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France Facts: There’s a beach where Garfield phones have been washing up for 30 years

France has many stunning beaches - it's one of the reasons the country is so popular with tourists - but one stretch of coastline in Brittany has its own very strange claim to fame.

France Facts: There's a beach where Garfield phones have been washing up for 30 years
All photos: AFP

A stretch of beaches in the Bay of Brest have for the last 30 years regularly seen plastic novelty phones shaped like cartoon character Garfield wash ashore.

In 2018 alone around 200 phones washed up on the 24km stretch of coastline and they have been appearing regularly in the same place for the past 30 years.

It is generally assumed that the items come from a container that fell off a ship in the area some time in the 1980s, but the problem is that nobody can find any records of such a loss.

One local farmer thought he had solved the mystery when he recalled a storage container washing ashore in the late 1980s, but although the container is still there it is now empty – and yet the phones keep arriving.

The plastic phones – which are about 30cm long and have eyes that open and close when the receiver is lifted – have had one good effect though.

Local environmental groups say that because of the novelty value of the phones they find it easy to recruit volunteers for regular beach-cleaning events in the area.

“The beach sweeps become almost like a treasure hunt,” said local environmentalist Claire Simonin Le Meur.

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France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.