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NewsletterJuly 2011

Rue de Silence Under Construction

For the next month or so, rue de Silence won’t live up to its name. My town, La Roche sur Foron, is in the process of converting two streets in le centre-ville into semi-pedestrian. Along with rue de Silence, Place Saint-Jean in front of the town church, will also become walker friendly.
This construction is just one of four projects underway or recently finished. These include the recently finished school cafeteria, remodeling of senior citizen apartments, with the creation of an onsite daycare center and the conversion of L’Ecole Plain-Chateau into the town’s new library.
This is all part of les grands investissements 2008-2014. A flyer I received explained in great detail the changes planned, including cost: €7 million. The reason for the construction: this is the mayor’s last term. He was reelected in March 2008 and I think would like to leave a legacy. Some of what is being undertaken had been suggested before. The idea of creating a pedestrian friendly downtown dates back to the middle 1970’s.

Presidential Election

The last few months have seen ups and downs in the French presidential race. The election, scheduled, for April 2012 is heating up. Early on in February/March a few polls sent shockwaves through the French political class. Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National came out either on top or in second place in hypothetical first round voting. Good enough to knock out President Nicolas Sarkozy. This has been described as a reverse 2001. In 2001 Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen father, came in second in first round voting. Le Pen’s showing ousted Socialist Party candidate, Lionel Jospin, handing the election to Jacques Chirac. The Socialist Party has yet to recover. Only winning a presidential election will erase the defeat.
There are five major Socialist Party candidates for the upcoming presidential primaries: Martine Aubry, François Hollande, Arnaud Montebourg, Ségolène Royal, Manuel Valls. The primaries are new in French politics and are planned for October 9th and 16th. These are open to all voters. Normally party activists and only party activists choose candidates.
The wildcard in the socialist camp is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK in France. DSK was viewed (according to polls) as the Socialist having the best chance to defeat Sarkozy. But after being charged with sexual assault in May the Socialists moved on and it appears, if polls are correct, DSK actions haven’t negatively affected French voters views of the Socialists Party. Martine Aubry and François Hollande are both polling well; French voters seem open to a change of power.
Socialists Party head Martine Aubry, who was seen as a possible candidate but willing to step aside, if DSK wanted to run for president, declared her candidacy in late June. But as of this writing it appears the case against DSK is flawed. There is talk that DSK could make a comeback. Also there is talk of pushing back the deadline to declare for the Socialist primaries. The date is now set as July 13th.
I, for one think, this is a little premature, after all in a best case scenario DSK made a major misjudgment even if the sex was consensual, the big unknown. This brings up a major difference between American and French cultural standards. In France a politician’s affairs are accepted, as they are part of one’s private life. Many do stray and it’s just doesn’t matter. The most famous example: President François Mitterrand fathered a child outside of marriage, became president and won reelection. With DSK it’s much more than an affair and likely will take sometime to resolve and there could be more surprises.

Southern Burgundy Explorer

Coming soon to an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch near you is the Southern Burgundy Explorer, a travel app for the Saone-et-Loire department of France. The app covers major towns, off the beaten track gems and more, based on 10 years travel experiences. I’ll be sending out a special newsletter when this app goes live. For now here are screenshots and more information.

La Roche Bluegrass Festival

My town’s yearly Bluegrass Festival takes place from August 3-7. You can see and hear highlights from last year's festival. This year there will be 31 bands from 13 countries, including 4 from the US. All concerts are free and there are workshops for anyone wanting to learn or improve their Bluegrass. For me the best part of La Roche Bluegrass is the jam sessions that take place in the town center. Here’s a sample video.


Les Rossignols: Is a beautiful old Quercy farmhouse built around 1840, near Assier, in the Lot, Midi-Pyrenees. Close to Figeac, the famous medieval riverside market town, there is much to do and see. Three bed and breakfast rooms are available, from a romantic double room with private roof terrace, to a family room for four/five, all overlooking the large, salt water swimming pool.
The top floor can be rented as a suite of two bedrooms to sleep six/seven, with spa bathroom and sitting room. Close to the wonderful tourist sites of Rocamadour, St. Cirq-Lapopie, the prehistoric caves of Peche Merle, the Dordorgne, Lot and Célé river valleys there is plenty to do. Walk, explore or watch the wonderful birds and wild life, which ever way you can be sure of a fabulous holiday and warm welcome.

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