The City of Light has seen between 3.6 million and 4.7 million visitors between June and August, down from 10 million in 2019, before the coronavirus emerged and wrecked international travel, according to tourism office figures.
Only 2.6 million tourists visited Paris last year. “With clients from afar not coming, the impact is considerable,” Didier
Arino, director of the travel firm Protourisme, told AFP.
France eased its travel rules ahead of the summer season, putting countries in a red, orange and green colour-coded system that determines if visitors need to take a Covid-19 test before arriving, have a compelling reason to
visit or quarantine.
Museums and other cultural venues reopened after long closures, though visitors have to show proof of vaccination or negative tests.
But Paris visitor numbers still disappointed.
Arino said occupancy rates at hotels in Paris were worse than elsewhere in France, with revenues down 60 percent.
Romain Jouhaud, director general of 4 Roues Sous 1 Parapluie, a company that offers guided visits in a classic French car in the capital, said he only had 120 customers this summer compared to 360 in 2019.
Most of his clients are from the United States and Australia. “We’re trying to get a bit more French clients but our problem is that our average price (150 euros) is a little high,” he said, noting that the French usually spend less than foreigners.
Tour guides have also suffered from the absence of tourists, with activity dropping by more than 80 percent in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, according to the FNGIC association of guides.
“Paris is a mirror of the great European capitals,” Arino said. “They all have problems and the more they depend on foreign clients, the more difficult it is.”
On the river Seine, the sightseeing boat company Vedettes de Paris has seen turnover drop 50 percent compared to 2019. French clients used to make up half the number of passengers; they accounted for 65 percent this year.
The company has adapted by adding an “aperitif cruise” and installing an area to play petanque on its dock.
“We learned to reinvent ourselves, give the Seine and Eiffel Tower back to Parisians,” said the company’s director, Marie Bozzonie.
The Eiffel Tower reopened in mid-July after a nine-month hiatus due to the pandemic, but it has only had 13,000 visitors per day — half its usual number.
Some 50 percent are French compared to 20 percent in the past.
Similar scenes have been seen at the Grevin Museum, which features wax figures of famous people.
Half of its visitors are usually foreigners. It is down to 10 percent this year, according to Francois Frassier, a director at the Compagnie des Alpes, which owns the museum and theme parks.
The macro pig farm threatening a historical gem in northern Spain | Culture
Christians and Muslims fought over the castle of Gormaz in Soria in the Spanish region of Castilla y León for two centuries. Now, after a lapse of hundreds of years, it is once again under threat – this time, from a macro pig farm for 4,200 animals. The proposed farm is within two kilometers of the fortress, and will be visible from its impressive caliphal gate, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions of the medieval site.
Environmental and neighborhood associations, architecture and restoration professionals, as well as the town councils of Recuerda, a village of 70 inhabitants, and Gormaz, a village of 20, call the plans an “attack” on one of the most impressive Islamic fortresses on the peninsula. With a perimeter measuring more than one kilometer, the castle of Gormaz was once the largest in Europe. It was this fortress that the Caliph of Córdoba, Al-Hakam II, ordered to be reinforced and expanded at the end of the 10th century to stop the Christian advance from the north.
Meanwhile, the company behind the project, Agro Peñaranda Esteban, insists it will comply “strictly with the law” and that if the permits are not issued, it will go elsewhere. “It’s great to eat torreznos [a kind of fried bacon snack] from Soria in a good restaurant in a big capital city,” says one of the shareholders, who is from the area. “People must think that they fall from the sky.”
The castle of Gormaz was built in the 9th century to strategically support Medinaceli, the capital of the so-called Muslim Middle Frontier. Divided into two large areas separated by a moat, there is the fortress with the tower of Almanzor and the caliphal quarters, and then the area for the troops, where the main entrance is located. Altogether, it has 28 towers with battlements and arrowslits.
The Soria fortress defended the routes to the north of the peninsula that followed the banks of the Duero river and was coveted by a number of figures, including Count García Fernández, Sancho II of Pamplona, Ramiro III of León, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar and the de facto ruler of Islamic Iberia, Almanzor. And so it passed from one side to the other until, in 1060, Fernando I of León seized it once and for all. During the reign of Spain’s Catholic Monarchs, it was turned into a prison as it no longer had any strategic value.
But now it is administrative forces that are advancing on the castle. On June 29, the Castilla y León regional government published “the announcement of a pig farm of 4,200 pigs in plot 20114 of industrial estate 1 of the municipality of Recuerda,” which backs onto Gormaz. August 10 was the deadline for anyone wishing to take issue with the environmental impact assessment, which states that the farm would not alter the surrounding landscape. “It is a landscape altered by human activity, due to its agricultural use, with no dominant variations or striking contrasts,” claims the report.
This contradicts the regional plan for the Duero Valley, approved by the Castilla y León regional authorities in 2010, which mentions a series of Landscape Management Areas (AOP) needing a specific regime of protection, management and planning. One such area includes the castle of Gormaz and the surrounding area where the farm would be located.
Luis Morales, architect and member of the Soria Association for the Defense of Nature (Aseden), points out that the castle’s environment is “totally agricultural – fields and forests – and very similar to what it might have been in the Middle Ages, when Gormaz was built. To put an industrial complex of enormous dimensions to house more than 4,000 pigs, which is what they intend, is barbaric,” he adds. “It breaks up the landscape from the same caliphal gate, the one that is so often photographed for tourism purposes.”
Morales also believes that the municipalities have the means to stop the project, “because the land is rustic and can therefore be classified as protected, which would prevent the livestock complex from being built.” Meanwhile, the Aseden association points out that the regional authorities were responsible for the White Paper of the Territorial Enclaves of Cultural Interest (ETIC), which selected 111 locations of cultural or heritage interest, one of which was Gormaz.
According to the NGO Ecologists in Action, in this type of facility whose surface area would be 4,000 square meters plus another 2,000 for slurry, “the problem of odor emissions is very important because of its proximity and orientation with respect to inhabited areas and other places of interest.” It explains: “In this case, the farm would be to the west, 1.3 kilometers from Recuerda and two kilometers from the castle of Gormaz. According to data from [Spain’s national weather agency] Aemet, the prevailing winds are from the west. In other words, it would bring unhealthy smells for most of the year to Recuerda. Surprisingly, the project says that the prevailing winds are from the northeast.”
Consuelo Barrio, mayor of Recuerda, agrees. “It is not only the visual impact, which is very important, but also the environmental impact due to the possible contamination of the water from the slurry as we are in an area of aquifers; this is in addition to the smell that would come our way as we are barely a kilometer from it.”
Meanwhile, the company behind the project considers it is under “unjustified attack.” According to one 38-year-old businessman involved in the project, “in this part of Soria there are at least three farms: Quintanar, Gormaz…. And if ours smells, it means they all smell. It’s not like years ago, when pigs were thrown into the Duero – some of which I have seen floating – or the slurry was dumped down drains. No. There are strict environmental laws and we will comply with them. It is easy to talk about ‘deserted’ Spain and all the things the politicians are saying, but when you try to create wealth, obstacles are thrown up because you can be seen from the castle two kilometers away. If they don’t let us set up here, we’ll go somewhere else,” he adds angrily.
Marisa Revilla, president of Amigos del Museo Numantino, is particularly upset by the visual effect of the pig farm. “The impact report does not take into account the horizontal impact. It only states that they are going to put up some hedges to hide the farm. But the installation will not only affect the castle, it will also affect the nearby Romanesque San Miguel hermitage.” This hermitage was inspected in the 1990s by architect José Francisco Yusta, who specializes in historical monuments and also opposes the construction of the farm. “There is no justification for breaking up the landscape,” says Yusta, who has worked on such architectural gems as the cathedral of Burgo de Osma, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and castle of Gormaz itself.
“I believe it is not worth destroying our landscape for the two jobs that the macro-farm will provide, which are those proposed by the promoters,” says architect Luis Morales. “If there were only 200 for deserted Spain….”
English version by Heather Galloway.
Ex-Ireland rugby player charged with stealing almost €600,000 from BOI
Former Irish rugby international Brendan Mullin is to face trial accused of deception, false accounting and theft of close to €600,000 from Bank of Ireland where he held a senior executive position.
Mullin (57) appeared at Dublin District Court on Tuesday following an investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) into bank fraud allegations going back a decade.
The former rugby star won 55 Irish caps between 1984 and 1995 before he went into financial services and became managing director at Bank of Ireland Private Banking Ltd.
He was arrested at 9.08am on Tuesday when he met gardaí in Dublin city-centre. He was brought to the Bridewell Garda station where he was charged with 15 offences which allegedly took place between 2011 and 2013.
He is accused of stealing €500,000 on December 16th 2011, at Bank of Ireland Private Bank at Burlington Plaza, Burlington Road, Dublin 4.
Mr Mullin, of Albert Lodge, Stillorgan Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4, is charged with eight further thefts of amounts totalling €73,000 from the bank.
Five counts of false accounting were also put to him.
He was also charged with deception by inducing a named man and woman to sign a payment instruction with the intention of making gain for himself or another on July 27th, 2011.
Dressed in a grey suit and light blue shirt, he sat silently during his hearing before Judge Michael Walsh.
GNECB Detective Sean O’Riordan told the court Mr Mullin made no comment when charged.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has directed trial on indictment meaning his case will go before a judge and jury in the circuit court.
The DPP has also stated that he can be sent forward for sentencing on a signed plea, should that arise, but defence solicitor Robert Purcell told Judge Walsh a book of evidence will be required.
Bail terms had been agreed, Judge Walsh noted, and it was set in Mr Mullin’s own bond of €10,000.
He was ordered to surrender his passport but this was not made a precondition of release; Judge Walsh warned him that it must be handed over to gardai within 48 hours of taking up bail.
Mr Mullin needed to travel for work purposes and that could be done once the GNECB detective is notified in advance, the judge said.
He must appear again at the District Court on November 11th next to be served with the book of evidence by the prosecution.
A trial order can then be granted.
Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row
The killing on Saturday evening in the western town of Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, is believed to be the first in Germany linked to the government’s coronavirus rules.
The row started when the cashier, a student, told the customer to put on a face mask, as required in all German shops. After a brief argument, the man left.
The suspect then returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he brought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off the mask and another discussion ensued.
“The perpetrator then pulled out a revolver and shot him straight in the head,” prosecutor Kai Fuhrmann told reporters on Monday.
The suspect, a 49-year-old German man, walked to a police station the following day to turn himself in. He was arrested and has confessed to the murder.
He told police he felt “cornered” by the coronavirus measures, which he perceived as an “ever-growing infringement on his rights” and he had seen “no other way out”, Fuhrmann said.
Idar-Oberstein mayor Frank Fruehauf called it “an unfathomable, terrible act”, and residents have laid flowers and candles outside the petrol station.
The murder comes just days before Germans head to the polls for a general election on September 26 that will see Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics after 16 years.
Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Green party, tweeted that she was “deeply shaken” by the killing, which she said was “the cruel result of hatred”.
Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner from Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, who hails from the region, said the murder was “shocking”.
The Tagesspiegel newspaper said far-right chat groups on Telegram were applauding the murder, with one user writing “Here we go!!!” while others posted thumbs-up emojis.
Germany has seen repeated protests from anti-mask demonstrators throughout the pandemic, some of them attracting tens of thousands of people.
The Querdenker (Lateral Thinkers) movement has emerged as the loudest voice against the government’s coronavirus curbs and regulations. Its marches have drawn a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of Germany’s far-right AfD party.
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