|Copé - Sarkozy - Fillon|
In response to a Twitter storm of protest the former First Lady said that her words were taken out of context.
"My phrase was clumsy and should have read: I myself have never been an active feminist. [...] I admire the courage of those women who continue the fight today, but I have decided to commit myself elsewhere."
Gérard Depardieu, the well-known French actor, is France's latest tax fugitive. He has bought a house in the small town of Néchin in Belgium, barely one kilometer from the French border, where 25% of the population is already French. Depardieu, who owns a wine chateau in the Loire Valley, three Paris restaurants, a fish shop, a motorcycle concession, and vineyards in various other countries including Argentina, will be joining such other wealthy French tax exiles as the owners of the Auchon and Carrefour supermarket chains.
Ever since President Hollande announced his tax hike on the rich in France (75% on earnings over one million euros), Belgium has become a favorite refuge.
The amount of the rescue package could be as high as €17.5 billion, nearly the country's entire economy, but the final amount will be discussed by the European finance ministers on December 13th following the publication of a report with a preliminary assessment of the Cypriot banks' recapitalization needs. Juncker also announced that he will retire as president of the Eurogroup at the end of this year.
Le Bleuet, that since its foundation in 1990 has grown into a huge success with an estimated turnover this year of €2.4 million (well over $3 million)! Last month it opened a website for online sales, to be managed from its own ultra-modern warehouse in the village, which is expected to bring total sales to €4.5 million in 2013. Its visionary founder and owner, Joël Gattefossé, has been nominated to receive the prestigious Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres early next year.
|Joël Gattefossé, Owner of Le Bleuet|
Nevertheless, every year some bookstores close, but others are still opening, which fans my hopes that booksellers in France may still have some good days ahead of them.
He has moved out of his wife's home, has opened an international consulting business, and according to the French tabloid press has a new woman in his life. In September he was photographed on a Corsican holiday with Myriam L'Aouffir, 45, a Moroccan-born Frenchwoman who works for a French television station in Paris. Strauss-Kahn has filed complaints for invasion of privacy against three gossip magazines who ran a picture of him and Myriam on their covers. Since then the couple has been seen together in Jerusalem and just last week they were spotted in Venice.
Italian Premier Mario Monti who since his appointment in November 2011 has managed to bring the country back from the fiscal brink, has announced he will resign as soon as the Parliament passes his budget bill, expected before the end of this year. He said he can no longer govern because he has lost the crucial support of Berlusconi's party, the biggest in Parliament. Monti, former European Commissioner and respected economist, introduced cuts in public spending, higher taxes and pension reform "to avoid the fate of Greece". It is feared that his early departure may lead to a downgrade of Italy's credit rating and to increased instability in the eurozone.
|Silvio Berlusconi and Mario Monti|
Silvio Berlusconi, who was forced to resign in November 2011 after a parliamentary revolt and pressure from financial markets, and who was recently convicted of fraud by a Milan court and sentenced to a four-year prison term and a five-year ban on holding public office, has just announced that he will run again for the premiership in the upcoming election, possibly as early as February 2013. He has appealed this latest conviction, which effectively postpones the application of the sentence through two levels of appeal during which time he is free to return to politics. He has also announced that he disagrees with Monti's austerity measures which he considers to be ineffective.
The contrast between Monti and Berlusconi could not be greater. Monti: professor of economics, sober technocrat, staunch catholic, model of responsibility. Berlusconi: womanizer, aging playboy, populist politician who during three earlier premierships managed to introduce several laws to suit himself in his many legal battles. Even today he is awaiting judgment in his trial for teenage prostitution and abuse of power, and the outcome of appeals in other cases. Yet, when he announced his candidacy for a fourth term, Berlusconi said he is running "out of a sense of responsibility to Italy". Of course, a win would guarantee him immunity from prosecution during his term of office - which seems a more likely, though less lofty, motivation.
|Jakubyszyn and Bouilhayguet|
For all the vaunted quality of life in France, I miss the Anglo-Saxon yuletide magic: Christmas carols, beautiful natural greenery in garlands wrapped around lampposts and strung around store windows, wreaths on every door, stockings by the fireplace, halls decked with boughs of holly... fa la la ... Yes, it's warm and fuzzy and oh so appealing -- as are the smells of Christmas that are lacking here: logs burning, mulled wine, cinnamon, roasted chestnuts, dried oranges studded with cloves, eggnog in a bowl. I miss it.
Southern Europe has its own way of marking Christmas, with all the commercial aspects of the USA but without the coziness. Big Christmas markets like those in Strasbourg and Madrid are popular events that draw huge crowds, and some 50 chalets along the Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence are a smaller version of same. But it is hard to get into the Christmas mood with the large children's fair that overwhelms the quiet Cours with its bumper cars, choo-choo trains, bungi cords, merry-go-rounds full of bells and whistles, stands of churros and cotton candy, and too many loudspeaker announcements -- for seven long weeks! No respite until Christmas Day when the noise makes way for the deeply sonorous bells ringing from many churches, as people gather around a sumptuous repas de Noël, and a sense of calm and serenity finally descends on this old city.
Aix's decorations are more tinsel than tannenbaum. Of course, it cannot compete with the splendid Christmas lights of Madrid, or with the opulent decorations of department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue or Harrods or Galeries Lafayette and their wonderful window displays that cast a spell on young and old as they tell their enchanting stories.
crèche provençale of hand-carved figurines, called santons*, representing a village population of baker, miller, innkeeper, mayor with tricolor sash, peasants carrying baskets of fruit or fowl, a shepherd with his dog and a flock of sheep - all in traditional Provençal dress walking through a local landscape on their way to the manger. These local nativity scenes can be quite large and are usually on display in churches. During the holidays a favorite pastime for families with children is to go and see the crèches provençales.
|Santons with offerings|
Another local tradition is Les Treize Desserts de Noël, a bounty of thirteen desserts symbolizing Christ and his twelve apostles. They are:
|Les 13 desserts de Noël|
Gibassié (a dry olive-oil and orange-zest cake to be dipped in sweet wine), black and white nougat, dried figs, raisins, nuts and almonds, white grapes, green winter mellon, quince paste, dates, mandarins, and calissons, the traditional sweets from Aix-en-Provence.
(*) For more about Santons and Christmas traditions in Provence, see the chapter "Christmas in Provence" in my book Taking Root in Provence. Click here