Bonne année and happy new year from a snowy Paris! Yes, it has actually snowed in the City of Love, only an inch or so but we’ll take it. (Traffic is however duly blocked for miles, as the Canadian in me rolls her eyes.)
Anyway, the kids are back at school this week, the tree is coming down and awaiting on the street for pick up, and we’re all twiddling our thumbs for the start of winter sales.
And breaking news, we not only have to get used to writing 2024, we also have a new prime minister! Yes, Emmanuel Macron is still President, but he has now appointed Gabriel Attal as the youngest French PM ever at the age of 34.
As far as French heads of government go, there was only Napoleon Bonaparte who became First Consul General at the age of 30, and the arguable Sun King Louis XIV (who built Versailles) who became King at the age of 5.
Either way this is a surprise because Macron is a lame-duck President who cannot run for election again, and has already shoved through most of his previously declared platform. (Pushed off the PM glass cliff is Elisabeth Borne, only the 2nd female Prime Minister of France ever.)
And although fresh-faced Attal is quite popular, the position of PM is often described as the worst job in govt.
Basically, a French Prime Minister is appointed not elected, has to take orders from the President, gets all the blame if things go wrong, and none of the credit if they manage to keep the roof from caving in. And the job usually only lasts 2-3 years.
But by the time a PM’s mandate ends, everyone is usually thoroughly fed up with them. (Fun fact: In 65+ years, only 2 French prime ministers have ever gotten the promotion to be elected President, George Pompidou and Jacques Chirac.)
Now, I wouldn’t normally spend so much time talking about a political appointment, but I have to say as a parent with young kids, I’m a bit perplexed. The reason Attal is popular is because he had very recently been appointed Education minister to reform the buckling French school system, which has been struggling with poor grades for a while now. (Or at least it has been struggling since I had kids and started paying attention to the education system.)
But one thing is clear is France has come a long way in 10 years. I’m old enough to remember the “marriage pour tous” protests in 2013, where 400k+ people protested against gay marriage at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Today, Attal can be openly gay and the most popular French political personality, according to recent polls.
So what other surprises is 2024 going to bring? Apparently this is a key year for democracies where half the global population goes to the polls in the U.S., India, E.U. elections, etc. Not to mention the Olympics, 80 years since D-Day, reopening of Notre Dame, and more.
On a personal level, I have all the usual resolutions: eat better, write more, exercise more, and finally find a decent chandelier over my dining table. (My overall color scheme is green and gold, with a minimalist bent.)
Until then, time to built a mini-snowman with the kids and hope it doesn’t melt by tomorrow morning!
In other news:
- France is again world champion of taxes, charging about 46.1% of GDP, ahead of Norway and Austria respectively. In case you are wondering, the OECD average is 34% and U.S. is at 27.7%. (Le Point magazine also helpfully points out that France is also the world champion in the “most complicated payslip category.)
- The city of Bordeaux is no longer going to serve foie gras at official city functions. (For connaisseurs, Bordeaux is the capital of Nouvelle Aquitaine, where the majority of foie gras is made.)
And in the blog:
Discover the stories of the Hundred Years’ War, from epic battles to the royal rivalries that shaped the medieval history of France and England.
Find out the top things to know before moving to France. From healthcare, schools, visas, making friends, find accommodation, and much more.
Get the recipe for creamy cauliflower gratin with plenty of cheese that makes a hearty side dish or casserole everyone will love.
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