French pride gets hit by a study about travelers’ behavior

June 16, 2008

It looks like French cultural exception is not so much appreciated in the rest of the world.  The results of a study conducted towards 4,000 hotels in Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada and the US about international travelers behavior was just released by Expedia France. French tourists are seen as the worst travelers in Europe: constant complainers, impolite, cheap, and incapable to speak another language are the main flaws attributed to the French by hotel owners. But there is worse: French travelers are even considered the worst tourists in their own country! That hurts…

At the world level, fortunately, there is worse than us. French are beaten by Chinese and Indians in the Top 3 of worst travelers. We complain too much, Chinese are pointed at for their look and their lack of interest in local food, and Indians seem to have a different idea of hygiene according to hotel owners. All of them are also considered spending too little when they travel.

There are however a few departments in which French travelers are appreciated. We seem to be the 3rd most interested nation in local food and the second one most well dressed, behind the Italians, needless to say. What a surprise!


Velib’, the new French Revolution

June 16, 2008

During my recent trip to Paris I was very impressed with the numerous stations of the new bicycle rentals system, Velib’, spread out across the city. I also felt that Parisian traffic was less congested than since my previous visit 6 months ago. Velib’ is a self-service bicycle rental program which was launched in July 2007. The service offers 20,600 bicycles and 1,451 automated stations: one about every 300 meters!



How does it work? Available 24/7 the service is very simple as users can take a bicycle in one station and put it back in another. They first need to take out a subscription by the day, week or year, which allows them an unlimited number of rentals. The price is respectively 1, 5 or 29 euros. Bike rental is free of charge for the first half-hour, then costs 1 to 4 euros every 30 minutes. This is a very cheap service, since the average trip only lasts 18 minutes. In order to avoid thefts each user has to pay a security deposit of 150 euros.



So far, 20 million rides happened with an average of 70,000 trips each day. Users are 58% male, 40% are between 26 and 35 years old and one third come from the suburb. Asked why they love Velib’ they consider it’s a great way to beat traffic, to stay healthy and to be free. It’s also unbeatable to reduce pollution. As a matter of fact 20% use their car less…


Good news: The program is starting to spread. It was introduced last month in Washington DC under the name of “SmartBike DC”. In this time of gas price increase let’s hope this service will soon be available everywhere in the US.

Taxi-bikes: You can’t stop progress…

June 10, 2008

© CitybirdLike many other capitals, Paris suffers from a congested traffic. That’s how a new transportation system appeared in 2000 to ease movements of business travelers: the taxi-bike. A professional driver, a helmet, gloves and a jacket are usually provided for more comfort and safety for an average cost of 55 euros. Several companies operate in France, such as Motocab, Skoot and the well-named Citybird in Paris. This company already transporParistravelbiketed over 50 000 people since 2003. The French railway company, SNCF, recently made a partnership with Citybird to offer bike trips to professional travelers in every parisian railway station. Prices start at 25 euros. First class passengers are expected by the driver at the end of their train platform and their luggage is being taken care of. Registration can be made on-line on the website or by calling (33) 1 58 82 29 11.

This transportation system is not new to developing countries such as Thailand and Brazil. In Europe, London opened the bal but was quickly surpassed by Paris where 200 taxi-bikes are in activity.

For more info (in French) on taxi-bikes check the blog:


What to see in Paris this month: Retrospective Camille Claudel at the Rodin Museum

June 10, 2008

© Musee Rodin - ParisI showed her where she would find gold, but the gold she finds is her very own” said Auguste Rodin of the French sculptor Camille Claudel. The major retrospective that the Rodin Museum is dedicating until July 20th to this free-spirited artist showcases over 80 sculptures in marble, terracotta, plaster, onyx and bronze as well as some correspondence between Rodin and Camille Claudel.

Born in 1864 Camille became Rodin’s assistant in 1882.  His student and model at first the talented artist quickly became Rodin’s mistress. She participated to several of his masterpieces while being influenced by the Master in her own work. After over 10 years of a flamboyant passion she finally understood that she would never become Madame Rodin. Camille then took some distance and developed her own work until the lovers fin© Ch. Baraja - ADAGP, Paris 2008ally broke up in 1898. She then entered into the dark times of her life, meeting great financial difficulties and showing signs of an increasing paranoia towards Rodin. On her brother’s command, famous poet Paul Claudel, she was locked in a mental institute in 1913 where she died in 1943 at 79 years old.  


Up to July 20th 2008, Rodin Museum: 79 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. Open from 9.30 am to 5.45 pm. Closed on Mondays.

More information at:

Where to go in France this month: Le Mont Saint Michel is 13th centuries old

June 10, 2008

© Francis ToussaintLe Mont Saint Michel is 1,300 years old this year. That’s quite a birthday, don’t you think? The monument was built in 708 by Saint Aubert, the bishop of Avranches in Normandy, to create a shrine to Saint Michael. Mont Saint-Michel then became one of the major pilgrimage destinations in medieval Christendom.


Several manifestations will take place until 2009 to celebrate the anniversary such as: the photo exhibition “Between Heaven and Earth : Mont-Saint-Michel and sacred mounts around the world” up to November 11th, but also an Art Festival and a pilgrimage.


The Abbey was the first French monument classified as a © E.Revault - CMN ParisUNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Major works have been undertaken to restore it since the 19th century. A campaign of 13 millions euros is currently being invested to save the Mont from sand and for other major restoration work.


Le Mont Saint Michel received no less than 1 300 000 visitors last year.


To go there: Train to Pontorson then shuttle bus to the Abbaye (with STN) or TGV to Rennes then bus to the Abbaye (with Courriers Bretons).


More information at:  and

A beautiful French Tablecloth finds the perfect home

June 10, 2008

My dear friends Larry and Steve live in a quite small and charming appartment in San Francisco, decorated with vibrant colors and an amazing assortment of enhancing accessories.


They had been looking at this tablecloth in my store Peche Mignon for a while, thinking it would be a good addition to their dining area. After contemplating, they just couldn’t resist any longer, and finally treated themselves to the tablecloth.


Called “Tuscany”, this tablecloth is a creation of one of our oldest and most famous French manufacturers, Garnier-Thiébaut, who has been producing the most stunning Jacqard Tablecloths in the East of France since 1830. This pattern is inspired by the ceilings of Italian castles and showcases richly sculpted golden wooden frames.

I was just amazed when I saw it in their home and discovered how complementary the colors were to the red walls and accents in this area. The golden frame of the mirror above the table underlines the rich colors and design of the tablecloth. The flower garland my friends displayed dresses the table with elegance. It is a promise of enchanting dinners to come. A successful French dinner is nothing else: half of it comes from the food, the other half from a beautiful table setting. So, I am wondering…When can I come over for dinner? 

The best time of your life: La Fete de la Musique in France on June 21st

June 10, 2008

For the past 26 years, France has celebrated the first day of summer on June 21st with La Fete de la Musique, a popular musical celebration in the streets all over the country.

In the early days, people would fill the streets and play their favourite instrument or simply knock on pots and pans! As we say in French, l’important c’est de participer: What matters is to be part of the event!


As years went by, the Fete became an amazing event all over France, with both amateur and professional concerts. The event would gather millions of people, turning Paris and most French cities into a huge dance floor. From Opera to Tango, all types of music can now be heard and seen in the streets, churches, cafes, and concert halls, all night long or until your feet ask for mercy.


I would never miss the night when I was living in France. We would celebrate with a group of friends, get the program in the paper, and organize our cruise throughout the streets of Paris. We would choose our neighborhood depending on the type of music we wanted to hear and what sparked our interest that year. Paris being a huge village that night, we often ran into other friends.


So wear comfortable dancing shoes, hope the Parisian sky will be mercyful and have fun!

For those of you who speak French, you can find more information, including this year’s program at:

The Bay Area is celebrating La Fete de la Musique on June 21st

June 10, 2008

The amazing characteristic about the Fete is how it spread all over the world to more than 300 cities. Toronto, Sydney, Bogota, Berlin and Bucharest, among others, organize their own Fete de la Musique. Indonesia, Yemen and Laos include several of the countries that  take part in the event. 


San Francisco will join the movement this year with a spectacular day of music, cuisine and joie de vivre. A concert will take place on Saturday, June 21st at Justin Herman Plaza, near the Ferry Building. It will include various artists, such as Tete, Alain Brunet, Nous Non Plus, Scott Fisher, Eric John Kaiser, and Prince Lawsha. Free and open to the public, the concert will take place from 10 am to 8 pm. For the true Francophiles, a market will offer  jewels, embroideries, food and drinks and many other French treasures. Ooh la la! More info on

Last but not least, Oakland is also part of La Fete. The Summer Solstice Music Festival is an official affiliate of La Fete de la Musique this year. More info on