One hopes this heading hasn’t tested your French and patience too much but there comes a time when you have to admire what our Gallic neighbours can do.
You may be one of those who disagree, hating their distrustful ways, use of garlic and seductive prowess by the males. After all, did we not fight a war lasting 100 years with them? Well, given it was from 1137-1453, even my poor maths puts it at 113 years but I have always thought that this has been a largely one-sided enmity.
Why were all the battles fought on what was French soil? Have a look at the map and you’ll find that Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt can’t be found in leafy Berkshire and Surrey. And just to show that we were bad losers, the king of England to give up the title ‘King of France’ was George III in 1801; so, he wasn’t completely insane.
Most recently, we had rather intemperate comments on France and things French from the Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis, when he described France as a “finished” country where “nothing works and, worse, nobody cares about it”.
Harsh words and ones he quickly retracted when the balloon went up. Perhaps Street should really be made to eat humble pie by being renamed Cul de Sac just to rub it in.
So, did Street highlight something that is true but was just badly put? France is suffering more economically than the UK at the moment. It also appears to have a philandering President who has more eagerness to carry on liaisons dangereuses on the back of a motorbike than with affairs of state.
But it can be capable of spectacular things as we found this week with the opening of the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. There are few countries with the architects to transform what was an unappealing, exposed and windy way to the top to see those spectacular sights of Paris. Now, thanks to the imaginative designs of French architects, Moatti-Rivière, the Eiffel Tower which has 7 million visitors a year, has a toughened glass floor where people can appear to be walking, or floating, on air and there have been plenty of selfies taken to demonstrate it.
There are solar panels and the glass barriers have been inclined outwards to accentuate the sense of greater space. In terms of recycling, there is now a system of capturing rainwater to help service the restaurant toilets there. Importantly, it is reported that there is full access for the disabled which those visiting France and with a physical problem, have found a struggle with many buildings and structures.
Yes, it cost €30 million and took two years to complete but given the visitors that are likely to use and pay for the new facilities, the payback should not be too long, if properly managed.
Of course there are projects elsewhere in the world, including the UK, where the existing built environment has been greatly improved but when you see what has been achieved in Paris, there’s a sense of it being done with greater panache.
Caption The impressive refurbishment of the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, Paris that reopened on Monday.