Seven things we learned in France in 2019

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Seven things we learned in France in 2019
There's always more to learn about cheese in France. Photo: AFP

With the new year well underway we have pulled out a few important things we have learned about France from the last 12 months of seafood scandals, sex rulings and conflagrations.


1. Sex with a stranger is a legal part of a business trip

Yes, that was the ruling of the Paris appeals court, which decided that picking up a stranger for sex can form a legal part of a business trip. The ruling was in response to a Frenchman who died while away from home on a work trip. His company disputed whether this could be counted as a 'workplace accident' since at the time of his death he was in a fellow traveller's hotel room, having sex.

But the court ruled that as sex is a 'normal, everyday activity' it would count as being a legitimate part of a business trip, and therefore the man was judged to be the victim of a workplace accident.

Although we suspect that ruling is unlikely to cut any ice with an outraged partner if they find out about your extra curricular 'work'.

2. Jacques Chirac had quite a turn of phrase (and was a handsome devil in his youth)

Former French president Jacques Chirac died this year and among the many gushing tributes to the retired statesman one thing stood out - his very pithy turn of phrase (along with his apparently inability to remember when the microphone was on).

Some of his best one-liners can be read here, but he was particularly sharp on the British, once remarking that "you can't trust people who cook as badly as that" while former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was the subject of his outraged remark at a Brussels summit "does this housewife want my balls on a plate?"

And for those who mostly remembered him as a balding middle-aged politician, it was quite a surprise to see pictures of the handsome young communist activist he was in his youth.

Jacques Chirac, pictured in 1962. Photo: AFP

Something of a coureur de joupon (skirt chaser) in life, Chirac even in death continued to stir up gossip - remember this curious incident at his funeral?

3. Nobody wants to go for a swim on the roof of a cathedral

The moment that the blazing spire came crashing down will not be forgotten by anyone who was in Paris. Photo: AFP

The burning spire of Notre-Dame cathedral was one of the lasting images of 2019, but the heat from the flames was nothing compared to the blazing row that then broke out over the restoration of the much-loved historic monument.

Traditionalists wanted an exact rebuilding - despite the fact that the destroyed spire was only added to the Medieval building in 1911 - and were outraged at some of the more creative proposals for the Paris landmark.

READ ALSO IN PICTURES Seven of the more wacky ideas for rebuilding Notre-Dame

Among the options submitted were a glass roof, a spire of light and a rooftop garden, but it was the idea of a swimming pool on the roof that drew the most outrage. The design came from Swedish architecture firm UMA, which didn't actually submit them to the French government, the company said that it merely wanted to draw attention to Notre-Dame as a public space.

We actually quite fancied the idea of a dip in here, but nobody else did. Photo: UMA

4. Frenchmen are not that good in bed (according to one Paris writer)

We asked French writer Olivia Sorrel-Dejerine to puncture some myths about the French and dating and she insisted that this is the biggest misconception of all.

READ ALSO Five French dating myths exploded

And it seems that French men themselves accept that they could do with some help - as a book about giving pleasure to women in the bedroom was one of the publishing sensations of the year, selling out its initial print run.

Copies of Au-delà de la pénétration (Beyond penetration) by Martin Page will be available again from early 2020 after the book had to be reprinted because of high demand.

5. François de Rugy doesn't like champagne

François de Rugy and his wife hosted luxury dinners with €500 a bottle wines. Photo: AFP

You might think that being a French government minister is all lobster and champagne - but apparently not for former environment minister François de Rugy.

The minister was forced to resign in July over luxury dinners he had hosted involving giant lobsters and €500 bottles of wine. He never denied hosting the publicly funded luxury dinners, but he insisted they were official entertainments for important government contacts, while others alleged that they were purely social events for friends of himself and his wife.

After a week of damaging headlines he resigned, but added that he never eats lobster because of a shellfish allergy, while champagne gives him a headache.

6. Allegations of using English cheese is a matter for the courts

Chef Marc Veyrat is taking legal action against the Michelin Guide. Photo: AFP

So it's not news that cheese is taken quite seriously in France - as it should be. But for one French chef the allegation that he had used English Cheddar cheese in a soufflé was an insult so serious that only legal action could be the appropriate response.

Chef Marc Veyrat sued the Michelin guide after its inspectors claimed that his three cheese soufflé contained English Cheddar, rather than local cheeses Reblochon, Beaufort and Tomme at his restaurant in Haut-Savoie.

The chef said he had been 'dishonoured' by the guide when it removed his third star after the 'incompetent' inspector misidentified the variety of cheese used in his soufflé. The guide in its turn sued Veyrat over his description of the inspector as 'incompetent'. 

7. If you see a sign saying 'Stop' you should stop

It may be that there are some among you who had figured that out already, but the news came as an unwelcome surprise to The Local's Europe editor Ben McPartland, who netted a €90 fine when a gendarme watched him failing to observe the stop sign correctly.

French law requires you to come to a complete halt at a stop sign, and a rolling stop is not acceptable - even if you can see that the way is clear.

And if you think that all sounds quite obvious you might be ready to move on to trying to figure out how France's famous priorité à droite (give way from the right) rule works. Bon courage!





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