Just Above Sunset
July 3, 2005 - Is France Burning?

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Our Man in Paris is Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis. His weekly columns appear here and often in a slightly different version the next day on his site from Paris, with photographs.

PARIS, Friday, July 1, 2005 - The annual multi-day summer holiday departure begins for Parisians today and they have been flooding airports and train stations in massive droves with their towels, snorkels, iPods and digital cameras as if there is never a ray of blessed sunshine in this city fatigued by ten months of massive traffic jams, huge demonstrations and transit strikes.


Train spokesmen said they expected to ship out 1.2 million Parisians between now and Sunday, without the slightest hitch.  In order to smooth the way all unions were on the job, as a favor for the several thousand train workers going on holidays.


No traffic jams were reported for the major autoroutes leading out of the city.  However TV-news reported that police in the sky were watching traffic patterns carefully and radio-controlled cops on the ground were handing out violation tickets with gay elan.  Real cops were assisted by robot radars to detect speeders, and real cops lurked near tollbooths on the lookout for overweight holiday vehicles, often driven by workers and families returning to the Atlas in Morocco.


In the case of the runaway Renault that took a hapless driver on a wild ride at 195 kilometres per hour for 200 kilometres before he could get it stopped, a court decided today that it agreed with Renault that there was nothing wrong with the car.  The auto manufacturer insisted that the driver did something wrong.  The driver, who had already driven the car 30,000 kilometres, continues to think the car tried to kill him.  Other similar cases have not been heard by the courts yet.


Bike fans will get their thrill of the year when this year's Tour de France starts tomorrow.  This race, which lasts three weeks and wanders all around and up and down France, features Texan Lance Armstrong as an odds-on favorite to win, for the seventh time, which will be a record.  The racer said before the start that he wasn't in it for the record, but for the last time.


On Thursday 30 big trucks were parked outside the Louvre, signaling the beginning of filming of the best-selling fiction by Dan Brown, the Da Vinci Code.  The museum remains open with most of the filming being done at night, but the other location will be outside the Saint-Sulpice church because the Vatican doesn't like the book.


For the eighth year in a row TV-news reported that the number one holiday sport of the French is walking around.  This is a sport that can be done by all ages and both sexes during the morning, afternoon or night, at the seaside, on farms or in the mountains, all within France or on Corsica.  TV-news showed elaborate gear for doing this, but neglected to mention that it could be done without leaving town and with no gear at all.


Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been annoying residents of a Paris suburb by sending in 200 heavily armed black-clad police to 'clean up the place.'  The cops found nothing and no arrests were made.  Next he said magistrates in another case should be 'made to pay' for letting 15 gang defendants go - released because of a legally-tainted investigation.  Two hundred magistrates and attorneys held a protest demonstration in front of Paris' Palais de Justice yesterday.


On the domestic front Thursday's Le Parisien wondered if Cécilia Sarkozy would be rejoining her husband after returning from taking two of her sons to Disneyland in Florida.  According to Swiss papers the famous couple have not been getting on well, but this has only recently been noticed by papers in Paris.  Madame Sarkozy was her husband's right-hand man during his first stint at Interior and later at the Ministry of Finance.  She has been quoted as saying that she does not wish to be a 'first lady,' a reference to Monsieur Sarkozy's desire to become president of France in 2007.


Meanwhile, as Parisians set off for a summer of sand, sex and fun, the annual July 1st price hikes have been announced.  National heath insurance reforms come into effect, rising medical bills.  The state gas monopoly is also upping its rates, in anticipation of selling itself.  Train and transit fares also rise today as anticipated.  On the other side of the coin, some forms of social benefits go up slightly, as does the minimum wage and there's a half-point raise for civil servants.  Protests are expected in September when everybody gets back.


As usual at this time of year forest fires have broken out and armies of firemen and waterbombers are tirelessly attacking the wind-driven blazes, while gendarmes search for the usual firebugs.  Some homeowners have pitched in too with garden hoses, trying to save their houses while many women and children were evacuated to safety.


The good weather news is for holiday makers rather than Parisians who are staying behind, even though the summer sales continue to offer deep discounts.  This weekend is expected to be cool and partly cloudy in the city while the sun blazes through azure skies over the Riviera, driving the temperatures up to 84-90 degrees for the joy of all who can afford to be there.


Copyright © 2005 – Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis




As Ric was saying - the AFP story here –



Thursday, 30 June 2005 11:00:00 GMT


PARIS, June 30 (AFP) - Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast and crew of the upcoming movie "The Da Vinci Code" have started filming in Paris and are to take over the Louvre museum - a key location - late Thursday, the producers said.


The 100-million-dollar (80-million-euro) film version of the US novel penned by Dan Brown is due out in May next year.


It stars Hanks as its professorial hero Robert Langdon, who has to decipher a number of clues linked to historic works, including Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" painting, to crack a centuries-old secret protected by a mysterious and deadly sect.


French actors Audrey Tautou of "Amelie" fame and Jean Reno ("The Professional", "Godzilla") also feature in the movie, which is directed by Ron Howard, the onetime TV actor who made "Cocoon", the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind" and the upcoming "Cinderella Man".


The Columbia-Sony studio behind the production has refused French media access to the locations. Several books in France and in the United States have highlighted inconsistencies and challenged the author's claim that every description in his book was based on fact.


Filming began late Wednesday at the Ritz hotel in central Paris, according to Le Parisien newspaper.


It was to continue all night Thursday at the nearby famous Louvre, where the "Mona Lisa" is kept, for the novel's opening scene in which the museum's fatally wounded director leaves a cryptic message for Langdon. …


And so on….


Regarding France burning, see FIRES BLAZE IN SOUTH OF FRANCE AND CORSICA - 1 July 2005 16:51:00 GMT


Regarding Cécilia Sarkozy and her husband, see As Nicolas Sarkozy continues to court the French public, Jon Henley finds the popular politician's real marriage ailing… - The Guardian (UK), Friday July 1, 2005


Regarding Ric's column last week on the annual Fête de la Musique -  "Blame all of this on Jack Lang, France's onetime minister of culture" – note Lang has new ambitions, beyond sponsoring odd music - FORMER MINISTER THROWS HAT IN RING FOR 2007 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION - Friday, 1 July 2005 09:21:00 GMT.  Nicolas Sarkozy has competition.


The official site of Le Tour de France is here.  Note you can select from four different languages (including English) and there are nine video feeds.


Saturday, July 2, 2005 – from small tour on Saturday night, from Hôtel de Ville to Quartier Latin, and back up St Michel all the way to Denfert.  France may be burning but Paris is a lot quieter since this morning.



Copyright © 2005 – Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

The Seine, sunset, 2 July 2005

Paris Café 2 July 2005

The wall of photos at the Jardin du Luxembourg
The wall of photos at the Jardin du Luxembourg

Greek dive at  Severin

Crowd at Huchette


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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