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A Glance around France: Tremors in Brittany and anger in Dordogne

Here's a round up of some of the main news stories from around France on Friday.

A Glance around France: Tremors in Brittany and anger in Dordogne
Photo: Depositphotos

Drome

People in the south east of France were in for a shock if they spotted the rather unusual signs that have been put up in a park known for being popular with prostitutes and their clients. 

Signs have been erected in order to catch the attention of the clients of the prostitutes who work in Le Parc de l'Epervière to the south of the city of Valence in the south eastern Drome department and remind them that what they are doing is considered a crime. 

The four signs, which have been put up at the entrances to the park, remind potential clients that “buying a sexual act is prohibited by law and liable to a fine of €1,500”.

“We will not eradicate the problem overnight, I am aware,” said Mayor of Valence, Nicolas Daragon. “I hope that the deterrent we are putting in place will be particularly effective.”
 
 

Dordogne 

Preservation advocates around France were shocked and dismayed to hear about the destruction of the remains of a Roman pool in the Dordogne region this week. 
 
The damage was caused by roadworks in the town of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle in the south west of France after a months-long campaign to stop the development taking place. 
 
TV presenter Stéphane Bern called it an “unacceptable massacre” and, backed by local associations, as well as residents, has called on the government to “stop the roadworks immediately”. 
 
The aim of the diversion is to improve traffic conditions around the village of Beynac, a Perigord jewel close to the now damaged archaeological remains.
 
 
 
Vaucluse

The south of France is set to be the setting for a big environmental first for the country. 

Construction has begun on France's first floating solar panel station in the south eastern department of Vaucluse. 

With a capacity of 17 megawatts, the station's 47,000 panels will cover an area of 17 hectares on the surface of the lake which are expected to generate enough power for more than 4,700 homes, Akuo Energy, the company behind the station, said in a statement.
 
 
 
Brittany
 
Residents of a Breton department got a bit of a shock on Thursday night when an earthquake measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale shook parts of the Morbihan department. 
 
 

Northern France
 
A northern French butchers association is going to some rather unusual lengths to protect itself against… vegans. 
 
The president of the association announced on Friday that he would engage a “private security company” to protect northern butchers from the potential threat from vegan activists on Saturday.
 
“This situation is abnormal but necessary,” said Laurent Rigaud. “Four vegan associations have announced action against our businesses” on Saturday, and “it is not possible for us not to react”. 
 
 

 
Nouvelle-Aquitaine
 
It seems more and more foreign tourists have got the bug for south west France. 
 
France's largest administrative region is seeing an increasing number of international holidaymakers and fewer French, a new reports shows. 
 
“We realize that Nouvelle-Aquitaine is starting to become a destination,” said Régine Marchand, president of the region's tourism committee.
 
 

 

Normandy

History enthusiasts have got another exciting date to add to their diaries. 

A replica of the historic frigate Hermione, which became famous when she ferried General Lafayette to the United States in 1780 for support to the Americans in the American Revolutionary War, will set sail for the fourth time in April 2019, stopping at several Normandy ports on her way. 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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