Why France is so popular

When two news sources in two different countries publish an article asking the same question, it tends to catch your eye. Based in Paris, The Local, and across the channel in London, The Telegraph, both wanted to investigate why France consistently attracts more visitors each year than any other country in the world. One story offered 6 reasons while the other almost tripled that with 17 ideas about why this country had a target of 100 million visitors for 2020 following on from a rising trend from several previous years. Obviously Covid had a huge impact on reaching that goal but the signs are good that people are returning. What is it that everyone wants to see?

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Josephine Baker and the Panthéon

On this coming Tuesday in Paris there will be a ceremony honoring the memory of American-born and French-naturalized Josephine Baker. Her remains will stay in the municipal cemetery in Monaco while a monument will be placed inside the Panthéon. The current building, completed in 1790, was designated the following year as the final resting spot for those who have made significant contributions to the nation including politicians, authors, scientists, and Resistance fighters. In August, French President Emmanuel Macron announced who would be joining Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Louis Braille, Marie Curie, and Simone Veil, among only 73 others.

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The almost perfect vacationers

One of the online French newspapers that I look at each morning always has a “View From…” section where they summarize an article written in a foreign newspaper about life in France. The topic is often politics but there are a fair number of discussions regarding food, wine, and culture. A headline that caught my eye was “The French, those almost perfect vacationers” in the section “View from the United Kingdom”. I was really curious to see why this writer from the London-based The Daily Telegraph would rate our new neighbors and friends as the ideal holidaymakers. I became even more intrigued when I saw that the title in English in the original newspaper story was actually “The beautiful corners of France that the French don’t want you to know about.” Lost in translation?

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France’s favorite monument

Arc

Monuments, do we have monuments! According to the Ministry of Culture there were 45,684 structures in 2020 that had protected status because of their “historical, artistic or architectural interest.” Television channel France 3 annually asks residents to vote on their favorite and this year’s winner was announced on Wednesday night. (If you scroll through the photos below to the bottom, you’ll see who won.) While visitor numbers might be an indication of popularity, that doesn’t necessarily translate into being chosen as number one. Crowds flock to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, and even to our own medieval walled city of Carcassonne which is the fifth most visited place in France. The Favorite Monument winner last year, however, was the Citadel and Lion of Belfort, about 55 km/35 miles from the border with Switzerland and in 2015 it was the Belfry of Arras, two hours north of Paris. Who were the candidates this year?

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A second statue from France

In Bordeaux

Scheduled for arrival in the port of New York today (but delivered early, on Thursday) is the second Statue of Liberty that France has sent to the US in the last 135 years. The first, of course, has stood on Liberty Island since its inauguration in 1886 welcoming new arrivals to America’s shores. Following a stopover to stand beside its much taller inspiration (46 m/151 ft.) the shorter replica (2.83 m/9.3 ft.) will continue on to Washington, DC where it will be displayed to the public in the ornamental gardens, visible from the street, at the residence of the French ambassador to America. That seems fitting since Ambassador Philippe Étienne was instrumental from the beginning of the process.

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Flowers and chocolates for Easter

In France, the end of Lent is called Pâques, a word derived from Latin for food, pascua, while in modern day English, Easter may have come from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre. Despite the different names, the day itself is celebrated in a similar manner in both cultures with egg hunts, baskets of candies, and a big family meal often featuring lamb. We took advantage of the beautiful weather to get some photos of the flower beds and the window displays of the chocolateries in Carcassonne. Whether you are waking up this morning to chocolate bells or fish as we are in France or rabbits, hens, and eggs (or maybe even marshmallow Peeps) we wish you Joyeuses Pâques!

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Christmas is (not) canceled

In the heart of Carcassonne, Place Carnot

About six weeks ago Bill said to me, “Christmas has been canceled.” He had just read an article on the city’s website announcing that the annual festival “La Magie de Noël” (The Magic of Christmas) would not take place this year because of current health concerns. Normally in December we are treated to an entire month of daily festivals, markets, parades, concerts, shows, and displays, plus steaming cups of hot chocolate and spiced wine. While most of that isn’t possible this year, the lights in the trees, the squares, the parks, and the shop windows seemed extra bright in keeping with the Mayor’s message: “Bringing a little joy and lightness in this time of crisis is essential, so that children’s eyes continue to shine.” Wishing you a bright and Merry Christmas! Continue reading “Christmas is (not) canceled”