Letter from Paris: May 1, 2024 News Digest

Letter from Paris: May 1, 2024 News Digest

In Paris, May Day means muguet (lily of the valley). Vendors sell bouquets of the flowers, which are said to bring good luck, all over the city streets. Le 1er Mai is also a time for labor demonstrations (and sometimes strikes), since it’s International Worker’s Day. No one works on this important holiday, and everything is shuttered in Paris — from grocery stores to museums. There are a few exceptions, like the Eiffel Tower, but if you’re in town, plan to do nothing… except maybe buy some sprigs of sweet-smelling muguet. The centuries-old floral tradition goes back to King Charles IX, who offered the flowers to ladies in his court on May 1. More info here.

Baguette. Photo credit: Bas Peperzak, Unsplash

The winner of the 31st “best baguette in Paris” competition has been crowned for 2024: Xavier Netry, of the boulangerie Utopie, situated at 20, rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud (11th). The prize? 4000 euros plus the contract to supply the bread to President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace for a year. Expect big lines outside this bakery now! Here’s the list of the runners-up:

Maison Doré — 29, rue Gay-Lussac (5th)
La Parisienne — 85, rue Saint-Dominique (7th)
Boulangerie Rougès — 45, avenue de Saint-Ouen (17th)
L’Écrin gourmand — 15, avenue du Docteur-Arnold-Netter (12th)
Boulangerie AA — 63, rue du Javelot (13th)
Boulangerie Paris and Co – 4, rue de la Convention (15th)
Maison M — 2, avenue de la Porte-Didot (14th)
Aux Délices de Vaugirard — 48, rue Madame (6th)
Du Pain et Vous — 63, avenue Bosquet (7th)

Did you hear that the Moulin Rouge recently lost its sails? That’s right, the sails, or blades, on the iconic windmill fell off last Wednesday night. No injuries were reported on the sidewalk below. Arguably the world’s most famous cabaret, the Moulin Rouge was founded in 1889 at the foot of Montmartre, and painted by artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec. (The emblematic can-can dance was also immortalized in the film starring Nicole Kidman.) It’s a highly sought-after tourist experience, and even opened its doors to a lucky overnight guest in an Airbnb competition in recent years. No news yet about the repairs.

Moulin Rouge

Speaking of Montmartre, The Telegraph reports that a local pétanque club is refusing to leave its home “in one of the most attractive and high-end areas of Montmartre, close to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.” City Hall would like to lease out the land, and they’ve done so to the director of a nearby five-star hotel, who plans to create a garden space. Protests have ensued, emblematic of the bigger threats of gentrification and commercialization in a neighborhood that was home to the poor of the “maquis de Montmartre” in the 19th century. Read Hannah Meltzer’s fascinating article here.

Montmartre, Paris, Photo Credit: Nezar Kadhem/Flickr

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to France next week. Top of the discussion list for President Macron will be the wars in Gaza and Ukraine. The climate crisis and trade issues are also on the agenda. As reported by Le Monde, “the visit to France, which will be followed by trips to Serbia and Hungary, marks the Chinese leader’s first European tour since the coronavirus pandemic.” It marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and France. And with France hosting the Olympic Games this summer, Macron is working for an Olympic truce. “The truce is a historic tradition that peace reigns during the Olympics. Macron has said he will ask the Chinese president to help him in that aim when he visits Paris.”

Élysée Palace. Photo: Remi Mathis/ Wikipedia Commons

In other political news, President Macron gave a speech last week at the Sorbonne, ahead of European elections in June, calling for a strong, independent European Union. As reported by The Washington Post, he argued “that Europe needs a more credible defense policy to stand up to Russia and not be a strategic ‘vassal’ to the United States.” The two-hour speech outlined his plan for European autonomy. As quoted by the Washington Post: “Our Europe, today, is mortal, and it can die,” he said. “It can die, and this depends only on our choices.”

Topographic map of Europe (EU highlighted). Wikimedia commons

Lead photo credit : Lily of the Valley. Photo: Björn S/ Flickr

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