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French Beaches On High Alert After Recent Terror Attacks


The French are enjoying their traditional month-long August vacation. It's different this year because of the two terrorist attacks earlier this summer - the truck driver who killed 85 people in Nice and the jihadists who murdered a priest in Normandy. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Normandy and reports that this year's August vacations are a little less relaxing.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Gulls screech above the cobbled streets of Trouville sur Mer, where grand Norman houses face the English Channel. The Impressionist painted this Belle Epoque beach town. A hundred years later, crowds still stroll its boardwalk and enjoy seafood in restaurants looking out at the sea. Fifty-six-year-old fisherman Jean Claude Marie is unloading crates of mackerel and flounder from his boat. He's been fishing these waters since he was a teenager. He says this year has a different feel.

JEAN CLAUDE MARIE: (Through interpreter) Yes, people are a bit nervous, but it's not just here. It's everywhere. This is the world's dilemma, and you've got to learn to live with it. Sometimes, when the crowds get too thick, even I get a little nervous.

BEARDSLEY: A police boat bobs on the waves in the distance, while kids frolic in the sand on this family beach. Russian Katerina Sataipoum is enjoying oysters at a cafe on the wharf with her French husband and their new baby. She says they've just moved to Normandy, and they're certainly not scared.

KATERINA SATAIPOUM: No, it's a very safe place in our minds. We are not worried at all. We're just happy here.

BEARDSLEY: Next door to Trouville, in the glamorous beach town of Deauville, the August yearling auction is underway. Deauville mayor Philippe Augier says there are many cultural and sporting events this time of year, and he has not cancelled anything so far.

PHILIPPE AUGIER: (Through interpreter) My responsibility is to take security measures, but also to ensure that life continues as normal. But the last two attacks did make me realize that anything can happen anywhere, anyhow. There is no such thing as zero risk.

BEARDSLEY: Augier notes that soldiers are making the rounds with police, but there are none visible today on Deauville's wide beaches. This group of tanned septuagenarians sitting under colorful umbrellas says they'd like to see more of a security presence. Jacques Goldman is ashamed of the French government.

JACQUES GOLDMAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "Between all the attacks we've had, from Nice to the Bataclan theater, there have been more than 300 deaths," he says, "and the government is doing nothing." This group says the French government is allowing unfettered immigration of Muslims who could be terrorists. In the face of that, they ask, what can a few soldiers on the beach do? Marie-Noelle Frary is wading in the surf at Trouville. She's a preschool teacher in a small Normandy village inland from the coast. She says she's scared, but not about terrorist attacks.

MARIE-NOELLE FRARY: (Through interpreter) That priest was killed not too far from here, and some young people in the countryside are talking about taking up guns against Muslims. That's what's so frightening.

BEARDSLEY: This beach at Trouville is crowded with vacationers of all colors and different faiths. You see Muslim headscarves and Jewish skullcaps. Frary says that is the richness of France. She fears the terrorist threat is ripping it apart. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Trouville sur Mer, Normandy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.