Posted by: Chris | 27 September, 2008

Junk food tax for France?

Could the French soon have to pay more for eating chips and chocolate? 

With 17% of the French population now overweight, a report from the parliamentary working group on obesity, and headed up by the Valériie Boyer a member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, suggests that sugary and fatty foods should be subject to a 19% tax rate.

It will be interesting to see how easy any bill would be accepted by the country’s restaurateurs – Staple dishes such as duck, steak and chips, and all those delicious cakes in Boulangerie windows would surely be hit. 

I feel a strike coming on…

Posted by: Chris | 22 February, 2008

The end is nigh…

As I prepare to leave Paris, I’ve started making mental notes of the things I’m going to miss, and some of those I’m not.

Here’s a few for starters:

Plus points:

Nursing a coffee on the Canal St Martin

Apart from watching pretty girls go by on their Velibs, The Canal St Martin is a great place to relax by the water, and it’s away from the tourist traps so no beggars, no loud yanks, and no apologetic translations for Brits to lazy to ask for a coffee in French

Public transport that works

Granted, there are the strike to contend with, but atleast you’re given notice – unlike when the District Line goes down at 7.30 in the morning.

Running in the Bois de Meudon and Parc St Cloud

Parisians are spoilt by the number of parks and woodlands around the City. My favourite spot is the Parc St Cloud, to the West.  the gardens of a now disappeared chateau which still have the disused water features, follys and statues to remind you of their past.  there are also magnificent views of the City

Politeness (even from kids!)

No hoodies in Paris (years of French segregation means they’re safely kept in their high-rise banlieues around the outskirts) and lore than that, kids will apologise if they brush past you in the shopping mall. They’ll even call you monsieur!

Pains suisses
Like a Pain au Chocolate, crossed with a Danish pastry. mmmm…

And then there’s the women of course…

Minus points

Couples snogging on the metro

Maybe this is the repressed Englishman in me, but public shows of affection like this are just too much for me – especially before 9am.


I read that Paris has more beggars than any other European city. If that’s not bad enough, most of them seem to think they’re performing a public service by singing labamba on rush-hour metro trains

19th Century apartments

they’re cold, draughty, and, thanks to the parquet, you hear every footstep of the neighbours above you.

Uninsulated, unsoundproofed 19th century apartments

La Poste

if they’re not on strike, they’re losing stuff. From experience, you stand more chance of packages going missing if you send them recorded than if you just pop a couple of stamps on them.


The French like a tantrum, and there’s no better place to have one than in the office it seems. I find asking people if they’ve done the work you asked them to do 3 days ago is a good way of provoking a hissy fit.

Lunch breaks

I’m not against eating in restaurants, but when you have urgent deadlines to meet, is it really necessary to linger over the post-desert coffee, rather than get one from the machine in the office? Apparently, yes.

Getting on public transport

Yes, it works well, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get on. even though there’s usually plenty of room. The unwritten rules of the metro, it seems, include a chapter on where to stand to take up as much space as possible while simultaneously blocking the doors for anyone wanting to get on. The city boys who travel to La Defense on Line 1 have got this to a level where it’s almost an artform

Posted by: Chris | 12 January, 2008

No more pubs in Paris – Phase 2

Following my previous post on the reduction of on street advertising, you could forgive France’s ad men feeling a bit sorry for themselves. But they’ll have even worse after Nicolas Sarkozy’s announcement on Tuesday, that the state-run France Televisions ( channels France 2, 3, 4,5 and O which serves the overseas colonies) will cease to host advertising, to become purely funded by taxes.


This brings to an end a 20-year period of uneasy balance between licence fees and advertising, and rather lump the additional cost onto the taxpayer, the funds will be raised by through higher taxes for commercial stations, and what has been promised as a “minute” tax on telephone and broadband connections.

Despite causing shares to dip for the two leading commercial stations, TF1 and M6, it seems hard, from the outside to see any losers in this:

  • The public will finally get to watch TV without the lengthy ad breaks between shows -and better yet, not pay any extra for the privilege
  • France Televisions – which happens to be run by a close pal of the president – will be free to concentrate on quality programming rather than ratings winners that satisfy the commercial backers
  • The commercial operators – including the smaller digital channels – will be able to get a larger slice of the advertising pie, with the 20% of all TV ad revenue now up for grabs.
Posted by: Chris | 29 December, 2007

Christmas in Paris: a time for…

…Staying healthy.

Because woe betide you should you need the services of a doctor any time between Xmas and New Year, as I found to my cost.

As in August, Parisans seem to desert the capital during the festive period, and as Doctors tend to be independent, as opposed to being based in a local health centre, they too all disappear.

The City’s GPs were (along with the Government) strongly criticised after the heatwave of 2003 left many elderly people dead having been unable to find medical help.

There is now, at least, the equivalent of an 0800 number available to patients with the aim of providng a central point of information on open doctors, but having tried this myself – after unsuccessfully called 20+ doctors directly – I found the line was out of service.

As I was only after a doctor’s note declaring me fit to participate in next week’s Trail Blanc – obligatory for any sporting events here – I was less than concerned, but wondered whay I’d have done if I was knocking on a bit and in need of real medical attention?

Posted by: Chris | 17 December, 2007

No more pubs for Paris?

Now before my friends vow never to visit me again, let me clarify: Pub is french for advertisement. And the Conseil de Paris has just struck something of a blow against the ever-growing amount of advertising in the city.

Aside from in a few protected areas, including Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Bastille, the streets of Paris have been easy hunting ground for advertisers, with ads covering the windows of Newsagents, endless Smart cars , and even atop of some of the less desirable housing on the edge of the city, but the state is hitting back, demanding a 30% to 40% reduction in billboards, and smaller window ads within 2 years*.

The greens, have of course welcomed the news and it should come as no surprise that this has happened here before London, or other big cities (Sao Paulo excepted, which wiped 3 million commercial signs, and 15000 over-sized billboards in one stroke at the beginning of the year**).


Here, it is an every day occurrence to see ads on the metro defaced with anti-advertising slogans, (see above) while French TV is careful to blur out any shop names, sponsors, and logos even during news reports and re-runs of sporting events.

It remains to be seen what effect this will have on the advertising industry, which, according to industry rag Strategies, spent 1414 Million Euros on outdoor advertising last year, but with Internet advertising spend rising dramatically, and several free dailies in the city competing for advertisers, I’m sure they won’t be stuck for options.

*source: Metro, 17.12.07

**source: Strategies Magazine, 22.11.07

Posted by: Chris | 14 November, 2007

Velib: not so liberating for the rest of us

The transport strikes are a hassle, but with the weather nice, and Paris being pretty pedestrian friendly, walking is no real chore. However, this week has been one in which I’ve wondered if cycling may actually be bad for your health.

The Velib communal bikes have been massively popular since their introduction back in July, and they come into their own on strike days, with double the number of rentals yesterday as there are on a normal, non-strike day.

Why are they bad for your health? because, particularly on strike days, they are rented by people who’ve not used a bike for 20 years, and who take to the street amongst the traffic (also swollen by people not used to driving in Paris) thinking they’re indestructible:

And the Highway Code? I don’t think it’s supposed to count for Velibs – red traffic lights are ignored, one way streets and narrow pavements are fair game, and pedestrian crossings become a run-the gauntlet affair.

(I have been known to step out in front of the one’s who don’t stop at crossings just to make them swerve, but as I’ve not sorted out my health insurance, this only happens when I’ve had a really bad day at work…)

Could they be fitted with those little wheel-locking things they have on supermarket trolleys that stop them being taken out of bounds?

Posted by: Chris | 9 November, 2007

Sexy on a grand scale

There are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe the new Wembley Stadium (other than ‘expensive’) , and the designs for Liverpool’s new Stanley Park development prove that new stadiums don’t have to be the identikit bore-fests you see at Reading, Derby County, Swansea and the like.

But would you call either of these grounds sexy? Erotic, even?

Well, maybe you’re just not French enough. Because the plans for the redevelopment of Stade Français‘ Jean Bouin stadium have been released, and this 20,000 seater will, promises it’s architect, Rudi Riccioti, be “dressed in a lace of concrete – making it sexy and erotic”.

Judging by the photos of the existing stadium, he’s going to need a lot of that lace.

Stade Jean Bouin courtesy of

However, this being France, nothing is that straightforward – the snappily named ‘ Jean Bouin Collective for the defence of the Omnisport Stadium and its Environment’ are having none of this tarting up, arguing, amongst other things, that the redevelopment would result in the loss of some valuable 1920’s architecture, and the los of some 100 year old trees (The Stadium’s a stone’s-throw from the Bois de Boulogne). Development is due to start in 2009, which gives everyone plenty of time for a good old Gallic argument debate!

Posted by: Chris | 21 October, 2007

Don’t mention the C-word

(That’s communism – not that other C-word)

Today, French schools held their first of what Nicolas Sarkozy hopes will become an annual commemoration of Guy Moquet, with teachers reading a letter which the hero of the Resistance wrote on the eve of his death by firing squad on 22 October 1941, aged 17.

But the inauguration of this day of remembrance for a figure whose name features on street and school names throughout France hasn’t been entirely welcomed. Marie George Buffet, leader of the communist party, spoke of a politicisation of history, accusing the (right wing) Government of stripping Mocquet’s letter of it’s context, and of brushing his political beleifs under the carpet.

Views seem to differ on how successful the remembrance has been, with many ministers visiting schools with ex resistance fighters in tow to read the letter themselves, the Government esteems that 98% of students will have heard the letter. The Teacher’s union, however disputes this.

Here are some locals views on things:

Liberation (left-wing)

Le Parisen (right-wing)

Posted by: Chris | 16 October, 2007

Strikes out?

Tomorrow sees the first major strike in France since my arrival in January, as the nation’s transport, postal and energy workers walk out in protest over pension reform. But, according to today’s Metro at least, the days of large scale strikes like this could me numbered.

Time was that strikes of this type were largely accepted, if not supported by the rest of the population, but according to the Metro’s research, 61% of Frenchmen see this one as unjustified, and 77% agreeing with the need for pension reform.

It seems that the same people that elected M. Sarkozy on a platform for change, are still keen on him seeing the job through…

Posted by: Chris | 7 September, 2007

Mum’s gone to Picard

There’s a chain of supermarkets over here under the brand of Picard, which in a “mums gone to Iceland” kind of way specialise in selling over-priced, under-nourishing frozen meals. Contrary to my first instincts, it isn’t named after the captain of the USS Enterprise, but Picard is the name given to things or People coming from Picardie (about an hour North of Paris on a train).

This seems to be rather wishful thinking on the part of the retailers, as after my trip to the Region last week, I’m happy to say that the verdant agricultural land I looked like it was providing rather better quality veg than that found in my last ready-meal.

Picardie seems to be very much the antithesis of Paris, with endless fields of beet and cereal replacing the speeding scooters and honking taxis, and the people actually have time to stop and talk to you.

I was there for a Pink Party – no, not a rural Gay Pride, but a village knees-up to fete the end of the summer – all taking place on the rather impressive old farmyard of Jacques parents.

In the best village fete tradition, this meant that I spent most of the day dirtying my party clothes by helping clear out the barn, put up the lights and the stereo and slice enough Sausage to keep Germany going for a fortnight, before the entertainment started in earnest accompanied by a rather impressive Picard sunset.

Cue plenty of booze-fuelled conversations, and endless cheek-kissing with friendly rural types – I even managed an in-depth debate on the Common Agricultural Policy, though whether I, or the guy I was talking to were talking any sense is anyone’s guess – I was quite a few Jacqueline’s down by that point*

*Note: Jacqueline is not the village bike: She’s a mix of white wine, grenadine and lemonade

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