To hear the news reports or see the videos, Paris is aflame and being overrun by protesters battling the police throughout the city. While the media are doing their job focusing on the worst of the situation as news media has done since the printing press was invented or ever since tongues started wagging, the situation for us wasn’t nearly so dire.
So, is Paris burning? Well, there are massive protests and strikes that have been extremely disruptive and inconvenient. Strikes by the garbage collectors and incinerator operators meant trash accumulating on the sidewalks and streets was indeed a problem in some, but not all, areas . We couldn’t see or do many things we had planned. My brother and his wife Kathy were also in Paris at the time, but between the protests and transportation strikes we were unable to get together for several days – our apartments were on opposite sides of the city.
As the old saying goes, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” We were reminded of when we traveled to visit Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks in 2013. The US government shut down, including all the national monuments just a couple of days into our visit. However, the Utah State Parks remained open, and we still had a great time.
But, still, we were in Paris, an exciting, intense, vibrant, stylish, bustling, crowded, delicious, passionate BIG city. Like so many places it must be experienced to fully understand, and we have been fortunate to visit the “City of Light” several times. This time, though we were a little concerned, we were in Paris.
We strolled to the Île de la Cité where the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris stands. Remembering our visits in years past, we got chills realizing the destruction caused by the fire of 15 April 2019, and yet heartened that it is scheduled to reopen in 2024. We hope that the next time we see this Gothic masterpiece the chills will be joyful.
The Musée National Picasso or Picasso Museum was within walking distance as was so much else, and well away from the disturbances. And many of the Metro lines were still running, though some on a limited schedule.
Another day, we took the Metro and walked around the La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre, but the crowds were huge and the long queues snaked and twisted around. The vista overlooking the city in front of the Basilica, was lined with tourists and peddlers. The peddlers were selling the now infamous “Love Locks” that in 2014 was blamed for the collapse of part of the Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris because of the weight of the padlocks.
An article I read noted, “Ask most Parisians how they feel about “love locks” and you’ll hear words like “barbaric” and “oppressive,” but even more frequently, “unenlightened.” As a symbol of love, a lock is an epic fail for Parisians: it neither illustrates the free expression of passion, nor matches up to the lofty ideal of l’amour. In other words: it’s just plain wrong”.
So, we discovered other, not so hidden treasures such as the Musée de Montmartre, created in 1960 in some 17th century buildings. Surrounded by gardens, it was a center of activity of many famous artists such as Auguste Renoir, Émile Bernard, Raoul Dufy, Charles Camoin, Suzanne Valadon or Maurice Utrillo. Its unique collection of paintings, posters and drawings helped bring to life the artistic energy of the area’s workshops, as well as the atmosphere of its famous cabarets.
Later, we wandered the Montmartre, struggling to avoid the most congested areas. There we saw a couple of the famous moulins or windmills of the 14 that used to stand on this high point of Paris up until the 19th century.
It is always good to have a plan B just in case. Well maybe not an entire plan, but more of a willingness to be flexible. Things change. Weather, protests, strikes, and holidays can always wreak havoc on the most carefully laid out itinerary.
On our final night in Paris, we strolled around our neighborhood and stopped for a glass of wine at Chez Prune, what became a somewhat frequent spot in our neighborhood for wine or coffee. Located along the Canal Saint Martin it was a great place to stop for a while and watch Paris go by.
Tomorrow, we move to our apartment in Tours, in the Loire Valley. Keep watching.