Catching up with real life (24/8/2021)

Bi-weekly newsletter with odds and ends, and other funny stories from France.
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Desk of French President Macron at Palais de l’Elysée in Paris
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Oh look, the end of August. Also known as that time of the year in France when you you turn on the TV and notice that every newscaster, journalist, and commentator has that sunburnt look that is a couple of shades darker than a few weeks ago.

It is like everyone headed off to the same place, aka the South of France and forgot to replenish the sunscreen. (Maybe there is some big journalist beach retreat in Provence that I’m not aware of but if you turn on the French nightly news, the vacation tans are really something you will notice!)

But I guess the news is not really something we can turn off these days. From rising vaccination rates battling with rising infection rates, the forest fires in the Var department, and the sad evacuation in Afghanistan, it makes for sobering viewing.

The French government is having a “I told you so” moment in Afghanistan, since it had given its evacuation order to its citizens back in May (link in French).

In an interesting diplomatic kerfuffle, there are dueling transcripts of French President Macron’s call to U.S. President Biden. The French version has Macron saying the U.S. has a “moral responsibility”, while the American version leaves all of this out, hoping that no one will notice.

Which all brings back memories of those good ol’ “freedom fries”. Now, we may not all remember what that was about so I helpfully looked it up. The year would be 2003, when the U.S. insisted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the French insisted that they did not. And with that, you had the U.S. Capitol cafeterias renaming “french fries” to “freedom fries”. (Spoiler alert: no weapons of mass destruction were found.)

In other news:

  • American-born Josephine Baker will be the first black woman to enter the Panthéon in Paris. She is only the 6th woman among 80+ men to have that honor. A naturalized French citizen, Baker has long been an icon in France.In addition to being a legendary performer, she was also part of the French resistance during WWII and a civil rights advocate in both the U.S. and France. Baker was previously awarded the Croix de guerre, the Rosette de la Résistance, and made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by President Charles de Gaulle. Baker is currently buried in Monaco, so her tomb will be moved to the Pantheon this November.
  • The rentrée education plan for schools in France is out, and it is more of the same: masks mandatory for all kids starting in 1st grade, and wait and see. Fingers crossed! School starts on Sept 2, so still a bit of time to prepare.
  • And after all that supposed commotion, 64% of French people approve of the pass sanitaire, aka the vaccine passport that is now required in France to go to a bar/restaurant/gym/museum/etc. How about them apples?

New in the blog this month:

The Incredible History of Paris

Paris is known as one of the most romantic cities on earth, but it’s much more than that. Located in the heart of Western Europe, it is also a treasure trove of history. Stretching back into the centuries, from the Celtic Gauls and Romans…

Visit Jardin des Plantes in Paris

Right in the heart of Paris in the 5th arrondissement is a large botanical garden, called Jardin des Plantes, which also features 4 large galleries holding specimens of all types of animals. Known as Paris’ oldest botanical…

Walking Tour of Paris: French Revolution Edition

If there ever was a city made for a walking tour, it is Paris. With a relatively small center connected by wide boulevards, you can walk from Place de la Bastille in the east to the Eiffel Tower in the west, in less than two hours. And that is with plenty of stops along…


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