Faire La Grève

Faire la grève /gʀɛv/ feminine noun*: 1. to be on strike (the official translation), 2. to be French (my own translation)

La grève quickly becomes a common phenomenon once you’ve been in Paris for more than 1 month. You can see how often the French go on strike. Last week the whole country went on strike against the proposed retirement reforms. The government is threatening to increase the retirement age from the current 60 years to 62 years. 2 extra years of work while for the rest of the word retirement still stands at 65. Furthermore, they stopped over half of the traffic. In order to show the Man the French are serious, the Parisian transport system, RATP, stopped a huge number of metros and RERs making it difficult to go to most places. So what is there left to do…well join la grève [actually, technically what we joined is la manifestion – which are the demonstrations where people go out and have a big carnival and parade. la grève are the strikes – where people don’t go to work and disturb the functioning of everyday life]. And that is exactly what S and I decided to do (though I heard somewhere this is not allowed/illegal – so we didn’t join in the protest, merely just followed the people…from a “distance”).

It all starts from République to Bastille and ends in Nation. We caught the human train from la Bastille, appropriate considering the significance of the site played during the French Revolution. In fact, most demonstrations from the left (French politics) all follow this very traditional route.

Clearly you can tell we belong and fit in.

Mleh, I’m not even going to pretend

That’s S showing her passion for the injustice against old people, who refuse to retire 3 years before all other old people in developed nations. Well, at least the Frenchman behind her looks impressed by her enthusiasm. OMG I love the juxtaposition and irony of this photo. Plus the creepy dude in the back with a surgeon mask and hat on.

Did I mention, a bunch of the protesters were young people my age? Either they really care about retirement, or they’re just getting out of school/work. Don’t blame them, the grève experience is a lot of fun. People are dancing and singing down the street like a big parade. It was a great time.

This was hilarious!

Longest line out of a bakery I’ve ever seen in my life. No kidding.

While people protest for their rights, businesses gotta be making money. That’s just life. Plus, a good protest makes the people hungry.

As if the whole experience wasn’t enough, the highlight of my day…seeing this picture. It’s a bunch of kids, and adults who should know better, with a sign saying “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité“. This is the official French motto, meaning Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. But the best part, it’s a bunch of kids protesting at a retirement demonstration in front of a statue of a woman who represents Liberty? with a red and yellow flag that looks like the former Soviet Union’s flag with the hammer and sickle.

Needless to say, I was laughing the whole way home.

There’s is another grève predicted for next Thursday. Again. That’s the 2nd in 3 weeks. Makes sense, La Grève in France is like a bloody carnival & the French get the day off work. I would throw a protest too  if it allowed me to get so much time off work every week so I could to have fun with the people, singing and dancing down the street. Retirement, salary, health care, French body odour and chaffing from overly tight jeans. Seriously, I’d protest it all.

* Thanks WordReference! You’re always there for me during last minute cram sessions before midterms!


Le Fabuleux Destin de Montmartre

Spent the morning with our wonderful guide M in Montmartre. M is amazing. He is so knowledgeable and conducts the tours all in French. As this is difficult for us to understand, he somehow uses just the right vocabulary so it feels almost effortless to understand everything he says. And the best part is, all the commentary is very interesting so I want to listen. Because whenever I start to tune out, I understand nothing because at this point my french is at the level where if I don’t concentrate hard to understand, I block everything out.

Anyway let’s get  on to the highlights of Montmartre.

Those of who you have watched the film Amélie will know a lot of it was shot in Montmartre. This little market/dairy is in the beginning when you see Amélie sink her hand into a bag of grain (one of her favourite things to do). Everybody’s (mine, and maybe J’s) stomach went a flutter with butterflies when we first saw the shop and recognized it from the movie.

We passed by 2 interesting statues.

The first, was the statue of Dalida, well her bust actually, quite fittingly. She was a famous French popstar, a real DIVA apparently. She was Italian and Egyptian, maybe even had some gypsy blood in her. Very wild and had an interesting voice. Sadly came to a tragic end.The second statue is of the “man in the wall” from the famous short story by Marcel Aymé, called Le Passe-Muraill (The Walker-Through-Walls). It’s about a man who finds a hidden talent one day; he discovers he can walk through walls. Sadly, like mainly other French stories, the end is not happy. But I’ll leave you to find out what happens. Quite interesting actually.

Cute little Montmartre house.

Passed by le Sacre Coeur but didn’t have time to go in. Obvious, due to the fact that somehow I had only taken a photo of half the church (insanely dumb, but whatever). Next time I’ll try to give a bit more detail about this magnificent church.

Ended the tour with lunch at the café Amélie works in. It’s called, le Café des deux Moulins, which translates to, the Two Windmill Café.

Interesting fact. The reason there are so many “moulins” mentioned in Montmartre, such as the cafe and Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill) is because Montmartre is a high and steep hill. So the whole hill before it became urbanised and a suburb, used to have windmills to grind flour and all those helpful things that windmills do (provide electricity? I doubt it there though). So that’s why there are so many mentions, moulin this moulin that. Funnily enough Moulin Rouge was never a real windmill that was turned into a cabaret bar. The windmill build there is fake and just used for decoration.

Now I’m going to be honest, it was amazing because I recognized so much of it. But also creepy. You’ll see what I mean…

This have this creepy looking shrine dedicated to the film in the bathrooms. Such a weird place to put it. And unexpected. So you know when I’m going to the bathroom, it’s right there and I think…um interesting. Nice to know.

And of course the famous sign. How could I not get a photo?? For those of you who have seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about!

The façade of the café.

The profile side of the café where there isn’t a big, obnoxious white van blocking the view.

And of course, finished off by Mr. Gnome.