‘New look’ and ongoing friendship

Two women are true leaders in their profession, and this is a venue where men would traditionally take centre stage. Gender parity is indeed the ‘new look’.

Mrs Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mrs Véronique Debieuvre, President of Bienvenue en France, kindly sent out invitations to the Bienvenue en France reception which was held at the Quai d’Orsay. Ms Anne-Marie Descôtes gave the welcome speech.

Our organisation’s President Véronique Debieuvre, and our founding President Marie-Thérèse François-Poncet, are key representatives of our organisation that was and will continue to be led by women. Let’s not mince our words: Bienvenue is indeed a precursor when it comes to equal opportunities for men and women in the work place. The Ministry is grateful for this, and our president Véronique Debieuvre emphasised how closely connected and united Bienvenue and the Quai d’Orsay are with one another. She also thanked the MEAE "for its support throughout the year and especially today at this reception event. Our international friends always appreciate this as an honour, and perhaps even more so as a sign of friendship bringing us together on this special evening."

The ladies who hosted this event, as well as our greater family of volunteers, were surrounding the guests, always with care and a smile. This was indeed a time to be re-united after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, and in fact these ladies’ friendships were still going strong throughout that time. They had kept in in touch via video calls, and now they were guiding them in person, also welcoming new members.

These beautiful women were dressed in kimonos, or traditional outfits from the Middle East, Latin America and even Europe. Together with their partners, they could enjoy the superb surrounds of these gilded and historic salons. A sense of welcoming, sharing and conviviality are in Bienvenue’s DNA. Hospitality and joie de vivre are part of our heritage, as are our visits to museums, our cooking classes and many more group activities we offer.

Mrs Descôtes was also pleased to see such diversity: "we receive international guests every day, but it is rare to welcome no fewer than 96 different nationalities at once on this occasion. In the midst of unprecedented crises, I would like to emphasise the importance of a diplomatic community like this one in Paris, one that goes hand in hand with the Quai d’Orsay."
Mrs Descôtes also highlighted the mobilisation of French diplomacy “alongside civil society and those who fight for freedom and democracy.” Diplomats were also invited to ‘travel across France, in metropolitan areas as well as overseas.’

That particular recommendation was followed to the letter. The guests did not hesitate to move from buffet to buffet, tasting a variety of regional cuisines from Brittany to the Provence Alpes-Cote d’Azur, or the Grand-Est. It was indeed an eclectic menu: Crepes from the Armorican Coast, foie gras and pâtés from the Grand-Est region, Christmas delicacies from the Provence. The rich selection of cheeses courtesy of the Lactalis group’s buffet offered a wide range of cheeses from all over France. There was a cheesemaker there too, a world champion in fact whose collar bore the colours of the French flag, in blue white and red. He reminded us, tongue-in-cheek, that it is not only in soccer that France distinguishes itself.
The numerous wine growers nodded their heads as they served Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, rosés from Provence as well as some delicious Coquillette champagne. And last but not least: the so-called ‘French Bloom’, a non-alcoholic novelty showing the sheer variety and breadth of choices within wine-making.

Since successful parties begin and end in music, let’s raise one more glass to the saxophone quartet of the gendarmerie music group that specialises in jazz and pop sounds: three men and one lady playing these instruments to their heart’s content. What a party it was!

Francine Boidevaix
Editorial Committee


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