Seven good things that happened in France in 2020

For most people, 2020 was not the greatest year, but some good things did actually happen. Here are seven positive bits of news from France this year.

Seven good things that happened in France in 2020
Sophie Petronin hugs her son for the first time in four years. Photo: AFP
1. Innovation in cancer treatments

World-leading robot technology developed in France has helped physicians operate on cancer patients. This summer two operations, one in Montpellier and another in Villejuif, succeeded in eliminating cancerous tumours in the liver in the first operations of this kind in the world.

This new robotic assistance, developed by French start-up Quantum Surgical, can treat without opening the skin in areas where heavy bleeding is frequent.

2. France doubled its paternity leave

In September, Emmanuel Macron announced that France would double its paternity leave from 14 to 28 days – a move bringing the country in line with progressive legislation elsewhere in Europe. The law comes into effect in July 2021.


READ ALSO These are the days off work you are entitled to in France


3. Advances in plastic recycling

France also leads in a different kind of technological innovation.

Carbios, the world-leader in bio recycling based near Clermont-Ferrand, has developed a revolutionary technology that will make recycling single-use plastics as easy as recycling glass. Considering the amount of disposable masks that have made their way into landfill this year, this is indeed something to celebrate.

The company is planning on building a factory capable of recycling 100,000 tonnes of PET plastic per year.

 4. Hostage release

The cries of “maman!” as Sébastien Chadaud was reunited with his 75 year-old mother, Sophie Petronin, warmed hearts around the world.

Petronin, a French aid-worker, had been in captivity in Mali for four years and was finally released in October. She was the last French citizen known to be held hostage anywhere in the world.


5. The cycling boom

When the first Covid-19 lockdown ended in May, French commuters adopted the bicycle en masse, with a 44 percent increase in cycling traffic compared to pre-confinement levels.

The French bicycle market recorded huge growth over the summer (sales doubled in May and June compared to the same months last year), causing would-be buyers to have to wait weeks for a brand new ride, as city dwellers looked for ways of avoiding crowded public transport. Several cities have created new cycle lanes, known as coronapistes, to accommodate new cyclists.

People cycling on dedicated cycle lanes on Rue de Rivoli in Paris. Photo: AFP

6. The return of the ‘bouquetin des Pyrénées’

The endangered ‘bouquetin des Pyrénées’ or Pyrenean ibex, has returned after the native species was completely wiped out over a century ago.

Officials counted a new generation of 70 long-horned wild goats that are now thriving in the Pyrenees national park.

7. Fairytale author back in print after centuries

A selection of stories by Madame d'Aulnoy, the 17th century French writer who coined the term conte de fées (fairytale), will be published in English for the first time in more than 300 years.

Unlike other authors like Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, her work has been largely ignored. Now Princeton University Press is preparing to release a collection of her works titled 'The Island of Happiness' in March 2021.

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How to make the most of France’s ‘night of museums’ this weekend

More than 3,000 French museums will stay open long past their bedtimes on Saturday May 14th for the 18th Long Night of Museums.

How to make the most of France's 'night of museums' this weekend

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday in May each year in towns and cities across the whole of Europe. There are temporary exhibitions, themed guided visits, musical entertainment, lectures, concerts, food tasting, historical reconstructions and re-enactments, and film projections. Best news of all, almost everything is free. 

Here’s The Local’s guide to getting the most out of the night:

Plan, plan, then throwaway the plan

Consult the online programme and map out your route. A little preparation will make the night much easier – 3,000 museums will be open long into the night in France, and you don’t want to waste hours standing on a bridge arguing about where to go next. 

The site has suggestions for major cities, including Lyon, Dijon, Bourges, Strasbourg, Lille, Rouen, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Marseilles. And four museums that have been closed to the public for years – Musée de Cluny in Paris, the Musée de Valenciennes, the Forum antique de Bavay in Nord and the Musée départemental Albert-Khan in Boulogne-Billancourt – are reopening on the night.

So, decide where you’re going beforehand – then feel free to dump your carefully plotted plan in a bin when you overhear someone else talking about this extraordinary thing they have discovered and go with the flow.

Be patient

When you are consulting the official website, try not to scream. You have to navigate a map rather than a traditional programme format – though, at least, this year it’s broken down in to French regions, which is marginally less frustrating.

It is actually much easier if you know the specific museums you are interested in visiting, as they have individual programmes of events. But half the fun of a night like this is visiting somewhere you’ve never been before.

Wear comfortable shoes and travel light

Wear shoes for the long haul rather than the first impression. There will be distances to cover and you might even find yourself dancing in the middle of a museum. 

And blisters are never a good partner with great art. Leave your skateboard and shopping trolley at home, they will just prove a nuisance when you are going through security checks.

Come early – or late – to avoid endless queues

Arriving at the Louvre at 8pm is always going to mean a giant queue. And nothing ruins a night quicker than spending most of it standing in an unmoving line. Try to escape peak times at the major museums – but check they’re not doing something interesting that you don’t want to miss – hip hop dance classes in the Department of Oriental Antiquities, in the Louvre’s Richelieu wing, for example…

Go somewhere you’ve never been to before

Do a lucky dip. Pick somewhere you’ve never heard of and know nothing about. What about the Musée de Valenciennes, which reopens after years of being closed to the public, for example. Its giving visitors the chance to see its fine art under ultraviolet light – which will reveal things you wouldn’t normally see.

Or you could delve deep into the Aude Departmental Archives, in Carcassonne, and discover the amazing life stories of some of the region’s historical figures

Make it social

Gather the troops, this is a night for multi-generations of family and friends. Art, history and culture, is very much a shared experience and you can usually find something that everyone loves – or hates.

Plan a pitstop

You will always need refreshing and wouldn’t a night of culture be wonderfully enhanced by a delicious picnic on the banks of the Seine, if you’re in Paris. 

Your mind will need a little pause from all the intellectual overload. Find a spot, listen to the music (there’s always music from somewhere) and watch the Bateaux Mouches go by as you eat a baguette with some good local cheese and some saucisson.