France unveils its newest national park… and it’s close to Paris

Nature lovers in Paris can look forward to the opening of the country’s 11th national park on Friday, the closest of its kind to the French capital.

France unveils its newest national park… and it’s close to Paris
Photo: Parc national des Forêts de Champagne et Bourgogne

Paris residents looking for a break from big city life can from this Friday onwards visit France’s newest parc national on the Burgundy-Champagne border.

The park, which was conceptualised in 2009 by former French Prime Minister François Fillon, is located on the Langres plateau between Haute-Marne and Côte-d'Or departments, about three hours’ drive from the French capital.

Dubbed the Parc National des forets de Champagne et Bourgogne, it covers 250,000 hectares and encompasses 127 communes which are home to 28,000 residents.

“This national park is very representative of both the French countryside and its forests” said Hervé Parmentier, director of the French Public Interest Group (GIP) that responsible for creating the park and protecting its deciduous forests.

Visitors can expect to be dazzled by ancient forests, rare flower species such as the sabot-de-vénus orchid and narcisse des poètes, springs and rivers, beautifully-preserved landscapes as well as small shops and businesses which sell local produce.

There are also black storks, deer, wild boar, deer and wild cats roaming the park.

Outdoor sport aficionados will be able to enjoy 2,000 km of hiking trails and 700 km of rivers for kayaking and other water sports.

“Eighty percent of the trees here already were there at the time of the French Revolution,” Parmentier added. The area also has archaeological remains dating back to 750BC.

Despite the fact that visitor numbers are expected to increase from the current 30,000 a year to 100,000 within two to three years, farmers and foresters are concerned that their harvesting and felling area will be diminished as more of the territory is dedicated to tourism and preservation, with no financial compensation in sight as of yet.

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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/
But while the map – created by – 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