Tag Archives: France

French newspapers gives up on revenue under new bailout

dsc04623Okay, we all know that the print industry is completely and totally screwed. Circulation is plummeting around the world … leaving ink jockeys little hope of keeping their jobs for the rest of their lives (which is really their only goal anyway). They may have hope, however, thanks to an unusual French bailout plan. Leave it to French job protectionism to set a model for the rest of the world. The folks at the NY Timeswhich rain this story – must be salivating right now.

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Absinthe in France

It's on the corner

It's on the corner

Like absinthe? I love it. Of course, we only gave access to the “lite” version in the United States, but if you head over to France, you’ll find something to enjoy. I sure as hell did.

To this day, my favorite absinthe stop is in Antibes. I can’t remember the name of the place, but it’s a short walk from the Picasso museum (which, to my dismay, was closed when I went to Antibes two years ago). Upstairs, you’ll find a shop with plenty of ‘sinthe and accessories. But, the real fun happens in the basement.

Descend, and you will find a bar stocked fully … and with nothing but the “green fairy.” Each table has a large water container, spoons and sugar. Order your absinthe, prepare it to your taste and savor every sip. Don’t be afraid to ask the bartender for advice; he’s more than happy to help.

For France, especially, the place was not expensive. I dropped about EUR5 a shot, which is cheaper than a martini here in Manhattan. Just remember that you’ll have to find your way home at the end of the night.

I went to this shop after getting caught in the rain, and the taste of that absinthe sure made everything better. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Nowhere near Antibes is Vert d’Absinthe in the Mireille neighborhood. This is a shop, not a bar. But, you can sample the product … just don’t get greedy. I walked out of the place with six bottles of absinthe to take home. No joke. It was amazing. The ‘sinthe is priced reasonably, and the guy who worked there was extremely pleasant. Vert d’Absinthe also ships to the United States, so it’s great for a fix between trips abroad.

There is an absinthe bar in Paris, creatively called Bar d’Absinthe. They don’t have a whole lot of variety, but they do have the equipments necessary to consume the green fairy properly.

Remembering past trips

Yeah, I’m antsy to go somewhere interesting again. I’m headed to Scotland in November (finally got off my ass and confirmed that). I was thinking about London for October, but now I might reconsider. Denmark is on the list, as is Benelux. I’ll have to see what Delta will let me do with my tickets. If anyone has some thoughts, let me know. I only have a week, so I’m trying to stick to Europe.

Well, while I lust after my next trip, you can enjoy some of my recent experiences. While Reykjavik was okay and Helsinki was a bust, I did have a blast in France.

Nice, France

Monaco (not really France, but c’mon)

Some of my favorite graffiti displays

I like graffiti that sends a message. There’s one wall decoration that I still wish I’d captured, but I never got around to it. I used to go to the Peace Club, a dive bar outside Camp Casey in South Korea– back when we still had troops that far north. In the bathroom, they had a piss-trough instead of urinals. I remember it well. The wall over the trough was littered with graffiti; there was barely room for anything new. After all the time I spent there, removing consumed beer from my body, I read most of it. One “exchange” is still crystal clear.

“I used to believe in the common decency of man”

“I still do”

They were written by two people, the second below the first. After a while, I used to pick the spot at the trough that would put these two lines at eye-level. In some ways, I still miss that wall and these two comments. I doubt it’s there any more. Last I heard, the Peace Club was no more. I do hope that management kept that wall intact.

Ever since then, I’ve been extremely interested in graffiti. The first, up top, is from a small covered walkway in Old Quebec. Yeah, some people still aren’t crazy about being French-speakers in an English-speaking country.

Iceland is such a sanitary country, but they are developing a graffiti problem. This wall just struck me as the antithesis of what one expects to see in Iceland.

Tallin, Estonia had some good material as well. The tagger below, it seems, was hungry. I guess he (or she) likes Italian.

The next one, though, is my favorite from Estonia. It sends a pretty powerful political message, and indicates the importance of open dialogue in a free society.

There was clearly a taggers’ debate going on here. First, someone wrote “Fuck Fascism!” I happen to concur. Next, someone put “anti” in front. Since I’m not a fascist, “Fuck AntiFascism!” doesn’t exactly resonate. But, a third person joined the conversation and crossed out “anti,” and then a fourth person crossed out “Fuck”. So, we wind up with the message, “Fascism!” Of course, I could have the order of events a bit screwed up, but we can see clearly where the discussion ends. Such a shame.

Also political was a bit of graffiti I saw in  Paris metro station. This was during the Sarkozy/Segoline election, which got pretty nasty.

Wow, I guess this guy doesn’t watch Fox News!

Reflecting on Paris

I just had dinner with a friend of mine who I see a few times a year. The poor bastard spends all year in Paris (boo hoo), where he teaches and is working on an advanced degree. I’m concealing most of the details to protect what little innocence he has. Well, between seeing R and having just gotten back from the road, I’m thinking about trips past, particularly what I saw. I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a photographer, but at least you can see the world through my untrained eye.

The last time I was in Paris, I had the good fortune of witnessing the presidential election that thrust Sarkozy into office (a good decision on the part of the French people). I got to go to an election night party (which was awesome) and generally feel the vibe of a world capital on election day. It was beyond exhilirating.

Oh, the poster above translates (as well I as I can) to: “We won’t survive this … and you won’t any more.”

I always have adventures in Paris. Every time I step onto the streets, which is where I feel very much at home, something cool happens. I’ll see something interesting, have a wild experience or just get some great fucking writing done. i wrote my article for Boink magazine, which seems like it was published so long ago (before I hooked up with XBIZ, let alone AVN). I remember the cafe vividly; it was right around the corner from the Intercontinental Hotel in Place de l’Opera, where I was staying (on my first trip).

Here are some shots of the campaign signs from the hotly contested Sarkozy/Segoline (I hope I spelled that correctly) bout. It was insane! The first one? “Together, anything is possible.” (again, to the best of my limited abilities)

The way they scratch the eyes out just shows a level of brutality– and commitment– that we just don’t see here. Some see it as degrading. I call it true democracy in action.

Written over Sarko’s face in the campaign posters to the right is “ETAT NAZI.” That’s a pretty powerful statement. These signs, if I remember correctly, were up in Montmartre. I spent a good week in that part of town and absolutely love it. In a way, it felt like my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. So, the next time I go to Paris, I’ll probably stay in Montmartre again, though not at the same hotel.

Okay, enough of the politics. It’s not really my thing anyway. I want to move to the crazy Parisians I ran into. That’s where I had the most fun. For me, Paris is all about the people. I think I’m the only American who loves Parisians, but that’s fine with me. I think they are nice, open, polite folks, and I have always felt welcome in their hometown. I’ve spent about three weeks in Paris over the past few years, and I can’t wait to get back. I’m still exploring other places, but the pull of Paris remains quite strong. For now, it’ll have to wait, but I do plan to go back soon.

This chick’s deal was pretty straightforward. Her favorite storyteller believed in sharing his intimacy. So, she decided to move her bed into Place des Abesses in Montmartre (where I was staying) to share in the dead guy’s experience. It attracted weirdos. What a shock …

Of course, she wasn’t the only nutjob. I now introduce you to “the fiancee.” A nursing student who is struggling to pay for her honeymoon, she was led around the Quartier Latin by her friends. Those willing to help fund the experience dropped cash into the coffin around her neck.

I guess she wanted to go on a honeymoon pretty damned badly, because this is further than I’d go, and I really don’t have a whole lot of shame. I wore a dress to a movie theater once, though.

This is part of the reason why I dig Paris. The people are nuts, but in the happy way. You can walk the streets and always see something.

I thought this girl’s project was pure genius. It is equal parts clever, pathetic and entertaining. How can you not donate? I threw her a couple of Euros, adn I got to take a few pictures in trade. So, I think it worked out pretty well.

This wasn’t the only picture for which I paid. I liked keeping track of the various beggars around the city, as they seemed particularly organized. On one occasion, I saw about 30 of them gathered outside Gare du Nord (one of the big train stations). It was like they were gathering before their shift.

Hey, even the beggars are unionized!

There was a pretty big concentration of them at the Eiffel Tower, which is the only reason why I found the tower interesting.

The pitch is pretty typical. A girl comes up to you and asks, “Do you speak English?” Regardless of how you reply, she holds a card open. It contains a sob story about being a refugee from Bosnia, the burden of several children, the absence of a husband, etc. Well, I’m not above paying for what I want. For the rich price of EUR2, I was able to get a shot of the card that she uses to pitch. But, when the camera was turned on her face, she became quite upset and tried to hide.

Montreal goes underground

In the winter, nobody walks the streets in Montreal; it’s too damned cold. So, the city has developed a vast network of underground tunnels that connect many of the city’s hotels, restaurants, retailers and other business establishments. The underground network is pretty spectacular in the summer, too, since the whole thing has some great air conditioning.

You can find an entrance to the underground city by looking at Metro (subway) signs. If it has the letters “RESO,” the station also serves as an entrance to the underground city. Once underground, you can choose to take the subway or explore the underground city on foot.

The underground system is pretty amazing. There are plenty of retail and dining options. The network goes several stories below ground and reaches above the surface. Also, it was designed to allow as much natural light as possible. I was definitely impressed.

I thought I’d cause some trouble with my host, telling him that this subway station design is a knock-off of the Paris metro. Instead, he just laughed and explained that this particular work was a gift to Montreal from Paris. So, he put me in my place easily. I may think before speaking next time, but as I explained to him, I doubt it.

The subway system provides great access to the city. In fairness, it’s not quite New York, Washington, DC or Seoul, but it certainly is at least a step up from Boston or Helsinki. I’ve heard great things about it. I wanted to give it a try, but when faced with the opportunity, I had to choose the streets. That’s where I prefer to be when I’m working on a story.

On Assignment Somewhere in Florida

I’m in Florida on business, researching a story for my travel column on www.traderdaily.com. Yes, just a reminder, it will be live on Monday. Since I plan to use th ematerial from this trip, I can’t say too much on my blog. After al, I have to feed the people that pay me. But, I can give you a sense of where I am staying. First, the property is gorgeous. It’s dark outside, and I can still tell that it’s amazing. Luxury seeps out of the walls. Right now, I’m smoking a cigar on my private balcony and blogging away. No complaints … except that I can’t smoke in the air conditioned room. Florida is hot as hell, and not just by my standards. It’s almost midnight, and I’m sweating a little. But, the decent breeze offsets it.

There was a nice gift waiting for me when I arrived. I love that. For some reason, I’m treated like a king, just because I’m a travel writer. Well, I can tell you that I was treated like a king until they found out who I am. So, I’m even more impressed. Top-shelf is the standard here.

This is funny, because when I travel on my own dime, I tend to go low rent. Not only does it add character to the trip, it does help stretch things out a bit. Laura and I went to Paris about a year ago. For the business portion of my trip, I stayed at the Westin at Place Vendome. For the vacation part of the trip, I was at a small dump on Montmartre (where my wife joined me). I love excitement and adventure, but I have to admit, I could develop a taste for luxury.

It’s hard to believe that I was in Florida on assignment almost nine years ago. Back then, I was a software consultant in the hospitality industry. I was on the road at least four weeks out of every five. The pay was shitty, but the lifestyle did have its moments. On one jaunt to Florida, I was on site with a friend and colleage (who shall remain nameless– he’s a family man now). We shared the sentiment that the value of the property declined every minute we were there. Yeah, the place where I find myself now is even nicer than that one. It’s truly amazing.

I was given a gift upon check-in. Actually, it was left in my room. I absolutely love that. Being treated well is always a treat. But, what I really love about this place is that I was treated well before they found out who I am. For these guys, upscale and care are de rigeur. I did carry my own bags, though. I’m weird like that. I like to carry my own bags. I’m not crazy about being served.

Back in those hotel consulting days, I used to take a town car to the airport just about every week. I lived in a suburb of Boston at the time and used the same car service every Sunday afternoon and every Friday evening. I wound up getting the same driver a lot. Nice kid. I insisted on carrying my own bags. He begged me to stop. I replied, “Nah, I’m not like that.” His retort: “Yeah, but it’s my job.” Fair enough. I was fucking up is ability to earn a living, so I let him carry my bags. But, he’s among the few.