France

  • Just 90 minutes southeast of Paris, the city of Auxerre (pronounced Aussere) is located in the Yonne Department and the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Or, what is simply known to most English-speaking visitors as the Burgundy region. Auxerre’s highlights include the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre sitting along the Yonne River, just one of several churches in the town worth visiting. The Medieval city center features a stunning astronomical clock. The city has both a natural history museum and a digital arts museum. And, of course, its many local restaurants allow visitors to experience Burgundy’s famed culinary delights. But Auxerre, Burgundy’s fourth largest…

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  • Brittany remains one of France’s most untamed and vast territories. We spent a lovely two weeks camping there in 2017, and we still only saw a couple of tiny corners. One of the striking things about the Brittany coast is that it conjures a sensation of standing on the edge of the world. You can stay in Brest as a hub for discovering the region. But step away from the mainland to visit one of the islands off the coast…and you’ll really feel like you’re standing on the precipice. One of the best islands to get this experience is Ouessant…

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  • It might be tempting to describe the Ardèche department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region by its proximity to other more famous places in France. Just south of Lyon. Just northeast of the Cévennes. West of Grenoble. Hugging the Rhône river that flows along its eastern border. Ardèche isn’t home to any great cities. But what this sparsely populated territory does have is some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery. That includes Les Gorges de l’Ardèche, a 30 km canyon in a natural reserve that runs along the Ardèche river that has carved deeply into the region’s limestone. You’ll find here the…

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  • Maybe you can’t travel here. But you can begin fantasizing about your next visit. One stop to consider: Chartres. We visited this city about an hour southwest of France over the winter holiday which is known for its artistic bent and the spectacular stained glass windows of its Notre Dame Cathedral (La cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres). I’ll write more about this soon. The photo above is just a glimpse.

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  • France

    Dreaming of France: La Clusaz

    by Chris O'Brien
    by Chris O'Brien

    The ski season in France may be gutted, but I still can’t stop thinking about a trip to the mountains. Maybe the forced separation has made me even a bit more obsessed. I had a chance to speak with some local tourism officials during a two-day conference last week to get the scoop on regions I have yet to visit. Those destinations now on my list include La Clusaz, a ski resort village in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It’s nestled in the corner near the Swiss and Italian borders, and just to the west of the more renowned Mont Blanc.…

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  • My list of places to visit in France after the pandemic has been getting longer each week. But the Gouffre de Padirac in the Lot Department still remains near the top. Plunging 103 meters underground, this chasm features a series of wild geological formations that are the result of a subterranean river gradually sculpting its limestone surroundings. Visitors can descend by an elevator and a series of steps and then wander the labyrinth by foot and by guided boat. The visit features the Salle du Grand Dôme, a 94-meter chamber big enough to fit the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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  • My first experience doing any type of foreign correspondent work began on this day 6 years ago and under the grimmest of circumstances. Our family had moved to France five months earlier from California, and I had quit my job at the Los Angeles Times. Landing in France without much of a professional plan or any personal connections, I continued to do some freelance work for the Times that fall, writing mostly features. The shooting at Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, represented something else entirely. As a newcomer to France, I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo, and during the…

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  • France’s Louis Pasteur may have played a key role in fostering the science of vaccinations, but these days his compatriots rank among the world’s most fervent anti-vaxxers. With Covid-19 vaccines starting to be approved, the French government faces a monumental challenge convincing enough French to get vaccinated to develop the necessary herd immunity. Failing to do so could not only slow a domestic economic recovery, but the country could find itself isolated if other nations refuse to allow travel to and from France. Such a scenario would be devastating for the nation’s tourism industry which is already limping after 9…

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  • The French Parliament has taken the first steps toward approving a law that would ban discrimination based on a person’s accent. Violations could be punished by a maximum of 3 years in prison and a fine up to €45,000. This will no doubt bring a sense of justice to the large number of people in France who speak with regional accents but often feel a sense of disdain in a country dominated culturally, politically, and economically by Paris. According to Ouest-France, an IFOP poll in January 2020 found that 16% of French people claimed to have been the victims of discrimination…

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  • On a late July morning, my wife and I walked down the street from our apartment in Toulouse to the Prefecture for our French citizenship appointments. The 5-minute trip took us past rows of the familiar brick façades that give our adopted home its nickname, La Ville Rose (Pink City), before arriving at the Prefecture. My wife’s meeting came first, and then 90 minutes later it was my turn. I sat across the desk from a middle-aged woman whose casual dress and warm demeanor helped put me at ease. A large plexiglass screen separated us, and I did my best…

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