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France Travel News 03/28/2011

  • Good value, low taxes still luring Brits to France

    With media reports seemingly multiplying daily of rising inflation, skyrocketing unemployment and no hope of securing a mortgage to get on the property ladder, it's little wonder Brits are returning to that much-prized dream of chucking it all in and moving abroad. And where better than France, where expats can learn a new language, explore tranquil and varied countryside and find their money going further, whilst still being a couple of hours' train ride from their friends and family?

  • Why France’s gender code makes life hard for women

    The twin stereotypes about gender in France are wholly contradictory: on the one hand, they have titanic feminist theorists, from Simone de Beauvoir via Helene Cixious to Virginie Despentes, a tranche of thinkers so heavyweight that the rest of Europe couldn't match it if we pooled all our feminists. On the other hand, the mainstream culture looks quite sexist. The women seem bedevilled by standards that are either unattainable (to be a perfect size eight) or demeaning in themselves (to be restrained, demure, moderate in all things, poised; a host of qualities that all mean "quiet"). But this dichotomy is impossible. Either the feminist intellectuals had no impact, or the sexism is a myth.

  • Queen Marie-Antoinette’s desk back in Versailles Palace

    Nearly 222 years after the French Revolution, a desk made by royal cabinetmaker Jean-Henri Riesener is back in the Versailles Palace after being acquired by the French state for 6.75 million euros ($9.4 million). French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand on Monday officially turned over to the palace the elegant piece which has been classified as "a work of major cultural value". The desk is composed of an apron with four drawers decorated with the four gilt-bronze low reliefs — a trademark of the celebrated German cabinetmaker. It will now be displayed in the private apartment where Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793), wife of King Louis XVI, used to entertain her children and friends.

  • France’s female new wave

    There's a feeling out there that France may be on the verge of another new wave: not of the politically radical 1950s kind, but one in which young, driven, women film-makers will be at the fore. Names being mentioned are Mia Hansen-Løve, Rebecca Zlotowski and Katell Quillévéré; their films have already electrified France and are beginning to spread elsewhere. Of course, on one level, there is nothing unusual about French women film directors. From Agnès Varda to Claire Denis, Coline Serreau to Agnès Jaoui, women have been able to make their presence felt in French cinema. NT Binh, film critic for the film magazine Positif, says: "It's not a wave but a deluge, one that has been going on for more than 50 years."

  • “Courtyard of the Gentiles” opens in Paris, France

    Paris, France is the scene this Thursday and Friday of the inauguration of a major Vatican initiative headed by the Pontifical Council for Culture, aimed at recovering a broad cultural dialogue, the purpose of which is to preserve the great questions about human existence – especially spiritual questions – in contemporary Western public intellectual life. The “Courtyard of the Gentiles” as the initiative is known in English, takes its name from the space in the area of the great Temple at Jerusalem, in which Jews and gentiles met and engaged each other – an image that Pope Benedict XVI invoked in his 2009 address to the Roman Curia.

  • Swirl, sniff, sip every culture

    Bernard Peillon, the chairman and chief executive officer of cognac brand Hennessy, declines a late morning drink (he asks me for tea though) during our meeting at the Sea Lounge of The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel in Mumbai. The 54-year-old Peillon is warm and speaks generously about encounters with people who shaped his life, though he doesn’t name them. “My whole career has been a matter of meeting people,” he says in clear English tinged with a French accent. He starts from “far away”, when he had to choose between two sides of his family—one with the Chateau de Rieussec in Bordeaux and the other in the silk business in Lyon. Peillon swayed towards the vineyard and started working there in 1979, learning about the business till he encountered “a customer” who asked him to move to Harrod’s in London. Still in his early 20s, Peillon worked as a wine salesman for a few months at Harrod’s, which also helped him improve his English.

  • Revolt stirs in France’s schools against ‘elitist’ education system

    It's hard to believe, when lessons are under way, that there are 700 children at Lou Redounet high school in Uzés, southern France. The corridors are silent; not a single pupil is out of place. But behind the classroom doors a series of revolutionary experiments is under way. Children falling behind in maths, French and English are being taken aside for extra tutoring. In a few classes the tough marking system that dominates French schools has been quietly dropped. Teachers are encouraged to treat every pupil as an individual. By British standards these changes seem uncontroversial, but in France they are deemed so radical that they have already cost one headteacher his job.

  • France and the arts: a new revolution

    In recent years, Paris has become synonymous with stratospheric blockbuster art exhibitions where visitors cram like sardines and crane for a view of famous works. The impressionist Claude Monet at the Grand Palais recently attracted a staggering 920,000 visitors and eventually had to open all night to accommodate the crowds. France had seen nothing like the queues since 1.2 million turned out to see the treasures of Tutankhamun in 1967. Meanwhile, French museums had more than 26 million visitors in 2010, a figure more or less stable for three years. Theatre ticket sales are up, cinemas are full, the books industry is growing and French audiences are responding to the financial crisis by spending less on holidays and more on the arts. Major new building projects are under way – despite rows and setbacks – including the Paris Philharmonic and Marseille's MuCEM, the Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean.

  • EasyJet Chief Targets Air France, BA Business Passengers

    EasyJet is increasing daily flights on routes from key bases in London, Paris and Geneva, the CEO said yesterday in an interview on the carrier’s inaugural flight to Amman, Jordan. The airline is also rolling out flexible tickets, which it started testing in November, across its network in an effort to make the airline more attractive to business passengers.

  • Socialists Making a Comeback in French Elections

    France's regional election results Sunday dented French President Nicolas Sarkozy's hopes for re-election in next year's presidential elections. According to the Interior Ministry the opposition Socialist Party won 36-percent of the votes nationwide while the far-right National Front led by new leader Marine Le Pen gained ground, garnering 12-percent of the vote.