Tag Archives: France

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

A Russia-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (12 January).

Continue reading Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

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Map of The Most Popular Countries in the World

It might come as a surprise to some that France is the world’s biggest tourist destination in the world! Receiving nearly 20 Million more visitors annually than the runner up, USA. Doubly impressive when you consider that the US is over fifteen times the size of France.

Continue reading Map of The Most Popular Countries in the World

French village bans clowns for Halloween after country plagued by terrifying pranks

'Evil clowns' in Béziers, France. (Facebook)'Evil clowns' in Béziers, France. (Facebook)'Evil clowns' in Béziers, France. (Facebook)Facing panic, French town bans 'evil' clowns

The eerie trend of fake, evil clowns terrifying passers-by has hit several parts of France over recent weeks in what many see as a follow-on from hugely popular YouTube prank videos.'Evil clowns' in Béziers, France. (Facebook) Il est donc interdit de circuler déguisé en clown dans Vendargues, stipule un arrêté municipal. Police have jailed or arrested more than a dozen teenagers after they dressed up as the pranksters and wrought havoc on the streets, at times armed with pistols, knives or baseball bats, sometimes beating people up. The phenomenon in France has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to step in to try and quell growing hysteria.

According to an order published on the village hall website (see below), “individuals or groups of people aged 13 or more” are banned from dressing up as clowns on streets and in public spaces on October 31st and November 1st.

After that, any teenager wanting to dress up as the funny men so dear to children will have to ask for official authorization. The phenomenon of terror-inducing clowns appeared earlier this month in the north of France.

According to police, people increasingly reported spotting clowns “outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square.”

Last week, a 19-year-old got a six-month suspended jail term for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown in the town of Bethune. Arrêté anti-clowns à Vendargues: "Il y a des nez rouges ici, c'est une commune viticole" And the phenomenon has spread across the country. Police at the weekend arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons in the Mediterranean port town of Agde. Not far away in Montpellier — which is very near Vendargues — a fake clown chased a man down a street and beat him with an iron bar, prompting a court to jail him for four months.

10 of the best European islands … that you’ve probably never heard of

Lyngør Islands, Norway

A far cry from Norway’s jagged western fjord-filled coastline, the Lyngør Islands offer Baltic calm rather than wild Atlantic. Base yourself on the islands of Sandøya or Borøya (where you can park your car) and use the ferries to get around. If ferries are too mainstream, Norwegians rave about kayaking between these tiny islands, so expect to see lots of brightly coloured boats being hefted around by visitors. Kayak rental is available in Tvedestrand, the town at the head of the fjord. Lyngør Island can only be reached by boat: there are no cars, and the main village consists of weathered clapboard wooden houses.

Stay The Tvedestrand 58 holiday house on the island of Boroya, which sleeps up to six, costs from £455 for seven nights.

Getting there Norwegian airlines flies to Oslo from £40 return; it’s then a two-hour drive south.

Mljet, Croatia

Beach Stara Baska - island Krk, Croatia

Odysseus was allegedly held captive here, for seven years, by the nymph Calypso, but it can’t really have been all that bad. One of Croatia’s southernmost islands, it’s best known for exceptional local produce and wild beauty. There are great hiking opportunities around the two saltwater lakes in Mljet national park and it is possible to hire a sailing boat to reach the 12th-century Benedictine monastery on Melita Island. Scramble around the island’s shady trails and swim in some of the clearest water in the Adriatic at Blace Bay. Choose a bottle of local red for your sundowner – Dingac and Postup are produced on the island – and try the plates of raw mussels drizzled with lemon juice, a local speciality.

Stay There’s only one hotel and it’s right on the coast – the three-star Odisej Mljet, with doubles from £33 B&B.

Getting there It’s a 90-minute ferry from Dubrovnik to the bay of Sobra on Mljet on Jadrolinjia lines.

Aegina, Greece

The hillside village of Vagia on Aegina, Greece

Come for the seafood, stay for the peace. Aegina, only one hour by ferry from Athens, is a great base during a summer weekend break. The heat in the city can be harsh; escape the crowds to spend evenings snorkelling the coast and devouring cuttlefish in wine sauce at Nontas – a beachside taverna close enough to the water to see your dinner being caught by local fishermen. As for hiking, the island’s trails lead you past ruined churches, meadows of wildflowers, and craggy hillsides.

Stay Clean, bright, and sun-drenched rooms at the Marini Luxury Apartments come with balconies and panoramic views over the sea, doubles from £66.

Getting there Metro from Athens centre to Piraeus port, an hour’s hydrofoil journey (£7) to Aegina.

Fehmarn, Germany

Dike Path, Sulsdorfer Wiek with Sun, Summer, Orth, Baltic Island of Fehmarn, Germany

Fehmarn, an island just off Germany’s Baltic coastline, catches the rays in spades while adventure junkies can kitesurf the days away (it plays host to various kite surfing competitions every year). Those after a more gentle ramble should pack their boots for Fehmarn’s portion of the Via Scandinavia: a walking route from Lübeck that runs through Germany and Poland, and on to Norway. Fehmarn’s scenery makes it unique among Germany’s Baltic islands. Badwelt Fehmare is a spa complex on the island and many visitors make the journey to enjoy seaweed wraps (taken from the shore) and natural saltwater scrubs.

Stay Close to the old town and a sandy beach, Apartments mit Flair has accommodation from £42 a night.

Getting there From Hamburg it’s a 90-minute drive to Burg, the historical capital of Fehmarn.

Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, Ireland

Inisheer (Inis Oirr), Aran Islands, Ireland.

This is an island of ancient language and mythology where the white beaches stretch out into the Atlantic. The smallest island in the Aran archipelago, Inis Oírr (pronounced Inisheer) only got permanent electricity in 1997. The Inis Oírr trail threads through fields carpeted with wildflowers; gentian, cranesbill and ladies mantle dust your ankles as you pace around the island under the shadow of O’Brien’s ruined 14th-century castle. Recuperate at Ostan Inis Oírr with a pint of Guinness and live music, which gets visitors up for a dance.

Stay South Aran House, with doubles from £60 B&B, is a guesthouse with free Wi-Fi, four en suite rooms and underfloor heating. The attached cooking school suggests that guests are in for a treat at breakfast.

Getting there Ferry from Ros a’Mhil costs £19, adult return, with Aran Island Ferries.

Belle-Île en Mer, Brittany, France

The port of Le Palais on Belle-Île-en-Mer.

An island that lives up to its name, its dramatic coastline and green interior inspired 19th-century authors and artists, most famously Flaubert and Monet. Now it draws holidaymakers in their droves in August, but outside of this short peak season its 60 beaches are gloriously crowd-free; and even in August your fellow tourists are unlikely to be Brits, who prefer chichi Île de Ré further south over its wilder Atlantic cousin. While Belle-Île has a handful of low-key attractions, including Sarah Bernhardt’s house, now a museum, and the lighthouse at Bangor, the main draw is the natural environment. In August beach lovers and walkers are joined on the island by opera buffs who come for the popular classical music festival Lyrique en Mer. Read more on the island in our Brittany article.

Stay Hotel Le Clos Fleuri has doubles from £53.

Getting there Ferries leave from Qubieron, 14km away.

Cíes islands, Galicia, Spain

Rodas beach on Las Islas Cíes

Despite this paper naming Rodas beach on Las Islas Cíes one of the best beaches in the world, these islands remain an off-the-beaten-track gem, thanks to a strict limit of 2,200 tourists a day. Their nickname – the Maldives or Seychelles of Spain – gives a clear indication of what to expect: gorgeous white beaches, turquoise waters … in other words, your average untouched paradise. The three islands (Monteagudo, San Martiño and Faro) opposite the town of Vigo on the Galician coast form part of the Islas Atlánticas national park. This means its wildlife, including colonies of marine birds and rich marine life – which can be explored by scuba divers (with a permit) – is protected.

Stay The only accommodation is a campsite – Camping de las Islas Cíes – with 800 places on Faro, which opens in Easter week, and on subsequent weekends until June, and then regularly between June and September. From £5 adults, £4 kids; £50 to hire a double tent.

Getting there A ferry service from the harbours of Vigo, Cangas and Baiona starts in Easter week and runs weekends and then everyday between the beginning of June and the end of September.

Hiiumaa, Estonia

Tahkuna Lighthouse on Hiiumaa.

The smell of nature hangs heavy on Hiiumaa: from white sand beaches slightly damp after a rainfall, and seaweed sweetly fermenting at one end of the beach. The second largest island in Estonia, this is the place to come if you have a book to write or pictures to paint. There’s not much to do other than tramp along the coastal paths and admire centuries-old Baltic-style lighthouses. For history buffs, there’s an old Soviet bunker to explore, but mostly people come here to feel the sand between their toes and clear their heads. Thanks to the island’s microclimate, Hiiumaa is a lot warmer than Estonia’s mainland, which makes exploring the town of Kardia’s wooden houses and relaxing in Roograhu harbour’s floating sauna even more appealing.

Stay Kassari Puhkekeskus, doubles from £50, has bicycles to rent and a large sauna.

Getting there It’s a 35-minute flight from Tallinn or half-hour ferry ride from Rohuküla, details for both at hiiumaa.ee

Samothrace, Greece

DDR639 Doric Hieron temple, Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Oros Fengari (Mount Moon), Samothrace island. Northern Aegean Sea, Greece

The drums beat late into the night and oil torches flare at one of Samothrace’s many beach parties. Eyes closed, the smell of bonfires and tannic red wine transport you back to when life was dictated by the Temple of the Winged Nike, now a crumbling ruin. Its many repeat visitors love the unaffected nature of this north Aegean island. As well as a solid collection of hiking paths, a bucolic waterfall trail, and sweeping deserted beaches, the island’s hot springs and hillside thermal pools only add to the sense of otherworldliness.

Stay The Archondissa Boutique Beach Aparthotel is secluded and just 20 metres from the beach. Each room has a sizeable balcony and terrace, studios from £40.

Getting there A Saos ferry from Alexandroupoli (on the mainland) takes three hours. Thessaloniki is six hours including drive and ferry.

Margaret Island, Budapest, Hungary

Margaret Island in Budapest Hungary

Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest, spends winter shrouded in mist; come summer the island is an oasis in the midst the city. Encircled by a 5km asphalt running track and jetties from which to launch small boats (and bodies – some of the swimmers here are hardy folk), the illusion of an island holiday is enhanced by two thermal spa complexes. Both cost less than £10 for the day, and, after you’ve soaked, take a romantic walk around the island to visit the ruins of the 13th-century nunnery. At sunset grab an ice-cream and sit down to watch the fountains dance in time to the music.

Stay The Danubias Grand Hotel Margritsziget has doubles from £68.

Getting there The island is a five-minute walk across the bridge from Budapest’s district IV.

A Pilgrimage Through France, Though Not For God

Paris to the Pyrenees

For centuries, pilgrims have made their way along the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or St. James’ Way. It’s an ancient route honoring St. James of Compostela and can take a traveler on foot for hundreds of miles to what is believed to be the apostle’s burial site in northwestern Spain.

American travel writer David Downie and his wife, Alison, decided to begin their trek from their longtime home in Paris. For Downie, this wasn’t necessarily a religious pilgrimage. He stresses he wasn’t looking for God, though maybe enlightenment.

He’s written about the journey in a new book called Paris to the Pyrenees. Downie speaks with weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden about the Burgundy wine country, the southern territory called the Morvan, and the countless medieval auberges, or little inns.

On why he decided to embark on the journey

“I was hugely overweight, and I wanted to lighten my carcass because I could barely walk at one point. And you know, I was breaking away and unplugging and seeking silence and trying to answer some of the big questions that you usually ask yourself when you’re an adolescent — and I suppose I had — but I guess you could call it a kind of midlife crisis.”

On what Downie calls the changing face of France

“People don’t realize it, but there are lots of rural areas of France that are largely abandoned; they are empty most of the year. In summer they fill up with Parisians on vacation, but we walked through there in April and May. It felt like we were, I don’t know, up in the Appalachians — run-down farms with people who looked like they hadn’t seen a razor or a bathtub in a long time. Most of them ran away from us. I don’t blame them. I mean, I am kind of scary-looking. I wear these big dark glasses and a hat because I can’t stand the sun. … The other group of people we met were Parisians, most of them middle-aged or older, who had decided to reinvent themselves in the countryside. … Thank god we met them because they’re the only ones who gave us food and water.”

On what he found

“I talked to a monk in a monastery … and I asked him, ‘You see tens of thousands of people coming through here; is there one thing that unites us all that we all have in common, whether we’re atheists or believers?’ And he said, ‘Yes, actually there is. Anyone who does this pilgrimage — or any pilgrimage — is driven by an irresistible urge to do it, and they don’t know where it comes from. And sometimes they figure it out while they’re walking, or afterward, or never.’ And, you know, the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I set out with a zillion questions in my head, and I didn’t come back with a lot of answers; I came back with more questions. But I really do think that the question is the answer.”

France to compensate Holocaust deportees

A French SNCF train, illustrative (Photo credit: Youtube screen capture)

Rail firm SNCF to pay $60 million in reparations to overseas survivors due to its involvement in Nazi expulsions

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Holocaust survivors and family members in the United States and elsewhere will be entitled to compensation from a $60 million French-US fund announced Friday, as reparations to those deported by France’s state rail company SNCF during the Nazi occupation.

As part of the deal, the US government will work to end lawsuits and other compensation claims in US courts against the SNCF, which is bidding for lucrative high-speed rail and other contracts in US markets. State legislators in Maryland, New York, Florida and California have tried to punish SNCF for its Holocaust-era actions.

“This is another measure of justice for the harms of one of history’s darkest eras,” said US Special Adviser on Holocaust Issues Stuart Eizenstat, who spent three years working with French officials on the agreement.

The French Foreign Ministry and US State Department announced an accord Friday for the compensation fund, which will be financed by the French government and managed by the United States. The agreement will be signed on Monday in Washington, but for the money to be authorized it still must get approval from the French Parliament, which could take months.

The French government has already paid more than $6 billion in reparations — but only to French citizens and certain deportees. The new deal will allow compensation for Americans, Israelis and some others who were not eligible for other French reparations programs.

There are around 250 people in the US who are eligible under the new fund as direct survivors or spouses, according to an advocacy group, but several thousand may be eligible as heirs to survivors or spouses who died between 1948 and today.

The money should break down to about $100,000 each for survivors, and tens of thousands of dollars for spouses, Eizenstat said.

SNCF transported about 76,000 French Jews to Nazi concentration camps, though experts disagree on its degree of guilt. Only around 3,000 survived. SNCF has expressed regret for what happened, but argues that it had no effective control over operations during the Nazi occupation from 1940 to 1944.

Although SNCF is not a party to the agreement, the company will contribute $4 million over the next five years to fund Holocaust memorials and museums in the US, Israel and France, according to Eizenstat.

The French government pledged to encourage French lawmakers to approve the deal, Eizenstat said.

“The objective today was to be able to provide reparations — even 70 years later — that they could claim, given the trauma, the barbarity and the horror that the deportation represented for them,” said Patrizianna Sparacino-Thiellay, a French ambassador for human rights and spoliation, who was a key negotiator and architect of the deal.

US Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, who had pushed to get the US government to pressure the French government to agree to compensation, hailed the deal as a “breakthrough in a decades-long struggle for justice.”

The French government is holding several events marking 70 years since the Allies liberated France from Nazi control in 1944.

Word of the accord comes as France, home to western Europe’s largest Jewish community, is battling new concerns about anti-Semitism. French authorities and Jewish leaders denounced a rape and robbery attack with anti-Semitic overtones this week against a French couple.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in France has grown 91 percent this year compared to last year, according to CRIF, France’s leading Jewish organization. Incidents such as graffiti on Jewish gravestones and violent assaults spiked around the Gaza war this summer, and Jewish groups are concerned about rising Islamic extremism and the resurgent far right.

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