Calm countryside amid strikes in France

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

LISA MULLINS: The wave of strikes and protests in France continued today. Some of the protests have led to violence, as demonstrators have smashed shop windows and clashed with police. The unrest is being coordinated by labor unions. They're unhappy with the French government's plans to cut back pension benefits and to raise the national retirement age. In some rural areas of France, though, the picture remains a lot calmer. In the village of L'Isle Sur La Sorgue in the south of the country, the attitude is almost �crisis, what crisis?� New York native Robyn Vogel is now running a Boulengerie, a bakery and Pattisserie with her husband who's a pastry chef, Phillipe Leyris. Does that pretty much describe how you both feel? What crisis is going on there?

PHILLIPE LEYRIS: Yes, pretty much I think.

ROBYN VOGEL: I find that because we're so protected in our little town that we're not seeing everything that we're seeing on TV in Lyon and in Paris. There are some gas lines here, but I think it's more a panic reaction to what everybody's talking about. But so far I think what we're seeing is calm. Everybody � it's more a question of morale I think than anything else.

MULLINS: How so? And, Phillipe, how do you see that?

LEYRIS: Pretty much the same thing. It's more affected [INDISCERNIBLE]. They are not maybe going to stand up much in all the businesses basically, in the towns. So, that's I think the way it's going to affect us.

MULLINS: So you wonder if it's going to hit you where you live? Where you work? Can you tell us about your business?

VOGEL: Okay. We run a small bakery. We sell bread and we sell cakes and we sell different kinds of things for lunch. And we're considered a small business here.

MULLINS: And, Phillipe, what's your role in the business?

LEYRIS: So basically I'm running the back of the store. It means everything about cooking and baking. And I have a baker who [INDISCERNIBLE] bread and [INDISCERNIBLE] to clean and organize the store and Robyn's in the front selling the food and the products.

MULLINS: Well, it sounds to me like this is the kind of thing that tourists would love and in your village, L'Isle Sur La Sorgue, Sorgue refers to the river that you say runs right through the village and attracts an awful lot of tourists. Now that's one of the problems that the rest of France has been encountering and that's that it's tough for people to get the transportation let alone the petrol to get in and out of certain places. Is that affecting you at all?

VOGEL: Well, it's going to affect me personally in a couple of days because actually my parents are here and they're going to go to Marseilles to get their plane. Hopefully, that will be okay. And then we have our two friends from New York coming in Friday night and they're not sure what they're going to go at this point. As far as the tourists, our season is kind of towards the end now.

MULLINS: When strikes like this happen, and they do happen often, do you wait for kind of a spin out effect, does it ever spiral to remote places like yours, like your village?

LEYRIS: No, no. It's like in Lyon or Paris where � it's what you see on TV basically and the media are showing that it's happening all over France. And that's not really I think true, especially in Lyon. I was surprised of Lyon. Lyon seems to be very affected by the violence.

MULLINS: Phillipe, even if it's not affecting you directly, does that engender any kind of dismay among the French?

LEYRIS: Oh, yes, of course. In the big city, yeah, [INDISCERNIBLE] in Paris and Lyon and all the big city, especially the people who's using transportation to go to get their work. It's terrible.

MULLINS: I wonder if you two view strikes like this, labor actions like this, differently.

VOGEL: I find I become more French now and when my friend called me from the United States, I was like yeah, well, there's a strike. I think if I was still in America, I'd be incredibly distraught. And for some reason I'm just right now saying it is what it is, I can't do anything about it.

LEYRIS: I've never been really concerned about labor action because I'm working the [INDISCERNIBLE], never been on strike. So, it's for me odd. It's another world for me basically, the public and private are two different worlds here in France.

VOGEL: I think Americans need to understand too that the system is very�

LEYRIS: Different.

VOGEL: It's very different. When I was in the States, yes I expected one day at 65 to get my social security, but I wasn't counting on that. I, on the side, I was putting away a retirement plan as well. The French don't have that as much. The government sets a lot of rules, but the government does give a lot of things.

MULLINS: Robyn Vogel and Phillipe Leyris, who run the Pattisserie Leyris in the village of L'Isle Sur La Sorgue in the south of France. Very nice to talk to you.

VOGEL: Thank you so much.

LEYRIS: Yeah, thank you so much.