Letter from Paris: February 22, 2023 News Digest

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Letter from Paris: February 22, 2023 News Digest

Only in Paris… The public lavatory on the Place de la Madeleine — named a historic monument in 2011 — has just emerged from a lavish renovation and it’s making newspaper headlines. The Guardian says, this “restored Paris public loo [is] worth every penny of €2 charge.” First opened in 1905 as the first of its kind, “it was fitted out in art nouveau and early art deco style with the finest materials: varnished mahogany woodwork, stained-glass windows, ornate ceramics, mosaics, brass taps and floor to ceiling tiles.” There was even a lodge for a guard and a shoeshiner. Designed to be the height of luxury, each bathroom had an individual mirror and sink. Reopened on Monday after a 13-year closure, the “pipi-room” — as Paris City Hall calls it— has been returned to its former glory. Paris City Hall explains that the concept was initially imported from “our English cousins, whose example Paris often followed under Napoleon III… these public toilets appeared in the streets of London during the 19th century.” Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Le lavatory Madeleine. Credit: Clement Dorval / City of Paris

Sacré bleu! A recent top 10 list of the world’s best cheeses neglected to include France. As reported by Euronews, “TasteAtlas, which is based in Bulgaria, published the ranking of its 100 favorite cheeses – and Italy dominated throughout. Italian cheeses are in eight of the 10 top spots, with Parmigiano Reggiano, Burrata and Grana Padano making up the top three.” Needless to say, French cheese lovers were outraged. Where were Roquefort, Époisses, Comté, and Brie in the rankings? Indeed, “the results prompted a bemused French cheesemonger to tell news channel BFMTV, ‘The judges must have been Italian!’”

Are you surprised by the winners? What are your favorite French cheeses?

Cheese at the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Photo credit: Marian Jones

Paris has long been a favorite movie set for international filmmakers. Since the Lumière brothers first dazzled the public with a show of moving images at the Salon Indien du Grand Café, the City of Light has been a filmmaking capital, with exciting new shows every year. Lupin, anyone?

(See our articles, “Paris in the Movies: A Timeless Film Set” and “Paris in the Movies: Which Film Best Evokes the City of Light?”) And in recent news, film production has returned in full force, after a period disrupted by the pandemic. A total of 102 feature films and 68 series were filmed in Paris last year, with more than 7,000 shooting days.

Did you hear about the asteroid that burned up the night sky over France recently? To quote The Washington Post, “Photos and videos showed it blazing a bright green trail — before lighting up the night sky with flashes of orange. The European Space Agency and NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies detected the object, which they said was around one meter in diameter. It was the seventh time in history that an asteroid strike was forecast ahead of time. The ESA said the accurate prediction served as ‘a sign of the rapid advancements in global asteroid detection capabilities.’”

Eurovision fans, rejoice! La Zarra, the artist representing France in the popular music contest, has officially released the competition song “Évidemment.” For those of you not familiar with Eurovision — in the words of France Today’s contributor Keith Van Sickle — “it’s a continent-wide song contest that goes back to the 1950s. Each country selects an act, which performs an original song, and the winner is chosen via a complicated voting system. Hundreds of millions of viewers tune in to the Eurovision Finals, making it the Olympic Games of music. The best-known winners are ABBA in 1974 and Céline Dion in 1988.”

To quote Eurovisionworld, “Fatima Zahra Hafdi, with the artistic name La Zarra, is a 25-year-old Canadian-Moroccan singer. She’d been heavily rumored to be the French Eurovision artist over the last year. La Zarra participated in the casting for the French national selection in 2021, C’est vous qui décidez, but didn’t made the cut. Her music is a blend of French pop and urban sounds, and she rose to prominence in 2016 when she collaborated with the rapper Niro on the single “Printemps blanc.” She was nominated as Francophone Revelation of the Year at the NRJ Music Awards 2021.”

In environmental news, Paris is developing 15 new solar panel stations on the rooftops of public buildings, to be launched before the end of 2024. With 6,000 m² of solar panels on 12,000 m2 of roofs, the new installations will cover the electrical energy consumption of 700 households. Called the “Energieculteurs program,” this new initiative will increase the percentage of renewable energy consumption while lowering the city’s energy bill. A few examples of buildings that will be outfitted with rooftop solar panels: École élémentaire Popincourt in the 11th, Gymnase Paradis in the 10th, Centre Sportif Elisabeth in the 14th, and the Centre de vaccinations Bertheau in the 13th.

We’ll leave you with a little design inspiration. Designer Dorothée Meilichzon — famous for decorating Paris hot spots such as the Hôtel Bachaumont and Hôtel des Grand Boulevards — recently opened the doors to her own home for The New York Times and the photos are gorgeous. (One of her most recent projects? The departure lounge of a recently renovated terminal at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.) Her bedroom is designed exactly as how she’d do a hotel room. To quote: “Meilichzon was inspired by Catherine Deneuve’s fiery domestic fantasies in Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film, “Belle de Jour” — the room is a warm, contemporary cocoon that contrasts with the original parquet floors, filigreed crown moldings, nearly 175-year-old stained-glass windows and other period details that define the otherwise classical Parisian apartment.” Check out the full article here.

Lead photo credit : Eiffel Tower. Photo credit © Anthony Delanoix, Unsplash

More in asteroid, cheese, climate change, Eurovision, film, Le lavatory Madeleine, lumiére brothers, Lupin, Place de la Madeleine, public toilets, solar panel

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