France is the world’s number one tourist destination. 83 million foreign visitors in 2013. I suppose I should feel lucky living in a country that everyone else associates with holidays. I don’t have to pay to come here. I already live here.
Living in a place where everyone else wants to come on holiday. I once asked a friend from Nice where he went on holiday. «Paris» came the reply. Come summer all the Parisians are in Nice so that’s the best time to visit Paris. It’s a common trend – us provincial types who love Paris whilst harbouring litte affection for the Parisians themselves. It is of course reciprocal. Parisians often loathe and despise «les provinciaux» we’re just all a little too hick and uncouth for their liking – mud on our boots, spit and saw dust, hillbillies, bumpkins … most modern Parisians though, have provincial roots, obliged to leave their deepest France and head to the capital tor work or studies, it would eem though, that once they hit Paris, they adopt big city atitudes and behaviour.
Not for me to dwell on the Paris/provincial divide, but rather to offer up reasons why people might actually want to come to France. Of those 83 million tourists, there are quite a few short stays – a day in Paris as part of a European tour. We used to mock the Americans for the «whistle stop tours» of Europe «If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium.» – the title of a 1969 US made comedy starring Suzanne Pleshette and Ian MacShane – «A bumbling group of American tourists wend their way through Europe with one comic episode after another» – the blurb from the Yaho Movies website – Yes, the Yanks used to do all of Europe in under two weeks, and all us Europeans would scoff and haughtily mock our American friends How acn you cobver Europe in under two weeks? There is just so much … and now, we all head for the States, a few days here, a week there, a fortnight driving coast, a stopover in Vegas, a short sojourn in New York and we have «done» America. I’ve spent 25 years living in France and I still haven’t «done» France, though I have «done» places in a tourist mode.
The Americans have in recent times been replaced by the Chinese. They spend even less time in France. A day in Paris that’s it!- A bus trip round the capital, followed by a quick trip up the Eiffel tower in the morning. lunch in a traditional French bistrot. A tour round the Palace of Versailles and then back to Paris for shopping. Where there used to be «English spoken here» it is now all in Chinese. Saunter into of any of the major Paris department stores and everything is written up in Chinese. At the Galleries Lafayettes, Chinese tourists even have their own specific entarnce, peopled with Chinese speaking guides, a bureau for currency exchange, an office to redeem ant duty free advantages and security guards – Cassius Clay/Mike Tyson-style security guards who hang in droves around the Chinese tourist buses to ensure that our oriental friends don’t get beaten up and robbed. Well, the Chinese don’t have credit cards so they carry their hoilday ealth in cash. Your average Chinese tourist is reckoned to be carrying around 2000€ to 5000€ in readies. This makes him or er an excellent taregt for the gangs of Romanian hoodlums that are curently roaming the streets of Paris. In a country where the average grooss national monthly wage is just around 2000 Euros, of you mug a Chinese touritst it is payday and more; Restassured, we don’t mug Americans tourists because they all have credit cards.
So, if this is Tuesday we must be in Belgium because most of the major Paris tourisr attractions (unless the personnel are on strike) are actually closed on a Tuesday – and I have a problem with this. In our current state-aided economy, surely, the world’s number one tourist destination, has the werewithal to create enough jobs to keep national and world famous tourist attractions open 7 days a week? Why do the Louvre Museum or the Pompidou Center close on a Tuesday (even in summer)? In any other of the world’s cultural capitals, the museums would be open all day and everyday. moral of this story, never visit Paris on a Tiesday. Okay. In the next few posts, I’m going to be concentrating on tourism in France and places to visit.
So, if you visit anywhere in France, you’ll be quite happy. In modern and historical terms, we are the museum of the world, but there is al the stuff that the brochures never tell you, such as the lack of public toilets, the parking charges, the price of a cup of coffee and the general ethos for the Soviet style service – ah yes, service has greatly improved over the last 20 years, but visit some places in on the French Riviera ans you get a ll the charm of an East Berlin workers’ canteen (and God knows I ate in plenty of them.) Up and coming – jellyfish, dirty beaches, polluted seas, Ryssuian prostitutes – and when you have read it all, you might just stay at home.