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NewsletterJanuary 2016

Très Bonne Année À Tous!

To Visit in 2016

Here's a 'Bucket List' of five places I'd like to visit for 2016. How many have you been to?

  1. Salle du Jeu de Paume - Versailles
    Yes, a tennis court. But this isn't just any tennis court, it's the birthplace of an independent French Assemblée nationale - parliament. It was here that the Serment du Jeu de Paume - Tennis Court Oath took place and was signed by all but one of the 577 members from the Third Estate. In the oath all promised not to disband until a constitution was established. The Serment du Jeu de Paume was the first time citizens formally stood in opposition to a French king.

  2. Barrage de Tignes - Savoie
    At 160 meters - 525 feet this is France's tallest dam. But that's not why it's on my list: it's the Hercules fresco on the dam's face. It's difficult to make out in the photo but you can see Hercules' face. I'd like to visit before the fresco fades anymore! The fresco was painted in preparation for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville.

    Photo by Philipendula (CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0)

  3. Château de Guédelon - Burgundy
    This castle is being built using techniques and materials as in the Middle Ages. When completed in 10-15 years it will be a 'new' 13th-century castle!

    Photo by Benoît Prieur via Wikimedia Commons

  4. Annonay - Ardèche
    Annonay was home to the Montgolfière brothers, who created the balloon used in the first man flight in 1783. There is a yearly Fête de la Montgolfière, the first weekend in June.
    If you're wondering where the first flight took place, it was at Château de la Muette in Bois de Boulogne. Thanks to Benjamin Franklin's account, this event became known to the English speaking world. If you have Netflix, make sure to watch Ben Franklin's Balloons. You can also try online at

    Photo by PASQUION (CC BY-SA 3.0)

  5. Château de Chavaniac - Haute-Loire
    This is the birthplace of Gilbert du Motier, aka Marquis de Lafayette.

Regional elections

Much was made in the English speaking press about Marine Le Pen and her party, the extreme right-wing Front national (FN) 'winning' the first round of the December French Regional Elections. But this should be put into the Dewey Defeats Truman category. I'm not at all dismissing the FN's or Le Pen's rise and prolonged electoral strength. In total the FN won a little over 27% in both the first and second rounds of voting and was able to increase its vote total in between rounds, no small feat. But it's difficult to see the FN as a winner in the recent elections. It's also more difficult to see how Le Pen could be elected the next president of France. A scenario often brought up in not just the English speaking press but also the French press.
The elections were to elect regional assemblies, somewhat like US state assemblies, yet with much less power. Following a recent regrouping, regional assemblies were reduced from 22 to 13 in mainland France, this includes the island of Corsica. In the first round the FN received the most votes in 6 of 13 regions. The other two main parties Les Républicains (LR), who ran with the center-right UDI and the Parti socialiste (PS) received the most votes in 4 and 2 regions respectively. In the second round the LR won 7 regions: the PS 5 and the FN 0. Corsica was won by nationalist.
Seats in regional assemblies are allocated proportionally with a 25% bonus to the list - parties run lists of candidates, that received the most votes in the second round. Even with this system, the head of a list is understood to be running for regional president and takes a lead in the campaign.
Le Pen ran as the head of list in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, a region decimated by job loss and unemployment. Le Pen received 40% in the first round and 42% in the second. As the PS removed its list for the second round vote, Le Pen lost that round 42-58 to LR candidate Xavier Bertrand. In Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Le Pen's niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen did better a little better, losing 45-55 after getting 40% in the first round.
What this all means to me is that Le Pen and the FN , have great difficulty in winning a second round majority. Something so far that the FN has only been able to do at the municipal level. That's an accomplishment, but a long way from winning a countrywide majority. Something Le Pen would have to do to become president, as only two candidates make it into the second round of a French presidential election. The only real wild-card here, is what would happen if Le Pen faced François Hollande of the PS in the second round. Hollande still continues to be France most unpopular modern president. But he could sneak into the second round if LR fragments - as its predecessors did in the past, and runs multiple candidates. That's a long shot but brings up the scenario of what right wing voters will do when faced with a Le Pen-Hollande match up. Left wing voters have shown, over and over their willingness to hold their noses and vote LR to save off a FN win, but will right wing voters do the same. That's the unknown.

Jan & Jeff

It's been another month of Jan & Jeff:
Foie Gras - #35
Ménages à Quatre + Virgin Chicken - #36
Frog Legs, Snails, & No Puppy Dog Tails! - #37 (Visit a French supermarket!)
A Jan & Jeff Christmas in France! - #38

Autrefois - France of Yesteryear & Today

My new ebook: Autrefois - France of Yesteryear & Today, 101 sets of then and now photos of France will be released on March 1, 2016. You can preorder it at, and at other ebook retailers.
Autrefois - France of Yesteryear & Today, takes you from Paris to Bordeaux to the Alps and beyond. You'll discover how well known locations like the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées look a 100 years apart. You'll also discover little known villages in the French countryside and see how French country life has, and hasn't changed over the last century. Order it today!

Sales in France

The 2016 winter sales in France - Soldes d'Hiver 2016 start on Wednesday January 6th. There are a few departments where sales start earlier. They are Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges (Lorraine region) who start on Saturday January 2nd.

Websites, Events & Reading

Lost in Frenchlation: French movies with English subtitles in Paris. Facebook page
Paris à l'envers: Personalized advice for stays, guided walks and unusual addresses in Paris.
Le Mouvement Intellectuel et Artistique de Taos, Nouveau-mexique, dans les années 1920-1930: Conference in an association with the Musée de Grenoble's Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition.
When I Was a Photographer: Celebrated nineteenth-century photographer -- and writer, actor, caricaturist, inventor, and balloonist -- Félix Nadar published this memoir of his photographic life in 1900 at the age of eighty. Composed as a series of vignettes (we might view them as a series of "written photographs"), this intelligent and witty book offers stories of Nadar's experiences in the early years of photography, memorable character sketches, and meditations on history. It is a classic work, cited by writers from Walter Benjamin to Rosalind Krauss. This is its first and only complete English translation.


Global Insurance Net: If you are thinking about moving to France you will need health insurance to get your visa. A great company that will help you with this is Global Insurance Net. I found out about Global Insurance Net in 2003 through another expat and have been recommending them ever since with no regrets. Carlos Perez the President, CEO of Global Insurance Net has always been very easy to work with.

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