Letter from Paris: February 15th, 2023 News Digest

Letter from Paris: February 15th, 2023 News Digest

Protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform continue in France, with more demonstrations last Saturday across the country. Authorities counted the number of protestors in Paris at 93,000. Legislators began debating the bill last week, which seeks to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62. As reported by the Associated Press, “the president has called the reforms “indispensable” for ensuring the long-term survival of the country’s pension system and noted that workers in neighboring countries retire years later.” The reform — which was a campaign pledge — has proved to be unpopular and the political battle in parliament could be a long one. Next on the protest calendar? Unions are threatening a “nationwide ‘shutdown’ from March 7, if their demands [are] not met.”

Demonstration against the pension reforms. Credit: François GOGLINS / Wikimedia Commons

It’s a subject we know and love well… Remember when we published a story about the Invader phenomenon? And that street art exhibit we raved about? The New York Times has just published an article on the famous Paris street artist known as Invader. To quote: “Along with Haussmann apartment buildings and bridges spanning the Seine, Invader’s work has become an essential part of Paris’s aesthetic. They are an intimate part of the lives of some locals; many have formed volunteer teams to repair the damaged and replace the missing, and others plan their weekends and vacations around finding them.” Read the full article here. By the way, the Capitale(s) exhibit has been prolonged to March 25th because of high demand. Get your free tickets here.


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There’s been controversy brewing about whether Russian athletes should be able to compete in the Paris Summer Olympics 2024 while their country wages war on Ukraine. Officials from the International Olympic Committee have said that Russian athletes could compete under a neutral flag. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is firmly against this proposition. As reported by NPR, Russia has been “suspended from officially competing in the Olympic Games since 2017 after an investigation uncovered evidence of a state-sponsored doping scheme involving more than 1,000 Russian athletes.” So if the IOC allows Russian athletes at the Paris games, it would be a continuation of the status quo. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly called on the barring of the athletes, “describing their potential presence in Paris as a “manifestation of violence,’” to quote The Guardian. “’This cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality or a white flag,’ Zelenskiy told a virtual summit of sports ministers on Friday. ‘Russia is now a country that stains everything with blood, even the white flag.’ ”

A public viewing party for the 2020 Summer Olympics at Place du Trocadéro, which will be the site of the protocol for the 2024 opening ceremony © Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Speaking of the Olympics, Paris organizers recently announced that the Olympic flame will take a seaborne journey, instead of overland, to arrive in France from Greece aboard a three-mast tall ship. The announcement was made in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, first founded 2600 years ago as a Greek colony. The Associated Press reports: “According to tradition, the flame will be lit by the sun’s rays at a ceremony in Ancient Olympia. Then it will be carried by the Olympic torch to Athens and across the Mediterranean to the famed Old Port of Marseille, where the flame will be greeted by an armada of boats along the French coastline… It will travel to the Marseille marina — where Olympic sailing competitions will be based — and the Marseille stadium hosting Olympic soccer games. After that it will be carried overland in the traditional torch relay, before arriving in Paris to light the cauldron and officially open the 2024 Games, which run from July 26-Aug. 11.”

View of the “Petit Nice” on Marseille’s corniche (7th arrondissement) with the Frioul archipelago and the Château d’If in the background. Credit: Jddmano / Wikimedia Commons

Paris recently celebrated the 150th birthday of Colette. On January 28, 1873, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette — the journalist and author known simply as Colette — was born in the village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye. She died in 1954 at her home near the Palais-Royal gardens. “The most beloved French writer of all time,” hails the BBC in a recent headline. Reports John Self: “”How long Colette has lived, even after her death!” wrote the journalist Janet Flanner in 1967. More than half a century later, Colette lives on still… To mark the [anniversary], NYRB Classics has published a new translation of her twin masterpieces, Chéri (1920) and The End of Chéri (1926), translated by Paul Eprile …”

For more about her work and scandalous life, see this Bonjour Paris article.

Colette in her apartment at l’hôtel Claridge, no 74 avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, in 1932. Photo: BNF/ Public Domain

Did you know that France has become “the unlikely home of the insect-farming industry?” Neither did we. But a recent article in Nature heads to Ÿnsect’s flagship manufacturing site in Dole, eastern France, to get the scoop on an insect farm’s lofty goal to reduce agricultural carbon emissions and “to seek alternative sources of protein to feed the rapidly expanding global population.”

Photo by James Tiono on Unsplash

Big news from the Louvre Museum: management has announced that it will limit daily attendance to 30,000 people in order to relieve the congestion around famous works like the Mona Lisa. The museum has long been once of the world’s most popular— according to The New York Times, “during its busiest days before the coronavirus pandemic, the Louvre could attract as many as 45,000 people a day.” The new director Laurence des Cars has prioritized the importance of crowd management and the visitor experience. As quoted in the NYT, “I would like a visit to the Louvre to be a moment of pleasure, especially for people who are discovering the museum for the first time, which means 60 percent of our visitors.”

The Louvre museum. Photo credit: Denis McLaughlin/ Flickr

We’ll leave you with an interesting video clip. Parisians see the bistrot tradition as national heritage, important to preserve and pass on to the next generation. Are these restaurants becoming an endangered species?  Do they need protection? Check out the video below about an association’s fight to seek UNESCO World Heritage status for these classic foodie haunts.

Lead photo credit : Paris bistro. Photo credit: Daxis/ Flickr

More in bistro, Colette, demonstrations, insect farming, invader, louv, Marseilles, Olympics, Paris 2024, protest, Russia, street art

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