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LIVING IN FRANCE

Phone bills, English-language films and Covid tests – 6 essential articles for life in France

From advice for non-EU citizens on how to avoid racking up massive phone charges in France to finding undubbed films and learning more about France's fiercest local rivalries, here are some must-read articles for life in France.

Phone bills, English-language films and Covid tests - 6 essential articles for life in France
Photo by Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you have a phone registered in an EU country you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but everyone else needs to be careful with their phone use abroad. Here’s what you need to know.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting France

Speaking of travel … the virus that should not be named hasn’t gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Going to the cinema is one of life’s joys for many people – and France, the home of Cannes, is well known as a nation of cinephiles.

But what if you want to enjoy an overseas film with its original language soundtrack rather than one that has been dubbed into French? You can do that…

Reader question: Can you avoid seeing a dubbed movie in French cinemas?

The risk of tsunamis in the Mediterranean Sea is real – on October 16th, 1979, a tsunami, caused by a landslide, hit the coast of Nice and killed a dozen people. More recently, the Greek island of Samos in the Aegean Sea was hit by a tsunami in 2020.

But the climate crisis and rising sea levels mean that experts fear they will no longer be rare events along the Mediterranean coast in the next 30 years.

French riviera: Unesco tsunami warning for Marseille and Cannes

In very much related environmental news, France has endured at least 43 heat waves have been detected since 1947, but they are becoming more alarming – with the latest one, before all the storms, breaking temperature records all over the place.

So, here is how the country plans to change the landscape of its cities in order to cope with ever-increasing canicules.

Trees to trams: How French cities are adapting to summer heatwaves

And finally … From football to breakfast pastries, France contains some fierce local rivalries which are mostly fought through words and gastronomy, but occasionally spill over into physical battles. Here’s a look at what near neighbours in France love to hate about each other.

Cassoulet to cider: Where are France’s fiercest local rivalries?

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Firefighters contain French blazes but caution reigns

A huge fire that has devastated swathes of southwestern France appeared contained on Friday as French and foreign firefighters worked flat out, but blistering temperatures made victory uncertain, local authorities said.

Firefighters contain French blazes but caution reigns

The 40-kilometre active fire front in the Gironde and Landes departments around Bordeaux “has not developed, but the weather conditions are pushing us towards extreme vigilance”, deputy prefect Ronan Leaustic told reporters.

Temperatures stood at 39C in the fire zone, just like the day before.

No new evacuations had been ordered on top of the 10,000 people already asked to leave, Leaustic added.

But “temperatures continue to rise and the water table keeps falling”, he said.

EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have pledged reinforcements totalling 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.

‘Helping you guys’

Many of the newcomers went into action on Friday.

“It doesn’t matter which country we’re in, we’re firefighters, we are able to help people around the world,” said Cristian Buhaianu, who commands a 77-strong firefighting contingent from Romania.

At the Merignac air base, near the southwestern city of Bordeaux, where Canadair planes and other firefighting aircraft are stationed, a Greek pilot said scenes of devastation like the ones seen in France were commonplace in his home country.

“We see this every year in Greece, and right now we see this in France,” the pilot, 36-year-old Anastasis Sariouglou told AFP. “We have the feeling of helping you guys and it’s nice.”

In the hard-hit area around the village of Hostens, the thick smoke seen on Thursday gave way to blue skies and occasional clouds.

France has been buffeted this summer by a historic drought that has forced water use restrictions nationwide, as well as a series of heatwaves that experts say are being driven by climate change.

The blaze near Bordeaux erupted in July — the driest month seen in France since 1961 — destroying 14,000 hectares and forcing thousands of people to evacuate before it was contained.

But it continued to smoulder in the tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.

Officials suspect arson may have played a role in the latest flare-up, which has burned 7,400 hectares since Tuesday.

‘Forced to adapt’

Fires in 2022 have ravaged an area three times the annual average over the past 10 years, with blazes also active in the Alpine Jura, Isere and Ardeche regions this week.

The Ardeche fire “is far from under control, because the site is very difficult to reach”, said Jean Jaussaud, a local emergency services commander.

European Copernicus satellite data showed more carbon dioxide greenhouse gas — over one million tonnes — had been released from 2022’s forest fires in France than in any summer since records began in 2003.

On Friday, 19 departments were still at the highest orange heat alert level set by weather authority Meteo-France.

This year’s summer resembled predictions for “an average summer in the middle of this century” under pessimistic climate change scenarios, Meteo-France expert Jean-Michel Soubeyroux told AFP.

Temperatures were “unprecedented”, said wine-grower Maurin Berenger from the southwestern Lot department.

“We’ve been forced to adapt, we work from very early in the morning or even at night. I started at 3:00 am last night, and people with farm hands start at 6:00 to avoid the heat”.

Paris-based pensioner Caroline Dubois, 72, said she was “leaving all the windows in the apartment open so there’s a breeze”.

Weather forecasts suggest France’s third heatwave this year will be broken by storms over the weekend.

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