French Presidential Election Posters

The first round of France’s presidential election will take place on Sunday. If you’re curious about what French campaign posters look like, look no further.

Here are a handful I snapped last week in Paris and Normandy. The photo at top and the video below is a typical ‘official’ scene you’ll find in public areas or near municipal buildings, where all ten candidates are listed.

Below is a wall that an apparently short Sarkozy campaign worker tried to retake from Socialist challenger Francois Hollande. According to most polls the two are expected to finish fairly close in the first round, setting up their second round clash on May 6. Once there, the conventional wisdom gives Hollande the victory, inflicting a crushing blow to those who enjoy reading about Carla Bruni hosting State Dinners.

Given Hollande’s dullness and Sarkozy’s unpopularity, it’s the first round spoilers who are attracting the most attention- Left Party candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen. Le Pen has taken over the National Front from her father Jean-Marie; Mélenchon is a former Trotskyite who left the Socialist Party in 2008 after he felt it had moved too close to the center. They’re polling between 15 and 25 percent setting up what may turn out to be a heated battle for third.

Le Pen has tried to distance herself from the National Front’s racist past, if not its strong anti-immigrant rhetoric, and is alarmingly popular among young voters. Mélenchon meanwhile has publicly referred to some journalists as ‘dickheads’. Fun stuff, no?

Here is Hollande’s party headquarters in the Normande city of Cherbourg.  The lack of activity seems to mirror the excitement he’s generating, despite his showing in the polls.

As with many things in France, the campaign has managed to produce plenty of pulp and lots of reading material. Does anyone know if any of these titles are best sellers?


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Post Card From Cherbourg

Just a quick hello from the northernmost reaches of France, where everyone smiles and wears hats just like this.

And a quick update on the A-to-Z Challenge – my contributions will have to remain on hold until I return home on Wednesday. I began this exercise the best of intentions, but a little bit of down down has to take precedence.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend,

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Vidblog for June/July 2011

Since August has almost wound down and I’ll be away for most of the next three weeks, there’s no time like the present for my second vidblog, combining bit and pieces from June and July 2011.

Shots taken in Rabat, Morocco; Lille, France; Menton, France; Sarajevo; Monaco; in and around Ljubljana, Slovenia; and during a long train ride between Zagreb and Sarajevo. I’m hoping to put together a piece on that train journey itself, a leisurely 17-hour jaunt (Ljubljana-Sarajevo, one way) through Bosnian countryside during which I finally experienced the term vukojebina. (To my Bosnian friends, no offense intended. It truly was beautiful. That’s just how I felt.)

Enjoy and feel free to share! :)

Baba Bobo Mastered by Cobra (avec logo panthère)

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

May’s vidblog, with bits and pieces from Doha, Qatar; Hengelo, The Netherlands; Ostrava, Czech Republic; a few airports, and in and around Ljubljana, Slovenia is here and here.

Lille Quickie

Here’s a 2min 30sec Lille video notebook, the latest in Piran Cafe’s City Quickie series. There’s plenty of grit, a bit of charm, a few drunks, some chocolate, a young girl picking her nose, a Gypsy caravan, a beggar or two, and even cameos by Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe. And a terrific soundtrack by the Swedish surf band, The Pharaos.

These shots were collected early last month, the second time I was in France on the Fourth of July. (It felt much more traitorous during the Bush years.) It was also the first time I visited the extreme northeast of France and was struck by how Lille had more in common with Brussels, where I flew into, than Paris, just 200 kilometers, or 125 miles, away. Architecturally it’s much more Grand Place than Place de la Concorde.

The principal city of the Lille Metropole, France’s fourth largest after Paris, Lyon and Marseille, I got the impression that Lille has seen better days. A colleague who spent his student days there, underscored my assessment. “I don’t come back very often,” he said. “I find it too depressing.” He’s an extremely bright, witty and well-traveled man whose judgement I trust, but a Parisian through and through.

I don’t characterize it quite so harshly. It looks a bit worn and rough around the edges, with new life desperately trying to break through. I hope it succeeds.

You can check out my small (but growing!) collection of City Quickie shorts on the Piran Café City Quickie channel on vimeo.

3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie

3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie

Great wide-ranging interview with the author of Paris, Paris: A Journey Into the City of Light. What most sparked my interest was his profound desire to walk, wherever he may be. That’s always been my preference when traveling, in places new, or those seemingly familiar.

Your feet seem to merge with the soil at times. Sometimes you think you can’t move. Sometimes you feel like you’re flying. But you’re always aware of your physical presence as a human — an animal — and as an element in the landscape.


Until I’ve paced out a walk, until I’ve gotten into the landscape or cityscape, I can’t know it. After 25 years in France, I still have to hoof it around to get what’s going on. This must be some extremely primitive reaction to the external world, something that wells up in my caveman soul.

3quarksdaily: The Accidental Parisian: A Conversation with David Downie.

Wilde Tomb

I was in Paris for five days last week – mostly work, little play – but did make the time to finally visit Père Lachaise, the cemetery where Frederic Chopin, Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison, among other luminaries, are buried. The most interesting tomb is that of Oscar Wilde, whose fans really know how to pay their respects. Here’s a quick slide show I pieced together of the Wilde Tomb.

Dig it! Paris Considering ban on SUVs


An idea that needs to spread throughout Europe. Although given Slovenia’s collective car fetish, I can’t imagine anyone in Ljubljana with the cojones to propose it.

Via Inhabitat and Autoblog Green:

Denis Baupin, an environmental official in the mayor’s office, told RTL Radio that if you’re a Parisian with a gas guzzler, you should “sell it and buy a vehicle that’s compatible with city life. I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in a city makes no sense.”

You don’t have to own a really big brain to realize that most European cities weren’t made with big cars in mind.

Details are still pretty sketchy, but the ban could go into effect by late this year or early in 2012.

From Montmartre, originally uploaded by pirano.

Magnum Gallery Opens in Saint Germain des Prés

Via Artdaily:

On Friday, Magnum, the legendary photo collective founded by Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa and others, will opened a gallery in the heart of Saint Germain des Prés, in the former exhibition spaces of Robert Delpire, one of France’s most distinguished publishers and photography connoisseurs. The opening exhibition, “Demain/Hier” (tomorrow/yesterday) will be curated by Robert Delpire himself and will focus on the ‘new generation’ of Magnum photographers, set against the backdrop of those who founded the photographers’ collective decennia ago.