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French word of the day: La banlieue
#PARISFOMO and other stories from France
So it has been a few weeks since my last newsletter, and I apologize, things have been a bit crazy because: (drumroll) I moved!
No you don't have to change your internet bookmarks, Snippets of Paris will remain the same, but we are saying goodbye to cramped apartment life and moving to have more space in 'la campagne', aka the countryside.
Fresh air, less road construction, better schools, we’ve been looking to make this happen for ages now, and only now managed to thread the needle of moving before the start of the next school year in September. (I have moved countries before but in this case I have been defeated by a move of 30km-with-children-in-tow. Undoubtedly my worst logistically planned move ever with missing boxes, last minute delays, and a general panic to get everything sorted before the movers go on holiday.)
But I will confess when I said we moved to la “la campagne”, it is not quite countryside, since we are only about 40 minutes or so outside the city. However there does seem to be a giant snail invasion in my new 'hood, which is pretty countryside-ish for a city-dweller like me.
I suppose it could more accurately be called "the suburbs", but in french the translation is "la banlieue" which has a connotation all of its own… Which is probably quite on topic given all that has been going on in France over the past few weeks.
You may have seen it on the news as it made international headlines. Basically to summarize, protests and riots broke out in all across France, after the shooting of a 17-year-old named Nahel, a teen who tried to drive away from the police in a rented luxury Mercedes without a license.
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With even superstar French footballer Kylian Mbappé speaking out, shops, schools, and government property in various banlieues were attacked and burnt to the ground to protest against police brutality.
In French, there is a negative connotation to the word "banlieue" and "banlieusard" in French that there simply isn't in English with the word "suburbanite". They are presumed to be poor, filled with buildings of ugly subsidized housing.
One of the main reasons for the larger than necessary impact of the word "banlieue" is that the postcode where you are born is asked for on just about every French document.
And if you are born in one of the Parisian banlieues, the "93" la Seine Saint Denis considered the poorest department in France, the stigma of 'being born poor' tends show up in the oddest of places. Does it really matter where a person 'is from'?
Anyway after all that, Bastille day celebrations in July were held across the country under high security, not the least of which were due the Bastille 2016 attacks in the city of Nice, and all those retirement protests earlier in the year.
And to be clear none of this is great for the upcoming Olympics. For now, an uneasy calm has descended around the country, with most people on their annual summer holidays.
Me on the other hand, I'm building flat packs and trying to figure out in which box I put the printer paper in, while wrangling kids on summer holidays. So here's to embracing 'the banlieue', while trying not to crush any(more) snails. Bon été!
In other news:
The original trendsetter when it comes to "French girl style", the English-born Jane Birkin has died at the age of 76. The one-time partner of legendary musician Serge Gainsbourg, Birkin was also the inspiration for the French fashion house Hermes' Birkin bag. Everyone from Le Monde, the NYT and BBC covered the loss of this very French transplanted icon.
The Conseil de l'Union Européenne almost started a war this week by claiming that Mont Saint Michel was in the French region of Brittany rather than Normandy. This sort of stuff is taken very seriously, you know.
It was India's turn on the Champs Elysées this 14 Juillet (Bastille day), as PM Modi was French President Macron's guest of honor for the big military celebrations. (Note, you too can be a guest of honor if you choose to purchase 26 French Rafale fighter jets and 3 submarines. And as a special limited time offer, Macron will even throw in the Legion of Honor. Bargain!)
And new in the blog:
Enjoy the best quotes French travel quotes, for those who love adventure and to explore the unknown with a heart wide open.
Get the lyrics and translation of the famous song La Vie en Rose that was originally sung by Edith Piaf, along with its history and meaning.
Get the recipe for this delicious cauliflower egg bake that makes a delicious breakfast or side dish casserole any time of the day.