[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 451 – quatre cent cinquante-et-un.
[00:00:23] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.
Today on the podcast
[00:00:39] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about why life in France is wonderful. A few weeks back when I was trying ChatGPT for the first time, I wanted to see what the collective hive thought of France, because after all, that’s what you get with ChatGPT, right?
[00:01:02] Annie Sargent: So I asked it two questions: What’s wonderful about life in France and What’s awful about life in France?
[00:01:10] Annie Sargent: The automated response was interesting enough that I thought Elyse and I should give it a crack and talk about it and that it might be entertaining.
[00:01:18] Annie Sargent: So, here we are today with the first part of this investigation: Why life in France is wonderful!
[00:01:25] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app.
[00:01:38] Annie Sargent: And you can browse both, my GPS tours and my Itinerary Consult Service, at my boutique JoinusinFrance.com/boutique.
New Bonjour Service
[00:01:48] Annie Sargent: I have introduced a new itinerary service that I call the Bonjour Service. This is where I don’t plan out every day for you and then send you a long document where it’s all spelled out, but rather with the Bonjour Service, we talk about your trip for an hour and you get to ask me all your questions and I help you iron out some of the difficulties you are running into. I help you think it through, consider things that didn’t occur to you perhaps, and will make the experience better.
[00:02:21] Annie Sargent: I did one just yesterday, and it was fun because this was a listener who’s been to France many times and even lived in France for a year when she was a young adult, but she’s coming back with her kids and her husband, and she really wanted to give them a great first experience in France. She had a pretty good idea what to do, but I helped her fill things out and put things in the right order and all that good stuff. At any rate, I love doing those appointments and you can now book your own by going to JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique, then click on, Order an Itinerary Planning Session with Annie and then choose between Bonjour and the VIP service.
[00:03:01] Annie Sargent: The differences are all spelled out on the sales page, and that’s where you can see my next available date. You don’t have to wait very long right now because lots of you are traveling and not planning your next trip to France yet. This is probably the shortest wait you’ll see for the itinerary service.
[00:03:19] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Elyse, I’ll talk about the Olympics Village for the Paris 2024 Olympics. I’ll do a short feature about the Olympics on many episodes between now and next summer as well.
Annie and Elyse: Wonderful or Awful to live in Frace?
[00:03:43] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.
[00:03:44] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.
[00:03:46] Annie Sargent: So I asked ChatGPT… Is it wonderful or awful to live in France? Just to see what it would say, right? And it’s spit out 20 good things and 20 bad things, and so we want to fact-check ChatGPT right now.
[00:04:06] Annie Sargent: Yes we do. Yes do. I’m just curious, by the way. It had to be wonderful or awful, there was nothing in between, I guess, huh?
[00:04:13] Annie Sargent: Well that’s how I asked the question.
[00:04:16] Elyse Rivin: Okay. I’m just curious. Yeah.
[00:04:18] Annie Sargent: So I suppose I could have told it to give it more nuance.
[00:04:23] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know if ChatGPT has nuance, but…
[00:04:26] Annie Sargent: Well, all it is, it is just a collection of what it reads on the internet, right? So it just repeats whatever it reads.
[00:04:35] Annie Sargent: It’s kind of, I guess it’s a summary of what people have written about France over a long time.
[00:04:42] Elyse Rivin: Well, there you go.
[00:04:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Okay. So we have 20 things that are wonderful. We’re going to start with wonderful.
[00:04:47] Elyse Rivin: Let’s start with the wonderful.
[00:04:49] Annie Sargent: And 20 things that are awful.
1. France has a rich history of cultural heritage.
[00:04:51] Annie Sargent: So the first one is, France has a rich history of cultural heritage. Would you agree with that?
[00:04:58] Elyse Rivin: Oh, absolutely. I would say that,
[00:05:00] Elyse Rivin: I guess it’s hard to talk about other countries that I don’t know as well, which of course really centers around Europe anyway. But I think it’s uncontested to say that France has a very, very rich history, a long rich history, and it has a very rich cultural heritage.
[00:05:18] Elyse Rivin: Right.
[00:05:18] Annie Sargent: Right. Yes. I would agree. It’s hardly the only country that has that, but we do have it.
[00:05:23] Elyse Rivin: But we do have it. And historically, in terms of the history of Europe anyway, it is the country that has the longest, what’s the right way of putting it? It has an identity as a country longer than almost any other part of Europe, let’s put it that way, except for maybe the Russian Empire, which I don’t know that much about in terms of its ancient history.
[00:05:43] Elyse Rivin: But France goes back so very far that before that you, you’re really talking about antiquity.
[00:05:49] Annie Sargent: Right, and it’s documented, which is the other thing that makes it stand apart from other countries. I mean, I’m sure, you know, the Chinese, and there are places in the world that have had equally long histories. The question is, do we have documents that are still with us?
[00:06:08] Elyse Rivin: Well, it’s funny that you mentioned China because I do know that they are one of the few other parts of the world that has documented history that goes back very, very far as well.
[00:06:18] Annie Sargent: But we’re good. We have a long record of keeping track of what things we did and happened.
[00:06:23] Annie Sargent: And we have a lot of nerdly historians.
[00:06:25] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes,
[00:06:26] Annie Sargent: Who write PhDs about these things.
[00:06:29] Elyse Rivin: And make wonderful movies sometimes about them too.
[00:06:31] Annie Sargent: Sometimes movies as well. Okay.
2. France has world class cuisine and wine.
[00:06:33] Annie Sargent: Number two is France has world-class cuisine and wine.
[00:06:37] Elyse Rivin: Is there any doubt?
[00:06:39] Annie Sargent: Well, some people would argue that French cuisine is not that great, I’m sure.
[00:06:43] Elyse Rivin: I guess so. I mean, honestly, if I had to reduce French cuisine to just things with cream, I would not be happy, personally. Because I do not like cuisine that’s made with cream a lot.
[00:06:56] Elyse Rivin: And I certainly know that there are parts of France where that’s one of the basic elements of the cooking, but it is considered to be one of the great, inventive, and original cuisines of the world.
[00:07:06] Elyse Rivin: And I think that it’s very varied because you have all kinds of different things between the north and the south in terms of fruits and vegetables. And also I think it’s a country for whatever reason where, maybe because of the kings and queens that there was a lot of creativity that went into inventing dishes.
[00:07:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And I think the other thing that’s important is that French people care about their food. Some people don’t care as much. There are cultures where they just eat because they have to.
[00:07:38] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, exactly.
[00:07:39] Annie Sargent: But in France, people tend to really put some time and energy. And French families still eat together, for the most part, at least a meal per day. And they also, it’s often the mom that does the cooking, which is kind of unfortunate, but it doesn’t have to be the mom anymore, but somebody cooks in the household.
[00:08:03] Elyse Rivin: Yes, and it is absolutely true that one of the things I think that is the most wonderful about the tradition around food in France is that families still eat together.
[00:08:14] Elyse Rivin: And a meal is a place where you sit down and you have food together and you talk together. And now of course, it’s much more likely to be the evening meal because people do work a lot more and kids go to school and usually eat in the canteen in the school.
[00:08:29] Elyse Rivin: But it is a fact, it is not a situation where everybody eats alone. Never. Never. Never.
[00:08:36] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s very unusual. And even kids who eat at the cantine at school, which is the school cafeteria, they tend to have pretty good meals. We have mentioned in another episode that I did with my daughter, about when we moved to France, what it was like, and one of the things that she decided was great about France is that the meals at school were good.
[00:08:59] Annie Sargent: Really?
[00:08:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah, she thought it was way better than in the US. You know, and one week she was eating at the cafeteria in her American school and the following week she was eating in the cafeteria in the French school, and she was like, oh mom, this is way better.
[00:09:11] Elyse Rivin: Well, good, good for her. And that’s the testament to two things, because that’s still institutional food when you think about it.
[00:09:18] Elyse Rivin: Although now, apparently lots of communities and cities are trying to bring organic food in and using more fruits and vegetables so that the kids don’t eat just fries and noodles and stuff like that, you know?
[00:09:30] Annie Sargent: If given the choice, French kids will eat fries and noodles.We’re not that different.
[00:09:35] Elyse Rivin: And also of course, food goes with wine. And wine is one of the most important productions in France. I mean, it’s a huge multi-billion dollar industry and it’s an industry that goes back 2000 years. So if you’re going to drink, you might as well eat something.
[00:09:50] Annie Sargent: And also French people, I think are getting more reasonable with their wine consumption. So that’s, that’s also a positive thing, meaning that we don’t drink at every meal anymore. Very few people drink at every meal anymore. You might have some people, you know, if you have a nice lunch with family or whatever, yes, you will have alcohol, but like a business lunch, most people would shy away from having alcohol at a business lunch anymore.
[00:10:19] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, I think the attitude towards that has changed a lot.
[00:10:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And I remember being a young person in a business situation where the boss drank a whole bottle of wine at lunch, yes, it was pretty startling, because my father didn’t drink any alcohol most of the time, you know. I mean, he would have a little bit on family occasions, but it was not a daily thing.
[00:10:44] Elyse Rivin: It’s hard to imagine in a work situation. I have to say, if I can just quickly tell an anecdote because it is true that the attitude towards any beverage with alcohol in it, in France is certainly, probably in Italy too, is very different from in the United States. In the late nineties, I had a Fulbright as an exchange teacher, and I wasup in the northeast of France and there was an orientation welcome at the beginning of the school year in the school yard, at the high school.
[00:11:11] Elyse Rivin: And of course I went. And now in the States, not only are drinking ages very controversial and everything changes from state to state, but you would never, under any circumstances see alcohol in a high school.
[00:11:25] Elyse Rivin: And here we were, it was all of the teachers and all of the staff, and there was all kinds of wine and there was aperitif and everything, and I was a naive American, and I kind of went, ah, like that, you know?
[00:11:39] Elyse Rivin: And I went, oh my God, there’s alcohol and it’s inside the school building. And everybody looked at me like… yeah… right, what? What’s going on? You know? And I thought, well, there you are, there’s a big difference, you know?
[00:11:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I’m not sure that that would fly anymore, but perhaps it has, I hope it has changed because that’s not right.
[00:11:57] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Well, it was actually interesting to see. I wonder, I would be interested to find out.
[00:12:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. All right.
3. High quality healthcare system
[00:12:05] Annie Sargent: Number three is high quality healthcare system. Which yes, it’s, I mean, you’ve experienced plenty of it. You want to tell us what
[00:12:15] Elyse Rivin: Unfortunately, Yes, I have plenty. I would say, I don’t know how to compare to other places, but I would certainly say that is probably, if it’s not the best, it’s one of the best in the world.
[00:12:25] Elyse Rivin: And I think that the general healthcare system here is excellent, although, right now what is happening is that there’s starting to be a paucity of doctors in all the specialties, which is going to make things very, very difficult in the near future because now you have months and months and months of wait for certain kinds of things.
[00:12:45] Elyse Rivin: But honestly, you don’t have to be wealthy to be well taken care of. If you have any major or chronic illness, things are taken care of by the health system. And for people who have no understanding of why it’s important to have a universal health system, one of the things that it’s really, really important to understand is that that is one of the things that is paid for by the taxes that we have to pay. And believe me, if you have to have a justification for having taxes, I would say there it is.
[00:13:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. We do have a very good system and I think it mostly rests on our doctors who spend lots of time with their patients rather than in the US where it’s much more expedited. And I think doctors in the US, Americans in general put a lot of faith and trust in having nice-looking hospitals and facilities, and don’t care if the visit is really quick.
[00:13:53] Annie Sargent: In France, it’s the opposite. Like French people, if you walk into a hospital and it’s not all brand-spanking new, I’m not talking about the equipment, I’m talking about the halls and the common areas, they don’t look as nice in France as they do in the US, but who cares?
[00:14:12] Annie Sargent: Because once you sit down with a doctor, you’re going to be there for 15, 20 minutes without anybody feeling rushed.
[00:14:19] Elyse Rivin: You know, that’s very interesting that you just say that, a hospital here looks like a hospital. Sadly, the last time I had to spend a lot of time in a hospital in the States was in 2016 when my mom was on her way out of this world. It was a, it’s a very big hospital and the city that she was living in and I couldn’t get over the fact that it looked like a lobby of a hotel.
[00:14:40] Elyse Rivin: And I kept thinking to myself, look at all this luxurious furniture. Now, that didn’t take away from the care or the fact that they had the top-notch machines, but you’re absolutely right. Here the investment is in the most advanced technology, which is really good. And we both are fortunate to live in Toulouse, which is one of the best cities in the country in terms of medical care anyway. Everything is up to date. Everything is top-notch. And a hospital is a hospital. It’s not a resort.
[00:15:08] Elyse Rivin: It’s, you know, I really, honestly, I unfortunately had enough occasion in the last few years to be in and out of hospitals and I have nothing bad to say about the staff or the doctors or the way they deal with things.
[00:15:24] Elyse Rivin: And it is true that the more the doctors are using up-to-date equipment and up-to-date techniques, the better it is. And all of this is covered by the Universal Health System.
[00:15:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s very interesting how little money you can spend in France for doctors. And it’s becoming a problem actually because doctors are not paid enough.
[00:15:46] Annie Sargent: That’s the negative part, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
4. Beautiful and diverse landscapes
[00:15:49] Annie Sargent: Number five is excellent public transportation.
[00:15:52] Annie Sargent: No, we skipped four.
[00:15:53] Annie Sargent: Oh. Oh, I did. Beautiful and diverse landscapes. How could I miss that?
[00:15:59] Annie Sargent: How could you miss that one?
[00:16:01] Annie Sargent: Gorgeous landscapes, right?
[00:16:03] Annie Sargent: Yes, it’s very nice, the French countryside especially is beautiful and very pleasant. Our roads overall are well-maintained. You will run into some bad ones, but it’s very pleasant driving around the country or riding around the country or walking around the country, and we have facilities to make it possible to do all three. So we have good roads for the cars, but we also have good paths for people who want to walk or ride their bikes.
[00:16:36] Elyse Rivin: And the train system, which unfortunately used to be more efficient and complex, but they’re thinking about putting it back together because ofpollution. But French landscape has absolutely everything, except tropical.
[00:16:50] Annie Sargent: And we don’t have desserts.
[00:16:52] Elyse Rivin: Desserts, we do have desserts, we don’t have deserts.
[00:16:55] Elyse Rivin: Yes. See I’m French, every now and then, if I don’t think about these words, I do it wrong.
[00:17:00] Elyse Rivin: Okay. Well that’s the two things we don’t have here. We have absolutely every variety of mountain, plain, valley, dry, a little bit wet marshland, all of that. We just don’t have tropical, tropical and desert.
[00:17:16] Elyse Rivin: Desert, yes. I lived in Utah for years.
[00:17:19] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. I know how to say the word desert.
[00:17:21] Elyse Rivin: But we don’t have to go too far either of those, so it’s okay.
[00:17:24] Annie Sargent: But if I don’t think about it, it’s like, oh, there’s some words like that in English. I have to ‘the beach’ yes. Yes. I have to think about that one too. Anyway.
[00:17:35] Annie Sargent: Yes, so we have, France is beautiful, okay, but so are many other countries. Like, it’s hard to argue.
[00:17:41] Elyse Rivin: It is true. But I think that France, not just for people like us, but I think France is known for being a country, considering its size that has an extremely varied landscape.
[00:17:53] Annie Sargent: Yep. Very true.
5. Excellent public transportation.
[00:17:54] Annie Sargent: Okay, number five is excellent public transportation.
[00:17:59] Elyse Rivin: I would say that honestly, I think it depends on where you are.
[00:18:03] Annie Sargent: It’s compared to what, is the question?
[00:18:05] Elyse Rivin: Right. Yeah, I mean, Paris certainly, I think does, we won’t talk about strikes, that’s another issue for later on in the second part.
[00:18:11] Elyse Rivin: But Toulouse has an excellent public transportation system for a city of its size, which means it has a huge complex bus system, plus a metro, and now a tramway. I think it really, really depends. And of course the public transportation is simply an urban thing because once you leave big cities, there isn’t really very much.
[00:18:33] Annie Sargent: There is some, but it’s mostly meant for like somebody who goes into the city for the day. So imagine you’re a grandmother, and this happened a lot still, and might still happen, you know, a married woman, who becomes widowed and doesn’t have a driver’s license, which still happens.
[00:18:52] Annie Sargent: These ladies sometimes live in the countryside, in places where, well, now they are elderly and they have to get into the city for medical care or whatever. And so there are regional buses most places to take care of these people, or to take actually also teenagers who don’t have a driver’s license yet and need to go into the city for school or whatever.
[00:19:16] Annie Sargent: But these are mostly modes of public transportation that just run first thing in the morning and late afternoon. The end. Right. I mean, it’s not serviceable for somebody who’s a visitor, you know? So don’t count on those. They are great if you’re just going to high school and back.
[00:19:33] Annie Sargent: They are great if you are going to spend the day in the city because you need, you have an eye doctor appointment or whatever. Not great for visitors.
[00:19:40] Annie Sargent: So it’s not everywhere. But big cities have usually very good public transportation system and they get updated too. And I think eventually, very, very soon, all of these buses and so forth will be electric. There’s very few diesel buses anymore that go into the cities.
[00:19:59] Annie Sargent: That has been the case for a long time already.
[00:20:02] Annie Sargent: And they’re putting tramways back in. Like, they put it back into Toulouse, they put it back into Bordeaux. My husband who’s used, whose brain lives in the 19th century, I think, he says that, why did they bother to take it out? Because there was a tramway before. And of course they took it out because they wanted to make space for cars and now they’re putting it back in.
[00:20:21] Elyse Rivin: But it’s also very efficient. Lots of cities, Strasbourg has a wonderful tramway system. Many cities now do.
[00:20:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I think we do better than average on public transportation, but not perfect, of course.
6. Strong focus on work life balance
[00:20:33] Annie Sargent: Number six is strong focus on work-life balance. Well, I’m not the right person to talk about that because I work way too much, but most French people, once they’re off work, they’re off work.
[00:20:47] Elyse Rivin: Not only that, but it is really, it is not true that French people do not work. It is simply that their obsession is not spending their entire lives working. And so it is very important for French people to have sufficient downtime, to have time on that’s vacation time and time with their families.
[00:21:06] Elyse Rivin: That is an attitude that is very hard for some Americans to understand.
[00:21:10] Annie Sargent: Yes. So family time is vital and weekends are sacrosanct. And French people don’t think anything of just not answering emails until Monday. Even if they see it, they won’t respond to it.
[00:21:28] Elyse Rivin: And vacation time is extremely important. And sometimes I make fun because, especially with young people who are finishing their studies now, they will say, well, I’m looking for a job, but it has to be a job that has a certain number of weeks of vacation. And I go, well, what’s more important, the vacation or the work?
[00:21:44] Elyse Rivin: And the answer is both.
[00:21:47] Annie Sargent: Yes. Both. My nephew, I remember he knew he wanted to be something medical, but he looked for something that he could continue to do his, he’s into motor sports and so he does races and stuff like that. And he wanted long weekends. And he set it up, he set up his dental practice, so he doesn’t work on Fridays ever.
[00:22:08] Annie Sargent: There you go.
[00:22:10] Annie Sargent: He works long hours, four days a week, no working on Friday. And he didn’t want to be in a specialty where he would have to take rotation. So, no. You know, people think these things through.
[00:22:22] Elyse Rivin: They certainly do.
[00:22:24] Annie Sargent: Okay. All right.
7. Renowned art and architecture
[00:22:26] Annie Sargent: Number seven, renowned art and architecture. Of course, we talk about this all the time.
[00:22:33] Annie Sargent: Yes. Right. And one thing that I think is great is that French museums do try to make an effort to include as many people as possible. So they will open up for school groups, even nursery school groups. I was fascinated,
[00:22:53] Annie Sargent: so we had a Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit in Toulouse recently, and there was a group of preschoolers in the museum. I thought it was adorable.
[00:23:03] Elyse Rivin: It is, it is very adorable. I don’t know if it’s, honestly, if it’s specific just to France, but it is true that every museum has a major educational program and it is very good because they bring the kids in and they let them look and they give them time to sort of sit and maybe make drawings and everything is basically adjusted to the age group that you have. I did a little bit of the same kind of thing when I was living in New York, but it was with high school students, you know, so it’s very interesting to see how here it’s very often with kids who are much younger.
[00:23:36] Annie Sargent: Yeah, they start young and it’s very fun to see them. And of course, sometimes people ask me if these programs, if their kids could participate in these programs when they’re visitors. Unfortunately, the answer is no, usually, because these are programs just for school days and also in French. I mean, they have no reason to do these things in English, do they?
[00:24:02] Annie Sargent: So yes, unfortunately it’s for French kids.
8. Numerous UNESCO Worlds Heritage Sites
[00:24:05] Annie Sargent: Let’s see, number eight, numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, and we’ve talked about that on the podcast many times.
[00:24:13] Elyse Rivin: And the only country that has more, believe it or not, is not Italy, but Spain.
[00:24:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s really interesting.
[00:24:20] Elyse Rivin: I would’ve thought Italy, actually.
[00:24:22] Annie Sargent: Yes, Spain gets a lot of those and a lot of visitors too, I think right on our tail when it comes to the number of visitors.
[00:24:27] Elyse Rivin: They only have one more than we do, so we kind of move. I’ve got to get another one there.
9. High standard of living and social welfare.
[00:24:33] Annie Sargent: Okay. Number nine, high standard of living and social welfare. That is true for the most part.
[00:24:40] Elyse Rivin: I guess it depends on what you call a high standard of living. Okay. I’m not sure what that means, to be honest. A high standard of living. France is not a country that has no poor people. Most people have a decent, decent standard of living, I would say.
[00:24:55] Elyse Rivin: I’m not sure to be honest, what the definition is of a high standard of living.
[00:25:00] Annie Sargent: Well, okay, so, you know, people have enough to own their homes or apartments, live in communities that are fairly safe and fairly affluent. Go to school, have medical, you know, it’s like the general thing. Now, French people are not into always being first to buy the new thing. We don’t have an economy where people value getting the latest and greatest.
[00:25:31] Annie Sargent: You know, if you look at like how French people, their television stuff, as a like large consumer item. Well, French people will keep their TVs for 15 years.
[00:25:44] Elyse Rivin: Like me. Yeah. You keep it until it doesn’t work anymore. You just need to get out, move on.
[00:25:50] Annie Sargent: The times when people get new TVs in France is if there’s a World Cup, because the guys want a new TV, a bigger TV to watch the World Cup on.
[00:26:00] Annie Sargent: But you know, we make do with what we have longer than Americans.
[00:26:06] Elyse Rivin: I agree with you. However, I think the question of a high standard of living, I’m not sure I really still, I’m not sure what that expression actually means. It is a fact though that there are lots of people who live in what would be considered to be what the French called Les Cite, which are basically like apartment projects, you know, and things like that.
[00:26:25] Elyse Rivin: From the outside everything looks fine, but the truth is that there are pockets of places in the country where people’s lives are not that easy and where it is pretty hard for them to have enough to do more than just get through the month and have food for the families, you know?
[00:26:43] Elyse Rivin: So I think unfortunately, it’s not worse here than anywhere else, but I think that there is a part of the population that could live in a better way.
[00:26:53] Annie Sargent: That’s true. That’s true. We do have some poverty and we do have some people who really struggle, and there are plenty of jobs that don’t pay well enough, unfortunately. Salaries are not super high in France overall, and so that’s a big difference. The stuff we know in my family is software kind of jobs.
[00:27:13] Annie Sargent: There’s plenty of software jobs, software developer, whatever, but they don’t pay as much in France as they do in the US.
[00:27:22] Elyse Rivin: That’s already assuming that you have a university education. Which is not the case of a part of the population.
[00:27:29] Annie Sargent: Correct, yep.
10. Multicultural Society with a wide variety of traditions
[00:27:31] Annie Sargent: All right. Number 10. Multicultural society with a wide variety of traditions. Okay. Okay.
[00:27:37] Elyse Rivin: Okay, here we go. This is one of the ones that I put a little mark next to. This is a controversial subject in France. France is becoming a multicultural society and a lot of people are not happy with that. That is the way I would summarize it.
[00:27:56] Annie Sargent: I agree. French people are very set in their ways and they’re not accepting of other cultures, be they Muslim or Asian or African.
[00:28:10] Elyse Rivin: African, or even, I mean, Eastern European is a little bit different because basically I think most people in France would say that anyone coming from Europe is a European, and whatever that means, you know. But one of the heritages, a horrible way of what, a horrible word to pronounce,ofcolonialism for both England, France and a couple of other European countries, is that there are a lot of people who are coming to the country, because there is some kind of connection, whether the connection is a language connection or a historical connection or an economic package kind of connection.
[00:28:50] Elyse Rivin: And of course, the influxes of people from many, many parts of the world are changing the society very rapidly. And I think French society is not a society that changes rapidly.
[00:29:03] Annie Sargent: Yes, it could stand to be more multicultural. And one of the ways you see this is at our insistence upon people not showing their difference in their religious difference.
[00:29:18] Elyse Rivin: In their dress.
[00:29:19] Annie Sargent: In their dress. Okay. We are extremely stubborn about this, and I think we’re extremely wrong about this. But there’s no talking people down.
[00:29:30] Annie Sargent: They’re like, no, it’s an insult to me if this person over there in the public sphere is wearing a head covering. And I don’t see the point because I remember my grandmother and my mother putting on a head covering to go into a church.
[00:29:47] Annie Sargent: It has to do with religious feelings, and I think people should be left alone about their religious feelings so long as they leave other people alone about their religious feelings.
[00:29:59] Elyse Rivin: I think Annie that you lived long enough in the United States, that you don’t think like a French person anymore about things like this.
[00:30:09] Elyse Rivin: I think that this is an issue that is beyond a certain discussion and it’s very difficult, it’s very delicate because at the same time, I’ve had long conversations with people in my family and people I know. And there is a divide that partly is historical in France, that people refer back to the French Revolution and the fact that the French Revolution was so anti-religion in general.
[00:30:38] Elyse Rivin: And I think that there’s a leftover of that. It’s very complex. I would not assume to even be an expert on it, but you’re absolutely right, I think that this is a question that in families at this point, people do not talk about anymore because there is no coming to agreement about it.
[00:30:55] Annie Sargent: Agreed. Yeah. This is how we are, and we have a bit of a blind spot about this in French culture.
11. World-leading fashion and design industry
[00:31:01] Annie Sargent: All right. Let’s move on to number 11. A world-leading fashion and design industry.
[00:31:08] Elyse Rivin: Now are we still? Okay. Yes, we are, and yes, we aren’t. I think we are, certainly Mr. is it Arnault? Is he now the most…?
[00:31:17] Annie Sargent: I think he’s the richest man in the world, yeah. And he’s definitely fashion.
[00:31:21] Elyse Rivin: And he’s definitely fashion. I think we have a high standard. You know, this is not a field strangely enough that I really pay a lot of attention to. Italy does very well too in this world. And I think some other countries are kind of moving up there.
[00:31:36] Elyse Rivin: But what’s interesting is the lasting reputation of France as being the place for fashion and design. It’s very interesting because honestly, I don’t know if it’s true anymore.
[00:31:47] Annie Sargent: I’m not sure. I’m not sure. But we do have a lot of designers and you know, if you walk across between the Champs-Élysées and The Alexander III Bridge, you are on Rue Montaigne. And ooh, there is a lot of fashion houses there.
[00:32:03] Elyse Rivin: Dior is there. I mean, they’re all there. They’re all there, right?
[00:32:07] Annie Sargent: Lots of them I don’t even know because I’m not into fashion, but they’re all there.
[00:32:10] Elyse Rivin:
[00:32:10] Elyse Rivin: But it’s true that people still make a big deal about the Fashion Week and the…
[00:32:15] Annie Sargent: Well, and there’s not just one fashion week, there’s several fashion week, there’s men’s, there’s women’s, there’s Pret-a-Porter week. Yes. It’s all different weeks.
[00:32:23] Elyse Rivin: Are they’re all different weeks. Yes.
[00:32:25] Elyse Rivin: Oh, and you see, I didn’t even know. Yes. Oh, God. We’re out of it.
[00:32:29] Annie Sargent: Well, I’ve been asked to do research on this and tell people when they should come for Fashion Week, and I realized that there’s more than one.
[00:32:35] Elyse Rivin: I know that there’s a fashion week in September when people, the models, with the photographers go out into the parks. Right? Right. You see them.
[00:32:43] Elyse Rivin: It’s wonderful to watch. It’s fun. No, it’s fun. And it certainly is still a place you come to, but I think that the difference is
[00:32:49] Elyse Rivin: fashion is now more connected to the design that is now mass-produced afterwards. I don’t know. Maybe that’s what, not what it was before.
[00:32:58] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. Pret-a-Porter.
12. High quality education system
[00:32:59] Annie Sargent: All right. Number 12, high quality education system. Again, we’re okay, we’re okay, but we’re not on top anymore.
[00:33:09] Elyse Rivin: No.
[00:33:09] Elyse Rivin: And we need to get our act together.
[00:33:11] Elyse Rivin: Yes.
[00:33:11] Elyse Rivin: And now, this is very interesting because part of this problem with the educational system in France, which is something that I am particularly sensitive to, because I still do teach a little bit, even if it’s at a university level. But also I have had the experience of teaching high school level in France.
[00:33:28] Elyse Rivin: And it goes back to the question of number 10, multicultural society. That is, that there’s a way of teaching in France that is both very, very good and very archaic. And part of that is perhaps due to the fact that everything is so centralized that there’s not enough flexibility in specific parts of the country or cities where the needs of the local population are not as good. It’s very complicated to explain, but unlike the United States where it’s the opposite, where it’s chaos everywhere because there’s nothing uniform from one place to another, from one county to another, from one state to another. In France, it’s exactly the opposite.
[00:34:11] Elyse Rivin: Everybody in the country takes the exact same exam at exactly the same moment to get through junior high school and high school. And one of the problems is that there needs to be a little bit more flexibility and adaptation. And it turns out that a system that used to be the best in the world is no longer.
[00:34:32] Annie Sargent: Right. So we are good at having the majority of children in school, which was the idea with Jules Ferry. Okay? The idea was kids were not going to stay home and work with their parents just because the family was poor. That we’re good there, you know, kids go to school. The institutions are made to make sure that kids go to school.
[00:34:58] Annie Sargent: But where we’re not shining anymore is how much the kids enjoy the school and how much the kids want to do well in school. We have a lot of kids who are falling through the cracks and not feeling motivated enough.
[00:35:15] Annie Sargent: On the other hand, I’m still astounded that my daughter got a master’s degree in Computer Science and finished school with zero debt.
[00:35:25] Annie Sargent: You know, that is true.
[00:35:27] Annie Sargent: Like zero, not a thing. Like, there were a few hundred euros that she had to pay to register for class or whatever, but it was so cheap that even as a student, you know, she was able to just pay for it.
[00:35:40] Elyse Rivin: Yes, I think I agree. If you’re talking about the fact that it’s a public system that is a good public system and really allows that opportunity, especially at the university level, it is a pretty astounding thing. I think what’s happened is that they, lately people have been astounded to see that the level of literacy is not as high as it used to be.
[00:35:59] Elyse Rivin: And that whereas in, before in France, math was the strongest subject, and people in French were considered to be very, very, very good in math. For some reason, I don’t know why, the way they’re teaching it or what they’re teaching, but they’re starting to fall behind, so they need to do a little bit of catch up.
[00:36:17] Elyse Rivin: It’s interesting because medically speaking, France is on top, even in terms of its equipment and things like that. It’s interesting that it’s not quite the same when it comes to the school system.
[00:36:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, they need to invest more in the schools and invest in more creative ways to teach rather than more standardized way to teach. Because we have a lot of standards and they’re not doing us very much good at this point. We need more creativity and more freedom to let teachers do what they do best, in my opinion. That’s just me. Yeah.
13. Beautiful cities and charming villages
[00:36:53] Annie Sargent: Okay. Number 13 is beautiful cities and charming villages, of course.
[00:36:58] Elyse Rivin: Goes without saying.
[00:37:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, we don’t really have to spend a lot of time on this, because of course we do. Yes.
[00:37:04] Annie Sargent: Just look around.
[00:37:05] Elyse Rivin: How many villages? Maybe a few thousand. I haven’t got a clue, but really, you can’t go anywhere in France and not find a charming village.
[00:37:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I mean the places where we have the least charming villages are probably right around Paris, where these are really serviceable areas like suburbs, like where people just go to sleep and they don’t really stay there when they retire. They’re not charming, they’re like streets with houses, you know, it’s not interesting.
[00:37:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah. But if you go anywhere away from that, from the periphery of Paris, you have villages with character. Villages with, even my tiny village that’s good for, you know, I mean it’s just a plain old village. It’s got a cute little church, you know, it’s got some stuff.
[00:37:53] Elyse Rivin: It’s got its little main street that’s charming.
[00:37:55] Annie Sargent: Most places in France, even the ones that are not particularly awesome, are fine. You know, we’re very lucky that way. We live in a beautiful area.
14. Mild climate with distinct seasons
[00:38:04] Annie Sargent: Number 14 is mild climate with distinct seasons. Oh, maybe.
[00:38:10] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know, do I? This is such a strange one. ChatGPT, nevermind, you got this one wrong. Who gave you this information? Take it away please. Mild climate, it depends on where you are. There are parts of the country where it is not a mild climate. Oh, really?
[00:38:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah, but It’s not Alaska. It’s not Nebraska. It’s not, you know, it’s not Minnesota.
[00:38:31] Elyse Rivin: We’re in a tempered zone after all. But still, I mean, mild climate to me means, you know, it never gets below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, I don’t know. It’s a kind of silly thing, mild climate with, yes, distinct seasons, yes, but Provence has less distinct seasons than for instance in the Massif Central, which is very cold in the winter, which gets to be, you know, below freezing for a good couple of months straight on. You know, I mean there’s more variation to that.
[00:38:57] Annie Sargent: So this last week some people that have done itinerary reviews with me, ping me and say, oh my God, it’s cold in Paris this week. And I’m like, well, yeah, it can be cold in Paris even in April, you never know, which is why I keep telling people, bring a fleece and a raincoat, because you might need both and you might need neither.
[00:39:17] Annie Sargent: You don’t, I mean, unless you’re coming in July and August, okay, then you probably don’t, but, but if you’re going to Normandy, you might still need both.
[00:39:26] Elyse Rivin: Honestly. Yes. Yes. And it also depends where you’re coming from, if you’re coming from Florida, it’s one thing, if you’re coming from Nebraska or Minnesota, it’s another, you know?
[00:39:36] Annie Sargent: Yes, if you’re from Arizona, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but you will be cold in France.
15. Vibrant art scene including film, music, and theater.
[00:39:41] Annie Sargent: All right. Number 15, vibrant art scene including film, music, and theater.
[00:39:47] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s true.
[00:39:48] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely. Yes. It’s probably the French cinema’s, is very, very dynamic. It’s not certainly as big blockbuster as the American cinema is.
[00:40:00] Elyse Rivin: There are four, actually I think right now it’s, there are four cinemas in the world that are considered to be the most dynamic, and French is one of them. American of course is, Indian is, and believe it or not, guess, you want to guess what the fourth one is?
[00:40:14] Annie Sargent: Mm, perhaps Italian?
[00:40:17] Elyse Rivin: No, South Korean.
[00:40:18] Annie Sargent: Oh, wow. I don’t know anything about that.
[00:40:20] Elyse Rivin: Yeah. It’s really, well the Japanese are very, very good at animation, but the South Korean, considering that it’s not that big a country and everything else, they’re coming up there in the world in terms of, you know, a cinema industry. Yeah, that’s great.
[00:40:33] Elyse Rivin: But French film industry,here in Toulouse, we have wonderful music all the time, we have a lot of theater. I think it’s typical of almost every single city in France. Mm-hmm.
[00:40:45] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm. All right. We still have several to talk about. Yeah.
[00:40:47] Annie Sargent: We’re not get to to negative, maybe we’ll have to put the negative in a different episode.
[00:40:52] Elyse Rivin: Oh, will people listen if we just do a negative?
[00:40:55] Annie Sargent: I don’t know.
[00:40:55] Annie Sargent: Oh, they might hate us. They might hate us. Well, well how about if we do it as a separate episode, but we do it as a ‘negative, but’?
[00:41:03] Annie Sargent: Okay, let’s do that. All right.
16. Strong sense of national pride and unity
[00:41:05] Annie Sargent: So number 16 was, strong sense of national pride and unity. Well, I’m not sure, like compared to the US, you know, you don’t see French flags everywhere, like no, I mean sometimes you do, but…
[00:41:20] Elyse Rivin: I think it’s, that’s very interesting because apparently it’s a Nordic tradition. Because in my husband’s family, they had a connection to, for various reasons that had to do with history to Denmark and it, they were given a couple of flags. And I had a discussion with some people and apparently it’s a very much a Northern European thing to have flags out a lot. And that may be where it got to the United States from, I have no idea because of course in the States it’s very common to see people having American flags outside and all of that. But I think that here, there is a sense of national pride, there really is.
[00:41:55] Annie Sargent: Oh, very much so.
[00:41:57] Elyse Rivin: But it doesn’t take the form of flag waving.
[00:41:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, that’s probably what it is.
[00:42:01] Elyse Rivin: And unity, I think that, well, you know, I guess that maybe we need to save it for the other side when we talk about strikes and things like that here, because there seems to me, from my point of view, which is very much from the outside, there is a sense of pride, but it’s a sense of pride of like, we need to make sure that the country stays a certain way. It’s a very ambiguous kind of thing.
[00:42:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so it’s more like unchanging, kind of rigid in a way, which it’s good and bad. It’s got, yeah, it’s got both good and bad. But I would say that, you know, French people will join in and sing the national anthem when it’s appropriate, but you don’t hear it, not at every event.
[00:42:44] Elyse Rivin: Right.
[00:42:44] Annie Sargent: If the military is putting on a show, obviously there’s going to be the national anthem.
[00:42:49] Annie Sargent: If the president is visiting, there’s going to be the national anthem. If it’san event to honor the fallen for various wars, of course there’s going to be the national anthem. But you don’t hear it at a basketball game, unless it’s an international competition, and we’re playing against some other team, and then we’re going to play both national anthems, you know what I mean?
[00:43:09] Elyse Rivin: No, I agree with you. I think that also, when I say a strong sense of national pride, I think there is though,you see this sometimes with French people who visit other countries, and it’s not always in a positive way that there’s this sense of, oh, we are French. And I’m not sure how that works.
[00:43:26] Elyse Rivin: I mean, it’s not, that other countries don’t have that same attitude, you know?
[00:43:29] Annie Sargent: We are the cone head, we are from France.
[00:43:31] Elyse Rivin: Exactly. I mean, I have had French friends, who’ve come back from travels to other countries, and one of the things that they say, which I find very strange is, oh, the food wasn’t very good, our food is the best. I mean, every food is different. You can like it and not like it.
[00:43:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah, French people are a bit rigid when it comes to food, yeah, yes, definitely.
17. Access to fresh, locally sourced produce
[00:43:54] Annie Sargent: And that’s actually the next thing on the list is access to fresh, locally-sourced produce.
[00:43:59] Elyse Rivin: Yes, yes, yes.
[00:44:01] Annie Sargent: If you want, you can find that, it’s not that hard.
[00:44:03] Elyse Rivin: I mean, open air markets just about everywhere in the country, you know?
[00:44:08] Annie Sargent: We have little stores that do farm-to-table kind of things where you can go, but of course these are fine, but, these are the types of stores where you go and they only sell whatever’s in season. And so if you want anything that’s a tiny bit out of season, it’s not going to work. So I don’t tend to go to those places, but I know lots of people who do and really enjoy them.
[00:44:32] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, I do. I do more than you do. I mean, it’s not that I never buy anything that’s not in season, but I tend to be more involved in going to the local outdoor produce market. I kind of like that, you know? And if I can, I try to buy something that’s relatively local.
[00:44:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And even at the grocery store, you see the provenance of the products that you’re buying. So it will tell you, these avocado’s from, you know, now they are doing some avocado production in Corsica, of course these avocados are five times more expensive than the ones from Peru, which, okay, that makes no sense. But if you want, you can choose to buy the ones from Corsica, you know?
[00:45:12] Annie Sargent: Which is kind of a privilege. You have to have that money to do that.
[00:45:17] Elyse Rivin: I guess the question is, how far away do you want to have your source of your food? You know, if it’s just a hundred kilometers or if it’s at least in Europe and not the other side of the planet.
[00:45:27] Annie Sargent: Yes, and French people are very, very cognizant about that. They will talk to you about that. They pay attention to these things, whereas I think that in other countries they don’t care. They just want the tomatoes. Yeah.
18. Outdoor recreational opportunities
[00:45:38] Annie Sargent: Okay. Number 18, outdoor recreational opportunities from skiing to hiking and cycling.
[00:45:45] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely, a lot of that.
[00:45:48] Elyse Rivin: And not only that but me, who is not athletic and certainly, absolutely certainly not a skier, I have to say that I am always impressed by how many parts of France have skiing.
[00:46:01] Elyse Rivin: Because we have huge, of course, they’re skiing all through the Alps and they’re skiing all through the Pyrenees, and they’re skiing in the central part of the country, and they’re skiing in the Bauges and…
[00:46:09] Annie Sargent: But not, this is not skiing all the time. Like you don’t have a long ski season like you do in Utah. I mean, Utah this year they had like, I don’t know how many hundreds of feet of snow they’ve had, this year was particularly snowy. But in France you might have some snow, but there’s not a ton. I mean, other than in the Alps. In the Pyrenees, there’s not that much snow.
[00:46:31] Elyse Rivin: Oh, sure. This year, there, this year there was. No, I think that there’s a good six months of ski season. I mean, my stepson just finished his, he’s in the Alps, I think in the high, in the ski stations, in the Pyrenees that are high up this particular year, they had a lot. But also, of course, the Alps, the Alps is really a place where they’re skiing a good six months of the year.
[00:46:50] Annie Sargent: It really depends on where, but there is a lot of skiing, there is a lot of water sports. There are a lot of hiking. There’s walking and cycling paths just about everywhere now. And they are making them better all the time. So there is a huge effort to make it easier for people to cycle, be it to work, or just for fun on the weekend.
[00:47:16] Annie Sargent: And I really appreciate that, because if you can cycle there, you can also walk. And I’m more of a walker than a cycler, but both are fantastic, I think, you know.
[00:47:26] Annie Sargent: And I think that’s one of the reasons why French people keep themselves overall a tiny bit healthier than Americans is that we walk more than Americans.
[00:47:37] Annie Sargent: You know, we all have, most of us have a car, not in the cities, not in big cities, but most of us outside of the cities, we have a car or sometimes two, or there’s families with more cars than that, but we still do a lot of walking.
[00:47:51] Elyse Rivin: I think that’s very typical in general in Europe anyway, to walk more than in the States and French people do walk. Yes. And I think it does help keep people fit.
[00:48:00] Annie Sargent: And very strangely, sometimes it’s in the more rural parts of France that it’s harder to walk because there aren’t sidewalks. Like along the roads, if you want to go on a walk with your dog, you have to walk along the road and share the road with cars. And to me that’s not okay. So that’s why I’m so happy that they are putting in these paths that are not super muddy.
[00:48:26] Annie Sargent: I mean, the paths where I’ve been walking with my dog for years, I see pictures not so long ago, and in the winter it was a mess. It was like a mud pile. And now I can just go and enjoy it, and it’s good. They made it good. And it’s a lot of money to do that, but I hope they continue to do that everywhere in France.
[00:48:46] Elyse Rivin: Even where I live, where nearby they’ve been building enormous numbers of big apartment buildings, it’s interesting because they’ve made paths in between the buildings. Yeah. They’re very nicely landscaped with lots of vegetation and it’s really not a bad way of doing that.
[00:49:03] Annie Sargent: And it’s mandatory. You cannot be a developer and not put in paths and landscaping and all of that. It’s part of the development. That’s great. Yes. Otherwise, you’re not going to get the permit, so there you go.
[00:49:15] Annie Sargent: Americans could do the same.
19. Proximity to other European Countries for easy travel
[00:49:17] Annie Sargent: Let’s see, number 19, proximity to other European countries for easy travel. This is huge to me.
[00:49:25] Elyse Rivin: It’s bien sur for me, I mean, of course.
[00:49:28] Annie Sargent: Well, okay, but when you live in Utah, it feels like it’s going to be hours to get anywhere. Right. Because America is so big. It’s so big. It’s so big. And also when you drive in the US, well you’re going to see very much the same, you know, like you’re going to have malls with the same stores, with the same brands, the same everything everywhere you go.
[00:49:53] Annie Sargent: Whereas in France, there’s more diversity, still. Like we have very few chain restaurants. We have some, but compared to the US, not very many. And so wherever you go, you find local stuff.
[00:50:06] Elyse Rivin: That’s true.
[00:50:06] Annie Sargent: You know? And that’s not the case, at least in the western US. I don’t know about the rest of the US, but where I lived, it felt like monoculture everywhere, like it was all the same.
[00:50:17] Elyse Rivin: Well, and of course here from where we are, just in a few hours you’re in Spain and if you go the other direction, if you go east, you just another hour or two and you’re in Italy. And I mean, it is true that one of the greatest advantages of being in a European country since the countries themselves are not that big is that you are very quickly in another country and it is another culture and it is other food and it is other architecture and it’s wonderful.
[00:50:42] Annie Sargent: Another language as well. It’s very different.
[00:50:45] Annie Sargent: Very different, not very far.
20. Rich literary and philosophical tradition
[00:50:47] Annie Sargent: And the last thing is rich literary and philosophical tradition. Okay. Perhaps that’s overblown. I mean, we do have that. We have good, good authors. We’ve had good authors. I mean, French people have won more Nobel prizes in literature than other countries.
[00:51:06] Elyse Rivin: I think, except for maybe, English speaking countries? I have no, honestly, I really, I’m not sure. Okay. I don’t know.
[00:51:12] Annie Sargent: Yes. I’m not sure either, but I mean, we do have that, we do have that.
[00:51:17] Elyse Rivin: Absolutely.
[00:51:18] Annie Sargent: Now is it the best? I don’t know. I mean, that’s just very subjective.
[00:51:22] Elyse Rivin: I don’t know. But it certainly, there certainly is a very, very rich literary tradition and a very rich philosophical tradition. I don’t know if other countries in Europe do it, but a country that has a philosophy exam as part of getting your high school diploma is already something special, because that certainly does not exist in the United States.
[00:51:45] Annie Sargent: It hasn’t for a long time. Not that the philosophy that’s practiced in high school in France, I mean it’s minimal, but at least you have some sort of, you have a basic understanding of the history of philosophy. Okay? So you will know the names of major philosophers and somewhat what their, the main thoughts were for these people. You know? So it’s part of culture.
[00:52:10] Elyse Rivin: You’re absolutely right.
[00:52:10] Elyse Rivin: And I think that, if nothing else, it’s nice to understand what it means even to have a philosophical tradition because I don’t think that it does exist in other places. I don’t know.
[00:52:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I mean, you have to have some philosophy in high school in France. That’s just how it is, and I hope they keep it that way. It used to be not so long ago that you had to take a dead language as well. You had to take Latin or Greek. But this was like 20 years ago. Not anymore. So I hope the philosophy stays. I honestly, I hope the philosophy stays. because I think it really helps people think things through.
[00:52:48] Annie Sargent: But sadly, we have been talking for almost 56 minutes, my friend.
[00:52:52] Elyse Rivin: Oh, 56 minutes.
[00:52:53] Annie Sargent: I hope that we have the courage at some point to put out an episode called Why life is awful in France.
[00:53:00] Elyse Rivin: Well, Awful, maybe. Let’s call it Awful, maybe.
[00:53:05] Annie Sargent: And if we put it out, it’ll be a few weeks from now, so…
[00:53:09] Elyse Rivin: So don’t, don’t worry about the awful.
[00:53:11] Annie Sargent: Don’t worry about the awful just yet. Thank you so much Elyse!
[00:53:15] Elyse Rivin: You’re welcome. Annie. Au revoir! Au revoir!
Thank you, patrons
[00:53:24] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting this show and giving back!
[00:53:29] Annie Sargent: Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that. You can see them at Patreon.com/joinus. Thank you all so much for supporting the show, some of you have been doing it for years, you are fantastic!
[00:53:43] Annie Sargent: And a shout-out this week to new patron Brad Sanbdleback who is from New Zealand. Thank you so much for becoming a patron and making this podcast possible!
[00:53:54] Annie Sargent: I am working on changes to the Patreon Reward lineup. I know exactly what I want to do, and I hope you get as excited as I am about it, but I need to find the time to implement those changes.
[00:54:06] Annie Sargent: My life is a neverending rush, but I’ll get there eventually! It’s just not enough hours in the day.
[00:54:14] Annie Sargent: Let me update you on what’s going on in my life for a second. The renovations at my apartment in Spain are going well. My brother and his wife are there at the moment and she has wonderful ideas for decorating and making the space look better.
[00:54:30] Annie Sargent: We have this tiny balcony area in the apartment and it was filled with just unused junk. I emptied it because I was not digging the junk. But what to do with the space? I put a plant there, I hope it likes the conditions, I did lots of research about what might survive these conditions, but beyond that, I really wasn’t sure.
[00:54:53] Annie Sargent: So she showed up in Spain with a roll of astroturf or whatever it’s called, the plastic fake grass thingy. She also brought a small wooden table and two chairs, and she turned this tiny balcony into a lovely space to sit and enjoy a drink. She makes it look so easy, but oh I can’t do this sort of, I don’t have that sort of imagination. So I’m very grateful that she’s helping me there.
[00:55:20] Annie Sargent: And I am still learning Spanish. I am doing Pimsler every day, and I am taking two classes with a live teacher every week. I had one last night where I, so he tries to get me to talk, right? And he asked me what I was cooking and I told him I was cooking, well I was cooking something called Caponata, it’s a Italian specialty from Sicily. And it has all these vegetables and capers and some vinegar and some honey, and it’s kind of this sweet and sour type of vegetable specialty. It’s delicious. It was my first time making it, but to make it you need all these different vegetables.
[00:55:57] Annie Sargent: So I tried to tell him all the names of the vegetables and what do you know in Spanish all the names of the vegetables are different from French. Well, most of them anyway. It seemed like they were coming from nowhere. I’m like, this is not a cognate, how is this so different?
[00:56:12] Annie Sargent: But yeah, so I’m learning Spanish, but it’s going to take a long time. It’s difficult learning a language at 58 years old, but better late than never. All I want to do is get to the point where I can be, you know, conversational just, take it easy, talk to people. Because this is me, I talk to people anyway, but I talk to them in such bad Spanish that they probably think I’m a complete idiot.
[00:56:40] Annie Sargent: So at least I want them to think, oh, she’s trying, she’s trying, she’s not perfect, but she’s trying. Which I think a lot of you hope to get to that point in French as well. And it’s worth doing, but I, I really think that doing Pimsler plus a tutor really helps and it helps me progress pretty fast.
Tour de France show on Netflix
[00:56:58] Annie Sargent: And I’ve also started watching the Tour de France show on Netflix. So not the Tour de France the race, which I do watch as well, but the show on Netflix. It’s a great show, I really recommend it for people who are not even super fan of cycling. It’s a really fun show. For me, the best part of Tour de France has always been the scenery and listening to the commentators talk about the tiny towns and why they are great and why you should visit them and that sort of thing.
[00:57:23] Annie Sargent: But the Netflix show makes it really easy to understand the competition and the amazing skill of the riders. I mean, they are just not normal human beings, like most professional athletes, really, they work so hard and are so fit and determined and the mental space that they have to be in, it’s incredible.
[00:57:43] Annie Sargent: Anyway, I think most Francophiles would enjoy that Netflix show.
Paris Olympic Village
[00:57:49] Annie Sargent: Okay, let’s talk about the Paris Olympics briefly and where the Olympic Village is going to be. The Olympic Village is going to be in Saint-Denis and Saint-Ouen. This is a great choice because these are not the poshest parts of Paris, but they are going to get much needed new housing and new developments that will get used in the future.
[00:58:13] Annie Sargent: The Olympic Village is going to be the home of about 15,000 athletes and staff. It’s all centered around La Cité du Cinéma, it’s on rue Ampère in Saint-Denis.
[00:58:25] Annie Sargent: And I’m going to try to do something that’s not super easy on a podcast, but let’s talk about the geography of Paris a little bit so you understand what we’re dealing with.
[00:58:33] Annie Sargent: If you’ve been to Paris, you know that Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cité are at the heart of Paris. So draw a line east to west, that’s the river. If you go west on the river, you get to the Orsay Museum and then to the Eiffel Tower. Most of the river cruises turn around when you get to the Eiffel Tower. But if you’ve been on a river cruise that goes to Normandy, you may know that at the Eiffel Tower, the river dips towards the south, and then the river does this great big curve and then heads north, it hugs the other side of the Bois de Boulogne and it goes by Courbevoie where La Défense is. And then if you keep going in that direction, you get to Saint-Ouen, where the famous market is, and Saint-Denis, where the famous Basilica is.
[00:59:21] Annie Sargent: And the Cité du Cinéma and the new Olympic Village are right along the river. 52 hectares worth, that’s 128 American Acres. Because this is a densely populated area, there are also several RER stations. I think there are two RER stations and metro, and five or six metro stations in that area.
[00:59:43] Annie Sargent: There’s a major freeway right there. It’s going to be busy, but it’ll be, you know, well served by public transportation. I think they’re going to do buses as well. And there’s the river, of course.
[00:59:54] Annie Sargent: Now the Olympics are going to be held between July 28th and August 11th, and the Paralympics between August 28th and September 8th. All the new rooms and facilities being built for the Olympics and the Paralympics will be turned into housing for about 6,000 people. But they won’t be able to move in until 18 months after the Olympics are over because they’ll turn all of that, well, I mean, the Olympic Village is essentially dorm rooms, right? And they’ll turn all of that into family apartments. One of the companies involved is Vinci, they are a massive company, they do freeways, they do a lot of things. And they are developing both the Olympic Village and the apartments. And they’ve already started selling a few of the 174 apartments that they are going to sell eventually. And you know, why not? Because you have a view on the Seine. They’re also going to be offices and the Ministry of the Interior, that’s kind of the police minister has already purchased much of the office space.
[01:00:58] Annie Sargent: So if you’re looking to invest, this is really not a bad spot. And this, despite the fact that we’re talking about Saint Denis, okay, a part of the Greater Paris that has a pretty bad reputation for French people anyway. I think they’re doing gentrification by Olympics here.
[01:01:17] Annie Sargent: And they did not push out anybody. They just reclaimed abandoned warehouses and buildings and they are now injecting a lot of money into the Saint-Denis Department. This is the poorest department in Mainland France. So one example is the Tour Playel, is in this area and it’s getting turned into a three and four star hotel that will have some offices as well.
[01:01:41] Annie Sargent: The one thing I’m a little, I hope that they do is that they plant a lot of trees after the Olympics, because for now, this is a very mineral part of Paris. But much of Paris is quite mineral, so are most cities unfortunately. I’m really hopeful that this will be a good thing long term for the city of Paris.
Preparing a trip to France?
[01:02:02] Annie Sargent: Let me remind you that if you’re gearing up for a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can to prepare, keep doing that, it works. You can also take advantage of my expertise as your personal itinerary consultant. Now you get to choose between VIP and Bonjour service.
[01:02:19] Annie Sargent: You can read all the details on JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique. And if your time in Paris is limited and you’d like to go straight to all the iconic places you’ve heard about, you can take me along in your pocket, I’ll guide you with my voice, with my GPS self-guided tours that are available on the VoiceMap app.
[01:02:39] Annie Sargent: You can choose from the Eiffel Tower, Ile de la Cité, Le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés or the Latin Quarter.
[01:02:46] Annie Sargent: And you can access my tours directly from the VoiceMap app, which is the fastest way to get them. But if you would like to purchase tour codes from JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique, you will receive a special listener discount. Just keep in mind that if you buy from the website, it’s not instant, okay? It takes a few hours to get the codes to you.
[01:03:07] Annie Sargent: Many things to podcast editors, Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produce the transcripts. These are great because you can see where all these places we talked about are.
Next week on the podcast
[01:03:19] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, a trip report about the Canadian World War II sites in Normandy with Terri Brault.
[01:03:26] Annie Sargent: We’ve talked about US World War II sites quite a bit, so it’ll be good to focus on Canadian sites with the wonderful Terri Brault, that I got to meet at the bootcamp, wonderful lady that she is. Thank you so much for listening, and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!
[01:03:47] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.