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Meanwhile, in France...

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Vince_Ulam, Apr 19, 2018.

  1. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    Ha ha, classic.:)

    But you know, even if the owner had been a Breton and his staff Breton too, I very much doubt that any of them would speak Breton in that Parisian crêperie (as, for starters, they would anyway most probably had been brought up in Paris/Greater Paris, Between 1 million and Bretons or people of Breton origin in Greater Paris, massive diaspora).

    It's due to very strong internal migration movements within France (impoverished countryside => urban areas) in the second part of the 19th century (advent of railway, rural exodus, industrialisation) and 1st part of 20th century from poor provincial areas, cue a Breton diaspora towards cities, particularly Paris. In the Greater Paris area, more than one million people claim Breton heritage.

    Ditto people from the Auvergne regions – particularly Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal and Aveyron départements – and the 2 Savoy départements, between them they own half of the 20,000 bars, cafés and restaurants in Paris proper and a good number in Greater Paris.

    Even in Brittany, few people speak Breton fluently. They have the fully bilingual Diwan schools in Brittany (and many high schools are partly bilingual) and Breton is reasonably reasonably well spoken in some pockets of Central, Western Brittany and North-West Brittany in the Roscoff-Morlaix area (what’s called in French “La Bretagne bretonnante”) but by and large out of the 5 million Bretons, I’d be very surprised if more than 150,000-200,000 of them spoke Breton or Gallo (Eastern Brittany) with any fluency (although a decent % would have some knowledge of it, “some” meaning in most cases just the odd words or phrase, in other words the very basics).
     
    Rott Weiler likes this.
  2. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    We rented a gîte in the west of Brittany in 1992. The elderly owners were Breton speakers. As we were French speakers they would invite us in for an evening aperitif. Hearing their tales was fascinating. Neither of them spoke French before they started school. Monsieur had been deported to Silesia to work in forced labour during the war. He had to walk back to Brittany once the war was over.
     
    fraisier likes this.
  3. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    Indeed so, linguistic (and geographical) unity was achieved late in France (progressively, through compulsory education in French from the late 1800s and, sadly, through coercion) and right up to the Interwar, millions of people still spoke a regional language/dialect without being very proficient in French at all.

    I have many provincial relatives originally from Savoy, Auvergne etc. (who then became Parisians) whose parents and grandparents didn't speak any or much French, as late as the 1920s-1930s. Or they could only understand it but not speak it or write it. Up until about a century ago, the French linguistic picture was similar to that of countries where diglossia is the norm, such as Morocco for instance, with a "high" and a "low" variety and with those people speaking the "low" variety (the poor speakers if you will) using another language at home and with friends.

    Yes, they would have learnt it in school, when school became compulsory (in the 1880s - universal, free and secular) but that democratisation of education was a gradual process and it took a while to reach all the provinces etc. therefore many people just "learnt" French at school while continuing to speak their regional language at home. There was real resistance in many provinces to that process too. And anyway school was only compulsory from age 8 to 13 I think so French was very much like a foreign language for these relatives of mine from the provinces. There was identity issues too, such as in Corsica and Brittany, which were an extra barrier for the development of French throughout the country.

    If you’re interested in those historic issues, Graham Robb’s book The Discovery of France is an excellent read, and on this topic chapter 4 "O Oc Si Bai Ya Win Oui Oyi Awe Jo Ja Oua" is particularly relevant.

    Ditto The Identity of France (volume 1) by Fernand Braudel, particularly the chapter titled “Explaining France’s diversity”, and within it the two sub-chapters on France’s 450 regional languages/dialects and patois of the 19th century.

    Since the 1960s, and favourable legislation for regional languages, with an acceleration in legislation and practice from the 1980s with the advent of Decentralisation under Mitterrand, we’ve witnessed a big revival in the interest towards, and study of, regional languages but it’s still comparatively tiny (compared to pre-war levels, especially pre WWI), except maybe for Creole in general, though of course there are many different types of Creoles (spoken in the French Caribbean islands, in the Réunion Island and French Guiana which is quite widespread; also Creole in New-Caledonia but far less widespread than other Creoles in the other Overseas French territories).
     
    Dunteachin and smoothnewt like this.
  4. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    Never been to Granville, what is it like?

    But about 10 years ago, while pottering round Eastern Normandy, the Cotentin peninsula (and the Regional Natural Park of Cotentin and Bessin) and the Pointe du Hoc, my wife and I stumbled upon the nearby small “arts & craft” village of Villedieu-les-Poêles 10 miles from Granville (population: 3,500), a hell of a village!

    The whole village is dedicated to copper, pewter and metal working, so much so that it’s sometimes dubbed “The Lourdes of Copper and Pewter” as they specialise in what’s called dinanderie in French (copperware, brassware).

    They used to (and still do) make pots and copper pans and general artisanal items (copper kitchen utensils, pots, cauldrons) for individuals and restaurants alike, but nowadays while they still do it they tend to specialise in making decorative items and working for the “heritage industry” big time. They also have a woodworking, cabinet-making and lace-making industry, they also make big clocks, in particular the famous imposing Normandy longcase clocks (photo below). It is a hell of an artisanal village!

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    They make all sorts of bells too (been making them since the 13th century), for churches and cathedrals mainly but also for official buildings, town halls, castles, chateaux etc. They make lovely gates too, such as this one (outside a foundry):

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    We visited a couple of museums and workshops, the foundries are fascinating too. They have tours, several languages available (some English-language tours given by native speakers, quite a few of them in that area).

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    But we didn’t go to Granville, we shot off to Mont-St-Michel instead, then onto Brittany proper, St-Malo, Cancale, Dinard, Dinan etc.

    My wife loves Brittany and wants to live there (particularly Northern Brittany) when she retires in 3-4 years’ time. I’m not sure myself, we shall see. Personally, I’d prefer Normandy (closer to Paris... I don’t mind “the sticks” but I don’t want to be too far from a proper city. I suppose there’s Rennes in Brittany, lovely place, stunning street markets etc. and great TGV link to Paris, only about 80 mns away and fares are dirt cheap, from €15, but still, I’d much rather live in Normandy if I were to move to France).
     
    Dunteachin likes this.
  5. LondonCanary

    LondonCanary Star commenter

    I assumed you were already living there given you comprehensive knowledge of all things French.
     
  6. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    Ah OK, no, actually I’m French (Franco-British, born and bred in France, French - & Spanish - relatives etc.) and I’ve lived in England for 30 years.
     
    LondonCanary likes this.
  7. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    Yay, a French person in a black and white stripey top! Where's his beret and string of onions?
     
  8. DrLinus

    DrLinus Lead commenter

    The man-bun is the new beret.
    As a vegan his onions are probably in his lunchbox.
     
  9. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    ?

    La Marinière isn't a cliché at all, it's not just for show or for tourists, many people in France actually wear/have one (especially in that area on the photo, as it's close to Brittany). I have a couple of Marinières myself, I even own a pair of Marinière-style striped espadrilles, made in France (you can get the Made in France ones in shoe shops and hypermarkets for about €10-15).

    The France football Team's away kit a few years ago was a Marinière, and if memory serves the national rugby team had a Marinière kit too a while ago (but I'm far less into rugby so maybe I'm wrong!).

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    CheeseMongler likes this.
  10. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    I used to run an annual residential trip to Normandy and at one point we used to stay at a centre based at St Pair sur Mer, not far from Granville. We used to take the kids to Villedieu to the fabulous Tuesday market, which was so authentic - they'd sell live ducks, chickens etc, in the main square. This was a real experience for our suburban London kids. We'd give the kids money to buy a picnic lunch (baguette, fromage, jambon, melon, fraises, etc) in groups, which we would take back to St Pair to eat. One year a boy bought a live crab. What he thought he was going to do with it, God only knows. We eventually liberated it into the sea. I used to really enjoy visiting that area. We used to get the most fabulous sunsets, too.
     
  11. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    And the Cotentin peninsula in general has the most fabulous beaches. We've often thought about having a summer break there.
     
  12. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    Also used to run a residential in Normandy, but more towards Honfleur and then Bayeux.

    I don't know the Cotentin Peninsula well, especially the coastal areas, I've mainly just driven through the heart of it from Cherbourg (Portsmouth-Cherbourg fast ferry) and just visited from Villedieu right at the bottom of the Peninsula. And a quick visit to Utah Beach, the great Utah Beach Museum there (Musée du Débarquement Utah Beach) and nearby Saint-Mère-Église to show kids that famous site (John Steele's parachute), the local Airborne Museum is interesting too.

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    Yes, not surprised about the richness of the street markets in the Cotentin, it's proper rural territory with all sorts of farming activities going on (traditional farming, animal, apples & pears, cider production, oysters, mussels, milk, dairy, cheese etc.).
     
  13. fraisier

    fraisier Lead commenter

    I’ve actually seen the unique (and free!) Chartres en Lumières extravaganza several times since its inception in 2004 as Chartres is only a short hop from Paris. It really is a stunning Son et Lumières show, a must-see for anyone who finds themselves in Paris between April and October (30-odd trains a day to Chartres). It's the world’s largest permanent light & sound show: 25 historic buildings and bridges lit up every evening from dusk to 1am from April to October, each with its own scenario, scenography and music.

    Among the large towns/cities located within an hour of the capital, Chartres is one of my favourites, along with Provins (great fortified medieval town), Le Mans (for its superbly preserved Old Town, so authentic it’s often used as a film set for period dramas and historic films) and Reims, for its fab art deco architecture, the largest art deco heritage ensemble in France (the reason being that during WWI 80% of Reims was destroyed, 12,000 buidings were totally levelled and another 2,000 badly damaged, so when the city was rebuilt the city in the 1920s a wide architectural diversity of styles was used, including art deco. It has over 300 art deco buildings, 90% of them are in the centre. Tours in several languages.
    (Reims: The powerful Gothic cathedral is what hits home first. Nearly destroyed by two world wars, it now stands proudly restored as the UNESCO World Heritage Site of more than 1,000 years of coronations, the place where 34 sovereigns were officially anointed. All wrapped in an extensive carpet of vineyards that produce the world’s supply of champagne. It’s a magical place, rounded out by Roman remains, art-deco buildings, four Michelin-starred restaurants and a nearby hiker's paradise of gorgeous forests and numerous wine villages. Reims was more than 80% destroyed in World War I, but rebuilt in less than 10 years by more than 400 architects.)

    In Chartres, there are thematic guided tours you can go on (they have "greeters" too who can show you around), also an app to do all the sites and also a tourist train in the evening which follows the route, starts outside the cathedral in the Upper Town and winds its way down to the Lower Town (the medieval part) following the Eure river banks and then back up.

    They have various animations too linked to that Light & Sound show, eg this:
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    Chartres is a large town/small city (pop: 40,000 – 120,000 with suburbs) but packs quite a punch, apart from the amazing cathedral and its stunning stained glass windows that is (International Stained-glass Centre next to the cathedral), even more sublime inside since they’ve cleaned up the walls, pillars and stonework, a 12-year €20 million restoration job (21st Century Chartres: The Famous Gothic Cathedral is Newly Restored).

    Chartres also has one of the the largest swimming and aquatic complexes in Europe, L’Odyssée, a heck of a place, there’s no equivalent in France.

    It’s a fairly wealthy commune, partly because it has attracted lots of companies since the 1970s (from Paris, abroad etc.) and high-end jobs, eg perfume/cosmetics businesses & producers, R&D centres, production units etc (Chartres & the Eure-et-Loir département of which Chartres is the préfecture, the main admin town/city hub, are dubbed “Cosmetic Valley”). It’s close to Greater Paris, and much cheaper, there’s more space etc.

    French communes derive decent revenue streams from businesses domiciled on their territory (on average something like ~20% of their income), as the “Taxe professionnelle” (or the Contribution Économique Territoriale as it’s now called) paid by most businesses go directly into the municipality coffers.

    There’s also a truly wacky place in Chartres there called Picassiette, a “masterpiece of naïve art” (or “art brut”, or even “outsider art”) says the Tourist Office blurb.

    One Raymond Isidore, a town hall and cemetery employee in the interwar and until the early 1960s, so between the 1930s and 1962 (he died in 1964), covered his whole house (including the furniture), gardens and courtyards with mosaics and bits of crockery (and whatever else he could lay his hands on,lots of salvaged materials from his). It is very stylishly done, he didn’t just stick bits onto the walls in a haphazard fashion, he made superb compositions of life and religious scenes using many different materials, he was self-taught (hence the “art naif” label, he had no artistic training or connection with the art world), his œuvre is stunning and is a major example of art brut.

    The Cemetery Caretaker Who Covered His Cottage in Mind-Bending Mosaics

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    About 15 years ago, the Chartres municipality also commissioned artists to paint giant trompe-l'œil murals on several council estate buildings in a deprived neighbourhood called Bel Air, its called "Les Fresques de Bel Air", stunning. The themes chosen are linked to the area's heritage (the cathedral obviously, perfume/cosmetics, medieval history, fields, windmills, – as it’s a farming/wheat/corn area –, etc.)

    Les Fresques de Bel Air
    A once drab public housing estate is transformed into a colorful gallery of trompe l’oeil murals.


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    The Old Town is lovely, with its cafés and restaurants along the Eure river banks. Thankfully it wasn’t too badly bombed during WWII, unlike, say, in the nearby Normandy cities, Le Havre, Caen, Rouen, etc. – the latter having been rebuilt identically post WWII). The gateways into the Chartres old town, similar to those in York for instance, were all destroyed but the actual city centre wasn’t bar a few buildings.

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