Understand France and the French

For tourists only, Hotel and lodging, In the News, Understand France and the French

France awards new “palace” label to top hotels

I guess we all needed to be able to turn the hotel amp up to 11, which is essentially what adding "palais" to the old star distinction means. Of all the new "palais," we've only stayed at the Hyatt Vendome, which is certainly a wonderful hotel, but is it a palace? Like any expensive hotel the world over, it has it's over-priced closet rooms that overlook an airshaft, as well its million dollar a night arena-size apartments.

PARIS (Reuters) - France granted a few top hotels the right to call themselves a "palace" on Thursday, a label which distinguishes them from rivals and is designed to boost the country's profile as a luxury destination.

The eight winners of the accolade include Paris hotels Meurice and Plaza-Athenee, both owned by the Sultan of Brunei, as well as the Bristol hotel, owned by Germany's Oetker family.

and 39 rue de Vaugirard...

In the News, Transports: Métro, Taxi, Trains and Planes, Understand France and the French

Paris bid to ban SUVs?

Those French, so logical and practical, yet so infuriating to the American sensibility of freedom and waste. Ten years after the Hummer was introduced as the ultimate extension of small apartment masquerading as automobile, this seems like a sensible step, especially in cities where there are no mountains to climb or icy roads to navigate. Bulky, gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles (SUVs) could be banned from the chic but traffic-clogged streets of Paris within 18 months following a resolution passed by the city council.

Culture, Understand France and the French

Good news/Bad news – no more smoking outside French cafés

Well, no more heaters that allow folks to sit outside and smoke. Paris is moving to ban outdoor heaters at sidewalk cafés.

I've heard more and more that these propane heaters are the single worst thing many homes have in the way of polluting devices. Still, I guess like wood-burning fireplaces, it's sad to see them go.

France long held out against the smoking bans being enacted worldwide in public places, but finally caved in three years ago. But while the inside of Left Bank cafés has been less foggy, the café-clope (coffee and cigarette) culture of the city has continued to thrive by simply spilling into the streets, thanks to the gas heater.

Culture, Understand France and the French

What’s the deal with the Rentree this year?

Paris has been deserted until today, the last day before school officially starts. In other years, we noticed an increasing activity each day leading up to school day. This year though, things are different. Several hypotheses: 1. Many people without kids still have this week off and are Still lazing on the beach somewhere. 2. Those with kids did indeed…read more
In the News, Understand France and the French

Current postage rates from France to the US?

Are these the current postage rates in France?

Standard first-class letters (20g or less) and postcards within France cost €0.56; to continental European countries (from Scandinavia to Portugal), Baltic states, Greece, and the British Isles €0.70; to other European or Eurasian countries (Iceland, Russia, etc.), Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand) €0.85.

Understand France and the French

Standards versus diversity in top French schools admissions – NYT

The movement to more aggressively change admissions standards and affirmative action strikes at the very heart of what France is and will be. We in the United States, despite our seemingly endless racial issues and divides, are far more used to the pulls and pushes of the new global economy. Sure, we are all scared of losing what we thought we had in some lost golden time we remember, but we do have 50 plus years of addressing hidden inequities. That's not to say that we have solved them, by any stretch of the imagination, but we have tried numerous approaches and most of us know as Americans that our history has and likely always will be in a diverse population.

At the same time, this evolution is fraught with with the same pulls of meritocracy versus affirmative action, "standards" versus opportunity. And this is felt the most strongly at the Grandes Ecoles in France, where accepted students are almost guaranteed a life of success, even more so than one would expect from a degree from Harvard or Yale. For years, students at these schools were social and economic class-selected because entrance exams were not only intentionally culturally biased, but because some kids just didn't get the early education that would allow them to even be considered.

Economy and Exchange rates, Understand France and the French

Can you believe this inflation in Paris: postage, gas, electricity

Wow! This is like post-war inflation, just when the European economy can least afford it. When I see 10-!%% increases in gas and electric, i wonder how this will get passed on to the consumer. Already, these charges looked more like the utilities bill of a 6000 square foot house in the United States.

Pre-buying stamps in Europe is always a good investment.


Buy your stamps today at a bargain -- the ones with no monetary amount printed on them, because tomorrow, the postal rates go up (information thanks to Eric Tolbert):

Letters within France increase from 56 centimes to 58.

Letters/postcards to US increase from 85 centimes to 87.

Culture, Museums and Monuments, Shopping, Understand France and the French

Hôtel Drouot is pure theatre

The auction rooms at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris date to 1852. They’ve been modernized since then, but the general atmosphere probably hasn’t changed much. On any day of the week, a throng of characters straight out of a Maupassant novel can be found bidding for dusty treasures straight out of the proverbial Old Curiosity Shop. Annually, about 800,000 lots…read more