‘The first Tour de France was staged in 1903. The eventual winner was Maurice Garin.’
Business could be brisker for this lonely little kiosk under roiling clouds and thunderclaps at Paris Plages. The city’s month-long Seine-side “beach” opened yesterday. Fingers crossed for a bit of sunshine before it closes August 21.
Le Figaro today has a smiling composite of new IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Nicolas Sarkozy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, and Angela Merkel, under the triumphal headline “Europe Saves Greece and Reinforces the Euro” after the Brussels summit ran deep into yesterday evening to pull out an agreement. The financial daily Les Echos adds other smiling faces and declares, “Europe Concludes a Historic Accord to Save the Euro.” No smiling politicians for Libération’s cover, which asks “Crisis of the Euro: Who Will Pay?” Le Parisien has a piece on France falling for Twitter, although the French make up only one percent of the world’s tweeps. The Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair – where tweets from the courtroom were the press’s lifeline – is credited with hooking French hacks.
DSK who? France Soir’s cover has another Socialist, François Hollande, putting up big numbers on Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the 2012 presidential election. “Hollande Crushes Sarkozy,” it declares, with 57 percent for Hollande to 43 percent for the incumbent in an Ifop-France Soir poll.
Almost all the dailies reserve part of their frontpage for a fist-pumping man in yellow, Thomas Voeckler, the unassuming French cyclist who kept the Tour de France leader’s jersey for a tenth day with his heroics on the Col du Galibier yesterday, only three days from Sunday’s finish on the Champs Elysées. No Frenchman has won the race since 1985.
((The kiosks don’t know it yet, but Voeckler finally just lost the yellow jersey to one of Luxembourg’s Schleck brothers, Andy, which was pretty much in the cards. Andy’s bro Frank is second. Voeckler drops to fourth. But a French guy, Pierre Rolland, won today’s stage.))
Most tourists who come to Paris leave with some kind of souvenir – often a model of the Eiffel Tower. In the warmer months you can buy an Eiffel Tower keychain in practically any tabac or kiosque in the city.
But Le Figaro reports today you’d better keep an eye on the mecs selling these sovenirs. Last Saturday French police cracked down on a network of distributors that has been peddling illegal goods for more than seven months. Police seized 140,000 souvenirs worth 241,000€ ($300,000) and arrested 39 people. The investigation into the souvenirs has been ongoing since last February and finds that the imitation Eiffels are made in China then distributed through a ring of 200 to 300 sellers in Paris, most of whom operate in sight of the tower on the Champ de Mars or at Trocadero.
The Famous Auteur Woody Allen in Paris
Le Parisien reports that Woody Allen is in Paris filming his new movie “Midnight in Paris.” The city is no stranger to film legends but Allen’s most recent visit is particularly special. His new film, which features Marion Cotillard as well as Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, will also see the acting debut of a star recognized throughout France – Première Dame Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of her on set will have to wait, as her scenes aren’t expected to film before August. In the meantime Allen – a well-known devotee of France’s revered cinéaste, François Truffaut – will be staying almost next door to the Elysée at the five-star Hotel Bristol and is expected to enjoy all the finer aspects of Parisian savoir vivre.
The French Take Back the Tour de France at the Second Stage
“Finally a Frenchman in Yellow!” reads the front page of Le Parisien today. The reference is to the iconic yellow jersey worn by the current stage leader of the annual Tour de France. The cycle race that began last Saturday has 193 cyclists riding throughout France (and this time through parts of Holland and Belgium) for 22 days. Yesterday marked the end of the second stage of the race and it’s Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel who finished first by nearly three minutes. The occasion is historic - not only for France, which hasn’t seen a Frenchman wear the yellow jersey since 2008 - but the man himself. Chavanel wasn’t even sure if he was going to be able to participate in this year’s race. Just two months ago he was hit by a car while riding his bike and suffered a skull fracture and a concussion. Yesterday, he celebrated the first yellow jersey of his career. “This is the happiest day of my cycling life,” he said.
Bettencourt Affair Infects French TV
The entire French government seems to be at the mercy of the Bettencourt affair these days. The controversy may even have affected French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s choice for the new president of national public broadcasting company France Télévisions. Libération reports Sarkozy announced yesterday the director of the press distribution company Presstalis, Rémy Pflimlin, will be the new head of France Télévisions. Previously, Sarkozy favored Europe 1 CEO Alexandre Bompard, age 37. Nineteen years Pflimlin’s junior and a known UMP supporter, Bompard is the sportier choice. But after days of deliberation Sarkozy chose Pflimlin, who is supposedly a safer bet politically. One counselor at the Elysée is quoted saying, “Sarkozy wanted to end the chain of the Woerth [affair] and he did not want to it eclipse the nomination of Pflimlin, a choice that neither the right nor the left will criticize.”