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Glance around France: Ouigo expands low-cost train routes and bedbugs invade Paris cinema

Thursday's round-up of stories from around France includes new Ouigo routes to launch from Paris in December, bedbugs in a Paris cinema and an interesting story about France's mayors.

Glance around France: Ouigo expands low-cost train routes and bedbugs invade Paris cinema
Photo: AFP
Ouigo to expand train service from Paris to new destinations in France
 
From December 9th Ouigo will start running TGV trains from Paris Gare de Lyon, expanding it’s network to six new towns in the south of France: Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Toulon, Saint-Raphaël et les Arcs-Draguignan.
 
Although tickets for this line are still low-cost, travellers will have to pay a slightly higher fare to depart from the station in central Paris.
 
Tickets from Gare de Lyon to Marseille will start at €19, whereas tickets from Marne la Vallée, on the outskirts of Paris, to Marseille will be available for around €10.
 
On the same date, Ouigo is also changing the location of its platforms in Paris’ Gare Montparnasse. The move from hall 3 (gare Vaugirard) to hall 2 (Pasteur) will make the service more accessible from the metro.
 

 
 
Half of French mayors don't plan to stand for re-election in 2020
 
It seems that huge numbers of France's mayors have just about had enough. 
 
One mayor in two in France says they don't want to run for the position again, according to a new poll by the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (Cevipof) and the Association of Mayors (AMF). 
 
This is particularly true of mayors in small towns reveals the poll which comes just a few days before France's big Mayor's Congress on November 19th-22nd. 
 
More than a third of mayors cited the lack of financial means to properly carry out their role as the reason for wanting to give up their role while 36 percent say they have “more and more difficulties in meeting the demands of their constituents”. 
 
This is a stark contrast to the mayoral elections in 2014 when 60 percent of the outgoing mayors not only stood for re-election but won. 
 
“This kind of rejuvenation would certainly inject some vitality into local democracy, but it also highlights a certain crisis of vocation,” said the authors of the report.
 
 

 
 
Bedbugs found in Paris cinema
 
There might be a few Paris cinema-goers out there who feel itchy reading this. 
 
The presence of bedbugs has been confirmed in an MK2 cinema in Paris, following complaints from multiple cinema-goers on social media.
 
Although bedbugs are not dangerous they do bite humans to feed on their blood, resulting in itchy welt-like bite marks.
 
They are also notoriously difficult to get rid of.
 
The cinema, at Quai de Loire in Paris’ 19tharrondissement, has announced it will disinfect the infested auditorium today.
 

 
 
Road deaths down by 13.8% percent in mainland France
 
Road deaths in France for October 2018 are down by 13.8 percent compared to the same month in 2017, according to national road safety organisation Sécurité Routière.
 
There were 319 deaths on the road in October 2017 and 275 in October 2018.
 
The figures, taken from France's national road safety body (ONISR), also show falls in road deaths in July (-5.5%) and August (-15.5%) of this year, although September saw a rise of 8,8% compared to last year.
 
Speed limits on local roads (or route secondaires) were reduced from 90 to 80km/hour throughout France in July with the aim of reducing deaths and injuries. 
 

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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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