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GLANCE

The French Alps valley where traditional log fires will soon be banned

A roaring fire seems a prerequisite for an Alpine chalet in winter, but not for much longer as authorities in one French département ban the use of open fireplaces over pollution levels.

The French Alps valley where traditional log fires will soon be banned
Scenes like this will soon be a thing of the past. Photo: Anna Om/Depositphotos

In an effort to combat air pollution, the préfect of Haute-Savoie, Pierre Lambert, signed a decree to forbid the use of traditional fireplaces in the Arve valley. 

The beautiful Alpine valley of Arve in the eastern French département of Haute-Savoie is reported to be the most polluted valley in France and the prevalence of fireplaces is held responsible for this situation. 


The Arve Valley in Haut-Savoie is set to be a fireplace-free zone. Photo: AFP

Pierre Lambert said in an interview for the radio station France Bleue in 2017 that they were causing up to 80 percent of the pollution in winter in the area. 

ATMO, a local environmental organisation, backed up this claim, stating that “fireplaces contribute up to 70 percent of the fine-particles emission, whereas the industry and transport respectively represent 12 percent and 16 percent”.  

Traditional fireplaces are a crucial selling point for many holiday homes.

“Many cottage owners highlight in their advertisements exquisite pictures of traditional Savoyard fireplaces,” said Muriel Auprince from Coll’Air Pur, a residents association fighting against air pollution. 

“Tourists enjoy a cosy log fire. I am not really looking forward to getting rid of it,” Jean-Luc, the owner of a bed and breakfast in Saint-Gervais, told Le Parisien.

The decree forbidding the use of traditional fireplaces will come into effect on January 1st, 2022. Forty-one towns in the Arve valley will be affected by this directive. 

Since 2012, the French government has been urging residents to modernise their heating systems and get rid of open fires, which are both polluting and inefficient.

For that purpose, the “Air Bois” fund has been set up and offers grants of up to €2,000 for the replacement works.

By Jean-Baptiste Andrieux

 

 

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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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