The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                          PAGE TWO
 
ICI ET LÀ
This column is intended to advise you about cultural events, news and happenings
in France or France-related events taking place in the United States
 between now and the publication of our next issue.
In France. . .

o   In the news: 

  • Transportation -
    • Driving in France means that rules will be enforced and fine will be levied as foreign-registered vehicles will no longer be immune from speeding fines and other illegal motoring offenses.  This begins in 2013, but EU countries will now share traffic infractions with all the other countries, meaning that collecting fines will be pursued. Fines will be handed out for not wearing seat belts, drunk driving, speeding, under the influence of drugs, illegally using the emergency lane, and much more
    • Parking fines were increased from €11 to €17, but because of a loophole in the law, fines may be canceled this summer because the forms used are out of date, and if the traffic warden doesn't make a correction and sign it, the ticket is invalid.
    • Air France will begin budget routes from France's regional airports.  54 routes in all will be added to transport travelers to other French regional airports or to airports in other European nations starting from €50 one way. 
    • The Paris métro will be expanded with a 32 billion euro high-speed automatic métro system around the city's suburbs with planned completion by 2018.  The supermétro is part of the bigger 'Grand Paris' initiative to improve connections between industrial and residential centers of the Ile de France.  Orly Airport will become part of the métro system for the first time, and the new circular line will link the suburbs, as well as a link between Orly and Versailles in 2015.  A total of 200 kilometers of new tracks will be built serving 72 stations.
    • Paris will launch its river-bus network along the Seine in 2013 and will connect with the rest of the city's public transport system.  Boats will run from Suresnes in the west to Maisons-Alfort in the east crossing the center of the capital with 30 stop-off points. 
  • The French are traveling less this year.  A survey shows that 45% of the French will not take a vacation this summer but will be staying near home visiting friends nearby, working on do-it-yourself projects or gardening.  The reason is that many cannot afford to travel and others prefer to save their money for other things. 
  • Health - 
    • Cleaner air in the Dordogne may be one outcome of an experiment by French farmers who are using duck fat to fuel their tractors.  It is collected from restaurants, heated to 120 degrees Celsius to eliminate the water, and then alcohol and potassium hydroxide are added.  After decanting, it becomes biodiesel.  20,000 liters have been produced in the past year.
    • The French consumer protection watchdog, DGCCRF, is cracking down on mislabeled food products, concentrating on those will false health claims. Up to €375,000 in fines will be levied for misleading advertising if claims are made that cannot be substantiated.  This new European directive will also ensure clearer labeling of nutritional information on packaging.
    • The EU threatens legal action against 14 towns and cities in France for particle emissions in their air that were above the legal EU limit.  These fine particles from industrial emissions, household heating and car fumes cause breathing problems.
    • GPs in France want an increase in their standard consultation fee from €23 to €25.  The two unions representing these doctors say that the increase will encourage young doctors to become GPs again, and they are also calling for GPs to receive up to a €15,000 annual bonus for good performance.
    • Toxic green algae washing up on the shores of Brittany recently was blamed for the death of many wild boars, a problem the government blamed on intense pig farming in the region, resulting in runoff into coastal waters.  The fumes from the rotting seaweed are toxic, so many beaches were closed.  Now, Normandy's beaches between Utah and Omaha on the Calvados coast are experiencing growing quantities of seaweed, about 60% of which is green algae.  The community has cleaned up about 5,000 tons this year, believed to have been caused by waste from stables that makes its way into the water.  Farmers are being urged to drastically decrease their use of pesticides which is another cause of the growth of the algae.
  • The Minitel will be around a little longer - France's pre-internet device will be around ten more months due to popular demand - until June of 2012.  France Telecom said this would allow businesses to migrate any remaining Minitel service and account files to the Web.  Since 1982 the Minitel permitted the French to do instant messaging, gaming, online news, electronic bill paying and more.  It still had 2 million users in 2010 and brings in very good revenue to the phone giant.
  • French taxpayers in the higher brackets will be paying a new tax come the end of summer.  The government is considering a 1% or 2% increase for some 30,000 wealthy French residents whose net income exceeds one million euros.  Other tax breaks have been eliminated recently, so the French will be seeing higher taxes very soon.
  • A disease is overtaking the beautiful platane trees along the Canal du Midi in France's southwest.  This apparently unstoppable fungal disease has resulted in cutting down the trees - something seen as a national tragedy.  Local politicians are concerned that the removal of the trees will put the canal's UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in jeopardy.  French authorities are hoping to be able to quickly replace the trees with young ones to recreate the ambiance along this romantic waterway.  The diseased trees must be felled and burned along with the healthy ones beside them for a total of 1000 trees lost due to this fungus.  The disease is thought to have arrived from contaminated wooden ammunition boxes of American GIs in World War II.  Sadly, the plan is to fell 4000 more trees next year.  The new trees will be from a more disease-resistant strain, but it is estimated that it will take up to 40 years to replant the 200 kilometers of lovely trees. 
          [Read more about these trees in our Notes on Narbonne feature on page five.]
  • UNESCO will add the Cévennes mountain range, the huge natural park in the south of France, and the Grands Causses limestone plateau in the Massif Central to their list of World Heritage sites.  They are being so honored because of their natural beauty and for the efforts of the region's shepherds who helped shape the landscape over the centuries.  This area covers some 3000 square kilometers of land shared by the Gard, Hérault, Aveyron and Lozère départements.
CÚvennes National Park

The beautiful and protected Cevennes

  • Businesses in France are doing quite well, and reports in late July show that Renault's first-half net profit was up 56% to 1.2 billion euros, despite losses in the Japan earthquake.  Danone's first-half net profits were up 2.7% to 861 million euros.  In recent days, however, the banking sector is suffering do to the sovereign debt crisis in other European countries.
  • Interested in buying French real estate? There are many courthouses up for sale since France reset its judicial boundaries for 200 courts. Desperate to sell, many communes are open to offers, but keep in mind that renovating these buildings might be costly and, if they are 'listed' historical buildings, many restrictions to renovations will apply.
  • Speaking of real estate, the famous Saint Nicolas Russian Cathedral in Nice, France, now belongs to Russia!  After the death of the last czar, Orthodox church members took over the cathedral and more recently they rejected ownership claims from the new Russian government.  However, a judge in the Aix-en-Provence appeals court ruled in favor of the Russian government, giving it ownership of the cathedral, its land and the artwork inside.  It is a classified historic monument in France and is the largest Russian cathedral outside of Russia.  The congregation is not finished yet; they say they will take the matter to a higher court claiming that Czar Nicolas built the cathedral with his own money and not that of the imperial treasury.  We shall see what transpires next!
o  Dressing Up and Dressing Down in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Costume in Art now through August 25 at Les Enluminures, Le Louvre des Antiquaires, 2 Place du Palais-Royal, Paris.

o  Sandra Hindman's 20th Anniversary Show at Les Enluminures, will take place in the Paris gallery (opposite the Louvre) from September 6 to November 27.  A catalog and more information can be found at http://www.lesenluminures.com.

o Gastronomie Festival in France begins September 23 with events throughout the country and online.  Here is a sampling:

  • La Fête de la Gastronomie is a new national event launched by Secretary of State for Tourism, Frédéric Lefebvre. Aimed to celebrate French cuisine, the festival follows UNESCO's addition of the French gastronomic meal to their prestigious list of World Intangible Heritages, which honors the conviviality surrounding traditional French meals. For the festival's first year, local cuisine, or terroir, will be celebrated within the different regions of France, boasting food that is unique to each own area.  Details at (French only) http://www.fete-gastronomie.fr/fr.
  • From September 19 to 25, France is hosting its own version of Restaurant Week, offering special two-for-one deals at participating restaurants all around the country. For the second year, celebrated chef Alain Ducasse is in charge of this food-centric event called Tous au Restaurant. All different types of restaurants, from everyday bistros to Michelin-starred destinations, will partake in this event around France. In these participating locations, diners can take advantage of enjoying two prix-fixe meals (including an appetizer, main course and dessert) for the price of one.  Click here to search for a restaurant.
  • Soup from the Markets of France - Each of the 1,000 markets of France will offer a soup that is prepared with local ingredients. Anyone stopping by a participating market can try the soup for free, and take home an exclusive mug designed with the Fête de la Gastronomie logo.
  • A Special Bread at Boulangeries-Patisseries  - Many of the boulangeries-patisseries all over France will serve a special bread in honor of the fête.
  • Gastronomy & Arts at the Vineyard . . .The Wine Chateaux & Monuments, an association of exceptional vineyards and estates throughout France, will host a special cultural event celebrating French gastronomy paired with the arts. Artists will create a variety of works, from sculptures to paintings, representing the chefs who cook with local produce. The selected works will be showcased online until September 23, 2012.
  • and in Paris Tastings in the Paris Airports - Tasting kiosks will be placed at the main arrival terminals in Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly airports that will treat travelers to some of the local cuisine of France.  In the regions look for Fête de La Gastronomie in Valence  (Rhône-Alpes) restaurants will offer special menus that utilize local ingredients, pastry chefs will sell gourmet desserts at reduced prices, and a competition will be hosted to see who can make the best version of the local specialty le Suisse. A special dish called en terre drômoise will be offered at restaurants with local wine and cheese. 
  • Open Table Festival in Roanne (Rhône-Alpes) where the city of Roanne is hosting a selection of events including an evening of tastings, a theatrical performance, cooking workshops, a book fair and more. 
  • Picnic in Burgundy - the tourism office of Burgundy is hosting unique picnics from September 23 through 25 where they will serve local specialties. The locations are still being determined, but may be in a vineyard, outside a historic monument or by a port. 
  • Online: Cuisineaz.com Contest - The first culinary social network, cuisineaz.com, is hosting a contest for the best recipe. Prizes include cooking classes, utensils, gourmet baskets, aprons, and more. 


o  Aix-en-Provence's Musée Granet will host L'Exemple de Cézanne through October 2, an exhibit of the acquisitions from French art collector Jean Planque.  Works by Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin and 20th century paints such as Picasso, Braque, Dufy, Léger and Klee- some 150 to 300 works - will be on display. 

o  Sèvres Cité de la Céramique presents Mise en Oeuvre:  Le quotidian et l'exceptionnel sous l'oeil du design illustrating the creation of ceramics including turning, molding, modeling, and painting.  Through September 26.  Location and detailed information at http://www.sevresciteceramique.fr.
 

In the US & Canada . . .

o  David Downie's book Paris, Paris, which we reviewed in our Spring issue (and, we were the first publication to review it!) has gone into its 4th printing at Random House in New York - in just 3 months!  The world now knows about it, and we are so happy to have played a small part.  Congratulations, David, on an indispensable guide to some of the most interesting Parisian neighborhoods and for your great success!  Click here to order your copy from Amazon.com.

o  Rodin and America:  Influence and Adaptation 1876-1936 is the exhibit from October 5, 2011 to January 1, 2012 at Stanford University's Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. The exhibit focuses on Rodin's influence on American artists and is comprised of 132 works.  Admission is free. For more information: http://www.museum.stanford.edu or telephone 1.650.723.4177.

o  New York's Morgan Library and Museum will present Illuminating Fashion: Dress and Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands through September 4.  More information at http://www.themorgan.org.

o  Pissarro's People is running through October 2 at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.  About 100 paintings and other work on paper spanning the artist's career will be on exhibit.  Details from http://www.clarkart.edu.

o  The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde is an exhibit of the collection of Gertrude Stein and her family now in private and public collections around the world.  This show brings together 200 masterworks once owned by these patrons of the arts, including family photos, letters and other archived materials.  Until September 6 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  For more information contact: http://www.sfmoma.org.

o  Montreal, Canada's Museum of Fine Arts will host an exhibit entitled The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier:  From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk marking the 35th anniversary of his first  prêt-a-porter collection.  Some 120 outfits, many never before exhibited, will be on display through October 2 at the museum.  Details at http://www.mbam.qc.ca.

o  Chanel:  Designs for the Modern Woman is an exhibit of suits, evening wear and accessories from the 1920s until today.  Coco Chanel died in 1971, but her house of fashion has continued to the present time under the direction of Karl Lagerfeld.  Through December 31 at the Mint Museum Randolph, Charlotte, North Carolina.  Information at http://www.mintmuseum.org.
 
 

FRENCH HEALTHCARE 
                                                                                                                    by Barbara Beaumont

Doctor's Bag.  Courtesy Microsoft Corporation.
For all those who think that the United States has a good healthcare system, I'll be the one to break that bubble.  Michael Moore was right: you just can't beat the French system!

I can say that because I lived in the south of France for seventeen years and was able to benefit from it.  The basic difference between the French system and that of the US is that in France (and pretty much everywhere else in Europe) healthcare is NOT for profit. They feel that everyone has the right to affordable care, and that is why the government controls the cost of health care.  Everyone who works pays into the system (at nowhere near the US cost) so everyone shares in the expense.  Obviously, this is not the case here.

A few examples: in France a visit to my GP cost me €7 and to a specialist, €12.  I had rotator cuff surgery and the total cost (two nights in the hospital, anesthesia and a surgeon who was allowed to charge above the norm because he was renowned) was €300.  I have heard many misconceptions about the French system, such as the idea that you can't choose your own doctor (not true) or that you have to wait a long time to see a doctor (also not true).

I've been back in the United States for a year now, and I think the thing that I miss most is the French healthcare system.  I was forced to wait thirteen months here before I could have Part B of Medicare, which basically left me without insurance.  No one in France is without health care, even if they don't work.  What a civilized idea!  Just one more reason to love France . . .

Barbara Beaumont operated Jaunts in Provence, a full-service company that arranged hotel and
B&B stays, airport or TGV pickup, and other services for a relaxing and enjoyable stay in Provence. 
Barbara has moved back to the United States and is living in southern California 
- a place with a climate similar to Provence.  She has contributed articles to FRANCE On Your Own
in the past, and we hope she will continue to do so in the future.

[After a bit of research into whether this topic was one word or two, 
we conclude that the spelling of 'health care' as two words relates to the care of a person,
and 'healthcare' as one word is the system providing that care. - Editor]

 

page 1    previous page                               next page page 3