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A Glance around France: The 23 bridges at risk and a ‘gastro’ epidemic in Brittany and the east

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

A Glance around France: The 23 bridges at risk and a 'gastro' epidemic in Brittany and the east
Photo: AFP
Bridges at risk
 
There was some worrying news about the state of France's bridges on Wednesday. 
 
A report by the Ministry of Transport revealed that of the country's 164 largest bridges, 23 are in need of urgent construction work. 
 
The report, which was ordered after the tragic bridge collapse in Italy August, shows that only one of the bridges investigated was classified as being “in good condition”. 
 
Among the bridges in the worst condition was the Echinghen viaduct in the northern Pas-de-Calais region and the Caronte bridge in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in southern France.
 
A total of 21 bridges were classified as “constructions whose structure had altered and required non-urgent repair work however most of the bridges were classified as having just “minor defects”.
 
“This classification of bridge condition is a tool to indicate the level of repairs needed and how urgent they are. It does not reflect a security risk,” said the Transport Ministry. 
 
 
 
 
 
Paris
 
The Paralysed Association of France (APF) staged a demonstration in the French capital on Wednesday to demand more accessibility for disabled people on public transports. 
 
Protesters covered up maps of the Paris Metro to show just how many stations were accessible to those in wheelchairs: only 9 out of 303. Basically most of Line 14, which is the newest Metro line.
 
That effectively means the Metro is out of bounds for many of the 1.3 million people with disabilities living in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France, which translates to 12 percent of the population.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dordogne
 
Farmers in the Dordogne are furious. 
 
And the reason is all to do with the devastation to their crops left by the high number of wild boars in the area… and the fact that the hunters aren't stopping them. 
 
“The different groups of hunters are not working together and we do not have the right to intervene,” said one farmer whose field of corn had been destroyed by the animals. 
 

 
 
Lyon
 
No doubt there are about to be some very angry motorists in the Lyon area. 
 
From January the speed limit on the ring road around the city will drop from 90 km/h to 70 km/h in a bid to cut down on pollution. 
 
“A lowering of the authorized speed makes it possible to considerably reduce the amount of pollutants of the air,” said the president of the city, David Kimelfeld.
 
Lyon is aiming reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
 

 

Brittany

A motorist travelling around Brittany unwittingly helped save the lives of six burglars who were breaking into an old man's home. 
 
The owner of the house that the burglar's were targeting had booby trapped his home with explosives in order to protect himself from anyone breaking in. 
 
The thieves were entering his house before being scared off by a passing motorist. 
 
When the police arrived they discovered so many explosives that bomb disposal experts were called to the scene. 
 

 

'Gastro' is back in Eastern France (and Brittany)

With the colder weather the bugs have returned to Brittany with a vengence. The western region has just passed the official epidemic threshold for gastroenteritis which is based on how many patients consult a doctor with symptoms such as acute diarrhoea. 

But Brittany is not the only region to have an epidemic of the runs. The folk in the Grand Est region are also suffering from the return of the stomach bug.

In fact it's even worse in the east with 165 cases per 100,000 people compared to 135/100,000 in Brittany. South western France hasn't escaped stomach upsets either although the number of cases hasn't quite reached the threshold of 128 /100,000 for an epidemic.

For more on this story CLICK HERE.

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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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