Letter from Paris: March 8, 2023 News Digest
A victim of its own success? The 59th edition of the Salon de l’Agriculture had to close early last weekend because of record-breaking crowds. A veritable showcase of French agriculture, the show takes place annually in Paris at the Parc des Expositions (Porte de Versailles). This year’s mascot? A gorgeous Salers cow by the name of Ovalie. (Watch a video below about how she was chosen to represent this year’s event.) Nicknamed “the biggest farm in France,” the salon is a cornucopia of dog herding contests, cooking classes, children’s ateliers, cow beauty pageants — not to mention an eating and drinking extravaganza at the pavilions dedicated to the gastronomy of each French region. The salon isn’t just a rollicking good time; it’s also an important political stage, with a requisite visit by the French president every year.
Paris Fashion Week drew the world’s leading designers and fashion-loving celebrities to the City of Light for the ready-to-wear shows. Highlights included a flower-filled Elie Saab show at the Palais de Tokyo, a monochromatic concept by Hermès, a pack of robo-dogs in the Coperni show, a retro trip to the 1950s at Dior, and gowns at Givenchy. The Associated Press reports: “The dull Paris weather did not dim the power of the French capital’s ready-to-wear shows continued Saturday, vibrantly spanning the restrained colors of minimalism to Renaissance exuberance. Meanwhile, stars paid tribute to Vivienne Westwood at the house’s first Paris show since the British fashion icon’s death in December.”
King Charles III has chosen France and Germany for his first state visits after becoming Britain’s monarch. He and Camilla the Queen Consort will make the trip on March 26-29, and President Emmanuel Macron will host a state banquet for the royal couple at the Palace of Versailles. The BBC reports: “As head of state, the King’s official visits are decided on government advice – and these symbolic first overseas destinations will be seen as prioritising stronger relations with European neighbours… As well as addressing what a Buckingham Palace spokesperson called the “sacrifices and challenges of our shared past”, the European trip will focus on modern challenges, such as climate change and Ukraine.”
The Paris procession will be along the Champs-Élysées, before the king and queen meet Macron at the Élysée Palace. Camilla will open a Manet and Degas art exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay with Brigitte Macron. King Charles will address the French National Assembly in the first-ever speech there by a member of the British royal family.
Paris Olympic fans are disappointed — some outraged — by the online ticketing system that was supposed to democratize attendance at the Summer 2024 Games. As reported by France24, “organizers of next year’s Paris Olympics promised relatively modest prices and “egalitarian” access to events, thanks to an online system meant to revolutionize ticket sales and bring the masses to stadiums and arenas for as little as $26. As the month-long opening round of sales winds down, however, many “lucky” winners chosen to shop for the first 3 million tickets (out of 10 million total) are feeling frustrated, angry and cheated because their only option during the 48-hour purchasing window was paying at least 200 euros ($212) per ticket for the few remaining events on offer. And because the ticketing system requires buying packages for multiple sports, overall costs for many buyers ran into thousands of dollars.”
In other sports news, Kylian Mbappé — the French football phenomenon — has become the all-time leading scorer for Paris Saint-Germain with 201 goals. In the Ligue 1 match against FC Nantes on Saturday, he broke the record at 24 years of age. He’s been with the club since August 2017. Of those impressive goals, he’s scored 152 times with his right foot, 44 with this left, four with his head, and once with his chest in 247 games.
It’s been the driest winter since 1959 in France, and rivers like the Loire have dried up with historically low water levels. Because of the extreme drought, the country is prepping to introduce restrictions on water use in certain parts of the country — what Reuters calls “an unprecedented move for the time of year.” Environment minister Christophe Bechu has lamented the low groundwater levels and lack of rain in February, comparing the soil to what you’d see usually in May in regions such as Occitanie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and the Cote d’Azur/Provence.
Lead photo credit : Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash