Eleanor Beardsley | WABE 90.1 FM

Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture, and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

Beardsley has been an active part of NPR's coverage of the two waves of terrorist attacks in Paris and in Brussels. She has also followed the migrant crisis, traveling to meet and report on arriving refugees in Hungary, Austria, Germany, Sweden, and France. She has also travelled to Ukraine, including the flashpoint eastern city of Donetsk, to report on the war there, and to Athens, to follow the Greek debt crisis.

In 2011 Beardsley covered the first Arab Spring revolution in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Since then she has returned to the North African country many times to follow its progress on the road to democracy.

In France, Beardsley covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections. She also reported on the riots in French suburbs in 2005 and the massive student demonstrations in 2006. Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race and been back to her old stomping ground — Kosovo — to report for NPR on three separate occasions.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC and as a staff assistant to Senator Strom Thurmond.

Reporting from France for Beardsley is the fulfillment of a lifelong passion for the French language and culture. At the age of 10 she began learning French by reading the Asterix The Gaul comic book series with her father.

While she came to the field of radio journalism relatively late in her career, Beardsley says her varied background, studies, and travels prepared her for the job as well as any journalism school. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them that exist in America," she says. "Sometimes it's fun to dispel the false notions and show a different side of the Gallic character. And sometimes the old stereotypes do hold up. But whether Americans love or hate France and the French, they're always interested!"

A native of South Carolina, Beardsley has a Bachelor of Arts in European history and French from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and a master's degree in International Business from the University of South Carolina.

Beardsley is interested in politics, travel, and observing foreign cultures. Her favorite cities are Paris and Istanbul.

When Maureen Hargrave, a 71-year-old American who lives in San Diego, wrote an email to the chateau of Versailles in January, she wasn't sure she would hear back.

"I went to the Versailles website," she says, "and pulled down the link, and just wrote, 'On December 16th, 1944, Elsie Hargrave, my aunt, married Michael McKeogh, Eisenhower's aide de camp. She was Eisenhower's driver, and they were married in Marie Antoinette's chapel. Can I come see it, please?' "

It's creeping toward 9 in the evening, but a group of young people is still busy at the National Front party's office in Metz, in eastern France. They're preparing for a rally for their presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen.

Twenty-one-year-old Arnaud de Rigné remembers when he first became interested in the party.

As Erwan Humbert turns his tractor off and climbs down from the seat, the rumble of a motor gives way to the twittering of birds. The scent of fresh earth fills the air. This baby-faced farmer, with his long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, used to be an engineer. But the 44-year-old traded in his job in Paris' business district to grow organic vegetables in the countryside.

Humbert says he makes a good living, and most of all, he's happy.

"I might not earn as much as I used to," he says, "but I'm my own boss and now I can listen to the sound of the birds."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For 10 days every winter, nearly a million people show up to visit a Paris convention center that's been transformed into a piece of the French countryside.

In the southern French city of Toulon, 39-year-old presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is greeted by cheering crowds as he makes his way onstage at a rally. The former investment banker, who served briefly as President Francois Hollande's economy minister, has never been elected to political office. Yet he stands a good chance of becoming the next French president.

This year, the Paris museum that looks like a jumble of giant, colored pipes with an escalator in a clear plastic tube zigzagging up its side turns 40.

Nowadays, that museum — the Pompidou Center — has a secure place in the heart of Paris and in Parisians' hearts. But it wasn't always the case.

The carpeted prayer hall at the grand mosque in the French city of Bordeaux is full on a recent Friday afternoon. Behind a sculpted wooden railing on a small raised pulpit, Tareq Oubrou, a popular imam, is delivering his sermon in French as well as Arabic.

Bilingual sermons are rare in French mosques. Most Muslim clerics in France are foreign and speak in Arabic, which most young French Muslims don't understand. Oubrou says that's one reason why Muslim religious leaders are out of touch with a generation of French Muslims.

A confident Marine Le Pen strides into a room in her new campaign headquarters, greeting reporters in her signature, husky voice.

The candidate takes a seat in front of a calming blue campaign poster that bears no mention of the National Front party or the Le Pen surname. It says simply, "IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE: Marine – President."

Ah, to work in France: plenty of vacation and a 35-hour workweek. And, as of Jan. 1, a new law that gives French employees the right to disconnect. Companies in France are now required to stop encroaching on workers' personal and family time with emails and calls.

On a September day in 1940 while much of Europe was engulfed in war, four teenagers were walking through a forest in southern France when their dog fell down a hole.

As they called for it they heard an echo. Crawling in to rescue the dog, the boys discovered a cave with hundreds of prehistoric animals painted across its walls and ceiling. It turned out to be one of the world's best examples of prehistoric art.

When a political scandal explodes in France, there's a good chance it's Wednesday. That's the day satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé hits newsstands.

The fiercely independent weekly, known for its incisive and derisive reporting and more than its share of scoops and bombshells, turns 100 this year.

On a recent fall evening, a youth center in the eastern French city of Strasbourg is full of teenagers, teachers and parents. Everyone has turned out for a discussion and debate about a phenomenon plaguing their community. It isn't failing schools or the lack of jobs, but the fear of young people embracing radical Islam and going off to fight in Syria.

The humming of 50 washers and dryers is the first sign that things have drastically changed for migrants in Paris. Right next to the washing facility volunteers hand out sweaters and coats to the newly arrived migrants.

One volunteer worker is trying to fit Sadique Ula Malagzai with shoes. The young Afghan wears a flip-flop on one foot and a puffy, white bandage on the other. Malagzai walked to Paris from Italy.

"The shoes hurt me and when I finally took them off my foot was injured," he says.

There's an expression in French, "Jamais deux sans trois," or "Never two without three." After Brexit and Trump, will Marine Le Pen be next?

France holds its presidential election next spring, and Le Pen, the leader of the country's far-right National Front party, could well be one of the top two candidates in the first round of voting, which would propel her to the second-round runoff in May 2017. But she hasn't been seriously considered as a candidate who could actually become president.

Until now.

Laura Passoni, a 34-year-old mother of two small boys, grew up in a Catholic family in the Belgian town of Charleroi. She converted to Islam at the age of 16 because she says she liked the religion and her best friend was Muslim.

Passoni married a Muslim man and they had a son. Everything was fine, she says — until her marriage collapsed. "My husband met another woman and left me and abandoned his little boy," she says. "And I went into a deep depression."

On an ordinary day, you might miss this slip of a shop wedged between a veterinary clinic and a grocery store in Paris' popular Bastille neighborhood. But on an empty August afternoon, the Clinique du Rasoir Electrique — the Electric Razor Clinic — jumps right out at me.

Here, in a cluttered shop from a bygone era, 73-year-old Jacques Guillaume has been repairing electric razors since 1962. He says he's the last of a kind.

One of the first things a visiting American may notice in France is the large number of people smoking. Especially young people. In a common after-school scene, teenagers sit at an outdoor café, smoking.

Some say they've been lighting up for about two years now and are up to a pack a day. Some of their parents know, but don't realize the extent of it.

A group of about 50 people gathered in late June in the sunny courtyard of the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. It was from here in 1939 and 1940 that Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches issued approximately 30,000 visas to Jews and other stateless refugees.

Lissy Jarvik, who lives today in California, was one of them.

"I was a recipient of a Sousa Mendes visa," she tells the group. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here. I would've no longer been alive 72 years ago."

The kitchen is hopping and hot at L'Ami Jean restaurant in Paris, as chef Stéphane Jégo gets lunch underway. Jégo, who has been at this small Paris bistro for 14 years, is joined on this day by Mohammad El Khaldy, a chef from Damascus in Syria.

Forty-five year old Mistafa Fanouni lives with his wife and three daughters in the peaceful community of Champagne-sur-Oise, about an hour's drive north of Paris. But amidst the neat houses and manicured lawns, Fanouni has been living a nightmare.

It all began last November, two days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Fanouni and his family had just returned from lighting candles at a memorial in the capital's Place de la Republique.

It's after 9 p.m. and Alix Le Bourdon is enjoying a picnic dinner with her family and friends at the Buttes Chaumont park in Paris 19th arrondissement. Usually at this time they'd be rushing to pack everything up before the park guards, blowing their whistle, come through to shoo everyone away and lock the gates.

Every Parisian knows the sound of those whistles that draw the curtain on many a summer night in the park. But not anymore, says Le Bourdon.

An old country inn in the southern Swedish town of Karlshamn now shelters refugee families. Children play in the lobby, while a few adults watch news on a large-screen TV. More than 100 volunteers from the community want to help the refugees.

But the newcomers' arrival also has brought out ugly sentiments on social media, says Magnus Arvidsson, who is coordinating the volunteers. He says some people were saying on Facebook, "Oh my God, there [are] a lot of refugees coming to our village and we have to lock our bikes. And hide our stuff. We can't let our children out."

Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country — 160,000 last year alone. Refugees are now part of the landscape, even in small towns. And nearly everybody, not just those working with aid groups, is encountering the newcomers.

In the southern town of Ronneby, Dagmar Nordberg is giving Swedish lessons to Waliullah Hafiz, who goes by Wali, at her kitchen table. The 60-year-old Swedish museum director met this 23-year-old migrant from Kabul on a train platform in a nearby village on a freezing cold day last November.

Class has just ended at a community center in the southern Swedish town of Ronneby. This is the first stop for refugees in the area, once they've been granted asylum. They receive 60 hours of instruction on how to live in Sweden. The courses cover such things as how to rent an apartment, get a job and grow old here.

Britons will vote in June on whether to stay or leave the European Union. Both sides are campaigning fiercely in what is known as the Brexit, or British exit, referendum.

The town of Hastings on England's south coast is one of the closest points to the European continent. But local opinion polls show about half the people here want Britain to leave the European Union.

As soon as I walk into the squalid, unofficial migrant camp known as "the Jungle," outside the northern French city of Calais, I meet Amran, a 13-year-old Afghan boy staying here on his own.

Didi points to where he was standing when the terrorists arrived the night of Nov. 13, when he was on duty as a security guard outside the Bataclan concert hall. The gunmen massacred 90 people that night, in a killing spree that lasted nearly two hours. They were "shooting when they arrived," Didi says.

"There was nothing you could do," he says. "I told myself, I've got to quickly get as many people out of there as possible because these terrorists have come to kill as many people as they can."

Emad, a Damascus native, says he is starting to feel at home in the northwestern Dutch city of Haarlem. The 25-year-old comes on foot to meet me at the city's train station, where I traveled from Paris to meet him in November.

"It's fascinating, it reminds me a lot of Damascus," he says. "Because it has the old city, then it goes modern and it goes to old buildings [again]. So it gives me a warm feeling to be here."

One year ago, gunmen stormed the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and began a three-day killing spree that would claim 17 lives. Ten months later, in November, armed Islamist radicals struck the city again, killing scores at cafes and a concert hall.

In 2015, we saw the most deadly attacks on French soil since World War II. President Francois Hollande says France is at war. His country, which has long stood for individual freedom, is trying to balance that freedom with the need for security.

Pages