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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Summer drought, Macron’s lengthy chat and women’s rights

From the latest on political and health developments, via summer holiday plans and the best drinks options, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Summer drought, Macron's lengthy chat and women's rights
Les gorges du Verdon. Photo by MICHEL GANGNE / AFP

Inside France is our weekly look at the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

The C word

It’s the topic no-one really wanted to talk about again, but we appear to be back in the world of masks, testing and daily infection rate statistics – yes, Covid’s back.

France appears to be firmly in the grip of a seventh wave as recorded cases soar, hospitalisations rise and all of a sudden we’re again hearing from friends, family and colleagues who have tested positive.

There are no new restrictions yet, although the health ministry is preparing a contingency plan, but masks are now ‘strongly recommended’ on public transport, and if you’re travelling by train or Metro, you’re likely to hear more public announcements urging passengers to put their masks back on for the sake of all travellers.

Summer 

Although there is still another week to go before the schools break up and les grandes vacances begin in France, the country has begun to take on a distinctly ‘holiday’ vibe as people look forward to their summer break.

Summer holidays are a big deal in France, and many people take at least a month off, while the kids get seven weeks off school and cities empty out as people decamp to the beaches and the countryside.

READ ALSO Rosé, spritz and pressé – what to drink in France this summer

But the summer has got off to a very bad start for one of France’s most spectacular tourist attractions, the Gorges du Verdon in south east France.

Usually a popular venue for water sports like rafting, authorities have been forced to issue a ban on water activities and close part of the park as the water runs dry. Temporary bans have been in place before in the Gorges, but never so early in the summer – another worrying sign as forecasters warn that the climate crisis means that France will face an unusually hot and dry summer with a high risk of drought and wildfires.

Wildfires already broke out earlier this week, while fires in the south of the country are not unusual during the summer months, this was another exceptionally early event. 

We discuss all aspects of the summer ahead in our latest episode of the Talking France podcast.

Women’s rights

You might have suddenly started seeing this lady’s face everywhere in France over the past week. 

If you don’t recognise her, this is Simone Veil, the politician behind the ‘Loi Veil’ which made abortion legal in France in 1975.

Her picture has been widely circulated as people shared their shock and anger at the decision of the US Supreme Court. In addition to many politicians, including president Emmanuel Macron, condemning the US decision to bar access to abortion for many millions of women, there are also proposals to enshrine the right to abortion in France’s constitution.

Changing the constitution is a complicated process, but it’s not impossible – 24 changes have been made since France introduced its current constitution in 1958 and France has had a total of 15 constitutions since the French Revolution, reflecting the many, many changes seen in society since the days when wearing a wig made of horse-hair was the height of fashion.

But while the right to abortion may become a constitutional right, abortion laws in France are more restrictive than several other European countries, with time limits meaning many French women need to travel to other EU countries to terminate a pregnancy.

In other feminism news, France this week elected the first female president of the Assemblée nationale, a mere 78 years since women were first given the vote. 

Sports fun

And I had a great night at the Stade de France last weekend, watching the final of France’s Top 14 rugby tournament. The 2020 final was cancelled and the 2021 played before a very limited crowd, so I and the other 79,000 spectators were thrilled to be back.

Also at the match was Emmanuel Macron, who spent such a long time on his pre-game, on-pitch chat to the players that kick-off was delayed by almost 15 minutes – there’s a time and a place for lengthy gossip sessions, Manu.

The Top 14 trophy is the enormous Bouclier de Brennus, surely one of the biggest sports shields in the world, and there’s a grand tradition of the winning team taking it on tour with them, surfing on it etc. Below is Guilhem Guirado, the captain of winning team Montpellier, having a little sleep next to the trophy after what was clearly a big weekend.

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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INSIDE FRANCE

Inside France: Dried-up rivers, primped-up Paris and why we love the French tax office

From extraordinary pictures of France's rivers to voting rights for foreigners and a TV show that we will all love to hate, our weekly newsletter Inside France looks at what we have been talking about in France this week.

Inside France: Dried-up rivers, primped-up Paris and why we love the French tax office

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

There really is one picture that has summed up France this week.

The mighty river Loire – famous around the world for wines, chateaux and its beautiful valley – has in places dried up to little more than a trickle.

It’s just one example of rivers, lakes and marshland drying up as France’s worst drought on record continues, and more and more of the country is placed under water restrictions.

IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

We spoke to hydrologist and climate expert Emma Haziza about why the drought is so bad and what we can expect by the rest of the summer.

And if you’re wondering why French people are urging ex president François Hollance to visit their region, it’s because they think he might bring the rain – a reference to this photo from 2014 of a drenched Hollande continuing regardless with a World War II commemoration event in Brittany.  

Say what you like about Hollande, but he was a trooper . . . 

Voting rights

With parliament in recess and most Ministers on the beach, there’s not been a lot of political news this week, but one MP has trailed a new bill – to give foreigners in France the right to vote.

At present EU citizens living in France can vote in local and European elections (but not presidential elections), but non-EU citizens cannot vote at all, neither can they become local councillors (which meant that many Brits had to give up roles in their local communities after Brexit).

Now Macronist MP Sacha Houlié wants to give non-EU citizens who are living in France the right to vote in municipal elections, and to become local councillors.

However before we get too excited, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is apparently “strongly opposed” to the idea.

Happy tax

This might sound unusual, but this week I have been sharing the love for the French tax office.

Yes, residents in France pay a lot of tax, but if you ever need to deal with the tax office, their staff are surprisingly lovely and helpful – a stark contrast to my experiences of dealing with HMRC back in the UK.

When I tweeted about a recent visit, many people replied sharing their positive experiences and French tax offices – which by the way exist even in quite small towns and you can walk in without appointment and find someone to help you.

Vive les taxes! 

City streets

And for readers in Paris or planning a visit, I can highly recommend this free exhibition of street art, hosted in the Tunnel des Tuileries, beside the Seine.

The tunnel used to be a road, but is now a walkway and cyclepath and this summer has this wonderful display of European street art – just one of the examples of the rapidly changing face of Paris. 

And speaking of Paris, if you loved to hate Emily in Paris, then September is going to be a good month for you!

Inside France is our weekly look at some of the news, talking points and gossip in France that you might not have heard about. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to their inbox, by going to their newsletter preferences or adding their email to the sign-up box in this article.

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