Jun 14, 2016

Three Strikes: A Filetta


Beware if you're flying in to France that some of the airport traffic is interrupted because the airport traffic controllers have been striking. And, occasionally, airline staff. Once you get there, beware, because some of the RER, RATP, Parisian metro routes, and national trains are interrupted because the workers are striking. And when (if) you finally get into Paris, hold your nose, because I'll give you one guess who else is striking...

Paris definitely feels less like the most beautiful city in the world when there's a massive garbage strike. If the weather gets much hotter, it will also smell less like the most beautiful city in the world.

In the immortal words of my paternal grandfather, Al, "You seen one trash pile, you seen 'em all." But I'm not content to just show you one, because that fails to give you the scope of it. Walking around Paris, you just see block after block with overflowing, uncollected green bins. It's disheartening.


And it's getting worse. Here's the same view, a few days apart.

Anthony needs to get to the Eurostar to take the train to London. He takes the metro and tries to change to the RER, but it is cancelled for an hour and a half due to strikes, so he looks into buses and cabs, but both would be too slow due to traffic (because, of course, the metros are not reliable at the moment). So he finds a motorcycle taxi, put on the helmet, and tells the guy to get him to the Gare du Nord pronto. This involves driving in bus lanes, splitting lanes, popping out into the oncoming traffic lane, and, once, going the wrong direction down a bus lane. At one point in a mellower moment, the driver starts texting and driving one-handed, which scares even Anthony. Anthony makes it with just 5 minutes to spare, with a strange 70€ charge for his expense report, and, more importantly, alive. And while the train does leave on time, there is a slow-down because of rain, and he arrives in London an hour late. That's just par for the course these days.

Between the strikes and the protests (which have been numerous, constant, ubiquitous, and substantial), I have had to skip three different dance classes, when just getting there was going to be such a hassle and take so long, I would barely have had time to dance. Sure, I could leave home earlier, but the problem is these things take me a little by surprise. Like my route being barred by an endless parade of motorcycle protesters. What was the protest about? Who knows. I just can't keep up with who is striking or protesting where, why, or when.

Anthony's metro line to work has, mercifully, mostly been normal. And, thankfully, we live central enough that the girls and I can walk or scoot most places. And we do (but when we can't, and don't, we run into more problems than usual). At this point -- and especially now that spring weather has finally come to Paris after one of the rainiest, coldest Mays in history -- I won't even take transportation for anything under a 40 minute walk. Sure, I could take a bike, but I like walking because otherwise I have to keep stopping to get off my bike and take photographs. Of the enormous garbage piles.

And now, of course, on top of it all, the Euro 2016 soccer (that's football to most of you) tournament is going on here in Paris and all around France as well. With the ever-present threat of terrorism hanging over our heads.

According to a local English-language news source (called "The Local"), "Potentially the worst day for strikes will be Tuesday June 14th when unions opposed to the labour reforms have called for nationwide walk-outs and street protests."

Three strikes? It's more like three strikes, plus a few more thrown in for good measure, a bunch of protests, some demonstrations, a threat of terrorism, a huge soccer tournament, garbage everywhere, and let's not forget some historic floods in the mix. Are we having fun yet?


A Filetta is a semi-soft cheese that is usually made from pasteurized sheeps' milk. I say "usually" because you can also, sometimes, find a goats' milk version, and you may even be able to find a raw milk version, if you're lucky. No matter which kind you find, it's generally an artisanal cheese made at one of several small farms and fromageries in Corsica, including one actually named A Filetta. The word "filetta" means "fern leaf" which always decorates this (and several other kinds of local) cheese and is a symbol of Corsican pride.

The sheep graze on the local scrubland, also called maquis, and there is something of the dusty, dry, sunny, hot, prickly, flowery taste of the terrain that comes through in the milk and the cheese. It's got a sweet side, while at the same time being a pungent, stinky cheese.

It's washed with salt water during the 4-6 week aging process, made sometime between mid-October and the end of June. It's often recommended to be eaten with fig jam, though it's nice and creamy on its own, too. You do eat the sticky orange crust, coated with something similar to sweaty-feet fungus, but you do not eat the leaf.


The alternate title for this posting was "Paris Stinks" -- literally because of the garbage (and sewage coming up from the flooded system) and metaphorically because of the ongoing various strikes. And protests. So, without hesitation, I knew that the cheese chosen for this story should be a really pungent stinker.

The other alternate title for this posting was "Going Nowhere, Fast" -- because the garbage and metros are doing just that. So I like that the cheese name reminds me of the word "filer", which is used to mean "to hurry up and leave" as in "I can't stay for the cheese course, je dois filer." (By the way, this is something you will probably never hear me say.)

It doesn't hurt that the sticky, stinky mess of a cheese has a leaf stuck on it, looking for all the world like a little detritus (a word I only just learned how to pronounce correctly. Did you know it's de-TRY-tus and not DET-rit-us?!) to hammer home the garbage connection. Also, I like (for blog purposes) the fact that it generally comes wrapped in plastic which ends up with a goopy, viscous layer on it that looks quite similar to what's going on at the garbage cans on the sidewalks. [In all fairness, between writing and publishing this, the garbage strikes have, mercifully, just ended. However, there's still an inordinate amount of garbage flying around the streets that got released into the wild when the garbage workers were on strike.]


  1. I enjoyed how you connected the cheese to the strike and the garbage strike. Hopefully, the cheese will not read your blog.

    1. Luckily, I don't the A Filetta checks on line too often. But it's very nice of you to be concerned for the cheese's feelings.

  2. Really love your blog - and the garbage stink - stinky cheese connection - lol.


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