Is Paris Safe Right Now?

The last time I wrote here, I was telling you how difficult I found it to pack for two people in one carry-on for the winter in a city of elevated fashion (kudos to Rachel for the fitting term.) I don’t have much to add to it, other than, well… it worked.

When I returned to work, I was hounded by a few individuals, led by their television and news network of preference website about how we avoided the riots and trash as Paris was burning down, so I’d like to give you my outsider-looking-in perspective.

I was aware that there were ongoing protests regarding pension age requirements and executive power grabs, but being a foreigner, it didn’t offer a direct impact on me – I was more of a secondary or (probably) tertiary stakeholder by proxy of shared western values.

I would also like to preface the rest of this post with a statement that I believe to be true: we lucked out some.

Upon arriving to Charles de Gaulle airport, we had to make our way into the city. Our choices were via Uber for about €42 ($45USD) or by way of the RER B Train for €11.45/ each (~$25 total.) We opted for train for a few reasons: 1) it saved us a lunch’s worth of cost and 2) it was quicker to get into the city via train and metro transfer than via a car during rush hour. Pro Tip: always ask your Airbnb host about checking in. For us, nine times out of ten, they let us check in immediately instead of waiting for the typical check-in time.

What does that have to do with the topic of those post? Well, the people of France have been kind enough to notify the public of any strikes that may be occurring. The workers that run the RER-B train were striking the day prior to our arrival which means we would have had no choice but to Uber or Taxi our way into the city. Remember when I said we had lucked out? So for our trip, so far, so normal.

We took the crammed train to Gare du Nord station and transferred over to the metro line (included with your current ticket) and hopped on a Line 4 car towards Simplon. This led to one of our favorite little games of the trip – trying to pronounce the stops, then waiting for the overhead recording to correct us (say it with me: “Barbès–Rochechouart.”)

Our Airbnb was at the center of three metro stops, all about a 12-15 minute walk from the apartment. We took the stroll, dropped off our luggage and took a moment to adjust to the time change and shake off any sluggishness from the red-eye flight.

We had chosen to stay in the Montmarte neighborhood, in between the northern section of Paris’ 18th arrondissement and the city line. It had a nice blend of affordability and things-to-do in case the weather or protests impeded our ability to get to the more touristy sections of the city.

Our first stop was a long market street called Rue des Martyrs. We wanted to pick up some basics for our stay – foods and such to curb any hunger we might sustain when venturing out (or after a day of said ‘venturing.’)

In Mexico, both Rachel and I had the beginnings of conversational Spanish, so we could hold our own in a slow dialogue with locals. In France, I was on my own to butcher my way through the romantic language. Luckily, as soon as a dumbfounded look came across my face, the local would quickly switch to English to finish the conversation. I did the least I could do and made sure to keep all greetings, thanks, and requests en français.

We managed to get some cheese, meat, drinks, jam, and a baguette for our apartment. Charcuterie and cheese spreads would become a staple of our diet for the next week (no complaints from anyone here.) After exploring the area around where we were staying, we noticed that life was seemingly normal here. No boarded up windows or fires as American Twitter would lead you to believe.

There also weren’t any mountains of trash laying around. We wouldn’t see these until the next day when we started off our day at the Arc de Triomphe, the monument to those who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (and more recently WWI.)

We took a metro to the Arc and climbed the stairs for a great view of the surrounding city, including first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower.

Upon descending, we strolled along the Champs-Élysées. It was here that I noticed a recurring theme – Paris seemed to be prepping for high-season. In my previous trips to the city, I recall the street to be bustling with life and luxury shopping. This day, a lot of shops were closed up and there seemed to be more beat up storefronts than high-end stores. Maybe my memory didn’t serve me correctly or maybe I just see brand name shopping that cringy.

After stopping for our first coffee, we saw our first trash pile. It was large and cumbersome, but isolated from any news, I would have thought it was the normal pre-trash day pile from a highly visited area.

Trash pile on the Champs-Élysées
Trash pile on the Champs-Élysées.

It was also around now that we were understanding the way waste management worked in the city. Different arrondissements are serviced by different entities. Some by government organizations and others by private companies.

The way we tackled the city was by neighborhood so some days we noticed the effects of the strike more than others. Overall, however, it was never bad and didn’t have any negative impact on our visit.

Our last day in the city was when we explored the 1st arrondissement. Being where a lot of the major public institutions are, this is where you might expect to see evidence of protests or riots. While we did see a beef up of security and erected fences, it still wasn’t some incredible amount.

The people of France understand their right to organize and regularly voice their opinions and concerns with the government. Despite what foreign media may suggest, these demonstrations are not a blight on the city and shouldn’t deter you from visiting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: