Saint Raphael has a new attraction! Brace yourselves, it's pretty big:
OK, maybe not all THAT big.
This photo was taken the day they'd finished putting up the frame but obviously had not yet attached the cars. The wheel opened on Friday, May 1st, which is a holiday in France. The weather was a bit grey and it was windy, but Georges and the Garçon went anyway to take one of the first rides. Not only was there NOT a line to get in - there was NO ONE ELSE waiting at all when they arrived. So, they got 3 laps around the wheel all alone! At least they can say they were one of the first. The wheel will stay until mid-September, then be taken down for a few months, then will be back again for a few weeks at Christmas; apparently they tried it out this past Christmas and it was quite popular, so I'm sure once more tourists are around, there will be more tickets sold. Georges took a few short videos and the view was quite lovely from "up there" so I'm looking forward to taking a ride myself during our summer holidays.
Actually, it's not the biggest Ferris wheel I've ever seen or ridden (that would be the London Eye) but it's something nice for families to do, and they installed it right on the promenade near the carrousel. St. Raphael has invested millions in expanding their port over the past few years to allow for some huge yachts to dock so they can attract some of the "money crowd" who cruise the Mediterranean and who normally dock at St. Tropez, Cannes, Nice or Monaco. The trouble is, St. Raphael is not at all a fancy town (it does have one small casino and allegedly there are a few nightclubs hidden somewhere but I've never seen them, being past any interest in clubbing at this point in my life) so if they want to attract the 1% they will need to do more than add a big wheel. We did noticed that someone opened a Subway franchise, though (which personally I was quite happy about, I love their sandwiches!) Do millionaires eat at Subway? Wait - didn't Hillary eat at a Chipotle on her recent tour of the Midwest?
The real buzz in town, though, is that in order to put it up, they had to remove what is known as "Le Frite". That's a fry or a chip to the rest of us. It was a grey metal sculpture that probably goes by some other more elegant name, but the locals took to calling it Le Frite and the name stuck. Kind of like in London they call that one phallic-shaped building The Gherkin and now you can't look at it without thinking of a really big... pickle.
No one knows exactly where the Frite has gone, either. No one has seen it since it was taken down last December. The local paper says it will eventually be reinstalled elsewhere but they don't say where. Could it be that the Front National (scary extreme-right political party that got a candidate elected as mayor in the next town over) plans to perhaps paint it blue, white and red like the French flag, and claim the Frite as their new party symbol?
Now that WOULD be scary.