Jeff Steiner's Americans in France.
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NewsletterDecember 2012

Seasons Greetings/Joyeuse Fêtes from Americans in France!

Lafayette, we are here!

rue de Silence in La Roche sur Foron France

This is Gilbert du Motier's aka Marquis de Lafayette grave at Picpus Cemetery in Paris. It was Colonel Charles E. Stanton, who stated "Lafayette, we are here!" July 4, 1917 in front of Lafayette's grave. Flying over Lafayette's grave is an American flag. A flag flew, even during the Nazi occupation.
I visited Picpus Cemetery in November during my week in Paris. Along with visiting Lafayette's grave I also also saw: Musée d'Orsay, love locks bridge, Jardin du Luxembourg (a great place to put up your feet), Montparnasse Tower (nice view of the Eiffel Tower) and the Champs-Élysées. One special highlight: using Autolib', Paris' electric car sharing program. The electric blue cars drive well (how did I do?) and the GPS (kind of) helps prevent getting lost . Best of all with Autolib', there's always a place to park your car in Paris!


Every now and then an event helps us to better understand a country's culture, in this case France’s political culture. For example the present conflict between parliamentary leader, Jean-François Copé and former Prime Minister, François Fillon. Both desperately want to be president of the UMP, France’s largest right-wing party. The position could springboard the occupant to the presidency in 2017.
For the first time the UMP held a direct vote by members to chose its president. There were two candidates - Copé and Fillon. The vote was close, poorly organized and both sides accused the other of fraud. In the November 18th vote Copé, declared himself the winner before all votes were counted. Fillon countered ten minutes after Copé saying he was the winner. This lasted until Monday the 19th when the commission that oversaw the election, declared Copé the winner by 98 votes or 50.03%.
Fillon looked set to admit defeat, but then it was discovered that somehow the votes of three overseas federations were forgotten. Had those votes been added in Fillon would win by 26 votes. After much back and forth Copé was declared the winner by 952 votes. The board of appeals threw out federations, where fraud was believed to have occurred but tallied in the forgotten votes. As a final recourse Nicolas Sarkozy tried to mediated the conflict. Supposedly an agreement was reached to hold a referendum on whether to hold a new vote. In other words vote whether to vote.
The referendum fell through, when Fillon decided to create a group in parliament. Not a benign act as this could lead the the formation of a new party thanks to the €40,000 each group gets for per member.
What does this all mean about political culture? In France and certainty on the French right wing, leaders are traditionally strong, uncontested and party heads. That's why the bare knuckle fight for UMP head. Sarkozy elbowed his way to leader of the UMP in 2004 and then won the French presidency in 2007. Mindful of tradition and a possible challenger, Sarkozy abolished the post of UMP president. He created the watered down executive committee.
It's also worth noting that the UMP is the offshoot of the RPR created by Jacques Chirac in 1976. A party he used for his own political gain all the way to the French presidency. Even on the left party leadership is important. Current French President François Hollande, is the former head of the Socialist Party, as was François Mitterrand. Hollande stepped aside in 2008 and the election to precede him was almost as bitter as what the UMP is going through now. The two protagonists in that fight, Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal saw their political futures fall after that election. A real risk for Copé and Fillon. For now Copé is the UMP head but his standing among voters has fallen sharply. Same for Fillon.

Talk with Paul Shawcross

In October I had the chance to talk with Paul Shawcross about his apps Dordogne Explorations and Provencal Roaming.
Paul talks about five photos from each app giving many tips and helpful travel information. If you're thinking about traveling to the Dordogne or Provence these apps are for you.


My podcast has taken a literary turn. In October I talked with Anne Trager of Le French Book. A digital-first publisher of French crime fiction novels in English. So far Le French Book has published The Paris Lawyer, Treachery in Bordeaux and The 7th Woman.
In November I talked with author, Kristin Espinasse of French Word a Day. Kristin recently self published Blossoming in Provence. She is also the author of Words in a French Life.

End of the World?

I was recently on Expats Radio along with my week in Paris, I talked about the end of the world. Most importantly, the Pic de Bugarach in the South of France will supposedly offer safe haven.

From my Mailbox

Joie de Vivre by Harriet Welty Rochefort: Newest book from the author of French Toast and French Fried.
Tales from across La Manche by Peter G. Clayton: Collection of short stories loosely based on experiences and incidents encountered during the author's many visits to France.
Gauguin's Ghost Story by Tony Stowers: In two parallel stories Stowers explores in detail Gauguin’s life and his relationships with family and other impressionist painters. The second story is about Stowers creating a one-man show about Gauguin on a shoestring budget!
Bringing Burgundy to You & Cook in Burgundy: Both web sites are run by English-couple David and Lynne Hammond who have lived in Burgundy since 2002 and offer wine discoveries and cooking classes.

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