Friday, 29 October 2010
Last weekend, some friends and I managed to defy the petrol crisis and make it all the way to the mountains without having to get out and push the car once. We also managed to get back again safely, but I would have been completely happy to stay. Forever.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
when teenagers in a town a few kilometres down the road are tear-gassed by the police after throwing bricks at the windows of their schools and Molotov cocktails at cars, it becomes hard to ignore.
I didn’t want to write about the strikes because they happen so often in
But as the effects of the current strike encroach ever-further on my back yard (and as people at home keep asking me about it!), I’ve been motivated to do a little bit of research (aka ask some friends) about what it’s really about. This is what I’ve found out so far:
The main feature of the reforms is that the minimum retirement age in
The people who go on to further education therefore feel that they are being penalised.
The people who started work at 16 are complaining that they already work more years than anybody else and are now being told to work even longer.
These people are also cross because pensions in
The people who get promoted to superior positions with higher salaries are cross because “final salary” used to mean the average of the final ten years but this is being extended to the last twenty years.
None of this, as you may have noticed, is actually caused by the raising of the retirement age. All of these “injustices” were present in the system already.
For comparison, in the
Now, I can understand why if I were approaching retirement age, had just learned that I would have to work for an extra two years and was extremely selfish, I might feel like striking against the French government’s reforms. Admittedly in a country with the best healthcare and one of the longest life expectancies in the world, these baby-boomers are quite clearly throwing the toys out of their luxury pram, but they got their thrills in ’68 and have apparently never experienced anything quite so memorable since, so at least their actions kind of make sense.
What I really don’t understand, though, is the school pupils who are destroying the fabric of society that is there to support them in the name of opposing reforms which, if successfully blocked, will allow the toy-throwers an endless life of ease, while the young pay ever-higher contributions in ever-lower paid jobs to support them. The fact that this is in any way seen as reasonable behaviour is a sign of a society that has become so blinded by its destructive way of operating that it doesn’t realise that, by opposing its government and vandalising its infrastructure, is actually destroying itself.
Anyway, having got that out of my system, I think I’ll go off and appreciate an evening of cuisine, conversation and culture in a country that is otherwise a very nice place to live in!
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Much as I love Paris in many ways, I'm not really a big-city girl. Deep down inside of me is a little girl who grew up in a country where the entire population is a lot lower than that of the world's great metropolises, in a capital city where fields, hills and beaches are never more than a short bus ride away. Part of surviving Paris, for me, is therefore finding as many opportunities and places to escape to as possible, and I was delighted to discover the other weekend that Burgundy fits the bill perfectly. We went to the town of Vézelay, two hours' drive from Paris, to walk in the countryside, taste the wine and visit the beautiful medieval buildings.
I had only ever seen the region from the motorway before, so I was surprised to find out that the seeminly endless landscape contains deep river valleys, lush greenery and interesting towns nestled among the rolling hills. The town of Vézelay itself is dominated by its basilica, perched on a high cliff overlooking the surrounding countryside. The backbone of the town stretches down the hill behind, with old, old buildings and as much French tradition as you could expect to find in one place.
In the afternoon, we went for a walk along the river, following the GR which leads to Avallon. We had also booked a wine tasting and were much amused by the fact that when the wines were described as made “in the traditional way” this actually meant that they were full of chemicals, unlike the organic versions which were also being sold. I wasn’t hugely impressed by any of them, so I just bought one bottle, of Melon, a rare variety of wine that is only produced in that region and also got a couple of pots of local honey.
As with most holidays in France, the food was definitely a highlight of the trip. Burgundy is the home of escargots and boeuf bourgignon, as well as producing some of the country's best wines (with or without chemical help!). The restaurant where we ate on Saturday night was called L’Auberge de la Coquille. It was situated right in the heart of the old town and the food was wonderful. For 19 euros, we had a four course meal that included: snails in garlic butter with parsley, meat in Bourgignon sauce for main course, a generous slice of gloriously runny cheese and a delicious sorbet with cassis to finish, all washed down with Irancy wine.
We were also amazed by just how friendly everybody we met in
l arrived back in Paris very late on Sunday night desperate to get out and do it all again, so it's definitely good to know that, when I need to escape Paris next time, Burgundy is just down the road!