Jeff Steiner's Americans in France.
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NewsletterJune 2004

What have I learned lately?

  • French justice is coming down hard on those that download copyrighted material. In Lille, six people were given suspended sentences and fined for downloading movies and songs.
  • The sale of high-powered cars is increasing even with the new crackdown on speeding. I think this just proves how much the French love speed and hate following the law. It's another French paradox, the French live very orderly lives and cede much power to government and bureaucracies, but each French person still has a rebel inside them.
  • There are over 400 speed radars on French roads, with 1000 slated to be installed this year and next.
  • Steven Laurence Kaplan, an American living in France, is a leading French bread expert. Recently he published a book listing the best bakeries in Paris. This did not sit well with those left off the list. Some feel that only a French person can rate French cuisine.

Sights and smells of spring - A colza field

France's natural beauty never ceases to amazes me, my newest amazement - colza. It's a variety of cabbage, cultivated to make lubricant or illuminant oil. What I find so amazing is that colza can stimulate two senses simultaneously - sight, it's a bright deep yellow early in the spring, that only nature can make and smell, very sweet. Think of a smell resembling the taste of honey
Don't know how I missed colza before. Maybe the other French regions I lived in: Alsace, Ill-de-France and Aquitaine didn't have it. Here in Burgundy colza fields are everywhere. Just about any direction I drive from Dijon, after only a few minutes, there's colza. My eyes and nose are treated to a delight not seen in many other places.
This being France the countryside is never far away. I bike along the colza fields with my son. Only in France can male bonding, and discovering natural beauty occur at the same time!
Colza field photos.


So far there's not much spring in France. The cold of winter gave way to the heat of summer with little transition in the middle of May. The third week in May saw record high temperatures for that time of year. This is not good news for France, if this is a preview of the weather to come. Certainly not after last year's heat wave that was more natural disaster than a weather event.

Down on the (French) farm

Farms have their own rhythm, certain things at certain times of the year. In May it's La Tonte, or sheep shearing. This, my friends is very, very difficult work. It's like trying to give a hair cut to a 100 pound child, who is constantly moving. I didn't do any shearing; two sheep shearers were hired to do that, called tondeurs in French. No, I along with many of my in-laws was the one who had to bring the sheep to the shearers. Believe me it's not easy to grab a 150-pound, sheep turn it over on its back and then drag to get its 'hair cut'. In total over two hundred sheep were sheared. We started at seven in the morning and finished around four in the afternoon.
To give you an idea of how economics are not in the farmer's favor, fifty years ago the wool a sheep produced paid the shearing costs and the sheep's food for a year. Now the wool produced will not even pay for the shearing.
La Tonte photos.

Un peu de Pub

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