The D&O Diary’s European assignment continued this past week with a short stop in Paris before heading home. I was in Paris for some business meetings, but I also had some other important things to attend to there as well. The most important thing that required my immediate attention upon my arrival in Paris was to check in on an old, dear friend that recently suffered a serious misfortune.
From head-on, it was hard to see anything amiss.
But seen from behind the church, the amount of damage is shocking. Of course I knew from news reports that the building’s roof structure had collapsed from the fire, but knowing that and actually seeing the damage are two different things. The entire roof is gone. It is really shocking to see. The building will of course eventually be repaired. But until it is repaired, there will be a sense of loss at the city’s center.
I arrived in Paris on May 1, which is the annual May Day holiday in France. The shops and offices were all closed, although the sidewalk cafés were all open and doing a booming business. The May Day holiday is officially known as the la Fête du Travail (what is called Labor Day in the U.S.). It is also traditionally a day of protests and demonstrations, a tradition that that carried on with spirit again this year.
In fact, in the Place de la Republique later in the day, I walked right into the middle of une manifestation – in this case, a demonstration on behalf of the right-wing Union Populaire Républicaine, which is the political vehicle of François Asselineau and the political party favoring the French exit from the EU and other European alliances. The protesters sang a variety of songs; one for example went like this: “No! to the rich/when we Frexit.” (In French, it sort-of rhymes.) They sang a number of other songs, some quite humorous, many unsuitable for reproduction here in this family-oriented publication.
On the Métro and in several other places around the city I also saw many gilets jaunes, the yellow reflector vest-clad protesters that have been demonstrating for months around France against some of the current French Presidential administration’s policies. One tall women I saw wore a yellow vest with a hand-written message in back saying, “If I can’t live today, then tomorrow is too late.” When I saw her, she was sitting, along with several other gilets jaunes, at a table at a sidewalk café, drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette.
There were announcements on the Métro that several stations around the city were closed owing to pleusieurs manifestations in various locations around the city. I didn’t encounter any closed stations myself, but I was disappointed to find that Le Jardin du Luxembourg was closed, apparently to prevent demonstrations there (a logical enough place for one, not just because it is a wide open space, but also because the French Senat is housed in the Palais du Luxembourg).
Foreclosed from visiting the Jardin, I went instead to the Canal St.-Martin for an afternoon stroll. It turned out to be a particularly good idea. The horse chestnut trees that line the canal were in full bloom, and while I was walking along the canal several different boats made their way through the canal’s locks, which is always a fascinating process to watch. There definitely was a holiday feel amidst the crowd along the along the canal and in the Jardin Villemin, a small park along the canal’s west side. While some Parisians were on the march for May Day, many others were simply celebrating the holiday by relaxing in the spring sunshine.
One of my practices when visiting Paris is to try and visit places I have never visited before; even after many trips to Paris, I am still discovering new places and new things. On this trip, my new discovery was the Promenade Plantée (also known as the Coulée verte René-Dumont) an elevated walkway built atop a former railroad viaduct that runs almost 3 miles from just behind the Opéra Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. The walkway itself is tree-lined and quiet. The scenery along the way changes as the path winds through the 12e arrondissement; toward the end, the path becomes a little hard to follow, but eventually I made it to the Bois de Vincennes, where I strolled around the circumference of the Lac Daumesnil. A great way to spend a morning.
Another place I visited for the first time on this trip was the Parc Montsouris, a large green park located on the very Southern edge of the city in the 14e arrondissement, not far from the Porte d’Orléans (a part of the city I have never previously visited). The park, which has broad lawns, large mature trees, well-trimmed flower beds, and a small lake, was full of school children playing when I was there. The happy scene was disrupted by a sudden and unexpected rain shower. I saw enough of the park before the rain cut the visit short to appreciate it as a very pleasant place.
Unfortunately, there were frequent heavy rain showers for just about all of the remainder of my visit. The rain definitely precluded many of my plans. A planned first-time visit to Butte-aux-Cailles, a hilltop neighborhood in the 13e arrondissement was basically rained out. (I found the neighborhood, but in a heavy downpour the reputed attractions were hard to appreciate.) I will have to try again on a future visit.
There was some occasional sunshine between the frequent heavy rain showers, and despite the rain I did have a chance to enjoy a number of the classic Parisian sites and scenes, as reflected in the pictures below. Frustratingly for me, the bright sunshine on the morning of my departure promised a beautiful day ahead, just one of many reasons I was sorry to be leaving. As is always the case, I told myself as I was leaving Paris that I have to go back again, soon.
More Pictures of Paris: