Drinking champagne with gloves on
The french don't have fireworks when the new year starts, but of course they do celebrate newyearseve. Mostly, they visit familiy and friends.
Not so in Montbéliard, a small city between Vosges and Jura that almost exclusively is known for being the home town of car factory Peugeot. If the weather Gods are cooperating tonight, tens of thousandths of people there will be on the streets for the 'Dreamed city Festival'. Lots of artists will be performing in the open air, while monuments are bathed in flood lights.
When the clock strikes twelve, people will drink champagne on the roads. Cold hands will not be a problem, accoording to gthe organization: ,,Just drink the champagne with your gloves on.''
Posted by Peter at 06:39 AM [What do you think?]
French Postal Office to honour game heroes
In these days of e-mail one can hardly imagine there once was a time postal services still had to get invented. You have to go back a few thousand years to get there, but still.
Going back that far is exactly what the Postal Museum in the Parisian quarter of Montparnasse does. It shows the history of the post, illustrated by archeological foundings, 19th-century postman uniforms, old pillar boxes and - not to forget - stamps.
But this department of French Post honouring the past does not mean it's not a modern company. On the contrary, according to 01.net it will dedicate a series of new stamps to computer game heroes, like Super Mario, Lara Croft, Spyro en Donkey Kong.
Posted by Peter at 08:06 AM [What do you think?]
Just stay in the valley for once
When people from the low lands visit the the mountains, they mostly are tempted to go uphill as soon as possible. The higher the better. That's understandable when you see the attracting peaks of, e.g., the Ecrins national park.
However, just for once you should stay in the valley. On the eastern side of the park there are some nature discovery trails. The website web site about the trails is really nothing special, but it does enable visitors to download a wonderful guide of 19 pages, that covers really everything about the nature in and around the Durance river. To bad this small book is in french only, but then again, it's free.
Once in the valley, the petrifying water falls of Reotier are worth a detour. And on a modest hill on the other side of the valley is the citadel of Mont-Dauphin, built by Vauban. Go in for free, visit the artist that have settled here if you want, but be sure you stroll onto the walls to have a look at the Ecrins. Now one view over the valley makes clear how important this small hill must have been to the french army.
Posted by Peter at 07:49 AM [What do you think?]
We've had it with quasi-nude calendars
Ok, we've had it. No more quasi-nude calendars please. You know them, these things where everybody is nude, but nobody shows anything anybody would like to see. All for the good cause, of course, but boring.
So the men of the tiny Dordogne village of Trémolat decided to do something different when their local tourist office needed money. They dressed like prehistoric cro-magnon-men when they posed for a calendar, tv-station France 3 reports.
So far, so good. Nice idea. Just one question. Apart from two small churches, the only 'tourist attraction' is a replica of an ancient, very small river ship. Why does a village like that needs a tourist office anyway?
Posted by Peter at 08:20 AM [2 reactions]
Winter sports between the stars
Did I hear anyone still claiming french ski ressorts have nothing to offer but snow? Just visit Courchevel. By coincidence Courchevel is located at the slopes of Europes largest ski area. the highet part of the village, Courchevel 1850, is particularly known as the Saint-Tropez in winter. Winter sports over here means spotting stars and be seen betwen the stars. Ski Europe only tells half the truth as it describes Courchevel as 'hanghangout for the Paris jet set'. Here you meet the Beckhams or Giorgio Armani is at the next table, possibly in a cosy talk with Naomi Campbell and Karen Mulder.
No wonder there are at least nine very luxuoury hotels, like Les Airelles (photo), a hotel in Tyrolean style with suites that make you forget snow even exists. Copied directly from Saint-Tropez is Byblos. According to the New Scotsman, the night club of this hotel gives a new years party for the rich and famous at the end of this week. No invitation, no entrance. You'll have to wait outside to spot your celebrities.
If you're a nobody without lots of money that will never be invited, you still can visit Courchevel. Just stay on the lower side of the mountain. At Courchevel 1550 (like everywhere in french mountains, the nomber after the name of the village indicates its altitude) there even is a supermarket, where you can get something to cook at reasonable prices.
Posted by Peter at 07:40 AM [What do you think?]
Thousandth speed camera
It is a milestone, but there was no party at all. The french have their thousandth speed camera. Some 700 of them are fixed, the others are used in mobile units.
For those who want to know, TV-station RTL reports the thousandth camera box (unlike in the UK and Hollandthe cameras in France are not on poles, but on the ground) is to find in the tiny village of Pèroy-les-Gondries, near Compiègne.
More important, the French government thinks 1.000 cameras are not enough to reduce the dangers of traffic. Next year, another 500 will be placed.
In the first ten months, speeding car drivers payed the government 146 million euro. On the other hand, vandalism bij angry drivers and other vandals costed lousy 4 million euro.
Posted by Peter at 08:44 AM [What do you think?]
No fuel for sale
In some departments of France, selling fuel during Christmas is forbidden, Le Monde reports. No, that's not a meant to prevent people from using cars. Authorities fear for new riots, in which youth may take use of fuel to set cars in fire.
The measure affects especially the suburbs of Paris and other huge cities, so it's not likely tourists will have problems.
Posted by Peter at 08:30 AM [3 reactions]
Siamese twins seperated
Docters in Marseille have succesfully seperated Siamese twin-brothers. After a week, they even are sure the boys will be able to walk, according to Le Figaro.
The children were born when there mother was six months pregnent and are now 15 months. Earlier, operating was to risky.
It was the first operation ever of this kind in France.
Posted by Peter at 08:00 AM [What do you think?]
First anniversary of the Viaduct of Millau
The opening of the De opening van het Viaduc de Millau, exactly a year ago, wasn't a bad thing for this tiny city in the Cevennes area. TV-station France 3 reports in this year a 130.000 tourists visited the local tourist office, against an annual average of 80.000 before the opening. The visitors center at the bridge attired 300.000 vititors.
However, people in Millau don't want to talk about a golden bridge. They think the extra tourists will not come back, once they've seen it. To keep them coming, the municipality and the toll company will organize all kind of festivities.
Meanwhile, the bridge offers a fast connection from Paris to the Mediterranean and Spain. This is much appreciated. Soon the toll company will open four extra toll gates, making a total of 18.
Posted by Peter at 07:57 AM [What do you think?]
High Speed Train Lyon-Torino: fear for asbestos in mountain
In Torino (Italy) tens of thousands of people have demonstrated against the building of high speed railroad from there to Lyon in France. Among them many people from the valley of Susa, near the french Mont Cenis. From their valley, a tunnel needs to be drilled to get the train in France. These people have a remarkable argument against the train, Le Monde reports. It's a known fact there is asbestos in the mountain. Drilling in this stuff will cause enormous health risks.
Posted by Peter at 07:50 AM [What do you think?]
International cartoon festival in Angoulême
Those who love cartoon books, will put it in their aganda: the international cartoon festival of Angoulême is to be held from januar 26th till januar 29, in the city by this name in the Poitou-Charentes area. There are 'Bandes Dessinées' (or, in good french turbo language: BD's) of every kind, but this years edition of the festival pays special attention to cartoons from the Far East and Africa.
People who can't wait, may want to visit Paris already. There are previews of the cartoons in the Paris subway. Both the Gare Saint-Lazare and lign 14 ( (Bibliotheque Mitterrand - Gare Saint-Lazare) will be embellished.
Posted by Peter at 07:36 AM [What do you think?]
Landslide in the Jura: road closed
As result of a landslide, the Route Nationale 57 between Pontarlier and the Swiss border will be closed for another three weeks. France 3 reports that a combination of defrost and bad weather caused many rocks to roll on the road. Five families downhill have been evacuated.
Due to the obstruction, the ski areas of Metabief and Le Mont d'Or are only to be reached from the french side.
Posted by Peter at 08:23 AM [What do you think?]
The mystery of the smile of Mona Lisa is solved
The worlds most famous painting, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre museum, probably owes its fame to the mysterious smile of the wife of the Florence based silk trader Francesco del Giocondo. What was she really thinking when Leonardo da Vinci painted her, way back in 1505?
The Louvre can hide the painting now, because the mystery is solved. According to the British newspaper The Independent, scientists of the University of Amsterdam have made a computer program to analyze emotions in faces. So, just take 83 per cent happyness, 9 per cent disgust, 6 per cent fear and 2 per cent anger. Voila, another Mona Lisa...
Now sure, that was a very clever job they did. But hey, shouldn't some mysteries just remain mysteries?
Posted by Peter at 08:09 AM [What do you think?]
A remarkable couple, back in the Auvergne
Nature lovers are after the building of the happy after the building of weir, decades ago, in the Sioule river in the het heart of Combrailles in the Auvergne district. Much has ben destroyed, but for some time now, a remarkable couple is back. Scarce Swallowtail and Swallowtail, two very rare three inch wide butterflies, have found their home again in the area. Catching is forbidden, but please enjoy.
Posted by Peter at 08:10 AM [1 reaction]
A collection of bull blood altars...
Surphing trough France, you find surprising places. In the neighbourhood of the village of Condom, known for its armagnac liquor, found the old city of Lectoure. A hamlet with 4.000 inhabitants, an old church and some vestige walls. Not really something to go for. But weight, there is a museum. That's not very special either. But the Musée Lapidaire posesses collection d'autels tauroboliques unique en Europe.
I beg you pardon? You said?. I do speak a reasonable french, but I don't get the point. Unique en Europe, that's no problem. An autel is an altar. Bu teauroboliques must have something to do with bulls...
A bit of googling gives the answer. Turns out the goddess Cybè was worshipped in many places in Europe in the 3d en 4th century AC. Her believers were baptized with the blood of recently castrated bulls.
By the way, Cybèle nowadays is better known under her Greek name Rhea. She was the mother of Zeus.
Posted by Peter at 07:35 AM [What do you think?]
The railway company ever again
Railway companies seem to be problem everywhere. British Railways are notorious. Dutch railways have delays from the moment the first autumn leaves fall onto the rails.
SNCF, the french railways, has its problems too. Last week, they happily celebrated the extension of the tgv-network from Rennes to the harbour city of Saint-Malo in Brittany. From this restaurated medieval city to Paris now only takes three hours, a gain of 25 minutes.
But people in Saint-Malo are complaining, France 3 reports. The first tgv in the morning leaves at 111.15 A.M. Now they still can't do Paris in one day...
Posted by Peter at 07:33 AM [What do you think?]
Airplane disaster to trial after 14 years
Only yesterday we were talking about the Mount Saint Odile. Today, the name is in the news again. The district attorneys office in Colmar announced it is going to prosecute six people for death by negligence, 14 years after an Air Inter plane crashed on the mountain. 87 people were killed. The suspects are an air traffic controller, personnel of the french Aviation Service and top employees of Airbus and Air Inter.
Relatives of the victims reacted with relief: ,,We are already waiting unreasonably long.''
Posted by Peter at 09:50 PM [What do you think?]
Top Ten Paris budget hotels
Life is expensive enough, Kelby Carr must have thought. So the French correspondent of About.com made a Top Ten of budget hotels in Paris. She even found a 50 dollar room at walking distance of the museum. Just don't expect a hot tub in your room...
Posted by Peter at 07:43 AM [2 reactions]
To much visitors at Mount Saint Odile
In two days it's Saint Odiles day, but may be we should not mention it. Mont-Saint-Odile in the Vosges area, where she lived, is to crowded by tourists and pilgrims already. TV-station France 3 reports a committee has been instituted to protect the cultural heritage of the mount. There's not only the ancient monastery at the top of the hill, there's also a bricked wall, the Mur Paien, that was a defense wall even before the roman troops came.
Saint-Odile was the blind daughter of a French nobleman, who desperately wanted a son. As was custom in these days, he wanted to kil her. Her fosterer however managed to hide the child. When the girl was baptized, she suddenly got the ability to see.
Many years later a younger son of the nobleman thought it was save to bring the girl back home. This time, her father wanted to marry her to a knight. Odile however already had decided to be a nun. She had to escape again. Her father, chasing her, saw a rock opening itself, giving Odile the opportunity to safe herself. This miracle changed his mind. He offered his daughter the castle at the top of the hill. It was there she founded a monastic order.
Posted by Peter at 10:57 AM [What do you think?]
Attentive french: you asked about the A28
Somewhile ago, somebody in my family asked me to mail motorway company Cofiroute asking when the motorway A28 between Tours en Le Mans would open.. They only could tell me then in the worst case it would be by half december, which wasn't helping us very much. However, yesterday I received a new mail from Cofiroute: ,,We are now able to tell you the A28 will open december 14th, at 14.00 hours.''
Of course this fact is worth celebrating. According to Cofiroute you can avoid Paris on your way from Belgium to Spain without leaving the autoroute. Now that's not completely true. In Rouen, you still have to cross trhe city.
Posted by Peter at 10:43 AM [What do you think?]
Paris prefers lovers above rioters
Paris invests a million euro in a campaign to win foreign tourists back after the riots in the suburbs of last month. From Japan alone, according to the Nouvel Observateur the amount of reservations fell with 40 percent. But Chinese, australian and american tourist also are afraid of rioters. It's hard to explain to them that really nothing happened at tourist spots.
In the new campaign France uses all possible stereotypes, from castles to vignyards. It even places a couple of lovers at the Eiffel Tower, the Reuters Press Agency reports.
By the way, it was at the Eiffel Tower singer Rod Stewart asked Penny Lancaster to marry him. Although he already has a child with her, he's still not married. Showbizz.net reports he still has to divorce his present wife.
Posted by Peter at 07:51 AM [What do you think?]
French sales start january 11th
Unlike Holland, France still has a restricted period for sales. Shops are allowed to offer very low prices in order to get rid of old stock. TV-station France 2 helps those who like to shop, reporting the 2006 winter sales starts wednesday, january 11th. In Paris and many other cities the sales last for sixweeks, but some counties reduce them to four weeks.
Posted by Peter at 07:44 AM [What do you think?]
Pin-up girls to promote fromage
I admit, although Holland has a reputation for making cheese, the french cheese making tradition has a lot more variation. However, business could be better according to the french. So they took a look at dutch cheese promotion. Didn't they used to send a woman, Frau Antje, to Germany in order to sell cheese?
So the french decided to use women too. But what a difference! Frau Antje in her traditional costume looks very matured. The french on the contrary asked beautiful young women to pose for a calendar. According to the french cheese weblog tout un Fromage it's equal to the famous Pirelli calendar. You might argue this hasn't anything to do with cheese anymore, but then again, the pictures are good...
Posted by Peter at 07:49 AM [What do you think?]
The Aquitaine Bridge is ready for use again
good news for those who want to visit Les Landes next summer. After years of labour, the bridge above the Garonne just north of Bordeaux, will be reopened in the week of Christmas.
According to France 3, the bridge, a juwel of french bridge building, not only meets modern standards. There also is an extra lane in each direction, bringing the amount of lanes to six.
Posted by Peter at 07:55 AM [What do you think?]
The antique theatre of Vaison-la-Romaine to be restaurated
Starting this month the antique theatre of Vaison-a-Romaine will be restaurated in an operation that btakes three years, the France 3 tv-station reports. That is not out of luxury; the last restauration took place 75 years ago. If you prefer to visit an antique theatre that is already restaurated, go to Arles or Orange.
Posted by Peter at 07:55 AM [What do you think?]
There are many monuments in paris people in Amsterdam can only dream of. The Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacre Coeur, you will not find equal monuments in Amsterdam. But Amsterdam has got something Paris hasd not: canals.
The authors of Road 75, who dedicate their site to the unknown parts of Paris, have found a neighbourhood that counts three canals. They call it 'Amsterdam on Seine'.
That sounds a bit pathetic. However, Road 75 is worth a visit for everybody who enjoys just strolling around.
Posted by Peter at 10:14 AM [3 reactions]
Unbelievable, a railway station in the heart of Paris
,,Unbelievable, but true,'' newspaper Le Figaro states today, as it reveals French raiways (the SNCF) wants to build a railway station for highspeed trains (TGV) in the heart of Paris. In the future, the TGV can drive from the Gare du Nord in a tunnel below the city to the Gare the Lyon, making a stop under the Place de La Republique. The new railway costs a billion euro, the new station alone claiming 500 million euro.
According to the SNCF the new railway connection will be worth every penny. In the past, SNCF extended it's railways, but now the existing stations are not big enogh to handle all passengers. Even more important: the tgv has to compete with planes. The possibillity to get out in the heart of the city of lights is something a plane will never offer.
Posted by Peter at 12:54 PM [What do you think?]
A wonder is not to be expected in France
The movement pleading to declare pop John Paul II a saint has found a miracle suitable to make this possible. A french nun, dieing from cancer, should have been cured by the popes interception. Archbishop Stanislas Dziwisz, who was the popes secretary for a long time, made this public, the Catholic World News reports. No details were given, because scientific research has to prove the miracle.
But according to Dziwisz the facts are clear. The pope, who died in april, should have committed more miracles. This case was chosen because one wouldn't expect a miracle to happen in France...
Posted by Peter at 07:55 AM [7 reactions]
Ottoman in art between Fench Renaissance
One wouldn't expect it between the French Renaissance art in the national museum of Ecouen (Val d'Oise), but there is an important collection of Ottoman pottery to admire. The museum possesses about 500 richly painted plates, bottles and so on. They were gathered long time ago by a French diplomate, in a period it was a common thing to take foreign art treasures home.
The French Museum Service has now documented the collection in a fantastic catalogue, the France 2 tv-station reports.
That's a good thing, for the dishes seem to break in potsherds rapidly. The museum claims it owns 532 pieces of art, but according to France 2 there are actually only 475 pieces.
By the way, Ecouen is a gorgious castle too.
Posted by Peter at 07:55 AM [What do you think?]