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.

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Now to Paris where audiences are enjoying the first stop of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's European tour. For almost 60 years, the company has been performing modern dance inspired by the African-American experience.

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France paid homage to Holocaust survivor and humanist icon Simone Veil Wednesday in a somber, nationally televised ceremony at Les Invalides, Paris' 17th century military monument.

Dignitaries from across France and Europe stood as Veil's flag-draped casket was carried across the cobblestones and a military band played Chopin's funeral march.

Veil, who fought for the rights of women and defended the weak and vulnerable, is considered a moral force of the 20th century.

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A hundred years ago this month, American soldiers known as doughboys began arriving in France to fight in World War I. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, all year long, France is going to be remembering Uncle Sam's troops.

(APPLAUSE)

With 2,500 inmates, the penitentiary institution of Fresnes, about 20 miles south of Paris, is one of the largest prisons in Europe. Like most French prisons, Fresnes is overcrowded. Built in the late 19th century, its tiny cells, each meant for one prisoner, most often house three.

Inmates scream curses and catcalls from their barred windows as I visit a small, empty sports yard ensconced between cell blocks. Plastic bags and punctured soccer balls are caught in the surrounding concertina wire.

The brand new party of brand new French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to sweep parliamentary elections after a first round of legislative voting yesterday.

Official tallies show his party could wind up with more than 400 seats in the 577-seat French parliament after next week's final round. French news media are likening a party that barely existed a year ago to a tidal wave sweeping everything in its path.

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A group of about 30 volunteers gathers in a Paris park on a sunny afternoon for lessons in door-to-door campaigning.

They'll soon be trying out their new skills in the surrounding apartment blocks — plugging two young candidates from President Emmanuel Macron's new party, Republic On The Move.

Delphine O, 31, is one of the candidates. The half-French, half-Korean diplomat says she never imagined she'd be running for parliament.

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So the other big news we are following this morning is this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

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"Emmanuel Macron was never a kid like the others," says French journalist Anne Fulda, who has just written a biography about the presidential contender titled Emmanuel Macron, un jeune homme si parfait, translated as "a young man so perfect."

Macron loved to read and existed slightly in his own world, she says. He always felt at ease and mixed easily with adults. Macron's most formative relationship growing up was with his grandmother.

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The French go to the polls Sunday to cast ballots in the first round of a political race like no other in France's recent history: Entrenched politicians have been swept aside, with fringe candidates and untested newcomers filling the void.

After Sunday, the field of 11 presidential candidates will be narrowed down to two contenders, who will face each other in a runoff on May 7.

If Marine Le Pen is elected president of France in May, she says she promises to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union. Her EU-skeptic stance is an unlikely vote-winner in France, where the EU is still very popular. That's especially true in eastern France, near the border with Germany, but even there Le Pen has some supporters.

Workers come and go through a turnstile during a shift change at the Whirlpool factory in Amiens, a provincial town about a two hour drive north from Paris.

The U.S. appliance maker once employed more than 1,000 workers here. In 2002, it farmed out washing machines to Slovakia. And next year, the plant will close for good, moving operations to Poland. Longtime engineer Cecle Delpirou says most people have been working at this factory for 25 years.

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, [Pearlie] 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.

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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."

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