*** Secrets of Paris Newsletter #24: April 28, 2002 ***

IN THIS ISSUE:

* From the Home Office
* Home Delivery Bio Products
* Touching Photo Exposition
* Come Visit Me!
* Calling all Schumacher Wannabes
* Whose Flame Is It?
* Fête du Travail
* French TV Chez Vous
* Paris for the Young'uns

* From the Home Office *
Is France racist? Hmmm…the question has been popping up all over the press ever since the unthinkable happened last week when right wing extremist Le Pen beat out the current Prime Minister Jospin for one of the coveted spaces on next week's presidential election ballot (May 5th). The other candidate, incumbent President Chirac, will most likely win, but to make it to the final position, Le Pen had to beat out 17 other candidates. It was going to be a pretty ho-hum election up until now. For you Americans out there, it would be a bit like Rush Limbaugh winning the Republican Primaries (and before you go and say "You can't compare Le Pen to Limbaugh!", yes I can, and Al Franken will back me up). So back to the question: are the French racist? These election results don't answer that question, though. The only thing this election proves, no matter who wins in the end, is that the French are fed up with two things: the status quo in government and living in fear. Crime is up, up, up, and it's one of Le Pen's biggest platforms (unfortunately, he blames all crime on the immigrants and wants to export 'em all). Hopefully, when Chirac wins, he'll deal with the crime issue instead of writing it off as right wing paranoia. I love France, that's why I live here, but for the moment, it tends to feel a bit too much like NY City in the pre-Giuliani days. So please, don't think you're not welcome in France if you're not French (or French-looking). But keep an eye on your wallet. -H

* Home Delivery Bio Products *
If you never seem to have enough time to get down to the nearest Bio marché for all of your gluten-free pasta and organic veggies (or maybe you just can't bear carrying ten cartons of soy milk up six flights of stairs), check out this groovy website that lets you order in the comfort of your own pyjamas and delivered straight to your door. They've got a pretty good selection, everything from vitamins and all-natural cleaning supplies to baby products and all of your bio food needs. They deliver anywhere in Paris and some suburbs (the 55€ minimum shouldn't be too hard to attain). If you're just visiting town, they've even got a section which lists the many bio restaurants and markets in Paris. So what if the name sounds like some sort of organic fertilizer…(in French only):
http://www.biodoo.com/

* Touching Photo Exposition *
What does the American Dream mean to you? It's become such a cliché over the years, a phrase that hardly means anything anymore in this media-abused world. But it once was everything. America was built on that dream, populated on that dream. The latest exhibit at the Patrimoine Photographique in the Marais is called: "The Photograph and the American Dream -- 1840-1940", on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. There are 200 photos from famous and unknown photographers providing the first photographic record of the United States. "The six themes of this exhibition reveal different facets of the American Dream in the decisive years between 1840 and 1940. It was a period in which a national identity emerged, when the nation fought for freedom, established values, began to develop as an industrial power and when towns were built throughout the country." Many of the photos are taken by Europeans, documenting their own immigration to the US. The Patrimoine Photographique always has the most impressive photo exhibitions. I used to live a few doors down and wish I had spent more time there! This expo runs until June 16, 2002. Check out their website for a sneak preview.
Patrimoine Photographique : Hôtel de Sully, 62, rue Saint-Antoine, 4th arr., Métro Saint-Paul
Open every day but Monday 10am-6:30pm, Tel: 01.42.74.47.75
http://www.patrimoine-photo.org

* Come Visit Me! *
Most visitors to Paris tend to take a side trip to the Loire or Normandy. But now you can come to the French Riviera for less than $40! There's already the TGV Méditerrannée which will get you to Marseilles in three hours (and Nice in five), but now you can get here even faster and for about the same price on the new budget flight routes between Paris and Nice. Air Lib Express (the hip new version of Air Liberté) offers flights to Nice and other towns like Toulon, Marseilles, and Lyon for €29 one-way. Of course, add taxes and the return trip to Paris and a round-trip flight from Paris to Nice in June will cost €80 ($72). Easyjet starts flights from Paris to Nice June 18th. If you book online right now, there are one-way flights as low as €12.40 before taxes (not a typo!), with a round-trip running at €45 total including taxes ($40). The fares fluctuate a lot depending on how full the flight is, so book early! And I speak as your friend as well as a wizened local when I say this: whatever you do, don't come in August, it's much nicer in Paris!
http://www.airlibexpress.com (English version coming soon)
http://www.easyjet.com

* Calling all Schumacher Wannabes *
The 60th Mote Carlo Grand Prix takes place this year from May 24-26. Get into the spirit with a little racing action yourself at the Kart'In circuits at Parc de la Villette in Paris or Orly (south of Paris). Get a gang of friends together and try your hand at one of these indoor tracks in your 270cm3 cart! Okay, so it's not exactly a Ferrari sponsored F1 car. But then again, you're not exactly Michael Schumacher, are you? Check out the action video on their website:
http://www.kart-in.fr/us/grandpublic/p1.html

* Whose Flame Is It? *
Here's a bit of cocktail party chatter for you. Back in the fall of 1997 my friends and I were on our way back from a party at 4am (this was before I got married, obviously) and we ran out of gas in one of the tunnels running along the Seine. Bummer. We pushed it to the exit of the tunnel, onto the sidewalk, and waited while someone went for gas. Nearby was a small crowd, which, even in Paris, is odd at 4am. They were gathered around the Statue of Liberty Flame, a replica of the real one, given to the city in 1987 as a gift by the Herald Tribune. Because of its proximity to The Tunnel Where She Died, it had become the memorial for Princess Diana. After getting over the spookiness of the coincidence, we spent some time checking out the cards, bouquets and messages left by mourners. In 2001 the Flame was taken away for a much-needed cleaning and a new coat of gold-leaf. This month it has returned, ready to be scribbled upon all over again. Maybe someday the Princess will get her own proper memorial…

* Fête du Travail *
If you're in Paris on May 1st, aka Fête du Travail (Labor day), the most important thing you need to know is that you won't be able to get very far in a car. While May 1st is a traditional national holiday much like in the US (everything is closed and families head to the hills to get some fresh air), it's also completely different (no Labor Day sales at the local hardware store, and lots of marching in the streets that has nothing to do with high school bands and waving beauty queens). The French like a good protest march, and the Fête du Travail is one of the favorites. Good fun to watch if you haven't planned to be anywhere in particular yourself, because the streets are usually completely blocked for the afternoon, especially around République and Bastille. If you want a bit of international Labor Day history (in French), checkout this site:
http://www.mutuelles-de-france.fr/mutuel/mai.htm

* French TV Chez Vous *
If you're not in France but want to keep your French up to date and in good shape, then find out if your local cable operator carries TV5, the only international cable channel in French. News, music, sports, and the latest French TV ads…if you can't get the channel then you can at least visit their website:
http://www.tv5.org

* Paris for the Young'uns *
Teenagers finally have their own Paris site! Too young for the bar/club scene, too old to be going to the zoo and puppet shows with les parents, this site gives them a great selection of fun things to do, like Paint-Ball and skate parks. There's also practical stuff for the resident teens, like where to get used text books. In French or English, it's a very cool-looking site. There are even a few good tips in there for us old fogeys (just don't let them catch you).
http://www.paris-access.com

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