Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in June 2004, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy.

Beardsley has covered both 2007 and 2012 French presidential elections as well as the Arab Spring in Tunisia, where she witnessed the overthrow of the autocratic President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. She 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 French. 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 Masters 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.

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Reforming the education system in any country can be tricky. But in France, where learning is highly centralized and public school (l'ecole de la Republique) a symbol of French greatness, it's all but impossible.

Several French presidents have tried and failed. President Francois Hollande's second attempt has traditionalists up in arms and critics on the right and left screaming that French schools are being dumbed down.

Teachers, students and some parents took to the streets of cities across the country recently to denounce the government's project.

May in France is known as the Swiss cheese month because of all the holiday holes in it. There are four national holidays and thus four long weekends. May 1 was the May Day workers' fete, May 8 marked the World War II victory in Europe, and there are two others I'll get to in a moment.

Instead of enjoying the long weekends, I find myself struggling to cope. I imagine working parents in Boston felt this way about snow days this past winter. Paris doesn't get buried in snow. But the holidays — and the school days off — are relentless.

Not far from the glitzy Mediterranean film festival venue of Cannes lies another town with a connection to cinema. There are no stars or red carpet, but La Ciotat has an even longer relationship with film, and boasts the world's oldest surviving movie theater.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hundreds of American towns, streets and parks are named after the Marquis de Lafayette — the French general who came in 1780 to help George Washington in the struggle for independence.

Now, an exact replica of the general's ship is sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, retracing Lafayette's voyage.

The magnificent "tall ship" is anchored in the waters off the coast of Fouras in western France. Its towering masts and 18th century rigging set it apart from any other boat out here.

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Once again, Parisians are ecstatic over the latest American musical production playing at the city's Chatelet Theatre.

"Singin' in the Rain is a little corner of paradise," the French newspaper Le Figaro wrote of the show, which is playing through March 26 to sold-out audiences.

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