Shortly after the banking crisis a French government official openly lambasted the country's treatment of visitors. France, he said, was notorious the world over for the sullen way in which foreigners' well-meaning attempts to speak the language were greeted, the unhelpful responses to simple requests for information or assistance. We need the tourist dollars, he said, and this nonsense has to stop.
I don't know about you but my observation, calibrated over forty years of continuous experience, is that this injunction pretty much had the desired effect. Italy is still friendlier, but France - particularly Paris - has been transformed.
How reassuring then to find a bastion of the true Parisian spirit. For the first time in a while I visited the fine Musée de l'Armée at the Invalides this week, and I can report that they stage an accurate historical re-enactment of traditional Parisian dumb-insolence, circa 1980.
(At the other end of the building however, the attendants at Napoleon's tomb in the Dôme des Invalides were letting the side down badly, being cheery and helpful. They were Poles, though.)
The Musée is great. Its treatment of the Seven Years' War is concise: "The battles were inconclusive. France ended by losing nearly all its overseas possessions." How apt.