Explosion rocks French nuclear facility

A nuclear plant in Marcoule in southern France suffered an explosion earlier today.

According to France's Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), the explosion at the plant occurred in a furnace used for melting radioactive scrap metal. Earlier reports from the BBC suggested the fire occurred in a storage space for radioactive waste. In a statement on the matter, France's nuclear safety regulator, the French Safety Authority (ASN), said that one worker died and that four other people were injured, including one person who "suffered deep burns."

Local news site Le Midi Libre was first to report on … Read more

Eurostar is the best way to get from London to Paris

PARIS--There's something amazing about taking the train from London to Paris in just two-and-a-half hours.

To be sure, it's been possible to make that trip since 1994, but if you've never done it before, stepping onto a train in the middle of the British capital and stepping off in the center of the French capital is totally cool.

I've been traveling to Europe since 1979, and I'd crossed the English Channel by boat back in the mid-1980s, and by plane in the 1990s. Going by fast train was always one of those abstract things that … Read more

Google, Orange spread SMS services across Africa

The first world is fixated on smartphones that can handle videoconferencing and first-person shooters, but Google and Orange announced a service today that's geared for a population whose phones only have that most basic of data-transfer abilities, text messaging.

Google and Orange, the mobile arm of France Telecom, announced a partnership today to bring a service called Gmail SMS Chat to four additional countries in Africa--Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Conakry, and Niger--and to launch it as a trial program in Egypt. The service already is available in Senegal, Uganda, and Kenya, but will reach the new countries in … Read more

The Millau Viaduct, the world's tallest bridge

MILLAU, France--You first see it from miles away. And after an afternoon spent driving toward it and weeks of planning a visit here, it's fair to wonder if it will live up to expectations. And there it is. And it's awesome.

This is the Millau Viaduct, the world's tallest bridge, which spans the Tarn River and the Tarn Valley here, in the central-south region of France. At 1,025 feet tall, and 8,071 feet long, it is a stunning architectural and design feat. And it is beautiful to look at as well.

Opened in 2004 to … Read more

The giant Airbus A380 and the tiny French village

LEVIGNAC, France--I'm looking up toward the sky at two things you wouldn't expect to be right next to each other. One is the "boulangerie" sign outside the bakery in this tiny French village. The other is the "Airbus A380" logo emblazoned on the protective cover on one end of a segment of giant airplane fuselage.

Why would two such things be next to each other? Because late Friday night, a truck convoy carrying all the major components of the next A380 that Airbus will build--the world's largest passenger plane, a full double-decker … Read more

Building the A380, the world's largest passenger plane

BLAGNAC, France--What would you do with nearly 6,000 square feet of private airplane?

That's the question I'm asking myself as I look up at what will soon be one of the largest private planes in the world--an Airbus A380 slated for an unknown buyer. Two full decks of luxury in the sky, right in front of me, and sadly, I won't get to see what it looks like.

But I do get to see how A380s are made. As part of Road Trip 2011, I've come here to Airbus' Jean-Luc Lagardere plant, just outside Toulouse, … Read more

The Chunnel is far more than Eurostar

CALAIS, France--I'm sitting in a train doing something more than 265 million people have done before--enter the Chunnel for a crossing between France and England. But I've got a seat very few of them have ever had: in the cab, next to the driver of the train, and we're looking directly at the mouth of the world-famous tunnel.

This is a spot I didn't expect to ever be in, but I've come here as part of Road Trip 2011, and I'm getting a behind-the-scenes look at Eurotunnel, the under-the English Channel crossing, putting me … Read more

The guns of D-Day remain powerful

OMAHA BEACH, France--When you study the liberation of France in school, you get a basic primer in D-Day history. You hear about the famous beaches: Omaha and Utah. But you don't learn much more.

As part of Road Trip 2011, I had a chance to come to Normandy this week and visit some of the most important sites of the Allied invasion of 1944 that freed the French people and helped lead eventually to the defeat of the German army.

What I didn't know prior to coming here was just how many important sites there were--and how many … Read more

Inside the Eiffel Tower's 'secret' bunker

PARIS--If the Eiffel Tower makes you think of a direction, I'm willing to bet it's up. But for some people, the iconic French landmark can also mean down.

Down, as into a "secret" military bunker that has an entrance just feet from the south pillar, or leg, of the tower, and which then goes underground and which is full of Eiffel Tower history and even legend.

Secret of course, is a marketing term when it comes to this bunker, since it is open for a small number of weekly public visits. But because it belonged to … Read more

Hackers claim 177K e-mails from Sony Pictures France

Sony's turn as the whipping boy for Internet hackers continued over the weekend. Two hackers posted a list of e-mails they say they took from the Sony Pictures France Web site.

The two hackers who claim responsibility are a Lebanese student who goes by the handle Idahc, and a French friend of his who goes by Auth3ntiq. The two say they copied 177,172 e-mails from the entertainment company's site, but posted only 70 of them on the code-sharing site Pastebin. They say they will not be posting all of the e-mails they found.

Jim Kennedy, Sony Pictures … Read more