David and Ginna Zoellner love to travel. We live in Nice, France, half the year; the other half we live near Chicago, Illinois. We do 'home-exchanges' to explore other areas as well as taking normal trips. We'd like to share some of our experiences with you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Euro, Jan 1, 2002

The big news for 2002 is the euro. January 1, 2002, it's the official currency for 302 million Europeans. The first sign was all the Brinks trucks being escorted into town in late December. Small packets of the coins were available as stocking stuffers or just to look at and now they're official! The changeover is mind-boggling: switching ATM machines, cash registers, parking meters, stamps, reprinting menus and price lists, and on and on. There were rumors that cashiers would strike for higher pay because they must handle two types of money (we can pay in francs for a while, but they give change in euros) but everyone actually seems to be handling it with good humor. But for years the older folks will have to convert back to francs to understand what they are spending. It's a big change for the French. There are 6.55957 francs for each euro, so the recalculation is tricky. It's easier for us. We figure a euro is a dollar with a 10% discount!

We're busy learning the new denominations: 20 euros are blue, 10 are pink. The coins - 2 euros, 1 euro, and 50, 20, 5 centimes and so on - are also different colors. The 5 centimes piece looks in color like a penny.

The holidays were great fun and exhausting. For Christmas dinner eight of us were at our Irish friend Marie's place for about 8 hours! We enjoyed champagne, delicious foie gras with a special sweet wine, wild smoked salmon with Chablis, duck and vegetables with red wine, a cheese course, and a Buche de Noel with more champagne. David and I walked the almost 3 miles home along the sea, arriving home at midnight. We never had 7-8 hour meals in the USA. Before living in Nice, I'd have wondered how it would be possible. But the courses are slow, there's plenty of talk, sometimes even singing. And the time just flies by!

For the annual Boxing Day blast at another friend's place - 15 people - another 7 hour feast. I made my Irish Coffee Cheesecake. Of course I need Philly Cream Cheese for that and there's no such thing in Nice. This is a problem I have here - every recipe seems to call for at least one ingredient that I don't have! After asking all sorts of people what to use (they hadn't a clue either), I punted and it turned out fine. Annette served a gorgeous foie gras, delicious lamb and vegetables, and of course a cheese course.

New Year's Eve was again at our place. Eight of us enjoyed escargots, lobster tails, and champagne. For dessert there was a panettone stuffed with chocolate ricotta, orange peel, and cointreau. Fabulous!

The next morning was the annual free concert here in Nice. It was sensational, including a breathtaking "Bolero". At the end, there is always a piece with popping champagne corks and the conductor serves champagne to the musicians. It's a great way to start the New Year.

We're looking forward to a great 2002.


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