Should You Come to Paris?

A number of people have asked me if it’s okay to come to Paris due to the demonstrations that have been taking place. The news media around the world has been reporting on the situation and some of the photos have certainly been startling, even to us in the city.

[I posted similar thoughts on Instagram, although there is a word limit, so I’ve reposted some of it here and added a few links as well.]

The majority of the demonstrations have been taking place on Saturdays, generally in the more upscale areas of Paris, such as the Champs-Elysées and Place de la Concorde, although some have spread to other neighborhoods. The last couple of weekends, we’ve gone shopping in our neighborhood for food (and wine), and had meals with friends, and didn’t encounter any problems in parts of the city that include Barbès, Rue des Martyrs, Pigalle, Oberkampf, and Belleville.

Some of the neighborhoods have had isolated incidents, including mine, but I don’t know if anyone felt in danger. On Saturday, we went to the supermarket (which was packed, as usual) then took the métro to someone’s house for dinner, and the bus home later that evening, without incident. Every café we passed was full of people in the 9th, 11th, and 20th arrondissements.

France has a population that’s quite vocal about issues and most of us are fortunate to live in countries where we are free to express ourselves. The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) are working-class people who would like their concerns and voices to be heard. When I was in Burgundy last week, some who were wearing yellow vests were blocking roads temporarily, smiling and waving at motorists, some stopping to shake hands with them, apologizing for the inconvenience, before going on their way. (I was also having a café in a bar across from a train station and two ernest young people came in, with big smiles, trying to sell the owner an alarm system. They were wearing blue jackets and everyone got a good laugh, including the salespeople, when someone said, “Après les gilets jeunes…les vestes bleues!” – “After the yellow vests…the blue jackets!”)

Some of the destruction we’ve seen are caused by casseurs, people who aren’t associated with the movement, whose goal is to vandalize. Those images are being reported in the media, mixed with images of the demonstrations, so it’s easy to confound the two. Being France, there have been many passionate discussions and debates in cafés, over meals, and on television. Most of us in Paris have been going about our lives; shopkeepers are staying open, restaurants are serving meals, and people are sitting in cafés, having a glass of wine or a beer. I don’t know anyone hunkering down in their home or apartment. (Except for me, because I’m on a book deadline!)

The city of Paris has been proactively listing on their website, closures as well as areas of the city where potential demonstrations will be taking place. Check with the embassy of your country (the U.S. Embassy website is here) for their recommendations. So far, the demonstrations have been taking place on Saturdays and if you can, it’s best to avoid those areas on that day. If you’re witnessing something taking place on the streets, it’s not advisable to take photos of people or demonstrations unless you are certain it’s okay. Never go into, or stay in, a situation that you think may be unsafe.

[Note: I advice that if you’re a visitor and staying in an area that may be blocked off, such as the area around the Champs-Elysées, your hotel should be able to advise you as to alternate routes to take to and from the hotel if you’re visiting on a Saturday, the day when the area has been affected by the social movements.]

Note that this has been a challenge for small (and large) businesses, which last week, were advised by the city to close. They’ve taken a financial hit, especially the small businesses, with the holiday season approaching. When traveling you might want to consider travel insurance that covers you in case of delays or cancellations. Read the conditions carefully to see what’s covered and what isn’t.

 

Should you travel to Paris? Advice for the current situation.

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53 comments

  • BCKB
    December 10, 2018 3:53pm

    Your description of the gilets jaunes is somewhat naive. It is worth mentioning that 42% of gj have identified as LePen voters and 20% as France Insoumise voters – which means that this movement is mainly made of anti-republican extreme right and extreme left voters who have lost the presidential elections and are nothing short of attempting a coup to topple Macron, a democratically elected president.

    Macron is not blameless of course, his arrogant attitude having whipped up the aforementioned sore losers into a frenzy, and his autistic administration having more than once targeted the middle class with measures being, often rightly, judged as unfair.

    That being said, nothing excuses the overall blind eye “non-violent” gj turn on the casseurs and looters and vandals’ offenses and crimes. Our economy and image in the world are suffering greatly, as the gj embark on a scorched earth policy, even though in the end, they will suffer from it too when French GDP takes a nosedive.

    No matter of justified some of the gj’s grievances are, there is no justification whatsoever for this violence and devastation and this attempt at denial of democracy by a vociferating minority.

    • December 10, 2018 4:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for chiming in. This post was meant as an overview of the situation, in regards to whether or not people should come to France at the moment. Your number of 42% corresponds similarly with the 35% of the people in the entire country that voted for her in the last election. It will be interesting to hear what Président Macron has to say this evening, and how it will affect the situation.

      • BCKB
        December 10, 2018 5:02pm

        Thank you David for your reply. I think you gave very sound advice to your readers regarding the risks or lack thereof of visiting Paris at this interesting moment in our history.

        No matter what Macron says tonight won’t matter, even if he promises the moon for all and an unicorn for every citizen.

        Not only the gj’s laundry list of revendications is an inventaire à la Prévert – a hodgepodge of contradictory demands with no rhyme nor reason, that are impossible to satisfy because the gj all have conflicting interests, but also in the end, all they want is his head.

        Macron was elected democratically, whether they like it or not. If they don’t like it, they should give him the democratic treatment – kick him out in 3 years…

        • Marie
          December 10, 2018 5:34pm

          Et un raton laveur…

        • December 10, 2018 5:46pm

          I completely agree with you, though I wish I could find a reason to disagree. The damage the GJ are doing to the French economy long term, not just the destruction of the last few weekends, will be far worse than the damage of years of excessive tax increases. In any case, most folks go on vacation to relax and enjoy themselves. This is not the time when one can expect to be able to do that.

        • Nancy
          December 15, 2018 5:11am

          We will gladly trade you Trump for Macron.
          Have there been any issues in the 2nd – specifically around Rue Montorgueill? I rent an apt there almost every summer and live it. Thanks

      • MD
        December 11, 2018 6:51pm

        David’s advice was spot on. My flight from LA leaves today and this is exactly what I needed. I’m extremely well-informed and I have read everything I can get my hands on about the political situation. What I needed was to know what it is like on the ground. David, thank you for caring enough to reach out and write this blog, not only with your wonderful recipes, and your love for France, but also far letting us know from the bottom of your heart how it’s like there right now. Ignore all the preachy show-offs.

    • Francine
      December 10, 2018 5:51pm

      Cher BCKB,
      Your own appreciation of the situation sounds quite simplistic and discriminating itself: claiming that les gilets jaunes are mostly extremists is untrue. The vast majority of them are working family people who can’t make ends meet, are deprived of basic leisure activities such as going to the movies or restaurant, taking vacations, etc. while the “élite” lives a life of luxury, independently of any party affiliation. The real “extremists ” are actually the “casseurs” and most of the vandals came from the so-called no-go zones. As for the country’s reputation abroad I don’t think we should worry about it too much, there will always be people who don’t care for us for one reason or another. Let’s just hope we’ll be able to move forward all together – for the best! Bien amicalement

      • BCKB
        December 10, 2018 5:55pm

        I am one of those who work and struggle, but somehow I do not expect my country to do everything for me and I do not have hissy fits in the middle of the street when things do not go my way. I am aware that my freedom stops where everyone else’s begins, and I would like the gj to remember that, too.

      • BCKB
        December 10, 2018 6:03pm

        It is very condescending to think anti-gj people are not struggling family men and women. I am one of those who work and struggle, but somehow I do not expect my country to do everything for me and I do not have hissy fits in the middle of the street when things do not go my way. I am aware that my freedom stops where everyone else’s begins, and I would like the gj to remember that, too.

        • Francine
          December 10, 2018 6:26pm

          I don’t know where you live and how the social system works where you are. Here we pay for everything through direct taxes (just take a look at any pay sheet for details) and indirect taxes, the main one being TVA. Everybody pays taxes one way or another. Therefore we are not vile brats thinking everything is due to us like you are implying, we just want to get the services we are financing. The problem is that those who don’t pay the taxes they ought to be paying are the rich, and the various financial and social privileges the government members have alloted themselves for the last 40 years have led to this situation, among other things, but it would take all night to list them. This said, claiming that the GJ at large are responsible for the mayhem and destruction is as you said condescending and shows a deep misunderstanding of the situation.

          • BJean
            December 11, 2018 12:07am

            I think you understand the people who are protesting for change. They are decent citizens who pay taxes and their government isn’t working for the people they are in office to help. Revolution simply put means to re-evolve. Governments cannot remain stagnant while its citizens’ needs and expectations change. Leaders must listen.

      • Olivier M.
        December 11, 2018 9:58am

        Know that the “casseurs” from the no-go zones are about to have their #s soar if Macron signs the U.N.-created Marrakesh agreement today (which he plans to) that got very little press and will establish that migration is a “right” while stipulating that any media outlet that objects in any way will be swiftly “shut down”. The French media has been silent on this. Another point: If France has so much money to house, feed etc. masses from failed 3rd world countries who want to flood the country and is so gung ho to create an EU “army” – imagine the trillions needed to start up a military – it can certainly do much better than it did last night than toss a few crumbs to appease.

        • December 11, 2018 8:25pm

          Le type de “stuff Parisians like”? Dommage que vos histoires amusantes sur les bobos parisiens cachaient des obsessions autrement laides…

    • Linda L.
      December 10, 2018 7:06pm

      “his autistic administration”??
      Is that what you wished to say?

  • Maria Fernandez Uriz
    December 10, 2018 4:43pm

    Yes, kind of like the violence in our elections here in the USA. The losers were not able to handle it and caused mass chaos. Perhaps it speaks to what we have done to both our societies when it comes respectful ways of voicing our opposition.

    • CASSLI
      December 11, 2018 4:22am

      There was no mass chaos. Those demonstrating against the then-new administration were peacefully assembled with permision, with no acts of violence or destruction reported, despite the very large numbers across the U. S., not just in the capitol. Of note, this had never happened in my lifetime, despite the fact there is always a losing side in an election. Many citizens don’t mind losing, but are deeply concerned with the overall direction of the new administration, and feel we must speak out to say so.
      David, I appreciate your rational observations of the protests there, and, yes, the French have a long history of being outspoken about their rights and willing to demonstrate for them. Part of why they do have national healthcare, etc… (I work for a French company; interesting to note our differing views).

      • December 11, 2018 10:05am
        David Lebovitz

        Yes, there was no “mass chaos” in France, at least that I saw. (I was in the U.S. during the last election and I didn’t see any “mass chaos” there either.) The French are pretty forthright about holding onto their rights, and take to the streets. Most of the people causing trouble (les casseurs) aren’t part of the movement.

      • December 11, 2018 1:19pm

        Yes, lots of people even in the most prosperous countries are “just getting by” now, and in the US they don’t even have healthcare coverage, as people in France do and as we do here in Québec…

        I was relieved to read your even-headed comments as there is so much sensationalism in the press about events in other countries. While the terror attacks not long ago really were horrific, some irresponsible news outlets kept nattering on about “no-go-zones” – within the periphery and rapidly gentrifying – places where friends in Paris live quite peacefully and happily.

    • Miriam
      December 18, 2018 3:50pm

      There was no mass chaos after the US election!
      The real mass chaos is what governments are doing to make the poor poorer and the rich richer.

  • Jessica
    December 10, 2018 5:04pm

    Well, we just returned home from a weeklong stay right off rue St Dominique in the 7th. Arrived on the 2nd after a destructive Saturday night and the cab took us through much of the damage in the 8th and 16th off the Champs-Elysees. Very disturbing to see burnt cars. All was fine the rest of the week, though it was the quietest I’ve seen the streets in 40 years of visiting. We spent this past Saturday, avoiding the rive droite entirely, in the 15th, making our contribution to the economy on the aptly-named rue du Commerce. If you were going by the crowd at the Monoprix by the La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle metro stop, and by the cafes and restaurants nearby, you’d think nothing was amiss.

    Walking back to our apartment up the rue Cler, however, something was clearly amiss: at around 4PM, all the shopkeepers, restaurants, and cafes were closing, and a police presence massing at the Ecole Militaire. We could see gilets jaunes walking west on the rue St Dominique, and on rue de Grenelle. When I overheard a shopkeeper telling a group of people to make sure that children were in the back of the store, my husband and I looked at each other and decided to seek shelter in our friends’ apartment in the opposite direction of the demonstrators, a minute’s walk away. We ventured back into the quartier a bit later, saddened to see what was really just some stupid random vandalism – a few smashed windows and ATMs.

    So apart from that, there were some bus slowdowns and the metro closures Saturday, and actually an increase in friendliness among the workers we dealt with at shops and restaurants. I wouldn’t say don’t go – but I definitely agree that if you are staying in the 8th, and particularly if you are not familiar with the city and don’t speak French, get good guidance from your hotel about where to go and when.

    • December 11, 2018 10:08am
      David Lebovitz

      The good thing (for visitors) is that the demonstrations have been confined to Saturdays. So if you go, it’s best to have some sort of plan if you arrive and there are planned demonstrations. (The city of Paris lists those on their website.)

      It’s hard to tell people exactly what to do, but when we went out last Saturday in Belleville, people were in restaurants and cafés. But it’d be good to plan out one’s day/evening well, so you could get back to your hotel. As you mention, asking your hotel would be the best course of action as they’re in a good position to make recommendations.

  • choosie soosie
    December 10, 2018 5:06pm

    We leave today on a month-long trip to Paris. We are alert but not concerned, hearing about all the things you have mentioned — that life outside the manifestation-zone goes on as normal, and there are many resources to consult about possible issues. Thanks for confirming what we have believed, that with a bit of caution, flexibility and situational awareness, our visit to Paris will be as spectacular as always.

  • Stephen M Willis
    December 10, 2018 5:14pm

    David
    Very sound advice. After a 40 year law enforcement career, I am careful where I go or what I expose myself to. With that said, we come to Paris for two months every year in Jan-Feb and we plan to do the same this year.

  • donna lynn houston
    December 10, 2018 5:26pm

    Thank you, David. I was wondering what your thoughts might be about the situation, and I was happy to read your response today. We are planning to visit in March, so we are not concerned yet, but your advice is appreciated.

  • Kerstin Hallert
    December 10, 2018 5:30pm

    Where I live by the park Buttes Chaumont in the 19th everything is always totally untouched by social movements but we do stay home to follow events on tv puzzled if not goddam angry at a France where demonstrations are repeatedly allowed even when vandalizing extremists within them are present exposing shops restaurants hotels to an unacceptable violence. Revolting I daresay.

    • Peg Wolfe
      December 10, 2018 7:59pm

      “Revolting” is a big part of French history. I would assume that the government knew that suppressing the demonstrations would have instead increased their intensity exponentially – and they would be able to cite ample precedent, too. Remember 1871, May 1968, and dozens of others – and of course, 1789, the watershed civil unrest in French history.

      There is a long, long history of French civil unrest:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_of_civil_unrest_in_France

    • june2
      December 10, 2018 9:13pm

      Demonstrations are allowed because you live in a Democratic society and drama appears to be the only way to make their concerns heard…are you really proposing that those experiencing abuse or suppression not stand up for themselves (when the ‘government’ does not consider their needs valuable)?

  • Miriam
    December 10, 2018 5:36pm

    Thank you for the update! I’d like to visit Paris again soon, I love everything French and am studying my French so that I can speak it while visiting.
    I love your blog and your recipes- thanks again

    • December 10, 2018 11:03pm

      thank you for loving everything french…Bravo.
      I am french and live in America…go visit Paris ,visit different areas of the country, go to Provence…this situation shall pass, but the gilets jaunes are right,many french people struggle, taxes are high…the people will survive.
      Have faith.

  • Mary Ross
    December 10, 2018 5:41pm

    Thank you for posting about the situation in Paris. Like so many I love the ancient city full of treasures and am filled with horror that it may be damaged. I will pass on your comments to friends who are travelling this holiday season.

  • Ross Dawn
    December 10, 2018 5:57pm

    Dear David, my family which consists of my son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren ages 10 and 12 , had planned this week in Paris. We are here now and have been since 7 December and will leave on the 15th. Of course we were concerned about the news of the protest but thought that we would not go to the areas involved and we have not.

    We’ve had a wonderful time and have seen nothing in the way of danger. Have been to Notre Dame in Saint Chapelle, to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocodero, Pere la chaise cemetery, going to the catacombs tomorrow and the Louvre and muse Dorsey and and more. The children have enjoyed it and none of us have felt unsafe. We are staying in the seventh near St Sulpice.. just lovely.

    So just to reply, I see no reason for anyone to change their plans, and I think you could have a very tourist free trip at this time! I would never put my grandchildren in any danger and we are experiencing Paris through their eyes for the first time.

    Dawn Ross

  • Jeanne
    December 10, 2018 6:03pm

    David- your comments are very reassuring and helpful, as have been many of the replies on your site. Our cousins who live in the 20eme are saying the same thing– the level of violence is greater certainly in the area of the Champs d’Elysee but elsewhere life goes on as normal. Our family will be in Paris over the 2 weeks of holidays, staying in the 11th. I know that Republique is always a hotbed of action, having lived on Rue du Temple in the past, but I anticipate that in less busy neighborhoods there won’t be much action. We plan to do what we can to visit small stores, cafes and restos so that we do our part to help them recover from the lack of tourist and local trade.

    • December 11, 2018 1:27pm

      Many demonstrations start or end at République but it is not typically a target as areas associated with the ultra-rich in the west end are.

      Most recently it was the place where people gathered to mourn and commemorate the victims of terror attacks.

      The Place has been pedestrianised and is a pleasant gathering place with a café and other attractions.

  • Tommy
    December 10, 2018 6:23pm

    I was in Ireland the day Bobby Sands died in Irish prison years ago. There were thousands of people in the streets, protesting his death. There wasn’t violence, just a lot of wet wool. It was great in many ways to be there. We had to leave Dublin and we did other sightseeing things. We were on a tour. Besides seeing that incredible peaceful protest, the guide took us to a suburban women’s church group that hand knitted sweaters. Still have the beautiful sweaters. Make lemonade from travel lemons. Happy Holidays everyone!

  • JSB
    December 10, 2018 6:27pm

    Merçi David. My daughter and I will soon be in Paris, so appreciate your insight.

  • Mary Liz
    December 10, 2018 6:31pm

    We have been in Paris for month spending time in the 6 and 7 eme. Many tourist sites were closed Sat. Concert at American Church was postponed until Sun. Saw smashed up cars in that neighborhood along the Seine. Monoprix was boarded up as were a number of shops. Buses ran limited routes and we were on a metro that went thru 4 stops. Had to find away home. I do not think all details have been reported. Take care.

  • Catpainter
    December 10, 2018 7:51pm

    How thoughtful of you to open this discussion for travelers to Paris. From the responses, it seems that Parisians are no different from we Americans in voicing their views and from being disruptive, at times, to the normal flow of things. It has become a common mindset in today’s culture, something that we all are learning to live with, take part in, or avoid if we choose. Your helping to make others aware allows them to make that choice for themselves. So glad that we have the wonderful freedom to voice our opinions. Thanks, David. Glad you are “hunkered down” productively. I’m baking today so am with you in spirit. : )

  • Brenda
    December 10, 2018 8:00pm

    Paris is a big city I absolutely love. There will always be the good the bad and the truly awful. It is true of any city. I live in Toronto and was born and raised in Montreal during the FLQ and Quebec sovereignty movement. The G 20 in Toronto was not pleasant either. We just hope things will get better and we do our best to live by that example.

  • Pamela Stewart
    December 10, 2018 9:37pm

    People seem unhappy for very good reasons. We are choosing to stay away until the situation calms down.
    Planning our day to avoid demonstrations does not sound relaxing and insensitive to upset citizens.
    We wish everyone the best.

    • December 11, 2018 10:12am
      David Lebovitz

      I would not say that it’s insensitive. The French are used to “social movements” as they are called, which is why people were out and about on Saturday, in cafés and restaurants. It’s not seen as disrespectful (at least I haven’t seen or heard anyone in France say something to that effect) and I think most small businesses are happy to have clientele, to help pay the bills. I know after some of the attacks a couple of years ago, there was a big push to get people to go back out shortly after, and continue life as usual.

      But anyone who feels uncomfortable traveling during this particular period, they might want to change or modify their travel plans.

  • Elaine Lingenfelter
    December 10, 2018 9:44pm

    David it was very good of you to address the question of travel to Paris
    at this time. Unfortunately, some feel
    it necessary to make your comments into a political rant. Thank you, and yes, we will continue with our plans to
    visit Paris at the end of the month.
    Very best holiday wishes to you.

    Elaine in New Mexico

  • Susan B
    December 10, 2018 9:45pm

    And please confirm that they aren’t chanting that you guys want Trump (as our President in the USA is tweeting)

    • December 11, 2018 11:31am
      David Lebovitz

      I have not heard anyone chanting that.

  • penelope pikaart
    December 10, 2018 9:52pm

    Dear David,
    Nothing would keep me from Paris! I have landed in Athens with machine guns following us; in Cairo with tanks meeting us on the tarmac; flown out of Beirut to the sound of machine guns; landing and taking off in Cyprus (you guess!). Sounds 80’ish. Yes. But in ’14 and ’16 we skirted Brussels by train and visited Paris twice despite the horrors of Charlie Hebdo and Saint-Denis. Yes, we are cautious, but to miss Paris in the springtime? Hardly!

  • Suzanne
    December 11, 2018 2:06am

    David, I just finished the audiobook of your book L’ appart. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am dying to see pictures of the transformed apartment. Not to be too stalkery, but an online search revealed only pictures of the kitchen. Were there pictures with the print edition of the book or is this something you are keeping private. ( I hope I am not being “pas correcte“ for asking)

    • December 11, 2018 10:43am
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you enjoyed the book! You can read here (scroll down) about pictures of the apartment. (One spoiler: After posting a simple picture of my knife rack, and seeing the ruckus that caused, I decided it’d be better not to open my personal space up for public critique.)
      : )

  • Kiye Sic
    December 11, 2018 4:31am

    My dream place to visit!

  • Ingrid F. in Portland, OR
    December 11, 2018 7:53am

    David–thank you for your very timely post. While the media has painted the worst possible scenario, I am confident that the majority of Paris is safe and alluring as always. Wild horses could not keep me away! I will arrive on April 21st for a glorious six-week stay. One just has to be aware of one’s surroundings and pay attention to current events. After living in the Philippines and Turkey and the during martial law in the 70s and 80s–this is just a small blip in the great scheme of things. It is what it is, and this, too, shall pass. BTW–just finished your L’appart book, and LOVED it!! Thank you for sharing.

    • December 11, 2018 11:32am
      David Lebovitz

      Happy to hear you liked the book so much! : )

  • Ross Dawn
    December 11, 2018 5:27pm

    I’m on champs Elysee right now!!! No yellow vests. No one shouting trump. If they were I’d trip them.

  • Ross Dawn
    December 11, 2018 5:34pm

    Confirming that they are not. Sitting on champs Elysee right now

  • Connie
    December 14, 2018 6:08pm

    We live in the 8th, one block north of the Champs Élysée. Each Saturday we have been hunkered and expect that again tomorrow (Dec 15th). It is unnerving to hear the explosions nearby (from police deploying flash bangs and tear gas I presume), smell the acrid smoke from burning cars and other fires as well as watching clouds of tear gas literally waft across our balcony. It stinks! – and that is not evident on TV of course.

    I appreciated your post David and am pleased to learn that there are areas of Paris that are normal or close to it on Saturdays. We are fortunate that the riots are limited to Saturdays, so the rest of the week is generally normal.

    The rioters do not seem to attack people directly, though with so much happening between the rioters and police there are risks for bystanders to become collateral damage. An Uber driver I know had his car rocked by rioters (with clients onboard) at a light but he was able to drive away. He says they came out of nowhere.

    Please stay away from the Champs Élysée on Saturday. My recommendation is to avoid the 8th, 1st and most of the 16th arrondissements as well as the main streets leading off of the Arc de Triomphe – unless you want to see the strikers and rioters in action. The Left Bank sounds like a good place to spend time.

    Like us, you can make a day of it if you wish. We started a new ritual of having a nice lunch of roast chicken with all the trimmings. We treat ourselves to desserts from Dalloyau on Faubourg Saint Honoré (bought the day before).

    Enjoy Paris and try not to let these rioters affect your enjoyment of this great city. I hope this perspective is helpful.

    And David, now you know someone who is hunkered down.