Discussed in this Episode
- Bastides in the southwest of France
Again, I want to thank my Patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so, you can see them at PATREON.COM/JOINUS. Thank you to all of you for supporting the show, some of you for many years now, you are fantastic, and a shout-out this week to new patrons Kelli Kay, Gail Wong, and Bet Giddings thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible!
This week I working on a French History Brief about the day Gertrude Stein had a fight with Picasso because she didn’t like how he painted her. That has been fascinating to research and I’ll release it in the next couple of weeks.
My thanks also to Susan Crump for sending in a one-time donation by using the green button on any page on joinusinfrance.com that says “Tip Your Guide”. I’ll add you to the secret Facebook group as a small thank you.
Thank you also John Barth who had a credit with a hotel in Toulouse that he can’t use. He donated it to the show so I’ll soon try this lovely hotel in Toulouse and when people ask me for recommendations on where to stay in Toulouse I’ll be able to tell them what I thought about the Hotel de Brienne. Thank you John much appreciated! I don’t take free nights in hotels because those always go with an understanding of a good review. But if you have reservations you can’t use, by all means that’s a great donation!
This Week in French News
There are places in France where the virus is circulating at a rapid clip and sending lots of people to the ICU. When they ICU are full doctors ask for restriction on people’s movement to ease the pressure on the hospitals. The Macron government announced a few measures this week. I don’t think they will make any difference at all. They are asking people in the worst areas to stay within 10 kilometers of home on the honor system. They’re asking a few more stores to close. One good thing they are doing is that they are continuing to give financial support to the businesses that can’t run. But you still have a lot of students who rely on dog-sitting, babysitting, teaching math or English or whatever, or jobs at fast food, independent tour guides, they are having a hard time.
Anyway, the only thing that will make a dent in this pandemic is vaccines. 8.4% of the French population has received 1 dose of a vaccine. The AstraZeneca kerfuffle is over, I am glad about that.
France is not in the select number of countries that’s secured the most vaccine doses, so it will take time. What’s probable is that once most Americans and British have been vaccinated more supplies will become available for the rest of Europe. There is a definite vaccine hierarchy going on and I don’t know why I’m surprised that’s always how it works. You’ll get to come back when lots of us have been vaccinated and we can stop playing wack-a-mole with this virus.
A couple of people on the Facebook group asked me how French people feel about the vaccine. Here’s what I think. Keep in mind that I listen to at least 3 hours of French news every day, sources like France Inter, France Culture, RMC, Europe 1, France Bleu. I rarely watch French TV but I listen to French radio all the time.
At first French people were indeed hesitant about the Pfizer vaccine. News people made a lot out of not much in my opinion because it seems to me that it’s rational not to be gungho about a brand new vaccine or therapy of any kind. Back then nobody in France had any vaccine to administer to anyone (we got our first few doses early January) so it was all speculative. But you speculate enough and people start believing that French people don’t want to get vaccinated.
Then we got some doses and those were reserved to the elderly population and only administered in a select few places. The French health minister said it’s best to go slow and see how things go. By the end of January it was pretty clear that all who had received the vaccine were just fine so they started to send doses to more places in France, but still only elderly people in long term care facilities and some doctors who were in high risk groups. They had vaccines but were handing them out cautiously.
Here’s the thing: Macron and all the people who work for him didn’t say “look we don’t have enough vaccine anyway, we might as well do a slow roll-out” that would have made them look like they hadn’t been able to secure enough doses. What they said instead was let’s be slow and deliberate. Better optics, right?
Some people took that to mean that they didn’t have 100% confidence in the vaccine and that was fine, so long as nobody called them on why we didn’t have enough to begin with. That whole time they never talked about Sanofi-Pasteur the French pharma giant who fumbled the ball big time and probably won’t have any vaccine of their own until the end of 2021. Ne parlons pas de ce qui fache.
Let’s make that the French Tip of the Week: ne parlons pas de ce qui fache let’s not talk about what’s upsetting. What’s upsetting is that we don’t have enough vaccines to go around, so let’s not talk about that ever. Ne parlons pas de ce qui fache.
By mid Feb French people were clamoring for vaccination and couldn’t get it. There are people around me who try every day to get an appointment and they can’t. Elyse was going nuts spending hours on the phone trying to get an appointment and she couldn’t. Eventually she got in but that was because her husband’s doctor got him an appointment at a center where they just do Pfizer and she went with him the day he got his shot. When they got there, she asked them to let her know if they ever had a cancellation and they said no that never happens. Guess what? It happened that day and she got her shot the next morning. That’s also France for you. That’s not possible they say, talk long enough and it’ll become possible. Negotiation in person is that name of the game in France and she’s been here long enough to get that instinctively. BTW, because we’ve both had one dose of the vaccine we’ve started recording in person again, our recordings together will sound better starting now. Anyway by now most French people want the vaccine and can’t get one.
Next hurdle: selling French people on immunity papers. On French radio they interview people who are “very concerned” about vaccine passports because it’s unfair to those who can’t get a vaccine. But then, two minutes later they interview people who say I’m fully vaccinated it’s unfair to keep me at home! We’re going to have to work through that question, aren’t we?
Meanwhile in Iceland they are already putting in place a system by which any tourist who’s been fully vaccinated can enter their country and enjoy a vacation. Last week I told you about Amsterdam discussing ways to let tourists back in. Greece won’t be far behind, I think.
But I think if French people get to the point where they have to either get a vaccine certificate or a health certificate before they can enter a stadium or a restaurant or any place where they might endanger the life of others by carrying this disease, we might see vaccine hesitancy go down to zero and that would be a good thing.
When will everyone in France who wants a vaccine get one? In the US they are saying anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to make an appointment by May. I can’t see that as realistic for France. Maybe by August? I can see vaccine rates continue to speed up, but how fast will it go? I’m not sure.
The library Gibert Joseph Jeune on Place Saint Michel will close for good on March 31, 2021. It’s only open to employees who are clearing the books right now. This is the one close to the Seine river around Place Saint Michel with the fountain and the angel slaying the dragon. Another one you might have seen near the Cluny museum is staying open and it is still the largest independent bookstore in Paris.
While Gibert Jeune has been an institution (they opened in 1886), business hasn’t been good for a long time. It started with the Gilets Jaunes who made it hard for them to stay open when violent protests were going on outside (that went on every Sat for over a year). Then there were a lot of strikes to protest changes to the French retirement system (that were not even written at the time). The fire at Notre Dame severely restricted access to the area. Then the Tribunal de Grande Instance and the Quai des Orfèvres moved away when they had been across the river for so long, that meant all of those police and officers of the court who were great customers didn’t come to work in the area any more. And now a pandemic where there aren’t even tourists. The neighborhood has changed a lot and Gibert Jeune wasn’t even covering the rent, so they closed.
But they have a great website if you’d like to patronize them and there are other Gibert stores all over France. A few in Toulouse where I used to go sell my used high school books and buy the ones for the following year. In France most textbooks are purchased by high school. The whole time my daughter has been in college she hasn’t been asked to buy a single textbook. Some of her professors recommended books for further reading, but never textbooks. That’s a huge difference between France and the US because I remember how expensive my textbooks were in the US and it’s only gotten worse since!
This year I decided to plant some potatoes for the first time in my life. And because I have a small vegetable patch I will plant them in containers. So I was at the garden center looking at potato plants and there were so many choices! An older man noticed me and said don’t plant yet, it’s too soon and we started chatting. He said last year he harvested 150 kilograms of potatoes and his favorite starters are the MonaLisa potatoes for our area. But alas they only sold them in huge bags so I didn’t buy them because I don’t plan to turn into a potato farmer.
A few days later I was at another garden center and TADA they had a small bag of MonaLisa and another old man saw me and said MonaLisa were his favorite also. He even said that potatoes taste so much better when they are from the garden. Really? I’m not sold on that, but I wanted to try. So, I’m looking forward to home-grown potatoes this year. And onions too, also in containers because onions take over the world. I’ve also sowed flower seeds in pots, I have garden fever again, it must be the start of Spring!
Last week I mentioned that we were about to move our daughter home and that there were demonstrations in the city center of Toulouse so we weren’t sure we’d be able to do it. Well, we were able to do it in two trips with my big car, the roof rack, and the trailer, but we only got one trip in the first day. By the time we unloaded the bed and went back the police had all access to her street blocked off.
I know you’ve missed these updates about French people demonstrating, so I thought I’d mention it. And—I kid you not!—they were demonstrating to protest the fact that the number of demonstration permits has been limited during the pandemic. There are people in France for which it looks to me like going to a demonstration every Saturday is a hobby. That’s where they meet their like-minded friends and they’ve missed it 😉
Her apartment is empty, we’re done the cleanout. Next up: a fresh coat of paint her bedroom. I always have projects going on, don’t I?
And the weather should turn nice and stay nice for several days next week, great electric bike weather! I am chomping at the bit to get started with videos! I need to test the new forum with just a few patrons. If you’re in the secret Facebook group I’ll ask for volunteers there.