The French, hygiene and perfume: Why is the negative stereotype so hard to wash off?



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The old cliché goes that the French have a questionable relationship with hygiene. And yet they’re also famous for their vibrant perfume culture. So where does the negative stereotype come from? And at the same time, why do French fragrances have such a good reputation around the world? In this episode of French Connections Plus, Florence Villeminot and Genie Godula splash into the pungent universe of French hygiene and perfume.



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Notre-Dame Cathedral rebuild hits milestone as melted scaffolding cleared


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Reconstruction of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reached a turning point this week. The removal of the final portions of the scaffolding that melted into a twisted web during last year’s blaze led French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot to declare the once-imperiled landmark “saved”, and crucial protective and stabilisation work can now proceed.

Delicate work to rebuild Notre-Dame Cathedral began in June to clear away the 200 tonnes of tangled tubes that surrounded the cathedral’s spire when it collapsed as millions watched in horror on the banks of the Seine river and around the world on April 15, 2019.

The spire and other parts of the roof were undergoing renovation work when the fire erupted, threatening to destroy the 13th-century gothic landmark.

A photograph taken on November 24, 2020, in Paris shows the last remaining remnants of the melted scaffolding on the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral.
A photograph taken on November 24, 2020, in Paris shows the last remaining remnants of the melted scaffolding on the roof of Notre-Dame Cathedral. © Martin Bureau, AFP

But while the monument’s walls remained standing, the extensive heat and loss of much of the oak roof framework compromised their structural integrity.

The mass of molten scaffolding – some 40,000 metal tubes, caked in leaden dust and debris and suspended dozens of metres above the cathedral’s floor – also risked crashing to the ground.

Parts of a destroyed ribbed vault and the mangled scaffolding are seen during preliminary work on Notre Dame on July 17, 2019, three months after the fire.
Parts of a destroyed ribbed vault and the mangled scaffolding are seen during preliminary work on Notre Dame on July 17, 2019, three months after the fire. © Stéphane de Sakutin/Pool/AFP

The removal of the tangled mass was considered dangerous, with some experts fearing that it could cause more of the Gothic monument to fall down. It was also thought that the scaffolding might have melded to the cathedral in the blaze, and be keeping it in place.

Workers on a crane look at Notre-Dame Cathedral site on November 24, 2020 in Paris.
Workers on a crane look at Notre-Dame Cathedral site on November 24, 2020 in Paris. © Martin Bureau, AFP

Culture Minister Bachelot was on hand on Tuesday as the final pieces were removed, accompanied by Jean-Louis Georgelin, the army general overseeing the restoration.

“The threat this scaffolding posed to the cathedral has been lifted,” Georgelin said. “Now we can tackle the final safeguarding steps.”

French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot visits the reconstruction site of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, on November 24, 2020.
French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot visits the reconstruction site of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, on November 24, 2020. © Martin Bureau, AFP

“I feel a profound emotion. When you enter the martyrized nave, you have tears in your eyes,” Bachelot said.

“Notre-Dame is saved, we know that as of today,” the minister told the lower-house National Assembly’s fact-finding committee on Tuesday evening after the visit. “The fear over the solidity of the structure is definitively behind us,” Bachelot added. But, she said, “the path remains long and the phase of securing and consolidating will continue until the summer of 2021.”

Notre-Dame Cathedral restoration workers on a crane examine burnt woodwork on November 24, 2020.
Notre-Dame Cathedral restoration workers on a crane examine burnt woodwork on November 24, 2020. © Martin Bureau, AFP

Before removing the damaged scaffolding tubes, workers had to enclose them within a new network of scaffolding to ensure that the mangled mesh of tubing would not move. Yet another metal grid was then erected so that workers could be lowered in by ropes to carefully cut the tubes apart. The collapse of a single piece could have threatened the stability of the entire weakened edifice.

The apse of Notre-Dame Cathedral, and scaffolding built to assist in restoration work after the April 2019 fire at the Paris monument, on November 25, 2020.
The apse of Notre-Dame Cathedral, and scaffolding built to assist in restoration work after the April 2019 fire at the Paris monument, on November 25, 2020. © Michel Euler, AP Photo

Sections were then lifted out by a crane towering 80 metres (260 feet) above the cathedral. In late October, workers were finally able to reach and stabilise a massive beam that threatened to drop into the transept.

The renovation work has been slowed by delays due to rough weather last winter, concerns over lead pollution from the fallout of the roof that went up in smoke, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic, which brought work on the site to a standstill during France’s first Covid-19 lockdown in the spring.

Detail on pillars inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris during restoration work, on November 24, 2020.
Detail on pillars inside Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris during restoration work, on November 24, 2020. © Martin Bureau, AFP

In July, French President Emmanuel Macron said the spire would be rebuilt to its original form, bringing to a close the heated controversy over that emblematic element of the cathedral’s restoration. Macron had initially called for a “contemporary” touch in the rebuild.

A man jogs along the Seine river next to Notre-Dame Cathedral, on November 25, 2020, in Paris.
A man jogs along the Seine river next to Notre-Dame Cathedral, on November 25, 2020, in Paris. © Michel Euler, AP Photo

The president has vowed to have Notre-Dame rebuilt in five years – by 2024, the year the city of Paris is slated to host the Olympic Summer Games – though some architects have warned that such a massive project could take much longer.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)



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Macron takes on the English-language press, a controversial security law and the myth of Charles De Gaulle


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French President Emmanuel Macron criticised the English-language press this week amid a campaign against “Islamic separatism” in France; fears of election violence in Uganda; France’s parliament debates a controversial security law, sparking fears of censorship; and the man behind the myth of Resistance hero Charles De Gaulle. 

ARTICLES

‘Legitimising’ violence? Macron takes on the Anglo-American press

President Emmanuel Macron took time out of his busy schedule this week to criticise the English-language press for its coverage of the fight against “Islamist separatism”. Macron accused British and US media of “legitimising violence” with their criticisms and of depicting France as being “racist and Islamophobic”.

Armed men in T-shirts enforce the law, sparking fears of election violence in Uganda

Uganda this week witnessed its worst violence in a decade when demonstrators took to the streets to protest the arrest of opposition presidential candidate Bobi Wine. The ferocity of the violence and the state’s use of armed plainclothes militias raised alarm bells as President Yoweri Museveni, Africa’s longest-serving leader, faces a challenge in a January election.

French security bill outlaws images of police

A new French security bill will outlaw the dissemination of images of police officers doing their jobs. Supporters of the legislation say it would protect officers from retribution and “malevolent” personal attacks on social media. Detractors say it threatens to make it harder for journalists and NGOs to report on police wrongdoing.

Senior al Qaeda commander’s killing exposes ‘deep divisions’ between French and Malian authorities

France has announced the killing of Bah Ag Moussa, a top commander of an al Qaeda-linked militant group, during an operation in northeastern Mali. Ag Moussa was allegedly responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces in recent years. But his death has implications for the security situation on the ground and for France’s diplomatic relations with Mali’s transitional authorities.

The best medicine: Clever and humorous Covid-19 adverts from around the world

A tongue-in-cheek Covid-19 public service announcement from Germany elevating couch potatoes to heroes became a social media sensation. Many coronavirus-awareness adverts rely on fear or strike a sombre note with now-familiar tropes – including the rising drone shots of empty cityscapes and swell of wistful music. But another genre sets itself apart with humour or clever takes on the way we live now, often with an eye to reaching young people. FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the best.

VIDEOS

French chefs don their aprons to help less fortunate during coronavirus lockdown

Restaurants across France remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While some chefs have hung up their aprons, others have decided to band together and put their skills to good use to help the country’s most vulnerable.

Chefs organise amid Covid-19 crisis
Chefs organise amid Covid-19 crisis © France 24 screen grab

‘I won’t take the risk’: France leads the world in Covid-19 vaccine skepticism

Promising trial results have led to hopes that a Covid-19 vaccine is soon to be on the way. But will the vaccine prove effective if many refuse to take it? The question is worrying authorities in France, where rates of “vaccine hesitancy” are among the highest in the world.

A recent Ipos study found that just 54 percent of French people say they would get a Covid-19 vaccine if one were available.
A recent Ipos study found that just 54 percent of French people say they would get a Covid-19 vaccine if one were available. © Reuters / France 24

 

TV SHOWS ONLINE

THE INTERVIEW

Exclusive: Moderna Covid-19 vaccine has been made ‘rapidly but thoroughly’, chairman says

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Noubar Afeyan, the co-founder and chairman of Moderna, discussed his biotech firm’s Covid-19 vaccine, which clinical trials show is 94.5% effective. The Lebanese-American entrepreneur assured that the vaccine is safe, saying it had been created “rapidly but thoroughly”. He also revealed that it can remain stable in the refrigerator for “up to 30 days”. 

Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan
Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan © France 24 screen grab

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Charles de Gaulle: The man behind the myth

This week, we’re exploring the life and legacy of Charles de Gaulle, who died 50 years ago this week. To many, he’s the undisputed French hero: a wartime leader who led the Resistance to the Nazis in World War II before years later becoming the first president of the Fifth Republic. For much of his life, de Gaulle lived in the village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where he and his wife Yvonne raised their children. We visit his much-loved home and learn more about the man behind the myth.

Charles De Gaulle and his wife Yvonne
Charles De Gaulle and his wife Yvonne © France 24 screen grab

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

Beaujolais nouveau: Covid-19 pandemic dampens celebration of new French wine

On the third Thursday of November, France marks the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau. It’s the country’s most famous “vin primeur” (young wine) and hails from the beautiful and highly protected Beaujolais wine-producing region north of Lyon. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on what is otherwise a festive celebration across France and much of the world.

ENCORE!

Judges say Booker Prize winner ‘Shuggie Bain’ is ‘destined to become a classic’

A story of poverty, addiction and the force of motherly love in 1980s Glasgow has been crowned the winner of the UK’s top literary award. Debut novelist Douglas Stuart paid tribute to his late mother upon receiving the news of his Booker Prize win, saying that she “is on every page of this book”. 

ENCORE!
ENCORE! © France 24

FASHION

Beirut’s fashion designers show creativity in the face of chaos

Lebanese couture is known around the world for its flamboyance and artistry, with collections destined for clients based in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and the US. But in recent months a crippling economic crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic and August’s catastrophic Beirut port explosion have threatened the industry. Some of the biggest names in Beirut fashion, including the likes of Elie Saab and Tony Ward, spoke to FRANCE 24 about their experience over the past few months.

Fashion
Fashion © France 24 screen grab

REPORTERS

Protect the living, honour the dead: ending violence against women in France

Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, we bring you a special documentary on the scourge of domestic violence. Every year in France more than 220,000 women are victims of violence inflicted by a partner or ex-partner. This abuse usually takes place behind closed doors and takes many forms: beatings, rapes, sexual mutilations, kidnappings. Tragically, last year saw more than 150 femicides.

YOU ARE HERE

Crosses, dovecotes and bridges: the heritage of France’s Auvergne region

The crosses of France’s central Auvergne region are relics of the past that tend to be ignored; nearly 3,000 of them sit at the side of a road. A little further south in the Puy-de-Dôme area, the valley of Courgoul is full of weather-beaten bridges.

THE 51 PERCENT 

The New Parisienne: Meeting the women who are changing the city

Unpacking the myth of the Parisian woman, whose sense of style is still seen as the global benchmark for chic. Frequently portrayed as being svelte and seductive, she is also usually White. We speak to Lindsey Tramuta, author of “The New Parisienne”, a book that profiles a group of women who challenge the cliché and tell us who represents the real Parisian women of 2020. 

The 51 Percent
The 51 Percent © France 24 screen grab



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The New Parisienne: Meeting the women who are changing the city



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In a special edition, we unpack the myth of the Parisian woman who is frequently portrayed as being svelte and seductive while also often white; her so-called individual sense of style becoming the global benchmark for beauty. Annette Young talks to Lindsey Tramuta, the author of ‘The New Parisienne’, a new book that profiles a group of women who challenge the cliché. We talk to some of them who tell us who the real Parisian woman is in 2020.



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