Sometimes, as we all know, words and static images just aren’t adequate to capture a feeling or an impression you get in a faraway place – we need to see movement and the passing of time to get a better feel for what it might be like to visit a place we’ve never experienced for ourselves. Since I started this blog, I’ve put a lot of effort into explaining what the “deep heart of France” means to me. You’ve heard why I love Clermont-Ferrand and the Auvergne, and you’ve seen some of the towns officially recognized as being among “the most beautiful villages of France” – places like Blesle, Charroux, Arlempdes, and Salers.If you’ve stuck with this blog for long, […]
Several newspaper stories over the past 2 weeks have commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of France at the end of World War II — but they tend to focus on DeGaulle and the Allies marching through the streets of Paris. The local papers in the deep heart of France, though, have a different, darker memory of the events of August 1944. For people in Moulins the war wasn’t over when those triumphant scenes played out in Paris. On the same day the Nazi garrison surrendered in the capital, 56 men, 9 women and a 7-year-old child were dragged from their cells in the tower known as “Mal-Coiffée”, a 14th-century dungeon used as a prison by the occupying German […]
A few weeks ago I was in Souvigny, a postcard-perfect town in the Allier, and it made me think of computer systems. Well, in a roundabout way… I first heard the phrase “plan d’urbanisme” when I was working in the Information Technology department of a big manufacturing company in France. While it literally means “city planning”, in the context of IT it meant trying to figure out the thorny problem of how to integrate new applications and new technologies into an existing mass of old systems.
As you drive through the “deep heart of France”, you’ll regularly come across a massive house, usually sitting on top of a little hill or bluff and looking as though it’s been there forever. There may be some evidence of fortifications – a guard tower, a thick wall around the garden, sometimes even a moat. But is this a “chateau”? Or just a big, old house in the country?
Sometimes I come across one of the “most beautiful villages in France” that apparently gets more points for the vistas it overlooks than for what it actually contains. Montpeyroux, for me, is one example.Not to say you shouldn’t visit – you should! It is a lovely, neatly-kept little town with its own rich history deep in the Auvergne. It’s easy to find, too; its prominent castle tower is visible to thousands of cars every day as they zip along the A7 (“La Méridienne), the major autoroute that connects Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers down on the Mediterranean coast. Within the city walls the first thing you’ll notice is how much lighter and brighter Monypeyroux looks compared to many other towns in the […]
I’ll bet every expat working in France has heard the same thing from a friend or relative during a holiday visit back home: “Wow, so you’re only working 35 hours a week! What a sweet life that must be!”As you’ve already gathered from things I’ve written here and there, it can indeed be a sweet life to live and work in France. But the misconceptions about how much French people actually work and how productive they are can make you crazy if you focus on them.
The incredible thing about Blaise Pascal is… well, for me, almost everything. He was one of those extraordinary intellects who come along too rarely in history, but like Mozart, like Shelley and Keats, he died before he turned 40, leaving us to wonder what else he might have done if he’d lived longer. I first encountered him when, as a young professor of computer science, I was asked to teach a class on “Pascal”. In the 1980s it was a new, structured language for computer programming, a predecessor to some of the languages still used to write code.
This week I’m missing my “second home”: Clermont-Ferrand, capital city of the Auvergne, one time capital of France for a day, and the largest city in the deep heart of France.We lived there for seven years (split between two different expat assignments), and I’ve spent several weeks there every year when we weren’t living there for the last 19 years. Why do I like this place so much? Here are my 8 favorite things about Clermont-Ferrand: Notre Dame du Port. This is the older of Clermont’s two main churches, and it is rich in history – Pope Urban II launched the first of the Crusades during a conference here in 1095. So although I’m not at all Catholic I love […]
Every winter, Clermont-Ferrand hosts “the second most important film festival in France” (after the well-known event in Cannes). This February will bring the 29th edition of the International Short Film Festival, showcasing works from filmmakers around the world in addition to two thematic programs on the art of short film in Colombia and works of “black humor”. The 29th annual International Short Film Festival and 39th National Short Film Festival will be held from February 3rd to February 11th, 2017. Ticket packages and information about hotels are available on the Festival’s website. Read more about this exceptional event in my article on FranceToday.com , one of the best online sources for information about travel and culture in France.
The more I read about Gustav Eiffel, the more amazed I am at the variety and number of projects he and his company executed. Among his early projects, I knew that the beautiful red arc of the Viaduct at Garabit was one of the most important things he did long before he built that famous tower in Paris.