About julesparis2013

Originally from Toronto, Canada, I moved to Paris about 20 years ago.

the King and Queen are coming, and the French plebs don’t give a toss

The article below made me chuckle. Charles and Camilla were due to arrive in Paris on Sunday where garbage-lined streets, rats and freaked-out protesters would greet them. The symbolism couldn’t be stronger.

The mere idea of a royal today is anachronistic. President Macron himself has been accused of acting like a monarch (distant, arrogant and out of touch with the real world). And while Emmanuel and Brigitte and Charles and Camilla planned to dine on a sumptuous meal at Versailles Palace, mobs of angry commoners would be rioting in the streets.

The event was likened to 1789.

The storming of Bastille.

On 14 July 1789, a state prison on the east side of Paris, known as the Bastille, was attacked by an aggressive mob. The prison had become a symbol of the monarchy’s dictatorial rule, and the event became one of the defining moments in the Revolution that followed.

And you know how it ended: King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and later died at the guillotine in 1793. Off with their heads!

Update: the royal visit has been postponed until a more propitious time, whenever that might be.

From The London Times – “The move came after a French intelligence agency report said “hate messages” had been circulating on social media along with calls to “spoil” the occasion of the royal visit. The French authorities were particularly concerned that a state banquet at Versailles on Monday night could have become a focal point for the protests over Macron’s pension reform bill.”


Macron addresses the French masses on TV tonight

The entire country will be tuned in to the 8 o’clock news to hear their President speak. (Update: actually, I was wrong. He spoke on the lunchtime 1 pm news which is odd considering most people are at work or school during that time.)

Emmanuel Macron sort du silence,” the newspapers are saying. (Macron breaks the silence.) Because up until now – and since the reform bill was pushed through six days ago – we haven’t heard from him. I purposely refer to the French public as “the masses” because this is how the government views us: hoi polloi.

A Greek expression, hoi polloi is a negative connotation. Synonyms include “the plebs”, “the rabble”, “the masses”, “the great unwashed”, “riffraff”, and “the proles”.

Well, let me tell you something. There are some politicians around the world (not Macron) who are not only riffraff, but criminals who belong in jail.

Tomorrow, a transportation strike will paralyze the city. I’ll walk to work.

I’ll report back on the situation in a day or two. In the meantime, here’s a new book review!


French exceptionalism

Are the French unruly? To explain their singularity, I will borrow a paragraph from my memoir –

As I moved around the city and encountered people and situations of the type I had never known during my entire lifetime back home, I was endlessly astonished, outraged, thrilled and dumbfounded. The French, I was discovering, were a law unto themselves. They were a separate nation, a paradoxical one. I was also learning something important: in different cultures people react differently; they laugh at different things, they get angry at different things. In other words, don’t expect to receive the same reaction that you would back home. In Paris I was an innocent, as green and guileless as a baby.

I am no longer that green and guileless girl. She left a long time ago.

It is true that at first I supported President Macron’s pension reform. I mean, after all, why should the French be different from anyone else? Why should they be able to retire at 62 when everyone else retires at 65 and older? Why should the notion of French exceptionalism prevail?

French exceptionalism is a belief that France is unique and unparalleled based on a combination of cultural, socio-economic and political factors. At the heart of political discourse and culture lies “the French model” which is viewed as exceptional. What we are witnessing today is its possible erosion for one simple reason: it is not immune to
the global, European, domestic … and demographic … forces pressing upon it. The French model is not figé (fixed). To survive, President Macron tells us, it must change. The majority of French citizens resist.

Are the French unruly? Threaten to take away their precious acquis (acquired rights) and, yes, they’ll become quite ferocious.

Macron insists the reforms are needed to salvage a system that is unsustainable in its current form. He and his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, have been taking turns defending the pension reform plans in media interviews, saying they are urgently needed. But many are not convinced. They believe there are other ways to finance the system such as taxing behemoth corporations like TOTAL ENERGIES (oil and gas) that make billions in profits. They accuse their government of “jeter de la poudre aux yeux” (throwing powder into their eyes.)

Believe it or not, the core issue of the unrest is not uniquely about age. It’s also grounded in a deep distrust of government. And even more so of bankers (Macron was at one time an investment banker at Rothschild & Co.) Some of the government’s own agencies refute Macron’s claims that the current system is doomed.

A September 2022 report by the Pensions Advisory Council (Conseil d’orientation des retraites), a state body, found the pensions system actually produced surpluses in 2021 (€900 million) and 2022 (€3.2 billion). According to the council’s estimate, “between 2023 and 2027, the pension system’s finances will reach a deficit of between 0.3 and 0.4 percent of GDP until 2032.” But the council said it estimates a gradual return to breaking even, even without reforms, beginning in the mid-2030s.

“The results of this report do not support the claim that pensions spending is out of control,” the council wrote.

“The pensions report makes it clear that the current system is not necessarily in danger,” said Michaël Zemmour, an economist and pensions expert at Paris 1 University. “It has become a form of political discourse to exaggerate and dramatize the issue, to claim that the system urgently needs to be reformed.”

Zemmour goes further to say that, in truth, it’s about getting the national deficit under 3 percent – as required of EU member states – by 2027. Macron is planning to pay for proposed tax cuts with structural reforms. “It’s not about saving the pension system,” Zemmour said, “it’s about financing tax cuts for businesses.”

Here’s a video of unruly left-wing deputies booing Elisabeth Borne in the National Assembly as she announced the 49-3 last Thursday to push through Macron’s reform.


I heard this song on the radio and it brought back a flood of memories.

Born in New Brunswick, Canada and perfectly bilingual, Roch Voisine aspired to be a professional hockey player. His musical breakthrough came with this song, Hélène, which sold three million copies and became a major hit not only in Quebec but also in France, Belgium and Switzerland.

After a highly successful European Tour in 1991, he was awarded France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, becoming the youngest artist to receive it at age 28. His second European tour culminated in Paris where he sang in front of 75,000 people. The show was broadcast live on television and reached 14 million viewers.

This clip below is from his Canadian tour. He shows remarkable sang-froid in front of the screaming mob of adoring women. Notice the absence of phones and how people can enjoy themselves without.

abortion rights to be enshrined in the French constitution

Prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court’s verdict last June to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that he backed the right to abortion in the French Constitution, a move that would send a signal of solidarity to women around the world.

My body does not belong to you!

The measure was approved with 337 lawmakers voting for and 32 against in the 557-member Assemblée Nationale.

Over 80% of the French population supports the right to abortion

“I hope the strength of this message helps us change our constitution and enshrine in it the freedom of women to seek an abortion … so that nothing can hinder nor unravel what will be irreversible,” Macron said. Alluding to the conservative Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, he referred to them as “reactionary ideologues”.

My body, my freedom, my choice.

My question is this: why are abortion rights considered solely a women’s issue? Men are involved. Families. Communities. Healthcare. Clinics. Schools.

Read my blog post dated June 2022 and listen to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s wise words –

shock and stupor – Roe v. Wade

International Women’s Day … so what?

Let’s see … how many women were killed at the start of this year – in France – by their partner or ex-partner?

26. We are only eight days into March and, already, twenty-six women have been brutally bludgeoned, stabbed, strangled, run over with a car, shot or had their throat slit. The word is Femicide: the killing of females by males because they are female. And President Macron has done nothing to eradicate or ease this problem. Two-thirds of those deaths, leaving behind traumatized orphans and broken families, could have been avoided.

On the government website, Stop the Violence, the words, L’Etat vous protège (the State protects you) are written. No, I’m sorry. The State does not protect us.

Today is International Women’s Day. So what?

Does it mean that for one day only, on March 8th, men should refrain from killing women?

Does it mean that for one day only, on March 8th, forced marriages and FGM (female genital mutilation) should cease?

Does it mean that for one day only women’s sanitary products (tampons and other products, classed as ‘luxury’ and ‘non-essential’) should not be taxed? Since when are monthly menstrual products deemed non-essential?

Does it mean that for one day women should receive a higher salary? Women earn 77.9 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Does it mean that for one day men should stop harassing women in the street, in the office and elsewhere? Women the world over face sexual and non-sexual harassment in the workplace which range from unwelcome verbal, visual, non-verbal or physical.

75% of women who find themselves subject to hostile situations in the workplace do not report their harassment for fear of being fired. People often ask “Why did the victim not report?” I did report. On more than one occasion, in well-known law firms in Paris, I found myself out on the street and unemployed for no other reason than I was harassed (one of my harassers was a female senior lawyer.) When I reported my tormenter’s actions to HR, they were utterly untrained and clueless as to how to treat harassment cases. “Just get rid of her” seemed the easiest option for those involved.

Does it mean that for one day only employers should put an end to Maternity Discrimination? The Guardian reports that over 50,000 women lose their jobs over pregnancy discrimination.

Most of the above refers to First World “advanced” nations. I shudder to think what women in Second and Third World countries go through.

Let me share with you a chilling photograph that iced women’s blood around the world, including my own. This is what patriarchy, misdirected power and misogyny look like. In other words, a horror show.

“The Trump administration rolled back important women’s rights protections with an executive order that enabled more employers and insurers to assert objections to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

from an article written by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett (The Guardian)

Look at these men. Look at them. Gathered around the most powerful man in the world – a man who has openly bragged of sexual assault, who refers to a vulva as a woman’s “wherever” – as he signs away the reproductive rights of women in developing countries. 
Nothing quite says powerlessness like the removal of your right to bodily autonomy, at the behest of a group of people who will never – can never – know what that feels like. There’s a reason women are using the word patriarchy: if you are emasculated by the notion of a woman making her own reproductive choices, then you were never much of a man to begin with.”
Y’know what chills me more than Trump himself? Trump supporters. Those who actually voted for this gangster.
I could go on. But I’m tired. My feminist sisters have been marching since the 1960s and I since the 1970s. The world is a very different place today. In many ways better, in some ways worse. Social media and smartphones have improved and also degraded our quality of life. Pornography is rampant, available to one and all.
The pornografication of girls and young women.
Young women today, misdirected and desirous to please, think it’s normal to use a filter or an app to enlarge their lips on their selfies, making them look like porn stars.
This does not look like empowerment to me. Wasn’t that the whole idea?
“Young girls and teenagers are subject to daily pressure from the media and those around them. The message sent to them is clear: they must be beautiful, sexy and sexually available. Many are thus led to believe that their only power lies in their appearance, and they will make daily efforts to achieve this model of physically perfect and sexy woman. Young women become dependent on the appreciation of others and, by the same token, very vulnerable with consequences harmful to their mental health.”
BREAKING NEWS. As I sit here typing, a woman was stabbed in the middle of the street by her companion (or ex-companion) in the city of Metz. If she dies, the number of women killed so far this year in France will rise to 27. As the year progresses, that number will not only continue to rise, but will surpass last year’s numbers. I feel it in my bones.

Saturday night. Out on the town. A terrific new restaurant.

Believe it or not, I just bought my first smartphone last week. These photos were taken with that phone. My friend invited me to this superb restaurant. Great vibe, food, décor, service. Great music too.

La Plume Rive Droite. 43 rue Étienne Marcel. 2nd arrondissement.

I am a discriminating Parisian, and I approve this restaurant.

La Plume Paris – Restaurant – Bar

Saturday mornings, coffee and the radio

I love Saturday mornings. What a luxury to sleep in an extra hour, stay in your pajamas all morning and leisurely make coffee while listening to the radio. I listen to the radio a lot, to only three stations: France Culture, France Inter and TSF Jazz. I really appreciate the quality of the debates and discussions in France. Erudite and enlightening, they cover all topics ranging from politics, movies, books and current events. On the subject of “wokism” in the USA and why the French resist it, here’s something I heard this morning on France Culture (translated by me):

The extraordinary originality of wokism is that it promises nothing; it is not a program.
It’s a kind of gigantic incrimination of the past, with no prospect for the future.
It’s based solely on incrimination – “You are guilty!”
Where is the possible ground for discussion when you are already, from the start, marked by a kind of historical guilt that you cannot shed?


Tonight I’m going to a restaurant for dinner that actually suggests a dress code: elegant. Wow, when was the last time you heard that? And when was the last time I dressed elegantly? I’ll have to rummage through the back of my closet to see what I can find. Tomorrow I’ll do a restaurant review.

For those of you living in France, there’s a three-part program tonight (on ARTE) on the destruction and reconstruction of Notre-Dame cathedral.

Notre-Dame de Paris, the site of the century (1/3)
The quest for height

On the night of April 15 to 16, 2019, fire ravaged Notre-Dame de Paris. After the terror and consolidation phase of the building, scientists, engineers and craftsmen began a spectacular work, recounted in this documentary series, for the restoration of the cathedral.



the incandescent Joni Mitchell

As a girl, Joni grew up near the wheat fields of Saskatchewan, Canada, before heading east to Toronto where she lived in a rooming house and played musical gigs in church basements and YMCA meeting halls. To pay her rent, she worked in a downtown department store in women’s wear. It was 1964, and her intention was to become a folk singer.

Just south of the border in New York City and having already made a name for himself in the coffee houses and folk clubs of Greenwich Village … and at the Newport and Monterey Folk Festivals and elsewhere, a young man was recording his fourth album in a Columbia Records studio. His name was Bob Dylan, and he was 23 years old. Eleven years later, the paths of Joni Mitchell and Dylan would cross.

1975. Here they are in Gordon Lightfoot’s house in Toronto, Dylan moodily playing guitar and Joni confidently performing her new song, Coyote.

Flawless and peerless.

For the first and only time in his life, Dylan found himself face to face with his equal. He looks quietly discombobulated. Now famous, the 31-year old Joni is in complete control. She had to be, in that male-dominated musical world. (The song, incidentally, is about Sam Shepard’s advances towards her during the Rolling Thunder Revue concert tour of 75.)

David Crosby, of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, said this about Mitchell – “She’s as good a poet as Bob, and she’s ten times the musician and singer than he is.”

Footage from “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese”

the burning of Notre-Dame cathedral – with updates

I first posted this in April 2019. I’m now reposting it with updates.


good pic notre dame burning

AFP-Getty Images

One thing I’ve always liked about the French is their discretion vis-à-vis their (Catholic) faith. I appreciate this because religion is a deeply personal matter and should, in my opinion, remain private and unobtrusive in the public sphere.

But on the morning of April 16, 2019, you could feel the raw emotion and désarroi in the air. At the office, many of my French Catholic colleagues were visibly very upset. Clusters of them gathered in corners and around espresso machines to speak of last night’s tragedy, quietly at first and then louder. Not a Catholic, I respectfully stayed at my desk and did not encroach on their space. But I listened (the office is open plan). Here’s what I heard (translated by me):

But I was there, just the day before at the same hour! I had gone to evening Mass with my mother to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Were you shaken? Mais, évidemment, c’est une catastrophe !

I watched the spire fall, and it was as if an arrow had pierced my heart.

I was coming out of the boulangerie at around 6:50 pm and I saw smoke at the end of the street. I stood paralyzed with shock. Notre Dame is in my parish, you know.

Well, I don’t believe for a second it was accidental. During the week of Easter? No, it’s too coincidental. Notre Dame? It’s a symbol of France and of Christianity. One minute it’s there, and then – poof ! – tout en flammes (up in flames.)

What are you saying, that it was a conspiracy? Yes, I think it was the Freemasons.

Have you read Naomi Klein’s book, La Stratégie du Choc? (The Shock Doctrine). She writes about conspiracies.

Who’s Naomi Klein? She’s an American author. (“No she isn’t, she’s Canadian!” I wanted to shout. But I kept my mouth shut.)

Mais c’est Victor Hugo qui l’a sauvé avec son roman! (But it was Victor Hugo who saved the cathedral with his novel!)


Later, over coffee, I asked Jean-Philippe what he meant about Victor Hugo’s novel saving Notre Dame. He explained that when Haussmann was busy transforming Paris from the mid to late 1800s, he wanted to raze Notre Dame to make room for his famous boulevards. In protestation, Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame. “Haven’t you read the book?” J-P asked me. I replied that I hadn’t. “Well, maybe you’ve seen the musical?” he insisted. “No, I hate musicals.” I replied.

And then another of my colleagues, originally from Lebanon and of Christian faith, came in wearing his habitual suit and tie. He’s a jokester by nature, and usually keeps us laughing all day. But this morning something was different. His tie was entirely black.

Je suis en deuil.’ (I’m in mourning), he said solemnly, and no one laughed.

As for me, I was sitting in a pizzeria last night while sirens wailed across the city. “I wonder what’s going on?” I said to my two friends. We were completely unaware of the catastrophe unfolding a mere mile away.


Flash forward nearly 4 years. Where are we with the reconstruction of Notre Dame?

The cathedral is scheduled to re-open sometime in 2024.

How much money was raised for the refurbishment of Notre-Dame Cathedral?

More than 845 million euros, the largest collection ever launched worldwide. There are approximately 350,000 donors from all over the world: individual donors and large companies.

Rouen. Strasbourg. Bordeaux. Versailles. Dijon. Marseille. Toulouse. Amiens, to name a few. All across the nation and in solidarity with their wounded sister in Paris, the majestic cathedrals of France rang their bells simultaneously at precisely 6:50 pm, the time that fire broke out on Monday.

today, at precisely 6:50 pm, bells rang out across the country