Eleanor Beardsley

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 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.

In France, Beardsley has covered three presidential elections including the surprising upset of outsider Emmanuel Macron in 2017. Less than two years later, Macron's presidency was severely tested by France's Yellow vest movement, which Beardsley followed closely.

Beardsley especially enjoys historical topics and has covered several anniversaries of the Normandy D-day invasion as well as the centennial of World War I.

In sports, Beardsley has followed the Tour de France cycling race, she covered the 2014 European soccer cup and she will follow the Women's World Soccer Cup held in France in June 2019.

Prior to moving to Paris, Beardsley worked for three years with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. She also worked as a television news producer for French broadcaster TF1 in Washington, DC, and as a staff assistant to South Carolina 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. "I love reporting on the French because there are so many stereotypes about them 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, South Carolina, 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.

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.

Audiences are enthusiastic when the lights go down at the Eden. This historic cinema house has been showing movies for the last 120 years, which makes it the world's oldest cinema still in operation.

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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Excited children shout out the answers during a Sunday afternoon Arabic class at the grand mosque in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. The mosque has thousands of worshipers and is one of the largest in Western Europe.

Aboubakar Sabri is a part-time imam there. During the week he runs a successful elevator-construction firm in Paris. Sabri came to France from Morocco in 1980 for doctoral studies at the Sorbonne, then stayed and raised three daughters.

He says Muslims can live perfectly well in French secular society.

"Making aliyah," or returning to Israel, is usually a cause for celebration among Jews. But recently fear has pushed many Jews to leave France — a record 7,000 departed last year.

And that was before the recent Paris attacks that included the killing of four Jews at a kosher grocery store.

Jean Marc Illouz, a former senior correspondent for French television, who is also Jewish, says he's been pushing back against what he calls ridiculous comments on the Internet about anti-Semitism in France. He says Americans seem to think it's a resurgence of Nazism.

Last week's shootings in Paris shocked the French. Many received another jolt when they learned that some Muslim students refused to join in the minute of national silence observed across the country following the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

The newspaper Le Figaro quoted one teacher in a heavily Muslim neighborhood in the eastern city of Strasbourg as saying that 80 percent of her students did not participate.

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A French hostage returned to Paris today after being held for three years by al-Qaida in the Sahara. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports the man's release has revived questions about whether and how governments should deal with hostage takers.

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In separate recording studios and separate songs, two groups of international stars have harnessed the power of their voices to help raise awareness of Ebola.

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For an American, watching a Sinterklaas parade, like the one I recently went to in Amsterdam, can be a bit of a shock. Because dancing around the dear old Dutch Santa are his helpers, known as Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete.

And Black Pete is played by scores of white people dressed up in black face ... and wearing Afro wigs.

In the past few years, Black Pete has come under fire. A beloved tradition for some, others say he is a racist stereotype. And the increasingly rancorous debate over Black Pete has gripped the Netherlands.

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France plans to go ahead with the sale of two warships to the Kremlin, even as the European Union and U.S. strengthen sanctions on Russia amid continued fighting in Ukraine and the aftermath of the downed Malaysian airliner.

Every July, for one month a year, the southern French city of Avignon becomes a theater. Actors, directors and playwrights converge on the walled, medieval town, where thespians perform in every playhouse, opera house, church and even in the streets. It's all part of the Avignon Theater Festival, which was started in 1947 by renowned French actor and director Jean Vilar.

A bike rental scheme in Paris that began seven years ago has been such a success, the city has launched a version for children. Parents can now rent bikes for tots up to 8 years old at locations across the city.

Officials say the program won't cost Paris a cent and might help build a new generation of environmentally conscious citizens — or perhaps inspire a few future Tour de France champions.

Germaine and Lucien Rigault, 86 and 89 years old, respectively, lean out their first-floor window, watching people go by. They were here in the tiny French hamlet of La Cambe on June 6, 1944, the day the Allies invaded Normandy and began the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi control during World War II.

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Decked out in red, white and blue clothing, and waving flags and banners, thousands of supporters of the far-right National Front party marched through central Paris on Thursday — known as May Day or International Workers Day — to hear charismatic leader Marine Le Pen. The traditional gathering began, as always, at a gilded statue of Joan of Arc, where Le Pen laid a wreath.

Bearing messages ranging from the inspiring to the insipid, "love locks" can be found clamped onto bridges in major cities around the world. But no place has it worse than Paris, where the padlocks cover old bridges in a kind of urban barnacle, climbing up every free surface.

Take the Pont des Arts, Paris' most famous footbridge across the Seine river. Hundreds of thousands of padlocks cover its old iron railings; the light of day barely passes through them.

Since the upheaval in Ukraine began four months ago, the number of kidnappings of journalists and activists has been on the rise, though they've always been part of the Ukrainian political landscape.

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When an umbrella breaks, most people just throw it away — and pick up another one, from a street vendor or maybe a drugstore.

But what if you got it repaired instead? Would you even be able to find someone who could do the work?

In Paris, it's still possible, but just barely. What was once a thriving profession has dwindled dramatically. These days, Thierry Millet, 58, says he is the city's last umbrella repairman.

One of the world's oldest and most iconic piano makers, Pleyel, will close its factory doors in Paris at the end of 2013.

The French press characterized the bankruptcy as inevitable in the face of cheaper competition from China. But many disagree: They say Pleyel could have survived by adapting better to the times.

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The medieval village of Flavigny, France has livened up its winter streets with nativity scenes, 85 of them exhibited in windows of houses throughout the town. This centuries-old village has been doing this for five years now and it's bringing in crowds of tourists.

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