0682-Corona virus & Planning your holiday

Where to go in France – the safest regions and places to avoid now you can travel quarantine-free


Since the June 2 reopening of bars, restaurants and hotels, France has been galloping back to normal. The pandemic is said to be under control. Almost everything you want is open again. Okay, a few restrictions remain. No gatherings of more than 10 people. Masks should be worn in shops and on public transport, tables must be well-spaced and there’s enough hydroalcoholic gel strategically placed in the public domain to flood the country three feet deep. That said, city centres and seaside resorts truly are getting their mojo back. France has been included the long-awaited list of countries that English residents can visit this summer. Here are five regions where the incidences of the virus are, as we speak, among the very lowest in France – perhaps because they’re mainly off-centre – and where I guarantee you a good time.

St Jean-Pied-de-Port

1. French Basque Country
No surprise that coronavirus didn’t make much headway in Basque country; not much has since the stone age. The Romans found it hard going in these Pyrenean parts, as did follow-up barbarians and Charlemagne. And, these days, the Basque identity still lies strong upon the land. Picture powerful character rooted in sky-busting mountains and a muscular coast rocking with Atlantic rollers. The whole is punctuated by substantial villages of white houses trimmed with oxblood-red woodwork, the bases for everything Basques have ever done, farming and contraband through fishing and sending sons off to America. My choice for the seaside would be Guéthary (once Madonna’s choice, too) or St Jean-de-Luz, with its storybook bay. Inland? St Jean-Pied-de-Port where mountain folk gather for the Monday market and you’d better not bet on the pelota games or you’ll be wiped out.


2. Roussillon
Perpignan is best known internationally for Salvador Dali’s claim that the town’s railway station is the centre of the universe. Art aside, Dali was a chump. The station is not the centre of the universe. It’s not even the centre of Perpignan. It’s in a desolate zone to the north of centre. Enough of that. We go to Perpignan for fierce sun, temperament and festivity, for both codes of rugby and all sorts of wine. In the lee of the great 13th-century palace of the Kings of Mallorca (long story), the city is a permanently simmering sunshine event, easing us into French Catalonia (aka Roussillon) with a lot more panache now than it had 15 years ago. Further south, the flat coast sprouts rocks and coves as it meets the final plunges of the Pyrenees. Seaside resorts – Collioure, Banyuls – charm all but the charmless. Behind, vertical vineyards herald real mountains for climbing, riding, rafting, canyoning or trekking up to the St Martin-de-Canigou monastery. Back in Collioure, we eat anchovies. They are the local speciality. Best anchovy recipe ever, from anchovy-filleter Ghislaine: toast a slice of country bread, grate on garlic, add a few rounds of tomato and olive oil, lay anchovies on top. Fabulous.


3. Lot
I’ve called Figeac (population: 10,000) “the finest small town in France” so often that the phrase writes itself. It’s about time someone noticed. The medieval and Renaissance structure is so well-preserved that it would be readily recognised by the wandering monks and merchants who, for centuries, have been dropping down from the surrounding limestone plateaux to the banks of the Célé. I generally walk mesmerised through the structures of France’s past, spotting the birth-place of Hollywood’s Latin lover Chares Boyer and paying respects at the museum of Jean-François Champollion. He was the local lad who cracked Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1822. Then I romp out of time down the Célé valley to the Pech-Merle cave. Its 29,000-year-old paintings surge from the walls as if seeking release. Back up the Lot valley St Cirq-Lapopie drapes over rocks to impose a sense of occasion. Post-war, writer and founder of surrealism, André Breton showed up. “I ceased to wish myself elsewhere,” he said, with the pomposity you’d expect from an anarcho-surrealist. And we haven’t even mentioned Conques with its weird, stolen monastic treasure (another long story) or Rocamadour, where the abbey, seven chapels and an entire village are clamped to the cliff face. You’ll be awestruck. Everyone is.


4. Finistère
From clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches surrounded by pine trees, to dramatic rocky cliffs swept by the sea or charming pink granite coves, the Brittany coast is a place of wonders. If that’s not incentive enough, then let me tell you that Roscoff is a grand, granite little port once prosperous with freebooting wealth, now base to more crèperies than anyone can count. Go for Ty Saozon on Rue Gambetta. Then curve round the rugged, ragged coast, via the Pays-des-Abers to Le Conquet and a ferry to the island of Ouessant. The wind-lashed, treeless isle was the domain of women, the men being away at sea, often for years. Whence the local saying: “Take any husband you can get; there’ll not be enough to go round.” Inland, the desolate Monts-d’Arrée swirl with Breton myths. And all that’s just north Finistère. There’s still the slightly softer south to go at.


5. Vienne
This inland, western county is for the mature of outlook. People like me. We avoid spas, anywhere with purple lighting and anything termed “to die for”. We prefer gentle landscapes, châteaux, long lunches, cave paintings and quite a lot of wine – favouring, as it does, the calm of continuity rather than the clamour of the contemporary. So we’re very happy in Poitiers whose stint as home base to Eleanor of Aquitaine was sufficient to supply a framework of outstanding buildings. These include the cathedral, whose astonishingly worked façade is alive with statuary and reliefs including – a first for me – Jesus being given a bath by midwives with their sleeves rolled up. Now we head east, through a spectral gauze filtering out noise and vulgarity, to the Anglin and Gartempe valleys. Angles-sur-Anglin, as steep as it is comely, wriggles below a château crumbled to perfection. The abbey church at St Savin has 50 of the world’s greatest OT Romanesque frescos. Interestingly, Eve sports a beard, following misguided 19th-century restoration. Bucolic tranquillity persists, as if this were 1957 and you were driving a Morris Minor. It leads through villages and small towns – Montmorillon, Chauvigny – before we swing back to Poitiers, for the 21st-century blast of Futuroscope theme park, which leaves even mature folk laughing.

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The place where Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) made his last masterpiece Tree Roots just before his death has been discovered.

Beeldmontage van het schilderij van Vincent van Gogh ingetekend op de plaats waar hij het 130 jaar geleden heeft geschilderd.

The location is in Auvers-sur-Oise, France, near the inn where the famous painter stayed at the time. According to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, it is spectacular that the largest tree stump from the painter’s last work is still present and recognizable. The location, which is also open to the public, was unveiled on Tuesday in the presence of, among others, the general director of the Van Gogh Museum, Emilie Gordenker, and Willem van Gogh, great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. Wouter van der Veen, scientific director of the Institut Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, made the discovery. He recently found an old postcard from 1900-1910 depicting a hillside overgrown with tree trunks and roots, which was very similar to Van Gogh’s canvas.

Het schilderij Boomwortels van Vincent van Gogh.

Van der Veen presented his find to researchers at the Van Gogh Museum who conclude that it is very likely that it is the same place. The shape of the hill edge, the roots, their mutual proportions, the composition of the soil and the steep limestone wall correspond. “The sunlight that Van Gogh painted indicates that the last brushstrokes were applied in the late afternoon, providing information about the layout of this dramatic day that ended with his fatal self-injury,” said Van der Veen.
According to researcher Teio Meedendorp, the vegetation on the postcard shows “very remarkable similarities with the root shapes in Van Gogh’s painting”. “He must have walked past it often on the way to the vast fields behind the castle of Auvers, where he also painted several times in the last week and eventually got his hands on himself.”

For a long time it was unclear which painting Van Gogh made last. In 2012, researchers at the Van Gogh Museum concluded that this must have been Tree Roots. It is also striking that this work, which is in the museum collection, is not completely finished. They based themselves on notes by art collector Andries Bonger, who describes a painting that Van Gogh is said to have made shortly before he died in July 1890.


A rare condition: woman thought she was a chicken. A 54-year-old woman from Belgium had the idea that she was a chicken for 24 hours. At intervals of several minutes, she blew up her cheeks and cackled like a chicken.
The woman had zoanthropy, a very rare condition in which people think they are animals and behave like that. It can be all kinds of animals, such as a dog, lion, snake or bee. The woman’s case is described in the July issue of the Magazine for Psychiatry. Researchers at the University of Leuven write that the condition may often not be recognized. Not all patients can properly describe what they are experiencing; they sometimes only produce animal sounds. Between 562 and 2012, only 56 cases of this type have been reported worldwide.

Sleep disorder
The patient in question was taken to the emergency service by her brother because she showed acute abnormal behavior. In between, she was approachable and told that she had barely slept for five nights and that she had felt for days that her limbs were flapping and no longer fit on her body. During her stay in the emergency room, the woman had an epileptic seizure, after which the doctors kept her asleep for several hours. The delusion had disappeared upon awakening. Zoanthropia is usually associated with a schizophrenic spectrum disorder, psychotic depression, bipolar disorder, or other serious mental illness. The woman suffered from depression and suffered from sleep disorders, for which she has been successfully treated. After about a year at home, she was able to return to work. The animal delusion can therefore last briefly, but can also last for years. Since the advent of psychotropic drugs, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants, the number of patients who are (completely) cured has increased.

0679-Corona virus

Another 214 Dutch people were diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. That is the highest daily total since the number of infections has recovered. A higher number was last recorded on June 7. The figures were published on the corona dashboard on Sunday.

Drukte bij de corona-teststraat aan het Oranjepark in Dordrecht.

An upward trend in the number of infections has been visible in the past week. The number of infections doubled last week compared to a week earlier, RIVM reported. In a week, an infection was diagnosed in 987 people. The increase may be partly explained by a larger number of tests. The number of people who get tested last week was about 50 percent higher than the week before. Rotterdam-Rijnmond was the region with the largest number of new infections: 64. Rotterdam also had the most infections in recent days.

Intensive care
The number of Covid patients who stay in intensive care is 16. That is 2 patients less than Saturday. In addition, there are 568 non-Covid patients on the ICs, 28 fewer than the previous day. The number of Covid recordings outside the IC is 67, 24 fewer than yesterday. This is evident from the data from the National Coordination Center for Patient Distribution (LCPS). Yesterday, the number of Covid admissions outside the intensive care unit rose by 17. According to a spokesman for the LCPS, the “broader trend” is “stable” despite the sharp fluctuations yesterday and today. “Sometimes data is corrected by hospitals and then it seems to be a peak or a sharp drop. But the decline continues, and it sometimes bumps. ” For example, the figures from yesterday and today played a role in which one hospital first reported nine suspicious cases, which were removed from the list a day later. The numbers of the national coordination center sometimes deviate from the dashboard of the national government, but according to the spokesman, the LCPS figures are current: “We ask the hospitals live.”

0678-Corona virus

Mayors want mandatory quarantine after holidays

Mayors want the opportunity to mandate people to quarantine for 14 days if they have been on vacation in contaminated areas. They have asked the cabinet to take action in the short term. “After all, it is now up for discussion,” said the Mayor of Nijmegen, Hubert Bruls, who is also chairman of the Security Council. “We want to be able to impose it if necessary.” Bruls spoke to Minister Ferd Grapperhaus (Justice) on Friday about the increasing number of people who test positive for corona. The outcome of this consultation is, among other things, that the Cabinet will ask the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) for new advice on the usefulness of mouth masks. Mayors are given the space to make local masks mandatory. “But the Security Region has also asked the cabinet to oblige tourists who have been in areas where the virus flares up again to go into quarantine for two weeks. That is now only recommended, people can escape it.”

Code orange
But if the infection rates continue to rise, such a mandatory quarantine may be an option to do something about it. These are people who have been on holiday in areas that have the code orange, areas that are not recommended by the government to go there. While the mayors Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam and Femke Halsema of Amsterdam argue for a mouth mask obligation, Grapperhaus and Bruls do not see anything to introduce that nationwide. Bruls: ,, The situation is different per region. In Gelderland-Zuid, for example, you only speak of a single contamination, so we do not need to take extra measures for the time being.”

Family parties
His colleague in Arnhem, Ahmed Marcouch, announced on Friday that there will be stricter supervision of the rules against the spread of corona in the catering industry because the rules are too often violated there. Bruls is more concerned about family parties: “We see that the most important thing in the family sphere, at family parties.” “Extra information should again point people to compliance with the corona regulations. He finds virologist Marion Koopmans by his side. The professor of virology at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, who advises the cabinet and the World Health Organization as a member of the Outbreak Management Team, argues in favor of postponing parties when they cannot go outdoors and keeping them at bay.

0677-Student housing

Casa “The Excavators.”

Cadastre data: Graafseweg 239, 6531 ZS, Nijmegen; section Hatert M 755; Owner: Real Estate Malden (which owns also student houses 223 – 237), purchased  in 1999 for Dutch guilders 356,000 (€152,016).

Joost de Lange (19) lives with nine other housemates in a cozy house on the Graafseweg. In a typical student house and with so many people under one roof, there is something everywhere: empty bottles of liquor, stacked dishes and things lying around here and there. We were allowed to take a digital look at casa “The Excavators.” Nothing is necessary, everything is allowed. They have no obligations. But that does not mean they are averse to a house party here and there, a drink at the bar in their huge garden or an extensive dinner in the hallway. Due to the corona crisis, they mainly depend on each other. Joost explains: “We do a lot of fun things together: rollerblading, yoga, being creative and chilling in the garden. But there is certainly also the space to withdraw and do your own thing. We all have occasional needs for that ourselves.”

Student houses often come up with a nice name for their home. “At first we didn’t really have a name. It was quite a challenge to come up with something nice, we wanted it to have something to do with where we live. After a big brainstorm, we turned it into “The Excavators”. After all, we are all machines because we work very hard and live on the Graafseweg.”

All over the place
Everyone has their own room, but we actually chill everywhere and nowhere. Some roommates like to study together and have converted one room into a UB, we often use the rooms that are the largest as a living room and in good weather we can always be found in our relaxed garden of sixty square meters. Every now and then we sit in our communal living room, but it is often so dirty that we prefer to sit in someone’s room.”

“Corona Wall”
“When we are together, things are often called idle things. Since there are so many crazy statements made, we just made a list of them. The idea was expressed during quarantine, which is why the wall has been given this name.” The corona wall is already pretty full of student-like statements like, “Even the dotted area is closed” and “I’m going home with the ambulance or I’m not going.” “Little by little we extend the wall further, but in a short time there is already quite a bit on it.”

Home made bar
With such a large garden it is no punishment to be stuck together.  “Especially now that we are at home a lot, we often sit here all together. We will soon be putting our swimming pool back on and recently we have also been regularly at our home-made bar.” They have put together the unit – as they call it – all by themselves. It actually started as a joke. Because of the quarantine we are at home a lot and we wanted to sit more in our garden. A housemate then arranged wood and assembled the bar with a few people. “So far we have benefited greatly from it. In good weather we like to drink a cold beer at the bar or relax in the sun in our sunbeds.”

Garden room
Joost’s room is located in the basement and is adjacent to the garden. “I can mainly be found here while studying. But most of the time I am in a roommate’s room, it is always cozy there. ”Several hats hang on Joost’s wall. “I have many and am therefore known as the hatter of the house. I even got a sombrero from a roommate, so you know it.” On his wall hangs a canvas with animals from Namibia. “My parents love to travel, so we took us to the most beautiful places in the world from an early age. I always bring something as a souvenir. I also brought a book from Thailand and received a sash as a gift at a restaurant in Colombia.”

0676-European Union

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is satisfied with the agreement reached this morning on the Corona Aid Fund and the EU’s multi-year budget. As far as he is concerned, all important points for the Netherlands are included.
Just after half past five, after more than four days, European leaders agreed on a European budget (up to and including 2027) of EUR 1 074 billion and a corona fund of EUR 750 billion. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of “a historic day for Europe”, but Rutte did not want to go that far. “I’m not like that.” The prime minister spoke of a “difficult and difficult process”. “There was a lot at stake. It is a lot of money. And it was also about helping countries recover from the terrible pandemic that has been plaguing Europe since February. It makes sense that this takes a little more time.”

No refund.
In particular, it took so long because countries could not agree on the corona repair fund. It has now been decided to supplement the fund with 390 billion in grants and 360 billion in loans. The money for this will be borrowed by the European Commission on the capital market. The Hague was not in favor of a recovery fund, and certainly not support through subsidies, because they do not have to be repaid. Rutte eventually gave up the opposition to this, because he was able to secure guarantees about how it was spent, with a focus on economic reforms.

“Good thing”
Despite the long resistance, Rutte called the fund a “good thing”. “We have always said that we show solidarity with the countries that have been hit hard. But that solidarity has two sides. We believe that we can ask them to implement reforms so that they are best prepared for the next crisis. ” According to Rutte, the emergency brake can now be pulled if the Member State receives money, but is not busy with the requested reforms. “It is not our goal to pull the emergency brake. It only serves as extra pressure. It is unpleasant if you are held accountable for not keeping your agreements. That is negative publicity. Because the emergency brake is there, we prevent it from being used.”

The prime minister does not feel that he has failed to keep promises not to give away money to countries such as Italy or Spain. Last month, when he was called during a working visit to The Hague not to give “that money”, he replied: “I remember that!” This morning he said about this: “I would like to say to that gentleman that money is not just going to those countries.” He also wanted to hear nothing about criticism of a diluted text about the linking of funds to the state of the rule of law. As far as the Netherlands is concerned, countries such as Hungary and Poland should stop the erosion of their legal system, Rutte always emphasized. If not, they would get less money from Brussels. “The core of what we want has remained intact. If a country violates European rules, measures can be imposed. The old text was more “in the face” of some countries, they were not happy about that. For us, this was one of the big points, a reason to drop the whole deal.”

Not impressed
A few other important cases have been brought in for the Netherlands, according to Rutte. “First, the payments to the EU have remained unchanged. We really wanted that and we succeeded. ” Furthermore, from 2021 onwards, our country will receive a higher discount of 1.92 billion euros on the annual EU contribution (that discount is now 1.57 billion). From now on, the Netherlands may also keep 25 instead of 20 percent of the customs duties that are collected in the port of Rotterdam, in the name of Brussels. That quickly rises to above 100 million euros. Rutte is also satisfied with the limited increase in the total budget. “It is in line with the new size of the union. After Brexit we are no longer with 28, but with 27. ” The Prime Minister was once again not impressed by the criticism he has endured recently, including from his colleagues. “There were certainly tough moments now and then. It chafes, that is part of it occasionally. The proportions are fine, we can take a beating. ” He does not think that the Netherlands, as captain of the ‘Miserable Four’, has lost credit to the rest of the Member States. “It can collide, anyone can against that.”

The world is richer in a new Dutch expression. Because according to the BBC, the current, widening EU summit will go down in history as the “stiff-leg summit”, or the top of the stiff leg. An expression that the Dutch use to indicate that Prime Minister Rutte is “sticking to his guns”, the British broadcaster explains to its international readers.

The foreign media are full of Rutte. For example, the Flemish newspaper De Standaard explains the reason for his stiff leg: “The persistence with which Rutte continued to fight for his right has a lot to do with Dutch politics. Parliamentary elections take place in the Netherlands in March. Although Rutte has been prime minister for ten years and his party is one block ahead of the polls, he thinks he cannot afford defeat in Brussels. When he bends, he gets the wind in front, both in the House of Representatives and in public opinion. ” “Rutte is the bitten dog. And not only with Macron, but also with Merkel and twenty other leaders, “said De Morgen. French newspaper Le Figaro writes that the major mistake of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in preparing this crucial summit was that they underestimate Mark Rutte’s “force of slowness.” “And also thinking that some visits to The Hague and maintaining a comfortable discount (on the Dutch EU contribution) would make him come back to his concerns.” A friend of the Prime Minister says to Le Figaro: “Mark does not change of opinion when under pressure. He only changes his position if there are good arguments.”

According to the Walloon newspaper Le Soir, the Dutch prime minister does not simply demand a veto for the Netherlands. “For Rutte, it is important to make it clear to his Dutch home front for the upcoming elections that he can be exemplary strict with the southern countries that have been knocked out by the corona virus, but are still lagging behind with their reforms.” Behind the resistance against the colossal The amount of aid is something else that the miserly countries, with the lead of the Netherlands and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, do not want to mention, according to the French newspaper Libération: “A leap to a federal Europe whose construction is so badly needed.” That is worth something, ” including a postponement of this meeting to the next ultimate summit of the last chance ‘. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s action at the EU summit is reminiscent of the Cold War communist dictatorship, according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The record of the longest European summit has just not been reached.

0675-Corona virus

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Boris Johnson explained that he was highly reluctant to enforce a second national lockdown, because of its severe impact. Today, Sarah Knapton, our science editor, reveals that official research from April put the potential cost of the lockdown at 200,000 deaths due to delayed healthcare.  The toll of the pandemic has also, of course, been heavy in financial terms. Britain is racking up wartime levels of debt to keep the economy afloat and minds are turning to how to pay for it all. Many officials seem keen on a return to austerity, but that, argues Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, would be an enormous mistake that would risk pushing the UK into a Japanese-style deflation trap. Social-distancing rules have made getting married a very difficult proposition, even for royalty. Still, the Queen and Prince Phillip were able to attend Princess Beatrice’s wedding last week, as was her father, Prince Andrew. Yet the Duke of York was nowhere to be seen in the official photographs. As Camilla Tominey explains, that absence, as well as a number of other clues in the photos, can tell us rather a lot about the relationship between the Queen and her descendants.

0674-Corona virus

Ahmed Marcouch, Lord Mayor of Arnheim, appeals to Moroccans: “Don’t go to Morocco this summer.”

The reports seem favorable, travel to Morocco will be possible again from 15 July. Yet there is the call from Ahmed Marcouch, the mayor of Arnheim: “Don’t go back to Morocco this year.” “I usually like to go there. My parents are buried there, I have the necessary family living there. But still: “I’ll skip a year,” said the mayor. “The risks are too great because of the corona virus. Now it seems safe, but that it is possible again, is more motivated from economic interest. In Morocco they like to see the hard Dutch currency come. They desperately need it.”

“Government dealt very inhumanly with people who were detained”
But what if there is another lockdown? “In recent months, the Moroccan government has dealt very inhumanly with people who were trapped in Morocco and could not go home,” said Marcouch. “A donkey does not hit the same stone twice.” Marcouch understands that the temptation to go to Morocco is great. Reports appear in the Moroccan media that borders are opening. And that Moroccans with a residence abroad and foreigners who are currently in Morocco can leave the country. ,,But until recently there was no talk with the Moroccan government.” Minister Blok (Foreign Affairs) has moved heaven and earth to bring people back to the Netherlands. Then sick, old people from the Nador region were on a bus to Casablanca for a thousand kilometers to take the plane. Little by little.”

“Do not go to Morocco under these circumstances”
Faiza Mhiaui from Tiel spent three months trying to bring her 63-year-old father back to the Netherlands. “He was to Morocco for my grandfather’s funeral. Carried medicines for his COPD and diabetes for a week. But two days before he would come back, things were locked there”, says Mhiaiu. “We tried everything. Nothing helped. I am already happy that my father is back. But no, I really would under these circumstances don’t go to Morocco.”

Temperatuurscheck op vliegveld Casablanca.

Not being able to say goodbye to a deceased mother
Despite all warnings in two weeks from now, Latifa from Zeist will go to Morocco. In the past few weeks she has experienced how stubborn Morocco was. “My mother died there on July 2. She had been ill since late May. We tried everything to get there”, she says. “But I’ve really been waiting for the opportunity to go anyway. In the end we were late. A goodbye to my mother has already been taken from me and we still want to have some kind of ceremony, to arrange things.” Whether she will return to Morocco afterwards? “It has been so inhumane. I don’t know if I will go to Morocco in the coming years. We are now guaranteed to leave again. But it already begins that only two Moroccan airlines may be flown. And what is the promise worth in the end?”

0673-Student housing

As announced, there was a double birthday party on Saturday afternoon, 18 July.  Myrthe apped me: “Hello neighbors! I just wanted to let you know that on July 18 I celebrate our birthday in the garden with a friend. To avoid too much nuisance, we start already in the afternoon.” As it was a very nice weather on Saturday, the party started mid-afternoon and lasted till about 10:00pm. Meanwhile Pierre and I had drinks and dinner in the garden. And the garden is a continuous pleasure at the moment!