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Glance around France: Rabbit murders and the resurrection of a homeless man’s outdoor library

Our roundup of stories from around France on Thursday includes mysterious rabbit killings in Brittany and neighbours campaigning to bring back a homeless man's much-loved 'open air library' after it was destroyed by police in Bordeaux.

Glance around France: Rabbit murders and the resurrection of a homeless man's outdoor library
Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images, AFP
Outcry in Bordeaux after local authorities destroy a homeless man's 'library'
 
Bordeaux city hall has been at the centre of a local storm since Tuesday, after it gave orders to destroy a much-loved homeless man's open air 'library' in the city centre.
 
For the past three years, Dominique – known affectionately by locals as 'Neneuil' – had set up a reading space outside the Palais des Sports building in the southwestern French city, with all kind of books for passersby to browse and enjoy.
 
But his 'library', which had become a bit of an institution, was raised to the ground by police after they binned all the books during a cleaning operation in the area, where several other homeless people congregated.
 
After news of the destruction spread, horrified locals signed a petition and posted support messages on social media. Faced with such an outcry, the local authorities apologised and vowed to find a solution to allow Neneuil to set up a new and more permanent, library.
 
To find out more on the story, click here.
 
 
 
 
Marseille ring road finally opens… 30 years after it was started
 
 
It's been a long time coming, but hopefully for drivers in this busy southern French city, the completion of the L2 ring road linking the north of Marseille to the East was well worth the wait.
 
On Thursday morning, cars drove on the new road for the first time, thirty years after the building works first began.
 
Traffic in and around the southern city can get very dense, especially during rush hour. Now, instead of taking up to one hour to go from the north to the east, it should only take 10 minutes, according to local police.
 
To find out more on the story, click here.
 
Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat, AFP
 
Rabbit serial killer in Brittany
 
Who is responsible for murdering one hundred rabbits in the Côte d'Armor region in Brittany? This week, police launched a call for witnesses after more rabbits were found dead in the area.
 
Since late August, around ten properties have been targeted by this rabbit assassin. “Cages are opened, then the animals are killed in cold blood with a pointed object and then just left there,” police, who also advised rabbit owners to lock up their rabbit hutches tightly, told OuestFrance.
 
An inquiry has been launched into the bizarre animal slaughters.
 
To find out more on the story, click here.
 
 

 
 
Angry Paris bus driver forces passengers off the bus to allow disabled man on
 
A furious bus driver in Paris asked all his passengers to get off his bus and wait for the next one in order to allow a man in a wheelchair to get on.
 
In a tweet posted on Sunday, the disabled man explained that he tried to get on the bus last week with his brother but failed after passengers inside the bus did not make space for him. That's when the driver intervened and told the passengers, some of them grumbling, to get off.
 
“The driver said no one in his family was disabled, but that it was just about being courteous,” said the Parisian man, who also deplored the lack of access in the French capital for disabled people to public spaces and shops.
 
To find out more on the story, click here.
 
 
 
Traffic slowed in Strasbourg as 80 ambulances stage go-slow operation
 
There were more traffic jams than normal in Strasbourg on Thursday morning after around 80 ambulances slowed down traffic in the city centre and on the ring road by staging a go-slow operation to protest against a new reform.
 
The ambulance drivers fear for their independence since a new measure was introduced this month which makes hospitals responsible for their funding.
 
The deplored 'article 80' aims to reduce fraud, but private ambulance companies worry it will threaten their jobs, as hospitals are now under the obligation to put out calls for tender for transport contracts.
 
To find out more on the 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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