- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

Washington is focusing on all things French this spring with its latest effort to lure visitors to the nation’s capital.

Paris on the Potomac is the newest citywide promotion featuring and celebrating Washington’s French influences. After all, the city was designed by French architect Pierre L’Enfant.

City officials are hoping Americans will put aside any anti-French sentiment that lingers from when the French government did not support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“There’s still a lot of angst between the U.S. and France from a government perspective,” said William A. Hanbury, president and chief executive officer of the Washington DC Convention & Tourism Corp. (WCTC). “Let’s see if we can improve the situation through arts and culture — forget about the politics.

“I think the American people want to move on, and the timing [of this promotion] will aid our relationship with the French,” he said.

Dozens of hotels, restaurants and cultural organizations are participating in the program with discounts, themed menus and special exhibits. The program begins Valentine’s Day and lasts through Memorial Day.

Fifteen hotels in the Washington area have designed French-inspired packages, with some rates starting at $109 per night. Restaurants such as 1789, Brasserie Les Halles, Circle Bistro and Mie N Yu will have special French menu items.

Cultural events will include exhibits at the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Archives, as well as performances at the Shakespeare Theatre. WCTC will spend about $250,000 to promote the spring initiative.

Pizza predictor

Domino’s Pizza’s local franchise has insight into Washingtonians just by looking at when they eat pizza and how much they tip.

The opening night of the Olympics was the biggest pizza-ordering day of 2004, while the night Howard Stern appeared on the “Late Show” with David Letterman was the biggest tipping day of the year, according to Domino’s Pizza Team Washington’s Pizza Meter, an unscientific poll that takes a look into the relationship between pizza orders and events and people worldwide.

The vice-presidential debate, the season premiere of “Simple Life 2,” the first presidential debate and election night were also among the biggest pizza-ordering days of the year, according to the Pizza Meter.

Other big tipping days included the day after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, the day golfer Phil Michelson won the Masters, the day Bill Clinton’s presidential library opened and the night gymnast Paul Hamm won the Olympic gold medal.

The worst tipping days of the year: the day Martha Stewart went to prison, the night the U.S. Olympics basketball team lost and the final episode of “Sex and the City.”

“Who better to gauge what is really going on in people’s lives than a delivery driver who ultimately gets a sneak peak into what music we listen to, TV shows we watch or cars we drive every single day,” said David Carraway, president of Domino’s Pizza Team Washington, which has 60 locations in the Washington area.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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