23 Things in 2023
Paris life, news, controversies, & reflections
I haven’t published one of these newsy newsletters in a while for obvious reasons — the biggest and most all-encompassing stories of the last two months have absolutely not come out of France.
But within the last month, there have been revelations, predictions, and unfolding news stories that shouldn’t be missed as they impact the future of France. I’ve also included some purely fun, uplifting and edifying stories because, obviously, we need them, and furthermore, they get far less traction than the emotionally-charged news items that keep us locked in a despair loop (thanks, social media algorithms!).
In the spirit of reflecting on a closing year, you’ll find these stories peppered into a list of 23 things, thoughts, and realizations.
It’s worth taking risks. Maybe it was a moderate risk to begin with but people on the internet have proven to be wretched so I couldn’t be sure exposing my vulnerability wouldn’t be met with nastiness. The opposite, thankfully, happened. A weight was lifted.
Getting a French driver’s license as an adult is more stressful than it should be. Definitely in the top 3 worst things I’ve had to do in 17 years in France.
Related: Now that I have it, I can cruise through France. Unlocked another side of life!
It isn’t just my / your imagination: there is more and more fast food and the French love it. Krispy Kreme! Popeyes! Oof. The over-earnest reporting around it in English-language media, however, is nothing new. (In fact, it appears that the first American-style hamburger was introduced to the French in 1961 at Wimpy—11 years before McDonalds entered the scene).
Macron still sucks. Let’s stop calling him a centrist, shall we? He’s not. This year alone, we’ve had pension reform and this controversial immigration bill. And he’s also been terrible for women’s issues, despite his recent claims of irreproachability regarding equality and violence against women.
Manhunt: what many men in France, including our cher President, are still labelling calls for sexual predators (in this case, Gerard Depardieu) to be held to account.
The Olympics are like that friend coming to visit that has over ambitious plans, doesn’t listen to feedback, and is determined to do all of the things.
Follow up thought: Why do cities insist on hosting the Olympics? I support athletic pursuits— I am truly admirative of what humans can do. But is an event that displaces residents and radically alters or impedes business operations and encourages officials to cover up homelessness, addiction, migrants, and incomplete urban renewal projects the right format? Last thing on this: hotels, including some 3-star properties, will raise room rates by 226% on average during the opening ceremony.
2023 gets credit for delivering some of the best dining experiences I’ve had in the city. Kubri. Pizzamarole at Le Rigmarole. Bistrot des Tournelles. Alluma, particularly at brunch (urge them to make the brunch a regular feature!). Domaine les Bruyères (2 fois). Le Doyenné. Fulgurances.
See also, some of the top 25 dishes in Paris, a piece I worked on with a few other writers.
Sure, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon was lousy for its historical inaccuracies, casting (not for their talent but for their ages) but especially for an absence: “the genocidal war to restore slavery that Bonaparte waged against Black revolutionaries in the French colony of Saint-Domingue – what’s known as Haiti today.” Read Professor Marlene Daut on the topic.
My thoughts on cancelling trips due to strikes in Paris as of March 31, when there were still mountains of trash: Striking and demonstrating are part of the bedrock of French culture which means there’s never a guarantee that a strike won’t occur at a later time. Might as well come!
My thoughts on cancelling trips due to bedbugs as of summer 2023: If you’ve been to NYC or London or any other major capital and are reluctant to visit due to media sensationalism (bedbugs didn’t just discover Paris, France), you might want to ask yourself why. The same techniques you’d use for navigating those cities apply here. Voila, c’est tout. Am I maybe avoiding Paris cinemas where there have been recent reports (and where it appears the strategy is to treat the seat and not the entire room)? Peut être. But in truth, I prefer watching films at home so…
As the wife of an invader hunter, this long-awaited profile by Lauren Collins of the mysterious man behind the square tiles was downright fascinating.
This year, I was a jury member on the Design Parade interior architecture prize with some of the most phenomenal talents in design, fashion, and the literary arts. As I’ve said before, writing books doesn’t fill your bank account but it does lead to interesting and unexpected opportunities. This was one of them.
Humans don’t learn. See: pandemic, war, violence, hate.
The disinformation circulating on social media is absolutely staggering. People who insist that social platforms are *the* most important places to stand in solidarity or express activism would be better served having discussions offline where nuance is more possible.
Friendship is vital. Challenging at times, but vital. Some people have showed up this year, others haven’t. It’s completely appropriate to make adjustments in your life as a result.
Taking risks bis: It was a bit of a departure to run a two episode deep dive on fashion, colonialism and climate on my podcast but I’m so glad I did. It was one of the most fulfilling projects I worked on this year! (Listen: Part I / Part II). And I wish I could have incorporated this video into the mix— it was released after I published my series (thanks for sharing, Marisa!). I highly recommend giving it a watch.
I loved this look at the ever-evolving nature of language through the lens of French spoken by Africans.
We must continue to seek out the light.
This really spoke to me. Carrying the same wish for change on a cellular level into 2024.
Thank you for joining me here this year! I’m grateful for your readership and support.