A Dichotomy in Terms
I’m headed back to Paris with rosy cheeks thanks to the bright Niçois sun. As of this afternoon when the TGV lands at Gare de Lyon, the sunglasses will get put away until the next time I head south as it’s rare to need them in what I lovingly and jokingly call “Gray Paree.”
There is a constant dichotomy having a home in Paris and another in Nice, being torn between the two, never wanting to give up one for the other. It’s kind of like having both a spouse and a lover. Each feeds the soul differently — and it’s easy loving them both, yet it’s not easy giving up either one while they are both vying for your attention!
On the last day I sat at a café on the Cours Saleya in the sunniest corner on the eastern end taking in the rays as long as possible up until having a dinner appointment with old friends. These friends — Americans — used to have an apartment in Paris and now are spending their free time on the Riviera instead. By coincidence, I ran into them on the port at Villefranche-sur-Mer over the weekend while we were filming a House Hunters International episode, although our dinner engagement in Nice had been planned weeks earlier.
The café “séjour” was after a brief visit with Canadian/Niçoise chef, Rosa Jackson, in her new atelier/kitchen “Les Petits Farci” located in Old Town at 12, rue Saint Joseph. “Petits farcis” is one of my favorite Niçois dishes — a traditional delicacy of roasted stuffed vegetables, from which the name of her culinary school is derived. Rosa has a variety of classes one can attend that include a market tour, hands-on cooking, lunch, making perfect “macarons” and even vegetarian and organic cooking. She has not excluded a class on wine and cheese, either! If you are in the ‘neighborhood’ and wish to brush-up on your culinary knowledge and skills, Rosa is the person to know. Visit her site to learn more or email her at [email protected] and be sure to let her know I sent you!
On route from Rosa’s to the Cours Saleya, I took the rue Benoît-Bunico for one very specific reason — to see the building in which the 18th-century Jewish community of Nice had a synagogue at number 18. It was part of the ghetto then along with rue Rossetti and rue de la Loge from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution. In 1848, the ghetto restrictions of locking the gates to the street at either end were lifted as part of the constitution granted by Charles Albert and in 1885, permission was granted to build a new synagogue where there was once a famous theater. This was a part of Niçois history I had overlooked until now.
Nice is experiencing the same youth-led protest movement as Paris known as “La Nuit Debout” (or “Up All Night”), camped out at Place Garabaldi. I walked right through it somewhat unaware after seeing a movie at the Mercury Theater until realizing the picnicking kids were doing more than just that. The sit-in movement that began at Place de la République in Paris on March 31st has gained momentum very rapidly evidenced by its adjunct in Nice, as well as reports of camps in Brussels, Liege, Berlin, Madrid and Barcelona.
The funny thing is that the protestors have no real goal or purpose, so say the press, and the government is at a loss as to what to do about it. As long as the protestors pack up every morning, they are allowed to camp out overnight. The organizers are mostly students and anti-capitalist groups sparked by a recent labor reform bill — the “Loi Travail,” or the “El Khomri Law” — aimed at making the labor laws more flexible for companies to hire and fire.
An online petition against it hit the million-signature mark (an all time record) and that was only the beginning. Meanwhile, Le Monde, university professors, researchers and 2014 Nobel Prize laureate Jean Tirole defended the law as an effort to reduce high unemployment figures…and this is where a dichotomic capitalist/socialist like me gets crazy.
The protestors don’t realize how they are, in effect, hurting themselves in the long run. Without these reforms, France will continue to suffer economic woes and the youth won’t have jobs at all much less those that are less secure. Coming from the land where it’s easy to hire and fire at the drop of a hat and where unemployment is at 5% compared to France at 10.3%, they have zero to complain about. On top of that, France has one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurs/self-employed compared to other countries (for a lot of different reasons)…so where do they think their jobs are going to come from?
I can’t speak for all Americans living in France, but it seems that the general consensus from those of us who have experienced the assets and liabilities of both systems — capitalist vs socialist — understand better how to balance the two to make it work for all — at least we think so. There is no question that many of the socialist ideas are the reasons we’re here at all and have come to enjoy the benefits — such as the national health care program, free quality education for our children, top notch transportation and infrastructure and even the publicly supported cultural programs that are lacking in the capitalist system. On the other hand, those of us who wish to be entrepreneurial know how difficult and near-to-impossible it is to be creative, productive and profitable while under the restraints of these very labor laws they are trying to reform.
It’s all just a dichotomy in terms.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t miss the FREE American Expat Seminar in Paris April 21, with guests Brian Dunhill & me! Details and sign-up on our Events page. Sign up today