Category Archives: French History

Why Is Napoleon Buried at Les Invalides in Paris? Episode 135

Why Is Napoleon Buried at Les Invalides in Paris?

Les Invalides in Paris at night

As you probably know, Napoléon Bonaparte’s importance in French history and life is difficult to over-estimate. Yet, surprisingly, we haven’t talked about Napoleon much on Join Us in France besides in Episode 58, titled Napoleon in Paris. This has everything to do with the fact that, well, it’s a complicated subject, and it is impossible to do it justice without going on and on and on about it and be a little bit more scholarly than ideal for my taste. BUT, Napoleon has left his mark in almost every aspect of French culture and history, so we can’t ignore him. So, let’s start the year 2017 gently by dipping our toes gently into the Napoleon soup and ask a simple question: Why is Napoleon buried at Les Invalides?

If you like this episode, you may also like Napoleon in Paris.

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Moulin Rouge in Paris, Episode 126

Moulin Rouge in Paris

Gary and Leslie in front of the Moulin Rouge
Gary and Leslie

Moulin Rouge, Is It Worth a Visit?

Do you love the French cancan? If you do, you may be tempted to get tickets to see the Moulin Rouge show. But there are so many things to do in Paris, will the Moulin Rouge be worth it? Should you go with dinner and the show or just the show? Brenda and Gary, my guests on today’s show, help you answer that question for yourself.

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

With its 120 years of history, the Moulin Rouge is the archetype for cabaret performances, often imitated, and world-famous. But what is it really like once you get inside? What sort of act has it become? Gary and Brenda tell us what they experienced, what they were hoping to see, and what they actually saw.  Enjoy the show!

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Lourdes, Episode 100

Lourdes in France, people walking in front of the BasilicaLourdes in France

Lourdes is a Place of Pilgrimage and History unlike any other in France because the events that made it famous are only 160 years old, and there are pictures of the most important protagonist: Bernadette de Soubirous.

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Art Nouveau in France, Episode 97

Art Nouveau in FranceArt Nouveau in France

Today Elyse explains the Art Nouveau movement in France, in particular, Hector Guimard and the specifics of how this art movement manifested itself in France.

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Art Nouveau happened in many countries, but under different names and with different stylistic choices. In England for instance it was called “The Modern Style”. This movement began in Scotland but soon took off in many countries. It only lasted officially for 20 years, from 1890 until 1910. In France, Belgium and Catalonia gave shape to the idea that nature needed to be represented in all its organic forms, with curvy lines and pleasant shapes.

Episode Highlights

  • Art Nouveau in France
  • Daum, Gallé and Lalique in the city of Nancy
  • The Difference Between Art Nouveau and Art Déco
  • Where to See Art Nouveau in Paris
  • French Tip of the Week [1:05]

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Layover in Paris, Episode 96

Layover in Paris

Layover in Paris

This episode is all about helping you plan the perfect layover in Paris. Do you want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and Notre Dame on a very tight schedule? Paris Tour Guide Emmanuel Rozenblum of TripAside tells you how! Emmanuel answers questions about what to do if the weather is bad, where to get a quick feel for Christmas in Paris, some of his favorite walks, and some of his favorite restaurants too!

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

And even if you want to take your time in Paris, nothing forces you to visit all those sites quickly. If you have any choice in the matter at all, take your time and enjoy Emmanuel’s recommendations.

But whatever you decide once you’ve listened to the show, do not stay at the CDG airport! That would be bad for your soul, and it is also one of Annie’s most despised airports in the whole world!

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Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France, Episode 92

Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France
Photo Zlatko Vickovic

New terror attacks in France have been making the headlines for over a week and have shocked the world. It is important to try to make sense of what happened with the attacks of Nov 13th, 2015 and put it in the context of French culture and history. Guest Patrick Béja comes on the show to share his experiences as a news commentator and a resident of Paris. Patrick is the host of a news commentary show in English as well as two French language podcasts on Tech news and Gaming news. He comes on the show today to help Annie make sense of terror attacks in France.

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France Episode Highlights

  • Recap of the Events of Nov 13, 2015
  • What the State of Emergency Means in France
  • Should You, Potential Visitor, Change Anything As a Result of these Attacks?
  • The Effects of Terror Attacks on Tourism
  • What the Word “Laïcité” Means in French
  • The Issue of Wearing the Veil in France
  • How Much Religious Accommodation Is Too Much?
  • Religion and Patriotism Are Not What Unify French People, the Republic Is!
  • Where Do You Draw the Line?
  • Law Against Conspicuous Religious Signs in Schools
  • Conclusion: Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France

Most Requested Book Following the Attacks: Hemmingway’s A Moveable Feast

If you liked this episode, also listen to How to Stay Safe in France, Episode 50 and Secularism and Free Speech in France, Episode 51.

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Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France
Patrick Béja

Recap of the Events of Nov 13, 2015

Attacks on the Stade de France where security did its job and did not let the attackers in. Then attacks on a café and a restaurant near the Canal Saint Martin. Then attack on the Bataclan where most of the victims died. There are some important differences between the attacks on Charlie Hebdo that took place in January 2015 and the attacks of November 2015. In the first, the victims were journalists who took risks by steering controversy. But in the second it was regular people who were targeted. It is also the first time we’ve had suicide bombers in France. The state of emergency was declared right away and has been prolonged for 3 months by a vote of the French parliament.

What the State of Emergency Means in France

While the state of emergency is in effect in France “perquisitions” (searches) can be performed with out a search warrant. Police can decide without the approval of a prosecutor when it is time to intervene. Searches can also happen any time of the day whereas outside of the state of emergency searches have to happen between 6 AM and 9 PM.

Public cameras and internet surveillance laws will be updated in response to these attacks. On the other hand curtailment of the freedom of the press, which was part of the state of emergency law in France as it was written many decades ago, has been removed from the state of emergency package in France.

It is very likely that the number of surveillance cameras in France will increase, not so much to prevent crime but rather to make it easier to have evidence to convict perpetrators.

Most French people are in agreement with these measures because they going to be in effect for a limited time.  French President François Hollande is also trying to modify the Constitution so that suspects can be assigned to residence easily even outside of the state of emergency and their internet access limited or at least scrutinized. Making decisions motivated by urgency (and possibly fear as well) is not generally a good idea and it is important to consider what happens when those decisions are applied to too many people. Also how do you decide who is worthy of extra scrutiny? How do you stop scrutinizing people if it was all a mistake?

A “fiche S” in France is kept about persons who are suspected of being a security risk and police is supposed to keep a close eye on them. There are 10,000 people on that list. Not all 10,000 will be detained in residence, which ones should and shouldn’t? There will almost certainly also be people on whom there is a “fiche S” who should be locked up and weren’t and commit terrible acts. It’s impossible to prevent such problems at times.

Should You, Potential Visitor, Change Anything As a Result of these Attacks?

How will Patrick’s life in Paris change as a result? Probably not at all. The people of Paris have a desire to change nothing. Parisians do not want to change their way of life and it is very likely that within a few days, things will get back to normal. What may force us to change things are possible changes in technology such as secure messaging, cryptography, backdoor access to software, etc. It may be difficult to convince French people that requiring back doors is a bad idea.

The Effects of Terror Attacks on Tourism

10% of bookings in Paris were cancelled and another 30% were rescheduled which was to be expected. If Annie had made a reservation to go to Paris this week she might have postponed it too because increased police presence and site closings are a hassle. The likelihood of being caught in a terror attack is so small, but the inconvenience is real. It is important to realize that the aim of these attacks is to frighten us and it is better to go on despite our natural fears.

What the Word “Laïcité” Means in French

In English you’ve heard of the term “lay clergy” which means a person who is not a trained theologian who still participates in religious life. In France “laïcité” has a very different meaning. It is the person who is without theology period. The person you can trust to not bow to the priest because of their fear of damnation. French culture has this ingrained idea that one must protect one’s self against the power of church.  That fear has now morphed into a fear of Muslims rather than Catholicism, but it comes from the same place.

Patrick feels that it’s very difficult for people who are not French to understand the complicated relationship that French people have with all religion. In the US any criticism of religion is a big problem. In France it is not like that generally speaking. French people have the attitude that everyone can do whatever they want as far as religion is concerned, but don’t bother the rest of us with it. Most of the time things go very smoothly with that attitude.

The Issue of Wearing the Veil in France

Growing up in France in the 70s, Muslim girls did not cover their hair in school for instance. Annie feels that the law of 2004 made things worse because you see a lot more Muslim women covering up in France today than you ever did. And they cover more too!

Patrick feels like it’s a big mistake to condemn Islam over these isolated events. These attacks stem from a small number of Muslims who practice a particular brand of Islam that is not common. But it would also be a mistake to ignore the fact that there are some Muslims in France that preach a very extreme and violent type of Islam in the heart of France. This particular brand of violent Islam is also very opposed to the whole idea of secularism that France is so attached to. Wearing a head scarf is not an issue, what we have a problem with is what we call “ostentatoire” signs of religions such as a full burka.

As French people should we be accepting of that in the name of religious tolerance or should we be against it because it changes our culture and way of life? If you are attached to the rights of women, you have to care about these questions. It got to the point in Paris (where they specifically hired bus drivers from immigrant families in the hopes to deflate tensions) a few dozen bus drivers refused to drive a bus that had been driven by a woman. There was also the case of a woman who delivered her baby early, the nurse midwife the couple had selected couldn’t be there, so the male doctor at the small rural hospital took care of her. After the baby was born the woman’s husband punched him in the face because he was not happy that another man had touched his wife. We should not overstate the prevalence of these incidents, but they happen in France.

How Much Religious Accommodation Is Too Much?

France is a very liberal country compared to the US, and the law of 2004 may have been a reaction to too much leeway being given to religious practices that we find strange and uncomfortable. It’s easy for anyone to see that punching a doctor in the face is wrong, but this manifests in much subtler ways. For instance, should schools provide pork-free meals or is that giving in to religious dictates? What about separating boys and girls in school? What about unisex buses? Where should France draw the line?

Annie thinks schools must accommodate children’s needs by offering a vegetarian meal which would satisfy Jews, Muslims and vegetarian too. This is particularly true because in France you can’t send your kids to school with a lunch you made at home. What if the kid has a medical issue? Patrick objects that in the case of a medical issue the school needs to make an exception, but should it make an exception in the case of religion. Annie thinks they should, Patrick isn’t sure. This has become an issue because we’re OK with religion as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it, and asking for religious exception is too much.

Religion and Patriotism Are Not What Unify French People, the Republic Is!

We don’t trust religion in France because it bases your decisions on fundamentals that cannot be questioned. Everyone who lives in France is supposed to stand for the Republic and the ideals that go along with it. That works in principle, but in reality a lot of people are left out, especially those who happen to have typical Algerian names. France attracted a lot of immigrants from North Africa in the 50s and housed them in large complexes at the periphery of large cities. Those places have become ghettos that are almost 100% segregated. And now you have second and third generation children of those immigrants from the 50s who live in segregated housing and are disenfranchised.  They are less integrated into French life than their parents and grandparents.

Where Do You Draw the Line?

French people have the idea that when you come to France you must leave your religion and your culture at the door. Immigrants who accept that integrate well, but it’s a lot to ask. On the other hand if you accept that immigrants come with their differences and you want to accommodate them, where do you draw the line? Do you have public pools only for women and children? Do you have days when only women and children can go to the library?

Liberal-minded people want to be accommodating, especially in the aftermath of an attack such as the one we just had, but how far do you take your desire for better integration and acceptance? How much is too much to ask for a host country?

 Law Against Conspicuous Religious Signs in Schools

On this matter Patrick and Annie don’t remember exactly what the law said, Annie says it was a mistake to ask for removal of religious signs (it would have been better to ban face coverings on security grounds), Patrick says that people would have seen through that and that it was couched in terms of security also. Here’s what the law actually says:

« Art. L. 141-5-1. – Dans les écoles, les collèges et les lycées publics, le port de signes ou tenues par lesquels les élèves manifestent ostensiblement une appartenance religieuse est interdit.
Le règlement intérieur rappelle que la mise en oeuvre d’une procédure disciplinaire est précédée d’un dialogue avec l’élève.

In Elementary Schools, Junior Schools, and public High Schools, the wearing of symbols or clothing by which students conspicuously indicate their religious belief is prohibited. According to the rules of procedure, disciplinary action will not be taken until a dialog has been established with the student.

French legislators went directly to the issue of religion because that’s where French people think you draw the line. A person’s religion should have no impact on others. And yet, we are seeing more Kosher Restaurants, grocery stores, same with Halal and it can rub some French people the wrong way. These manifestations of difference go against the idea that we are all children of the Republic.

Conclusion: Making Sense of Terror Attacks in France

Hopes and Guesses About the Future

On the tech side, Patrick fears that bad decisions will be made pertaining to cryptography and back-doors. Recently the US government has decided that requiring back-doors is not effective. It appears that the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Paris used non-encrypted text messages.

Patrick hopes that France will send the message loud and clear that we’re not going to take this from groups of extreme religious fanatics while at the same time sending the message that Islam is a part of France just like any other religion.  He also hopes that we’ll be more accepting of people named Mohamed or Abdoul be just as French as we are. That some guys named Charles is dark-skinned, etc. But at the same time it has to be extremely clear that you cannot come to France and preach in a French Mosque that music is a tool of the devil and has to be disallowed.

We both hope that we’ll be more accepting of the great majority of Muslims who don’t want to hurt us while at the same time coming down like a ton of bricks on the few who do. French people should learn not to push their buttons and they should learn not to push ours. We know for sure that terrorists want to divide us and we need to make sure that we don’t do that.