Eleanor Beardsley

When President Emmanuel Macron set out to overhaul France's notoriously rigid labor laws last fall, unions promised crippling strikes to stop him.

All of France, it seemed, was waiting for the showdown.

After all, the country's powerful unions have stopped French leaders from overhauling their cherished work code for decades. In 2016, a succession of strikes and 14 nationwide protests snuffed out President François Hollande's hopes for simplifying the 3,000-page employment code.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Parts of Paris are under water. Flooding is submerging roads, closing parts of the subway and forcing museums to move artwork to higher floors. So what's it like by the riverside? Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The city of Paris does not exactly have a business-friendly reputation. Strikes, red tape and a rigid labor market have seen to that. But things are changing. France now has a young, pro-business president. And across the city there's a growing climate of capitalist optimism.

A renovated 1920s train station in the middle of Paris is now a modern hub for startups. Newly elected President Emmanuel Macron inaugurated Station F last June, but the hub was actually conceived before he was elected.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has been felt far and wide. As women continue to speak out against sexual aggression, the #MeToo movement has ended a few careers. Many people in France now wonder if it could also topple a longstanding social custom — the two-cheek kiss known as la bise.

In December, the female mayor of Morette, a small town in western France, fired off an email to 73 municipal counselors, telling them, "From now on, I would prefer to shake hands, like men do."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Aurelie Garat still can't get over how she found her Pere Noel this year. She's the Christmas pageant organizer for the tiny Normandy town of Vimoutiers.

"I was parking when I saw a nice young man with a beautiful beard sitting in his car on the phone," says Garat. "So I said to him, your beard speaks to me. Would you be our Father Christmas this year?"

Garat says they had been looking everywhere and had almost given up hope. She says it was as if this Pere Noel — as the French call Santa Claus — had just fallen out of the sky.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some people in France say it's time to set a minimum age for sexual consent. France has no minimum. And court cases involving older men preying on minors have prompted a demand for a clear legal framework. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

In France today, nothing else matters. Johnny Hallyday is dead.

The French rock star, who died at 74 of lung cancer at his home outside Paris Wednesday, had a career spanning 57 years. He sold more than 100 million albums, but was little known outside his own country. USA Today once called him "the greatest rock star you never heard of."

Retrospectives and tributes have poured in, and France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe paid tribute to Hallyday in Parliament.

A park guard blows his whistle to warn the gates will soon close at Parc Andre Citroen, which lies along the Seine River in the west of Paris. But before the park shuts for the night, a handful of people, including artist Florian Roblain, are gathered around the water fountain filling their containers.

"I'm filling up my bottles with sparkling water," says Roblain. "Sometimes people have 10 bottles. It's ecological and of course, cheap. When you come twice a week, if you've got children, you become used to it. It's a rhythm; it's part of your life."

In the early morning hours inside a cozy Paris boulangerie, big batter-mixing machines are kneading dough for the flaky breakfast pastry that has become a symbol of good French eating. Baker Frederic Pichard says it's no secret how to make a good croissant.

"It takes savoir-faire and of course milk, sugar, eggs and flour," says Pichard. "But the key ingredient is butter. Out of the eight kilograms of dough here, three kilos are butter. More than a third of croissants are made of butter."

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

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

A guide unlocks a heavy wooden door and leads visitors down into a Bordeaux chateau wine cellar. Along the vast network of underground rooms and corridors, thousands of bottles age for decades in the cool darkness.

Today, many of the tourists visiting this French wine making region are Chinese.

Retired couple Wang Jiawei and Cao Juanjuan are visiting Europe for the first time. They are traveling to London and Paris, but say Bordeaux is also a must see.

This time of year, the stands at Paris' hundreds of weekly food markets are laden with plump, dark grapes and wild mushrooms. Wild game often hangs from hooks above.

Of all the seasons to visit Paris, food lovers say the best time is autumn.

"The fall is the best time to eat in France," says longtime Paris resident and culinary historian David Downie. "Everyone knows that. It's when everything comes in. It's the harvest season."

When reports of Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse surfaced last month, the effects were felt well beyond the U.S. Three French actresses joined the accusations against Weinstein, and since then, momentum in France has spread beyond the world of cinema.

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

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

During his election campaign, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to reinvigorate the European Union.

In a sweeping speech at Paris' Sorbonne University Tuesday, Macron laid out his vision for an EU that would be less bureaucratic, more democratic and more sovereign — but above all, he said, one that would be innovative, risk-taking and audacious.

Macron called Europe "our history, identity, our horizon and what protects us and gives us our future."

Looking back at the EU's founding, Macron recalled how the continent rose from the ashes of two world wars.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Four American students who are studying abroad in Europe had acid thrown at them at a train station in Marseille, France, yesterday. French police are saying that this was a random attack. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It's a summer evening on the French Atlantic island of Noirmoutier. As the sun shimmers on the rustling marsh grasses, Hervé Zarka rakes in sea salt from shallow pools. He uses a simoussi, a 10-foot pole tipped with a flat board. Salt has been harvested this way since at least the seventh century, when Benedictine monks dug the canals that bring seawater into this marshland.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Pages