Letter from Paris: December 21, 2022 News Digest

Letter from Paris: December 21, 2022 News Digest

The French baguette has been added to UNESCO’s “intangible cultural heritage” list as an important tradition to be preserved by humanity. Made of only a few ingredients (flour, water, salt, and yeast), the baguette exemplifies a way of life, even as there’s been a decline in recent years in the number of boulangeries across France. As reported by NPR, French President Emmanuel Macron was in the U.S. at the time and while giving a speech, he “threw shade on baguettes that are made anywhere outside of France. He called the French baguette ‘250 grams of magic and perfection.’”

Some view the UNESCO recognition as a triumph; others, not so much. Robert Zaretsky, who teaches at the University of Houston, writes in The Washington Post that the announcement is “as laughable as it is laudable.” He decries the fact that “the vast majority of those 6 billion baguettes [sold annually in France] are baguettes de pain, which have more in common with the Big Mac — or, for that matter, the putative “French baguette” in your local supermarket — than with the baguette de tradition.” Read the full article, which includes informative pop culture anecdotes and history lessons, here.

Restoration work on Apollo’s Fountain to begin © Château de Versailles / T. Garnier

Have you been to the Palace of Versailles recently? Big news from the gardens: Apollo’s Chariot Fountain, the masterpiece that’s possibly the most famous of the garden’s fountains, has been removed for renovation work. Situated in the middle of the Grande Perspective, at the end of the Royal Way running from the Palace to the Great Canal, the fountain depicts the sun god driving his four-horse chariot; it symbolizes the rising sun and conjures the glory of Louis XIV’s reign. It was designed by Jean-Baptiste Tuby between 1668 and 1670 and crafted at the Gobelins Manufactory. There are a total of 13 lead statues. A number of artisans and experts have been enlisted in the renovation project which is expected to last 18 months.

Remember when we told you about the rare archeological find under Notre-Dame cathedral? Back in March, when reconstruction teams checked the ground stability in order to install scaffolding, they stumbled upon something unexpected. Burial sites were discovered beneath the 19th-century underground heating system, comprised of several tombs and human-shaped sarcophagi made of lead. Now these discoveries are starting to reveal their secrets. French scientists recently made an announcement with new details. As reported by The Guardian, the first sarcophagus “contains the remains of a high priest who died in 1710 after what experts say appeared to be a sedentary life. The occupant of the second has not yet been identified — and may never be — but is believed to be a young, wealthy and privileged noble who could have lived as far back as the 14th century.”

Excitement in France (and around the world) reached fever pitch over the weekend for the World Cup final between Les Bleus and Argentina. It was a disappointing loss for France in penalty kicks. But the team came together toward the end of the game and showed off an amazing comeback, after Argentina had been winning 2-0 with ten minutes left in regulation time. A hat trick by Kylian Mbappé couldn’t win the match but it was epic. The team was welcomed on Monday night by a huge, proud crowd on Place de la Concorde. Players waved from the balcony of the Hotel de Crillon, and the fans went wild with cheers and fireworks.

Despite the unfortunate controversies surrounding Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, the tournament’s games have attracted record international audiences to witness some wonderful moments in sports. Earlier this month Morocco’s defeat of Portugal, for example, was a historic win for Africa, making Morocco the first African nation ever to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Thousands took to the streets to celebrate, waving flags and chanting on the Champs-Élysées. It got so out of hand, the French police had to be called in. The revelry only increased when Les Bleus beat England that same night, thanks to a goal by Olivier Giroud. Then two teams were then matched up to compete in the semi-finals… against each other.

Traveling to Paris soon? Good news from the Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport. Terminal 1, the iconic Camembert-shaped terminal, reopened on December 1. It was closed for nearly three years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by renovation work. All flights into CDG have been routed through terminal 2, and now 50 airlines are returning to terminal 1, so be vigilant about checking your flight details before going to the airport.

Le Figaro reports that “the redeployment of airlines in the historic Paris-CDG terminal will take place in stages between now and January 13, 2023. On December 1, it [welcomed] passengers from Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, Swiss… [followed by] Aegean Airlines, Icelandair, LOT, Norwegian and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).”

Paris- Charles-de-Gaulle airport, aerial view. © Paris Tourist Office/ JOUANNEAUX, Jean-Marc pour Aéroports de Paris

A fascinating recent New York Times article by professor Pamela Newkirk examines “what Paris means to Black Americans.” Throughout history, many Black Americans have sought refuge in the City of Light, but how to come to terms with France’s history of colonialism? To quote: “For two months, I reveled in this veneration and the unexpected respite from the racial anxiety that shadows the American experience.” And: “Some two months into a research fellowship in Paris, it was difficult to deny the extent to which the city has embraced African Americans and our culture.” Read the full article here.

The city of Paris has dedicated a square in the 14th arrondissement to Josephine Baker, an American-born French entertainer, French Resistance agent, and civil rights activist. © Entrée to Black Paris

Ready to watch season 3 of the Netflix hit “Emily in Paris”? Earlier this month, Netflix held the premiere in the City of Light and gathered the entire cast on the red carpet in front of the Champs Elysées Theater. Variety reports that these stars — including Ashley Park, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Kate Walsh and Camille Razat — “all dazzled in bold designer outfits and were seen hugging and complimenting each other. The streamer had set the tone with the dress code, ‘C’est Paris, it’s couture baby!’” The cast were also joined by Darren Starr, the creator and showrunner, behind shows like “Sex and the City,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place.” The 10-episode season will debut on Netflix on Dec. 21.

Variety points out: “Snubbed by the French when it first launched, Netflix’s hit show “Emily in Paris” has come a long way. Judging by the crowds of overjoyed fans and robust media presence at the global premiere of season 3 in Paris, the show has now been embraced as much by locals as the rest of the world.”


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Lead photo credit : Baguette (C) Bas Peperzak, Unsplash

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