to cut food

Watch a French person eat and you’ll see the fork is held in the left hand the entire time, not just when cutting food. It seems strange to the French (and most Europeans) that an American dining will switch the fork from the left to right hand. If you can feed yourself gracefully using a fork with your left hand, do; if not, don’t.

Personal French cutlery, circa 16th century ©David Jackson-WikiCommonsKeep your hands where we can see them

Why is it proper when dining in France to keep your hands visible or at least not in your lap?

French history and folklore offer two explanations: one version claims hands were kept out of laps so all would know that others seated at the table had no daggers poised to stab someone. Another version has something to do with same as touching wine glasses for fear of poisoning à la Catherine Médicis, who poisoned more than one victim with poison stashed in a ring. And there’s something about playing “footsie” under the table. I’ve also been told by French natives it has more to do with where those hands are and where they’ve been.

Some French don’t put their elbows on the table, others do; follow the lead of those you’re with.

Bread: tear, but don’t schmear

Tear a section of bread from a loaf, don’t slice it with a knife. And if butter is available (frequently not in a French home), please use your knife to spread butter on your bread, don’t swipe the bread against the butter to spread it.

Salad: give your knife a rest

If you’re served a salad, do not cut the leaves with the knife, it suggests your host did not properly prepare the salad. Use your fork (in your left hand, if you can) to fold the leaves into a small, bite-size portion. It’s an acquired talent, but do make the effort if you want to appear “correct.”

Finger food

Feel free to eat asparagus with your hands. There are numerous stories with sexual innuendos—but I won’t go there, use your imagination.

Soup rules

Soupspoons are used when there’s soup, and always tip the shallow soup bowl away from you when you’re finishing it. If you’re presented with a bowl that looks like a cup with handles, you may pick it up and drink the last remains and not be considered a boor.

Wine glorious wine

No matter how thirsty you may be, do not reach over and pour your own wine—wait for your host or  hostess or another delegate to refill your glass. It’s commonly said that the French are very good at drinking in moderation during long dinners; in other words, don’t overindulge if you’re attending a “proper” French dinner party. If you’re offered an apéritif before dinner, opt for champagne or white wine. If you drop a glass of red wine, you’ll end up on your hands and knees cleaning it up and apologizing.

Some Don’ts

Don’t ask your dinner partner what he or she does for a living. They’ll tell you sooner or later and if you’re French or understand the “social codes,” you’ll know when conversation turns to discussing the grandes écoles, the most prestigious schools in France.

Don’t ask questions about income or salary—that’s considered ruder than rude.

Don’t say you don’t like a particular food served to you. If you’re a vegetarian or have certain dietary restrictions, notify your host before the dinner and offer to bow out if accommodating your needs is awkward for the hostess. For example, a rack of lamb might be the star on the table and others at the table might be uncomfortable if you don’t eat. If you find an unappealing item before you, don’t say a word, eat other items, push the unwanted food around your plate and pretend you’re full.

Don’t ask for a tour of the apartment. The French consider that an invasion of their personal space and whatever you do, never ask the cost of an apartment or home.

Don’t serve cheese before dinner, should you ever entertain French guests. Cheese is served after the main course with or without salad.

Dress code

Even if your host tells you to dress casually for an informal dinner in a French person’s home, don’t take them at their word and don’t arrive wearing anything less than you’d wear to a cocktail party unless you’re dining at a country home.

Safe dinner discussion topics

You’ll never go wrong asking your hosts and their guests about recent vacations, their next vacation and what they’re currently reading. Those subjects are safe.

Last words of advice

Take the hint about when it’s time to leave and do make a polite exit. If a tray of water and juice is passed, that’s a signal that it’s been a lovely evening.

I hope this demystifies the codes and practices at a French dinner party. And if you live in France, you need to know the rules so you may break them.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Etiquette for Foreign Guests Dining in a French Home

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:45 pm -

Kir royales. Photo: ©Drunkenmonkey

You’ve been invited to the home of a friend or colleague for dinner and are wondering what’s correct and what’s not when being entertained by the French. After all, cultural differences run deep and dark and you want to be prepared.

If you’ve read books by experts that detail etiquette Do’s and Don’ts, some said you shouldn’t ask to be excused from the table, even to go to the powder room. And at the end of the dinner, men and women were expected to go to different salons. Excellent advice . . . way back when.

You don’t want to insult your hosts, but it’s a new world. Nobody will mind if you excuse yourself once during a three-hour meal to go to the WC, but never for a phone call, that’s rude unless you have a sick child or it’s a true emergency and work doesn’t qualify. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a dinner where men and women separated after dinner. They may choose to, but that’s a whole different story.

Here are some contemporary dining practices to guide a foreign guest.

The 15-minute rule

The 15-minute rule appears to be the law of the day. Many French dependent upon public transportation and parking hassles typically ran late. If you showed up at the appointed hour, chances were fair you’d end up in the sitting room waiting for your host to appear. That’s no longer the case, perhaps because fewer people have help or dinners catered. If you’re much later than 15 minutes, you’ll probably score a dirty look or two. If you’re running substantially later, call to inform your host of your dilemma and ask them to start without you. They rarely will, especially because they expect to spend time over drinks and nibbles before sitting down at the dinner table.

Remember to request the host’s entry codes

French apartment

Remember to request the door code, apartment number and phone number. When you receive the address, you’ll undoubtedly be given a code to the front door if invited to a central Paris address. Then there may be directions to go to a specific building or to proceed through the courtyard. There may be another code and, if you’re instructed to ring a buzzer, it’s not unheard of that the name on it isn’t the one you expected. Don’t assume you’re going to wing it. Unless it’s a big party you may be left out in the cold (or the hot). Be sure to have your host’s phone number.

These instructions are important because you don’t want to make an entrance looking as if you’ve been lost. If you have a portable (cell phone), you can call. Calling for directions may not appear as sophisticated as you’d like; but on the other hand, some buildings can be mazes and you don’t want to stand outside yelling a person’s name. It’s not comme il faut—and your hosts probably won’t hear you anyway.

The emphasis in on dinner, not grazing on appetizers

Don’t expect lots of appetizers and a full bar. Some Americans are surprised about the lack of nibbles before dinner. Some nuts, olives and uninteresting looking pretzels don’t signify you’re not welcome the French simply don’t like guests to ruin their appetites pre-dinner. It’s an insult to say the French are cheap.

The same holds true for beverages. Frequently, there’s a tray of flutes waiting to be filled with Champagne to begin the evening. There may be a bottle of Port, Whiskey and orange juice. Dinner is the main event, and a full bar or cocktail service is rare.

Dinner usually consists of a first course (une entrée), the main course (le plat principal), cheese and/or salad, and then dessert. Bread is served throughout the meal and, if it’s a formal dinner, it’s placed on your napkin or directly on the tablecloth.

For those of us accustomed to bread plates, this may feel informal, but it’s proof the linens will be washed and starched before they’re used again.

A few words about wine

Understand food-wine pairings. Wine glorious wine. More than likely red and a white wine will be offered. The larger glass is for the red so the wine can breathe and the smaller glass is for the white.

If you choose not to drink for whatever reason, don’t. And, you don’t need to make excuses. If water isn’t served, request it. Period, the end. Do not turn your glass upside down, it’s considered rude.

Host gift suggestions

Photo courtesy of Hédiard.The same books that advise not to excuse yourself to go to the WC also say you shouldn’t bring wine as a gift because it implies you think the host’s wine cellar is inadequate. Unless a member of the Rothschild family has invited you to dinner, go for it. Don’t take “plonk,” but a fine wine or Champagne is always appreciated. Make sure you say it’s to be used later because the wines for that night’s dinner have already been chosen.

You may present your host a flowering plant, but do not bring cut flowers because they require more work for your host (arranging, not to mention to finding a vase), and who needs something else to juggle while entertaining? The same books advise sending flowers the day after the party, but who needs flowers if the home has more than its fair supply?

Chocolates, scented candles, a book about something you feel would interest your host, foie gras, special soaps for the guest bath or something memorable from your travels. You have more options if there are children or pets.

If you’re feeling uninspired, head to the gourmet section at the Bon Marché, Hédiard or Fauchon. It’s simply impossible that you won’t find the perfect gift. French clerks are geniuses when it comes to wrapping packages and the tiniest gift can be made to look magnificent. Don’t expect to see your gift unwrapped that evening, so be certain to include a card saying whom it’s from.

These are just a few tips. It’s always important to be polite and especially nice to be invited again.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Choosing a Short-Term Paris Apartment Rental

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:43 pm -

Paris hotels are great for short visits and reserving a room through the BonjourParis hotel booking site makes sense for short stays. But if you’re staying for a week or more, an apartment in Paris is wonderful for so many reasons. You can make the city your own, explore the neighborhood, feel a wee bit like a native and hey, what’s wrong with saving some money by not having to eat every meal out?

When you rent an apartment, you’re signing up and on to undertake some work, which is fine if you’re prepared. Depending on whether or not you’re renting from an agency or from an individual may alter what you’ll be confronted with when you arrive at your temporary home. Make certain you know what to expect before leaving home. Even then, there may be surprises.

Choosing which apartment to rent

Some agencies (not all) are wonderful and you have a pretty good idea about what you’ll find when you open the door. They want you to tell your friends and be a repeat visitor.

If you’re renting from an individual (often through HomeAway.com or VRBO), how your request is processed will give you an indication as to whether or not the landlord (or his representative) is responsive and responsible. If the site shows comments from past guests, read them carefully with the understanding some may have been planted by friends or even by the owner.

Photos: Two rental apartments that advertise their “Eiffel Tower views”

Check the location and the advertised view

Ask for the precise address before signing on the dotted line. Use Google Earth to see precisely where the building is located and what’s located near it. If someone says the apartment is located in the St. Germain-des-Prés area, well, it’s amazing how many people stretch boundaries.

Ask to see photographs of any advertised prime views that raise the real estate value.

Ask as many questions as you want (which doesn’t mean non-stop emails). Compile a list of regarding what’s included and what’s not. People who rent their apartments seriously have a manual that anticipates the majority of your questions.

Ask them to email a copy before your arrival date so you aren’t thumbing through it in a jet-lagged state upon arrival.

Timing

Some apartments are rented from Saturday to Saturday. That makes it easier for agencies and some individuals to do “changeovers.” Tenants are generally required to vacate the premises by 10 a.m. and (hopefully) the maid comes in to clean, change the sheets and put everything in comme il faut condition. The new tenants (you) generally can take occupancy around 3 p.m.

If that’s the case and you’re arriving early that morning, how are you going to pass the time? You may be the type who gets off an overnight flight and are ready to go. Then it’s simply a question of arranging in advance with your landlord where you may leave the luggage while your apartment is being cleaned. Let’s hope there’s space; if not, you’ll need to be creative.

If you’re traveling with children or people who don’t easily travel, or if you want to rest before starting out at full gallop, you can wait out the day with a short stay at any of the many airport hotels available in every price range. You wouldn’t want to spend your entire vacation there, but they’re more than fine for a few hours. Nap for a few hours and have something to eat before you head into Paris.

Some opt to spend the morning luxuriating in a spa. If you’re a first-time visitor to Paris, consider a city tour for an overview and it isn’t the end of the world if you take a tiny snooze.

If you’re traveling with children or need to hit the sack (or get unpacked upon your arrival), it can make sense to rent the apartment starting the day before you arrive but be clear in arranging that the landlord’s rep meet and greet you on your actual day of arrival.

The apartment is yours

Know what’s included and what’s not. Many agencies (and individuals) leave only a few bare necessities, like a few rolls of toilet paper, soap, water, juice and perhaps a bottle of wine to say welcome.

If it’s an inexpensive apartment rented by an individual to generate a little income, you may find next to nothing and will have to hit the grocery store sooner rather than later. Make sure you’ve scoped out where the nearest one is located. Seriously, I once rented a house in Provence and its owners only left salt and pepper and some toilet paper. They locked everything up as if I might not replace the olive oil.

Friends of mine who frequently rent apartments have their own system. They order groceries online and have them arrive as they’re getting settled in. Yes, Paris is a city where you want to shop and choose the produce. But if you’re coming for a couple of weeks with a family, you don’t need to inspect such things as laundry detergent, bottled water, paper goods, canned goods and such staples.

If your apartment has no elevator, and many wonderful buildings don’t, you’ll be delighted to welcome the deliveryman and please tip him a couple of euros. Make sure you have the building code and precise instructions, including the telephone number in the apartment, so the groceries can be delivered.

Oh, no:  The apartment isn’t what I expected!

Yes, this happens. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to grin and bear it or move into a hotel. Often you have very little recourse.

When selecting an apartment, be sure you take into account the square meters. Some 30 square-meter rental ads say the unit accommodates four people. Yes, it may if you’re looking for a place to simply plunk your heads or are crashing with young children or close friends. Thirty meters translates into 330 square feet and it’s not a lot of space if you’re big on privacy. The second bed is probably a futon and don’t be surprised if the kitchen and shower room are tiny: they will be.

Wait, there are no sheets

Be sure to immediately document problems with photographs of things like beds without sheets or damaged furniture. If you have email access, send an email to the landlord or call and keep a copy of the photo on your camera. There are occasions when the housekeeper hasn’t done a complete inspection. You don’t want to be blamed or charged for something that’s not your fault.

I am painting a worst-case scenario, but this is both a buyer (and seller) beware situation. You’re going to need sheets, so if your landlord doesn’t respond within a couple of hours, go to the nearest grocery or department store and buy the least expensive ones you can find unless you love them so much that you want to take them home.

Does it sound as if I’m opposed to renting apartments?

If it does, I’m sorry. Apartment rentals are the way to go if you’re someone who’s so inclined. There are people who should never stay in anything other than hotels; you know who you are. And hotels are no guarantee of perfection and don’t count on scoring the best room.

You simply need to do your homework (whether renting an apartment in Paris or anyplace) and keep in mind that a wide-angle lens can do wonders to make tiny spaces look as if they’re mansions.

If you have additional tips, please add them below.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

9-11 Ten Years Later: Paris, Provence, Loss, Sadness and Joy

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:42 pm -

Ever since September 11, 2001, most people can’t have that day come and go without remembering the devastating destruction and loss that occurred. Three thousand people lost their lives; and we lost some of our freedom. For many, it was the end of an age of innocence. It’s one of the defining acts in recent history that has impacted travel and so much more. As much as we’d like, the world will never be the same.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I was sitting at my desk in Paris in the afternoon, writing away. Because of the six-hour time difference, it was morning on the East Coast of the U.S. My son would usually sign on his computer and thank goodness for AOL instant Messenger (AIM). Even though we were on different continents, I had the feeling of being able to “talk” to him if necessary. As soon as he signed on, he started typing as if in a whirlwind. Where was I? What was I doing? He told me to turn on the television so I could see what was happening.

I ran into the living room just in time to see the second tower crumbling down. This couldn’t be real. Clearly, this was a bad movie and couldn’t be real.

Please remember these were the days before most of us had high-speed Internet, much less Wi-Fi. I grabbed my laptop and moved into the living room, plugged in the rinky-dink modem and, amazingly enough, was able to snag an AOL dial-up connection.

Sitting on the sofa in total disbelief, I IMed with my son and a couple of other people on my Buddy List. Who could possibly believe what we were seeing on CNN and why was this happening? The horror and the terror were not to be believed. It would be a while before we knew the whys.

I was unable to reach my mother who lived less than two miles from the Pentagon. All of the phone lines were jammed and there was no way I could make a call from Paris to Washington, DC. The irony was my mother thought I should move home (meaning where she was) because of some mini-bombs that had recently been detonated on the Champs-Élysées.

A Buddy List friend, who lived in the area, finally contacted her only to find out she’d been sleeping. My son had gone home to his wife so he was off-line.

People frequently want to know what it feels like to be an expat. In this case, I wanted to be with family. But would that have changed anything? In essence, we were all impotent and could do nothing but wait and hope the nightmare would abate and we’d wake up and realize it had been a bad dream and shake the dust out of our eyes.

Phyllis Flick, who’d just moved to Paris to study, had rented a room down the street and didn’t have access to CNN. Even though we’d never met except through BonjourParis, she asked if she could come up to the apartment so she could see English-language television. That was fine with me. I was pleased to have the company and I think she camped on the sofa in front of the television. To be honest, the entire time was a blur.

How well I remember my neighbors knocking on my door and asking if there was anything they could do for me. We really didn’t know one another, but they knew that I was l’américaine and at times such as this, even the French don’t stand on formality.

The memory of my downstairs neighbor who worked for Microsoft will be indelibly etched in my mind. Michel appeared and insisted I come downstairs for dinner and their door was always open in the event I wanted coffee, company or a cigarette. Yes, it was politically and socially correct to smoke in La Belle France then.

I needed to get out of the apartment and just walk and try to digest the devastation of what had happened. Each time I passed a store, a cafe, a bar or any of my usual haunts, people came out and asked if they could help. Would I like a coffee, a drink, something to eat or some company? The adage that the French are aloof was shot to hell that day and for a long time to come. When world-changing crises such as this occur, we find solace from others.

My husband Victor had left for Provence a couple of days before. He so loved that house in the vines, and I was planning to join him a couple of days later. Since his U.S. office was headquartered next to the World Trade Center, he was concerned about many of his colleagues and friends. What a terrible time when he heard that one of the offices where he’d worked was no longer standing. So much sadness.

When I started writing this, I realized Victor died on September 12th, so it’s even more poignant. I came across this article in the archives of BonjourParis and thought it would be appropriate to republish.

To the many people in all of our lives who’ve been lost for myriad reasons, let’s raise a glass to them. To those who are our friends and part of our families, let’s do everything possible to nurture and cherish them.

Please know I consider BonjourParis readers family. You may come and go, but we’re a community and so many thanks to each and every one of you for being there.

September 11, 2011

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Around the World, Paris |

Two Days in Paris: 10 Must-See Famous Sites

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:39 pm -

You’re coming to Paris but have only two days to see the city. Or worse yet, you’re here for meetings and are cloistered in a conference room that could be anywhere.

What are some of the must-sees that will give you a quick overview? Here are some suggestions that (hopefully) will entice you to book a return ticket to the city so many people love.

Check into your hotel. Your room probably won’t be ready before 3:00pm unless you’re lucky and it’s low season. If you need to sleep immediately, reserve the room for the day before. Bite the bullet and pay the extra euros if you have to be fresh for meetings, especially if you’re coming from the U.S. and didn’t cross the Atlantic in the front of the plane.

If you’re in Paris for pleasure, climb aboard an Open Bus that makes a circular tour of Paris. Yes, you can get on and off to explore what appeals to you. Or, you can stay on and see it all. There are up to 50 central Paris stops along scenic avenues and glorious monuments. Buses also move through the Montmartre, Montparnasse and Bastille areas. Put on the headphones and listen to descriptions of what you’re seeing in the language of your choice.

1 – Take the Métro to the main Galeries Lafayette department store near Opéra Garnier in the Paris 8th. Leave your shopping until later and head to the rooftop café for a panoramic view of the city, including the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and more as you revolve. While there, you can’t help but view the store’s Belle Époque architecture. It’s really something and there’s no charge for admission.

approaching Notre Dame. Photo by Serge Melki.2 – You can’t come to Paris without seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral. Admission is free unless you want to visit the bell tower. Expect to encounter a crowd and if you want to attend Sunday Mass, arrive early.

3 - Walk east along Quai de la Mégisserie, the street that parallels the Seine, past pet shops and plant stores. After one block, cross to the opposite side of the street and continue east, browse the bouquinistes (bookstalls) and “feel” Paris.

Cross the Pont Notre-Dame, the third bridge from the western tip of the island, to Île de la Cité and explore that tiny section of Paris. It’s charming and the oldest buildings in Paris were constructed here.

4 - Walk through the flower market. It’s the oldest in Paris and you’re right smack in front of the Palais de Justice and a second away from Sainte Chapelle, a tribute to gothic architecture. You’ll need to pay if you want to tour the cathedral but if you have time, its concerts are more than worth the price of admission.

5 - Take a one-hour cruise along the Seine. There are numerous companies offering them and there’s a reason. Going under all of the bridges and seeing the city’s architecture from that vantage point is more than breathtaking. Even if you’re in Paris for a brief period of time, it probably makes financial sense to buy a Paris Sightseeing Pass.

Map courtesy of ©Musee du Louvre

6 - If you plan to visit the Musée du Louvre, take the Métro to Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre. Either enter the museum from underground—directly from the Métro station—or enter from above ground at Portes des Lions or by the stairs by the Arc de Triomphe du Carousel. Whatever you do, avoid the Pyramide entrance where there is always a line of those who do not know there are many entrances without lines. The Louvre is open 9am-6pm Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (closed Tuesdays). Want to avoid waiting on queue? Go after 5pm on Wednesday or Friday when the museum is open until 9:45pm. Lunch possibility: Café Marly that’s located in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre. Dine indoors or on the terrace. The restaurant is considered chic, has good food and comme il faut service.

Walk from Louvre to Tuileries to Place de la Concorde. Photo: theworldeffect.com7 – Be sure to leave time to stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries. You can sit in the naturally reclining chairs situated around the pond at the far end of the garden. Climb the stairs to Place de la Concorde; turn north and window-shop your way past famous designers, jewelers, and silversmiths to Place de la Madeleine, where you can visit Fauchon or Hédiard, the world’s most famous upscale grocers.

8 - The Musée d’Orsay is one of my favorite Paris museums. A former train station, it now houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist art. If you need a break from viewing the eye candy, its cafeteria is more than fine and has a stellar rooftop view that looks across the Seine to Sacré Coeur.

9 -  As many times as I’ve been to the Luxembourg Garden, there’s no such thing as too many. It’s located on the Left Bank and for my money, the Saint Germain-des-Prés and the Saint Sulpice neighborhoods are two areas that shouldn’t be missed.  Not only is the architecture sublime, but if you like to shop, some of Paris’s most wonderful boutiques are located in this area. If you don’t want to spend money, wear blinders.  It’s the only way you won’t find something you’ll want to take home as a reminder of your too fast trip.

10 -  The Eiffel Tower: How can you come to Paris and not see it? But, if you have a limited time and are going for the view rather than the experience of going to the summit, head to The Museum of Architecture at the Trocadéro Métro stop. If you don’t have time to tour the museum, head to the cafeteria and buy something to eat or drink and grab a chair on the terrace. From there, you’ll be able to see the Eiffel Tower and so much more and it’s a way to beat the crowds.

The above sights are really the tip of the iceberg. It can take years to see the myriad treasures Paris has to offer.

© Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com

PHOTO CREDITS:

Notre Dame ©Serge Melki

Louvre map courtesy of Musée du Louvre

Walk from Louvre to Tuileries to Place de la Concorde courtesy of ©theworldeffect.com


Posted in Paris |

Seeing Paris Through Children’s Eyes

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:38 pm -

As is always the case, returning to Paris-Orly International Airport always provokes some culture shock and makes me aware the world isn’t flat; people are so very different. Clearing Customs invariably includes a glimpse into a fascinating, exotic and truly foreign microcosm containing people from all around the world.

Simply passing through a European international airport such as Orly or Paris-Charles de Gaulle, one can’t help but notice the differences in the way people look and behave. Such observations and interactions are among my favorite parts of international travel that come to mind as I write with news that my two granddaughters and their parents have arrived in Paris.

I’m delighted my grandchildren started world travel while young; it’s a privilege I recognize, support and encourage. During my many years of publishing BonjourParis.com, I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every comment left by an adult whose eyes were opened after discovering a whole new world upon traveling to Paris, which is hardly a “foreign” culture as seen by most vacation and business travelers who lack the time to fully immerse in any of the foreign communities represented in Paris. Many comments also include regrets about not traveling when they were younger or not learning a foreign language when they were children. The beauty of life, of course, is that it’s never too late to learn.

candy stand at Mt. Ventoux summitMy older “baby,” now eight, has been here before, but not for a very long time. Her last trips were spent mainly in Provence where she could run, go swimming and work in the vegetable garden.

And, oh yes, take a drive up Mt Ventoux, where candy trucks awaited her and anyone who wanted and needed a sugar fix. As we were neither biking nor hiking, we couldn’t rationalize the purchases of tiny, overpriced bags of candy for an energy boost, but I guess we must have bought some: those candies are indelibly etched into her mind.

This is my youngest granddaughter’s first trip to France. She’s just five. We’re staying in Paris with a couple of day trips factored into the schedule. We have an excursion scheduled to Versailles with a guide from Context Travel. But we’re pretty much going to play things by ear, since my family is the laid-back type, and don’t feel as if they need to be tourists on the go. This is family time.

Both girls said, “Gran, you live here,” which I interpret to mean that they are ready to shuttle back and forth across the Atlantic whenever they feel like it. And yes, that would be just fine with me.

petit dejeunerThey’ve been reading children’s books about Paris and already have formulated a must-see list. But the first thing they wanted to do was to have breakfast at a café because “we’re in Paris.” Even though breakfasts tend to be rip-offs (compared to going to the boulangerie for bread and croissants), who can say no to two children who’d just gotten off a transatlantic flight? Off we went to Café Vavin where I received a wave from the owner, who might have wondered what I was doing there so early in the morning. After pointing to my family, Jacques understood.

We meandered to the Luxembourg Garden, which took longer than it should have, because the children are little, were tired (as were their parents) and girls will be girls, they were busy window shopping. Which reminds me of something that I tend to forget. Children tend to be shorter than grownups. They don’t walk as fast because their legs are shorter, but they also are constantly looking up at things that we look at straight across or down to. This changes their perspective and, I’m convinced, adds a level of awe or amazement. Everything looks so… big, grand and wonderful. Of course they love Paris. They’re more than aware the architecture is dramatically different from what they see each day when they’re in D.C.

Luxembourg Gardens playground

The older girl said, “Paris feels more exciting,” and—music to my ears—asked her parents why they couldn’t all live here? I felt as if I’d done something right, and since they both qualify for U.K. passports (their mother was born in London), my mind did a fast-forward and perhaps it would make sense for them to apply to the École active Bilangue.

Recent studies have shown that people who grow up speaking or acquiring more than one language may delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. People who take assignments overseas tend to climb the job ladder higher and more quickly. This is especially true for females. This seems to be a wonderful argument to use on my son and daughter-in law, if you ask me.

And there’s always the multicultural argument, which is less personal and much more politically correct. As soon as I arrived in Orly on OpenSkies Airline, returning from my most recent trip to Washington, it was starkly apparent I was in a different world. It encompasses people who look different, wear non-Western clothes, clearly possess different religious beliefs and even smell different. How I’d love for the girls to benefit from such diversity, where you can be in various countries simply by exiting a different Paris Métro stop.

This is getting heavy. Perhaps I should awaken my family before I’ve called the movers. They’ve had their nap—and it’s time to get up and go. Since it’s so lovely, perhaps we’ll take the Métro to the Seine and go to the beach. We have so much to do and to see including placing locks on one of the two bridges in Paris that express love.

What’s better than having my son, daughter-in-law and my grandchildren share the city about which I feel so passionate?

Please do share below if you have a story about seeing Paris through the eyes of children.

© Paris New Media, LLC


Posted in Paris |

Paris in August, When Livin’ is Easy

Written by admin on October 24, 2011 – 12:38 pm -

The truth about August in Paris finally dawned on me this year. The city isn’t dead—it isn’t now and it never really was. It simply operates at a different pace and requires a little more patience to work around small neighborhood businesses that close for two weeks or more in August. It’s more akin to what Sundays used to be like in the U.S. Remember the “day of rest” before most places stayed open seven days a week? After all, more women are working now and Americans (bless them) are profit-and-loss oriented. And “blue laws” be damned—if people want to go shopping instead of to church, that’s their business. Furthermore, U.S. stores that keep their doors open round-the-clock require additional employees, and that’s good for the economy. Yes?

Picard dessert      Publicity photo courtesy Picard

It wouldn’t occur to me to go grocery shopping after about 11pm in France. I was ecstatic when the grocery store down the street from my Paris apartment extended its hours until 9 p.m., but never on Sundays. Vive la grandeur française!

When it comes to day-to-day living in Paris in August, whether you’re a resident or visitor, you simply need to make some compromises. Be prepared to walk a few extra blocks for your daily bread, but it’s not the end of the world. And okay, your favorite family-owned restaurant and some world-class Michelin-starred places might be closed tight, so use it as an excuse to try others. If things are really tough and you need a gorgeous dessert, not to fret. You can always buy one at Picard. If you can’t get to one of their many Paris stores, they’ll deliver.

Summer at Luxembourg Gardens     Photo credit: Patrice LanoyAll Paris parks are open and it’s a delight to see how people use them to their maximum. Playgrounds are full, and there are so many free events as a bonus. You can actually drive in the city and there isn’t the constant noise from cars and scooters racing from here to there. You can even rent and ride a Vélib’ without having heart failure dealing with priority to the right law that doesn’t make sense to some, but which is responsible for more accidents than you can count.

Quality of life in France is a frequent topic of conversation, especially since there are times when it’s hard to accomplish anything more than die on national holidays like May 1st (French version of Labor Day) when everything comes to a halt. People moan and groan about the French taking so much vacation. Actually, French workers today earn about 6 weeks of vacation per year and most of the younger ones parse it out with long weekends throughout the year instead of taking the entire month off as was done back in the day.

According to Paul Krugman of The New York Times, “A French worker produces about 99 percent of what an American worker produces in one hour.” That’s not too shabby.

I’ve been a French resident for more than 20 years, so it’s not surprising I’ve adopted some of the same je m’en fiche attitudes. It wasn’t an easy adjustment since I definitely qualify as a Type-A personality and have been known to complain loudly when I can’t pass go. For example, why do French security alarm companies appear to be closed during August? This causes me wonder whether or not someone would actually appear if there were a robbery.

French pharmacy signIn Paris (for that matter, all of France) there are on-call emergency medical services of all types available each and every day. You pay a premium, but who cares when there’s a crisis.

The pharmacy I generally use is closed, but the one on the next block isn’t. Paris has several pharmacies required to be on-call or open very late or even 24 hours a day. Here’s a list of Pharmacies de Garde, should you have an emergency medication need when in Paris.

Some doctors do stay open and many professionals take two or three weeks off rather than the entire month. My internist is seeing patients all month and said she expected August to be quiet. Judging by the number of people in her waiting room, it’s anything but and Nancy admitted even she was surprised how busy she’s been with regulars. She’s still planning on taking a couple of long weekends, but other than that, she’ll take a two-week vacation in September.

Paris Plages 2011.   Photo courtesy: Mairie de ParisPeople in Paris appear more relaxed and it’s a mellow time of the year. If you crave crowds and action, head to the Eiffel Tower and you’ll find it. Don’t think for a second that everyone there is a tourist. There are plenty of locals as well who don’t feel like competing for space on the beach other than a space at the Paris Plages.

Weather wise, Paris has been a joy, unlike much of the U.S. where’s it’s been so hot you don’t want to leave anyplace that isn’t air-conditioned. People have worn sweaters this year in Paris—and yes, there’s been some rain but usually at night.

Jonathan Eaves, who lives here, said, “Paris at anytime is a wonderful place, and yes, August is quieter and a small challenge for business, but not impossible.”

An “urban myth” has, over the years, developed about Paris being completely closed in August. Simply adjust your pace, and move at the pace of Paris in August! That’s first-rate advice from this local.

© Paris New Media, LLC

Karen@BonjourParis.com

PHOTO CREDITS:

Picard dessert image courtesy of Picard

Ice cream in Luxembourg Gardens photo ©Patrice Lanoy


Posted in Paris |
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