The French President and the Green Fairy

François Mitterrand was in trouble. Elected president two years earlier on the promise of a “French road to socialism,” things had not gone as planned. Perhaps he had gone too far, too fast, but within a year the French franc had collapsed and he was forced to make a U-turn. Then came an austerity program, and his popularity plunged.

Mitterrand decided to do what many unpopular politicians do: go on a foreign junket. He could strut about the world stage, show presidential leadership, and generally try to change the subject.

He picked neighboring Switzerland as his destination. It would be the first state visit by a French president in nearly 75 years—a nice way to capture headlines. And Switzerland being such a calm and safe country, what could possibly go wrong?

Enter absinthe, the drink nicknamed “the green fairy” that had long been banned, blamed for making people like Vincent van Gogh go insane. Find out how this illegal drink was at the center of an international scandal in calm little Switzerland.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

Emmanuel Macron and the 11 Dwarfs

France will elect its president next month, with a dozen candidates running, and incumbent Emmanuel Macron is the big favorite to win. He has surged in the polls, and his lead is now bigger than anyone since Charles de Gaulle in 1965!

How did this happen and who are his main challengers? For a taste of French politics, I’ve put together a short overview of the race.

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Who Will be the Next President of France?

France will vote for its next president in the spring, and it’s an especially important election. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has dominated European politics for years, and her upcoming retirement leaves a leadership gap just waiting to be filled. The next French president might well take over as leader of Europe

A new poll shows President Macron leading the field, but there are three other candidates with a real chance of winning. One is a mainstream Républicain, one leads France’s anti-immigrant party, and one is called “the French Trump.” The result of the election could have a big impact on France, Europe, and the world.

Who are these candidates and what might happen? Read all about it in Frenchly!


The Five Republics of France

You may have heard of the “Fifth Republic of France” and wondered what it meant. Hasn’t France been a republic since long ago, back when they stormed the Bastille and all? Well, yes and no.

After King Louis XVI lost his head, a republic was indeed proclaimed – a rather bloody one. It didn’t last long and today is referred to as the First Republic. It was followed by a series of governments – empires, monarchies, and more republics, all the way up to today’s Fifth Republic. There were plenty of crises along the way, a coup or two, and more prime ministers than you can shake a stick at.

There’s never a dull moment when it comes to French politics! Enjoy a fun little history lesson and learn about the five republics of France in The Good Life France.

Reflections on the Revolution in France

The gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement exploded across France last November.

Thousands of people gathered each week to block traffic and protest against the government. Driven by social media and seemingly leaderless, this protest was unlike any in living memory. And it definitely took the government by surprise.

I wondered what French people thought about this whole gilets jaunes business, so I asked some. Their answers might surprise you.

Read all about it at My French Life!

Those Crazy French Political Parties

In most countries, it’s hard for a political party to get on the ballot, but not so in France. In fact, a whopping 34 different parties were on the ballot in the recent election for the European Parliament. And not all of them are what you would call mainstream.

Do you love pirates? Does the “universal language” of Esperanto set your heart aflutter? Do you think it’s time to dispense with this democracy nonsense and bring back the King? Then France has a political party for you!

Read all about it in Frenchly!

Literature Meets French Politics

When you think of politicians, you don’t often think of literature. Yes, there are famous examples like Winston Churchill and Barack Obama, but those are exceptions. Most politicians are much more comfortable with a white paper in their hands than a copy of Pride and Prejudice.

Which makes former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls so interesting. He is fluent in four languages and reads in all of them. He was recently interviewed about the role that literature has played in both his personal and professional life–fascinating!

You can read my article about the interview at My French Life.

“Paris was not itself!”

This month marks the 50th anniversary of May, 1968, when strikes and student protests nearly brought down the French government. I recently talked to three people who participated in or lived through these tumultuous times about their experiences. At the time, one was a French university student, another a French factory worker, and the third an American grad student doing research for his PhD. Their three different perspectives are fascinating.

You can read the entire article at Frenchly.