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NewsletterFebruary 2015

Je suis

Photo from 'Je suis Charlie' march in Annecy France, January 11th, 2015. More photos here.

When the World was Charlie

Never has a French sentence been so well known so fast than 'Je suis Charlie'. This one sentence act of solidarity and resistance to terror seemed to be everywhere in the aftermath of the shootings that saw 17 die at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo January 7th and around Paris a few days later. Impromptu memorials sprang up almost immediately, including in my town.
Three days of national mourning were declared after the shootings. Flags hung at half staff and there were moments of silence throughout France. I attended one in Cluses, a small town in a conservative area were Charlie Hebdo (a left wing magazine) more than likely wasn't read much. My thoughts after the shootings can be found here and another American's here.
Sunday January 11th, millions marched across France. I along with 35,000 other people marched in Annecy. It was all moving and inspiring. These rallies and marches of national unity are in a long line of French tradition. The first national unity march in modern France was on 14th July 1790, in what became known as the Fête de la Fédération. Like the events after January 7th, Fête de la Fédération was spontaneous, well attended and would help make July 14th France's national day.
The killers were soon found and killed by police. The police became heroes and were cheered on January 11th, a rarity in France. In Napoleonic tradition, the police in France tend to be outsiders, not from the communities they serve. A young Muslim immigrant also became a hero and received French citizenship for his actions.
The Charlie Hebdo edition after the shootings sold over 5 million copies. The day it came out, 700,000 copies were sold within minutes. This for a magazine with a print run of about 60,000. It took me 3 days to get my own copy. An edition, that in true Charlie Hebdo fashion had Muhammad on the cover with a Je suis Charlie sign. The cover didn't go over well is some parts of the world.
For anyone looking to see how many Charlies are near them, there are apps for that: Android and iOS.
In the aftermath free speech was tested. Charlie Hebdo pushed the boundaries of free speech, being taken to court many times, usually winning the right to say what it wanted. But in France free speech has limits. For example blasphemy in France is legal but apologizing for terrorism or denying the holocaust isn't. After January 7th many were convicted of these crimes. One drunken man was given a 4 year jail term for what he said during his stupor. The Washington Post and Radio France Internationale have good articles about free speech in France.
So is Paris (or France) safe to visit? Well I visited a few weeks after the events of January 7th. I didn't notice or feel that Paris was unsafe. There might have been more soliders than normal. Otherwise I didn't observe much of a difference. I think it's safe to visit Paris, but be on the look out for pickpockets and illegal taxis at the airport. Which leads me to mention Safety Scouts with their videos aimed at preventing crime and fraud plus Smarter Paris with their primer on avoiding scams.

Getting Close

With taxes that is. If you want to get the jump on your tax filing. I work with American accountants, Barron Harper and Taxes for Expats LLP. FYI: The ACA (American Citizens Abroad) has an article about the new IRS form 8965 that relates to that other ACA - Affordable Care Act.

Chamonix Valley Photographic Walks

Teresa Kaufman continues her walks in the Chamonix Valley. For greater flexibility Teresa offers two types of walks - open (minimum of 5 persons) and one-to-one (1-3 persons). Either way you go, you'll discover places and people that even many locals don't know. To get an idea of what Teresa has to offer, see these two TV segments:
SUIVEZ LE GUIDE : La face cachée de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc
La photographe Teresa Kaufman révèle la magie de la Vallée de Chamonix

Winter Reading

One Sixth of a Gill: By Jean Gill, a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D700 and a man.
The Marquis: A major biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, who, at age nineteen, volunteered to fight under George Washington; a biography that looks past the storybook hero and selfless champion of righteous causes who cast aside family and fortune to advance the transcendent aims of liberty and justice commemorated in America's towns, streets, parks, and schools named after the French nobleman.
They Eat Horses, Don't They?: Piu Marie Eatwell explores the background to, and the contemporary evidence for, 45 such myths. She finds that many of them are simply false, and that even those that are broadly true are rather more complicated than at first sight. In the course of her thorough - and thoroughly entertaining - investigations, we discover there is more to our enigmatic Gallic neighbour than 365 types of cheese, and that the reality of modern French life is very different from the myths that we create about it.

Mailbox & Social Media

French Orbit Living: Eating, and drinking in Burgundy.
L'Hermione: Boat Lafayette used to sail to America has been reconstructed. The plan is to sail to America once again in April 2015. Until then you can visit her near La Rochelle
VizEat: On-line, global community for people to share a great, authentic meal in a local's home. VizEat is the perfect way to connect those looking to share a convivial experience, whether it be a tourist in a foreign country or a local wanting to get off the beaten path and try something new.

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Chalet Bibendum
A unique holiday home for winter ski and summer holidays in Chamonix. Open year round. Ideally located in the tranquil, picturesque Savoyard hamlet of Les Bois, a 5 minute drive from the center of Chamonix and a short walk to La Flegere lift. La Flegere is well known for skiing and snowboarding in winter or hiking, mountain biking or golf in summer.

Wine and Cognac Tour
In the early fall the Bordeaux and Cognac regions are fully tuned for the upcoming harvest, la vendange. The smell of fermenting grapes is spread all over and tractors are riding off and on pulling huge lorries filled with grapes to the wineries. The weather conditions, the quality of the grapes and subsequent wine is the talk of the town in the South West of France.

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