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A Glance around France: Burgundy winemakers rejoice as farmers in the south revolt

Here's a look at some of the main stories from around France on Thursday.

A Glance around France: Burgundy winemakers rejoice as farmers in the south revolt
Photo: AFP
Occitanie
 
There are certainly some angry farmers in the south of France at the moment… and it's all down to the government. 
 
Some 200 to 300 farmers took to the streets in the town of Montauban in the southern French region of Occitanie on Wednesday to protest the government's recently announced plan to end the rule that means seasonal workers are not obliged to pay any social security contributions. 
 
The demonstration, which saw several streets blocked by fruit and vegetable producers, was called by the local farmers union, according to reports. 
 
Farmers also mounted roadblocks with tires, straw bales, manure, apples and agricultural waste. 
 

 

 

And farmers aren't the only ones who are angry…
 
South east 
 
The TGV might be known to some for its superlative service but there are some passengers in the south east of France who aren't so convinced.
 
A group of TGV users gathered at Valence train station in the south east of France on Thursday morning to demonstrate over the planned changes to the TGV schedule. 
 
The change, set to come into effect on December 9th, will see fewer trains in the morning, with just one instead of three trains between Valence and Lyon before 9 am. On top of that the trains will arrive into a different station in Lyon which for many commuters is unacceptable.
 
Meanwhile chiefs at French railway operator SNCF have said that while they understand the outrage, they are constrained by construction at one of the Lyon TGV stations. 
 

 
Burgundy
 
Wine lovers, we have some good news…
 
Burgundy's winemakers have promised that the 2018 vintage is set to be an “exceptional” one for white wines.
 
 And the reason may be surprising to some. 
 
According to the president of the region's wine association BIVB, global warming is benefiting the production of certain vintages. 
 
“Obviously, global warming benefits our vineyards, especially for pinot and chardonnay,” François Labet said, adding that champagnes are also doing well after the hotter than average summer. 
 
So, while farmers suffer from the drought, winemakers are thrilled. 
 

 
The East
 
There was a shocking story from near a little village in the east of France on Thursday. 
 
According to an extraordinary report, which up until now has been kept secret, there are records of seven babies born between 2009 and 2014 without hands or arms near the village of Ain. 
 
And so far doctors have no explanation for this unusually high level of cases in such a small area except to say that it would not be genetic or down to drugs and drink.  
 
“We interviewed all the mothers with a very extensive questionnaire on their lifestyle. The only thing they have in common is that they all live in a very rural area,” a scientist told the French press. 

 
 
Central France 
 
There is a big power vacuum in a town in central France at the moment and it looks like most people are blaming the mayor. 
 
In the town of Saint-Avertin in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France, 20 out of 27 of the town council's elected representatives, including the president of the department, have resigned to protest against the mayor's management style.
 
On top of that, it seems like the problems could also be in part down to the fact that the mayor seems to be stoking the flames of a dispute between the department president and a politician who could replace the mayor next term. 
 

As a result of the series of resignations, fresh elections will have to take place by the end of the year.
 

 
Alsace 
 
No doubt nature conservationists in Alsace were thrilled to welcome a protected species back into their midst. 
 
After several centuries away, the carnivorous European pond turtle — the most endangered reptile on the continent — has returned to the region. 
 
 
 
The south
 
Are French mushrooms doomed?
 
Mushroom season is looking pretty meagre in many regions in France this year due to the long, hot summer. 
 
Only regions where there have been heavy storms, such as the southern Alps and the Pyrenees can look forward to a healthy 2018 harvest, experts have said.
 
And with the effects of global warming increasing, it seems like the situation can only get worse. 
 

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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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