Life in France has been long, two thirds of my life.
If I had the ambition to tell you all about my experiences in the country, they would take a place in a book of at least a thousand pages. So I have to limit myself. I must content myself with picking out some memorable pieces from my life in France.
A tremendous change has occurred during my time in France. The country still bore the traces in the mid years of 1900 of the devastation and hardship after 4 years of German occupation during World War II. The following figures give an idea of the progress made;
• Number of cars: 1950: 2.31 million, 2011: 37.74 million
• Population: 1950: 41.65 million, 2011: 65.35 million
• Average life length: 1950: 70, 2011: 81 years•
Average income: 1950: 2420 francs = 369 €, 2011: 2 000: €1950
There were no television sets, no computers, no cell phones 1950. Today there are one or more TV sets, computers and cell phones in every French home. Over the last 50 years, the country's road and rail networks strongly developed with highways and fast trains crossing the entire country.
Parts of my life in France that I particularly remember.
• Bicycle Trip from Sweden to Paris when I was 20.
When I came in northern France suddenly several policemen on motorcycles made clear signs that I should stop and get off the road. I refused because I had good speed on my bike. The police insisted, but I did not give up. But what happens now? Well, many cyclists came whizzing by. Then I did not know what it was about. Today I know: I was a few yards in France's biggest sporting events, le Tour de France ..
Cosmo political aspects
I stayed at the Swedish residence house at the Cité Universitaire (Student City) in the southern outskirts of Paris. There were students from all the world's countries. Fellowship and discussion with them was an exotic and exciting ingredient in my student life.
• A song and a book
I came across a book once I got to Paris, which came to mean much to me for the rest of my life, Le petit prince by Antoine Saint-Exepury. I'll write more about this book on my book page. everywhere was heard the song on the radio and in the cafés, Les Feuilles Mortes of Kosma and Prévert. It was sung by Edith Piaf and Yves Montand , my favorite singers among others. I was in a mind during my first time in France that made me very receptive to both the book and song
• Paris fantastic cultural offer
France created the film and French film directors also showed that film can be an art not only entertainment. Very high level of acting. The nostalgia digs deep when I think of actors like Philip Gerard, Jean Gabin, Pierre Brasseur, Arletti, Michèle Morgan.
Theatre also became an important part of my life after I learned the language. Unforgettable theater evenings became many.
• Russia in Paris
Many were counts, barons and wealthy landlords who fled to Paris when communism took over in Russia in 1917. It was natural, since most were French speaking. Under the Czars, it was nice to speak French in rich families. They separated from their homeland for good. The dream to come back could never become a reality. So a nostalgia increased so deep and thick that it could almost be cut in pieces and with the nostalgia an even greater needs among the displaced Russians to come together and shared their grief and longing. This took place in a Russian restaurant in Paris. Perhaps the best I have experienced in Paris is the unforgettable nights I spent in this restaurant with stunning Russian music and song all the way down to the early morning hours. I was seized to tears.
• The years of continual strikes
During my first time in France big political mess was permanent . Communism had a strong foothold in France. The governments did not last long, scarcely more than 6 months in averages. Strikes crippled the country all the time. Worst was the bus and subway strike. Then it became 10 km walk to school every morning. Then it happened that I met a beautiful Spanish woman. An idyll began to sprout, but it was smashed by the transport strike. She lived at the other end of town, 10 kilometers from the Swedish residence hall where I lived. Go on foot 20 kilometers back and forth for an amorous rendezvous was too much
• Ecole Sciences Politiques
This college provides training in political science and business economics and has trained a number of French people in senior positions in administration and private business. The school has trained four presidents, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac and the current President François Hollande. I studied law, history, geography and business economics at this school for 4 years taught by exceptionally capable teachers with internationally recognized expertise at the highest level. I am deeply grateful that opportunity was opened to me to go to this school.
• French Alps
Skiing I've practiced since I was little boy, but on level ground. In the French Alps, I learned to ski downhill. I was intoxicated by this type of skiing. Downhill skiing became a great passion for my first time in France. As soon as I had free time during weekends and school holidays I took the train down to the French Alps. I guess there is no station in the French Alps where I have not been. Chamonix however would be my favorite station. Extremely beautiful alpine peaks all around and over 4000 meters especially at sunset when they were flaming red. One of my best experiences is the Vallee Blanche, a descent of 18 kilometers that I made many times.
La Provence, South of France
When God created the world he wanted to finish his creation with a masterpiece. So was the south of France created. This story I heard many times. Having visited and lived in the area for many years, I feel strongly that I agree. I was overwhelmed and blown away the first time I got there, the pleasant warmth, the beautiful landscapes, floral display, crickets singing, the blue Mediterranean, the good food and the local population's hospitality. Could this be paradise on earth?
Charles de Gaulle,
I have had the advantage of living in Paris during the 11 years that General Charles de Gaulle came to power from 1958 to 1969. Charles de Gaulle was a French General and Statesman who became very popular during World War II as the leader of the Free French forces in exile. He was voted back to power as prime minister by the French Assembly during the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle offered a new constitution founding the Fifth Republic, and was elected President of France, an office which now gives much Greater Power to the President than In The Third and Fourth Republics. As President, Charles de Gaulle ended the political chaos that preceded his return to power. A new French currency was issued in January 1960 to control inflation and industrial growth was promoted. Although he initially supported French rule over Algeria, he controversially decided to grant independence to that Country, ending an expensive and unpopular war but leaving France divided and having to face opposition from the European settlers and French military who had originally supported his return to power .Immensely patriotic, de Gaulle and his supporters had the view, known as Gaullism, that France should continue to see Itself as a major power and should not rely on other nations - like the U.S. – for its National Security and Prosperity. Often criticized for his Politics of Grandeur, de Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy independent of U.S. and British influence. He withdrew France from the NATO military command - although remaining a member of the Western alliance-and twice vetoed Britain's entry Into the European Community. He traveled widely in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world and recognized Communist China. On a visit to Canada in 1967 he gave encouragement to Quebec Separatism. Charles de Gaulle was a dominant figure not only in France but throughout the world during his 11 years in power. He had an extraordinary strong personality and unique charisma. My admiration for him was very great. Celebration moments for me were to see him perform in French television. He put France back on its feet and made France much larger than it was. It was like living in a permanent festive party. All the sadder became ordinary every day when he left power in 1969.
• Student Uprising May 1968
Following the explosion in student numbers in previous decades without a corresponding transformation of the university system, and agitated by the Vietnam War and political stagnation at home, students of Paris University first took to the streets at Nanterre in March 1968 in response to the arrest of a Nanterre student for his participation in bombing U.S. targets. After further protests the campus at Nanterre was closed on May 3, and to cope with the spread of the unrest, classes were suspended at the Sorbonne while the police brutally suppressed student demonstrations. Across the country, there were demands by workers for participation in the demonstration. Professionals moved against their antiquated organizations, and artists complained about state participation in (and censorship of) the arts. On 29 May, de Gaulle left the country but he Returned on 30 May and broadcast a defiant message which proved a decisive turning point. He dissolved the National Assembly and called new elections, in which the Gaullists won an overwhelming majority vote. Mollified by significant pay Increases, the workers withdrew their support and the students became increasingly marginalized. My personal memories of those troubled days in May was that suddenly there was no gasoline to buy (all the cars became stationary), stinking garbage heaps grew to mountains in the streets, the food ran out in the stores. Concern was huge that France would be in total chaos. Therefore, the relief was even greater when de Gaulle, thanks to his short but powerful speech put an end to the misery May 30.
It is impossible not to mention the phenomenon and the legend of Brigitte Bardot during my first years in France. She was everywhere. In 1950, at the age of 15, she graced the cover of French Elle, which led, in 1952, to her marriage to the director Roger Vadim and the first of 40 movies. The movies initially were lighthearted romantic comedies, the plots interchangeable and forgettable. But the story lines were hardly the point. On the screen the world discovered a young woman with a swan’s neck, a luscious figure, and an ostentatious bouffant who combined youth, sex, flirtatiousness, insolence, and grace, all wrapped up in a bewildering nonchalance—a heady mix. She was a new kind of blonde bombshell, a phenomenon that a world still recovering from the nightmare of war didn’t quite know it was waiting for.
Fourteen reasons why I love France
From the wide and empty expanses of sand in Normandy and Bretagne, to the white and sandy idylls on the Ile de Ré and la Côte d'Azur, beach lovers are spoiled for choice – and don’t forget the charming beaches surrounding the inland lakes.
The iconic chariot that is the Citroën 2CV – it’s hardy, it is only two horse-power and it celebrates its 60th birthday this year.
Paris – from cocktails at the Ciel de Paris restaurant on the 56th floor of the Tour Montparnasse, to the catacombs beneath the Place Denfert-Rochereau, it has everything anyone could ever want from a city.
France gave the world Michelin stars and the dozens of world-famous chefs who earn them.
You can spend five hours sitting in a pavement café watching the world go by and the waiters will simply befriend you, rather than moving you on.
Watching the setting sun over Mont St-Michel in Normandy, the orange sky reflecting from the still shallow water that surround it or the setting sun behind the Arc de Triomphe These are moments of breathless beauty.
Standing among fields of deep purple lavender and breathing in its heady scent in the Luberon, upper Provence.
Two-hour lunch breaks – all the shops may be shut, but if you can’t beat them, join them in their three-course meal, complete with two different wines and an intense café noir to finish.
Spirits: from the well-known cognacs of Remy-Martin or Martell, to the lesser known whiskies of Brittany and the various eaux de vie (fruit brandy) unique to nearly every village in the country.
Standing in the Musée d’Orsay and taking in the magnificent works of Monet, Cézanne, Manet, Renoir and Degas, among others.
Go back 500 years and befriend yourself with Mona Lisa in the Louvre museum
Snow-capped peaks in the Alps and Pyrenees, extinct volcanoes in the Auvergne, rocky outcrops of Corsica and the rolling hills of the Gers and the Jura, France is a country that offers every kind of landscape.
Spotting wild horses and flamingos in the Camargue.
The magnificent Millau Viaduct that hangs over the Tarn valley; its white pylons towering up into the blue sky. It’s the world’s highest bridge and an awesome sight – from whichever angle you approach it.