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.

The humming of 50 washers and dryers is the first sign that things have drastically changed for migrants in Paris. Right next to the washing facility volunteers hand out sweaters and coats to the newly arrived migrants.

One volunteer worker is trying to fit Sadique Ula Malagzai with shoes. The young Afghan wears a flip-flop on one foot and a puffy, white bandage on the other. Malagzai walked to Paris from Italy.

"The shoes hurt me and when I finally took them off my foot was injured," he says.

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There's an expression in French, "Jamais deux sans trois," or "Never two without three." After Brexit and Trump, will Marine Le Pen be next?

France holds its presidential election next spring, and Le Pen, the leader of the country's far-right National Front party, could well be one of the top two candidates in the first round of voting, which would propel her to the second-round runoff in May 2017. But she hasn't been seriously considered as a candidate who could actually become president.

Until now.

Laura Passoni, a 34-year-old mother of two small boys, grew up in a Catholic family in the Belgian town of Charleroi. She converted to Islam at the age of 16 because she says she liked the religion and her best friend was Muslim.

Passoni married a Muslim man and they had a son. Everything was fine, she says — until her marriage collapsed. "My husband met another woman and left me and abandoned his little boy," she says. "And I went into a deep depression."

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On an ordinary day, you might miss this slip of a shop wedged between a veterinary clinic and a grocery store in Paris' popular Bastille neighborhood. But on an empty August afternoon, the Clinique du Rasoir Electrique — the Electric Razor Clinic — jumps right out at me.

Here, in a cluttered shop from a bygone era, 73-year-old Jacques Guillaume has been repairing electric razors since 1962. He says he's the last of a kind.

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One of the first things a visiting American may notice in France is the large number of people smoking. Especially young people. In a common after-school scene, teenagers sit at an outdoor café, smoking.

Some say they've been lighting up for about two years now and are up to a pack a day. Some of their parents know, but don't realize the extent of it.

A group of about 50 people gathered in late June in the sunny courtyard of the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. It was from here in 1939 and 1940 that Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches issued approximately 30,000 visas to Jews and other stateless refugees.

Lissy Jarvik, who lives today in California, was one of them.

"I was a recipient of a Sousa Mendes visa," she tells the group. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here. I would've no longer been alive 72 years ago."

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The kitchen is hopping and hot at L'Ami Jean restaurant in Paris, as chef Stéphane Jégo gets lunch underway. Jégo, who has been at this small Paris bistro for 14 years, is joined on this day by Mohammad El Khaldy, a chef from Damascus in Syria.

Paris was at the forefront of public bike-sharing schemes, and it now has electric car-sharing schemes and is something of a laboratory for mobility. As of today, motorists with cars built before 1997, and motorcycles built before 2000, will no longer be able to drive them in the city during daylight hours on weekdays.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says keeping old cars out of the city will help lower pollution levels. But not everyone is happy about it.

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It's after 9 p.m. and Alix Le Bourdon is enjoying a picnic dinner with her family and friends at the Buttes Chaumont park in Paris 19th arrondissement. Usually at this time they'd be rushing to pack everything up before the park guards, blowing their whistle, come through to shoo everyone away and lock the gates.

Every Parisian knows the sound of those whistles that draw the curtain on many a summer night in the park. But not anymore, says Le Bourdon.

Some major designers are launching fashion lines aimed at Muslim women — loose-fitting tunics and skirts with accompanying head veils. Once destined for markets in the Middle East, such clothing is gaining mainstream appeal in the West. In stores across Europe, "Islamic fashion" is now becoming available from top designers such as Dolce & Gabbana and DKNY.

An old country inn in the southern Swedish town of Karlshamn now shelters refugee families. Children play in the lobby, while a few adults watch news on a large-screen TV. More than 100 volunteers from the community want to help the refugees.

But the newcomers' arrival also has brought out ugly sentiments on social media, says Magnus Arvidsson, who is coordinating the volunteers. He says some people were saying on Facebook, "Oh my God, there [are] a lot of refugees coming to our village and we have to lock our bikes. And hide our stuff. We can't let our children out."

Sweden has taken in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country — 160,000 last year alone. Refugees are now part of the landscape, even in small towns. And nearly everybody, not just those working with aid groups, is encountering the newcomers.

In the southern town of Ronneby, Dagmar Nordberg is giving Swedish lessons to Waliullah Hafiz, who goes by Wali, at her kitchen table. The 60-year-old Swedish museum director met this 23-year-old migrant from Kabul on a train platform in a nearby village on a freezing cold day last November.

Class has just ended at a community center in the southern Swedish town of Ronneby. This is the first stop for refugees in the area, once they've been granted asylum. They receive 60 hours of instruction on how to live in Sweden. The courses cover such things as how to rent an apartment, get a job and grow old here.

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