Letter from Paris: May 3, 2023 News Digest

Letter from Paris: May 3, 2023 News Digest

May Day, the te du travail (International Worker’s Day in France), brought street demonstrations in Paris and strikes at the airports. It also brought pop-up stands selling fragrant muguet (lily of the valley) on nearly every street corner. The flowers are said to bring good luck, and they are given in abundance to friends, family, and neighbors. As we’ve previously written about this floral tradition, “the custom of offering muguet bouquets on May 1st goes back to medieval times, but it wasn’t officialized until 1561, when King Charles IX offered the flowers to every lady in his court to celebrate le premier mai. And so this lovely gesture became an official French tradition, ushering in the spring season.”

1er mai 1911, le muguet. Credit: BNF/ [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol]

Following the prolonged battle over pension reform, President Emmanuel Macron has commenced an action plan to mend his broken rapport with the French. Yet protests over raising the age of retirement continue. Macron and his ministers have been met with a loud banging of pots and pans at each of their déplacements; this traditional form of protest is known as the casserolade, or pots-and-pans protest.

An incredible archeological discovery has been unearthed on the Left Bank. During construction of a new exit at the Port-Royal RER station, workers discovered 50 graves in an ancient necropolis dating from the 2nd century. As reported by France 24, “The remains of the men, women and children are believed to be Parisii, a Gallic people who lived in Lutetia, from when the town on the banks of the Seine river was under the control of the Roman Empire. The skeletons were buried in wooden coffins, which were now only identifiable by their nails. More than half were buried alongside offerings such as ceramic jugs and goblets. Sometimes a coin was placed in the coffin, or even in the mouth of the dead, a common practice at the time called Charon’s obol. In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman of Hades, and the coin was considered a bribe to carry the souls of the dead across the river Styx. The archaeologists also found shoes inside the graves, identifying them by the small nails that would be been in the soles.”

The Bulgari boutique on the Place Vendôme was the victim of another heist. Armed robbers raided the store in broad daylight, making off with millions of euros of jewelry. The three thieves arrived by motorbike in the afternoon. This follows the September 2021 heist at the same exact boutique.

Place Vendôme. Photo: Peter Menzel/ Flickr

Organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics have launched a massive campaign to recruit 45,000 volunteers needed to support the event. Widely used in previous editions of the Olympic Games, the volunteer program is a means to participate in the Games— volunteers get uniforms, free travel and meal vouchers. (May 3 is the deadline for applications.) However, Reuters reports that “An anti-Olympics collective is aiming to disrupt next year’s Paris Games by recruiting fake volunteers. Saccage 2024, which translates as Destruction 2024, has already generated a buzz on social media with its “pseudo-volunteer” plan, saying they should be paid for their work… Saccage and other critics of the Paris Olympics say the event will negatively impact the environment and benefit big businesses and elites, rather than locals.”

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

The owner of the boulangerie featured in the Netflix hit Emily in Paris is fed up after receiving critical online reviews by disappointed tourists.“We sell our croissants for €1.30, we are not here to sell you dreams,” he says. In the show, the protagonist Emily Cooper (played by Lily Collins) portrays her first taste of a pain au chocolat as a sublime foodie experience. Tourists wait in line expecting something similar. Situated in the 5th arrondissement, the Boulangerie Moderne is a classic bakery selling traditional products. A recent Madame Figaro article shines the spotlight on the situation- the owner’s daughter has taken to her TikTok account to tell people to “stop.”


A new report warns that Paris could hit summer temperatures of 50 degrees celsius by the year 2050. The city could become unbearably hot, if adaptations are not made. As reported by Euronews, “the sobering research was produced by a cross-party group of local politicians and engineer Franck Lirzin, author of ‘Paris face au changement climatique’ (Paris facing climate change).” To combat the problem, city planners must take action: investing in green space by planting trees and removing asphalt, replacing the iconic zinc rooftops with a different material.

Lead photo credit : Photo by Zoritsa Valova on Unsplash

More in archeology, boulangerie, climate change, Emmanuel Macron, May Day, muguet, Paris Olympics, Place Vendôme, politics

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