The Pleasure of Paris…Is It Gone?
Just after yesterday’s Après Midi, where Lisa Anselmo imparted her vision for How to Find Your Authentic Voice (read all about it), I flew to Nice on an evening Air France flight to begin the taping of HGTV’s Mediterranean Life episode the next morning…early. There was no time to take the TGV, which I prefer over flying. One big reason for that is the trek by public bus to the train station is a lot simpler, less expensive and stressful than taking a taxi, bus or train to Charles de Gaulle or Orly Airports.
Last night, the traffic in the city was just as bad as one can imagine, especially these days with the entire city under reconstruction. The normal route to Orly Airport from my apartment is via Place de la Bastille, but the massive construction taking place to improve the Place created bumper-to-bumper traffic — moving at less than a snail’s pace — that had me in a panic. I begged the driver to find another route, which might not have been the brightest idea since it was jammed everywhere. We arrived 30 minutes later than planned, but got there in time for the flight nonetheless, as I allowed for plenty of extra room for error.
This is Paris in the new norm — chaotic. In the interest of “greening” the city, Parisians are turning red with anger and frustration. A recent article in the New York Times, titled “The Greening of Paris Makes Its Mayor More Than a Few Enemies” by Adam Nossiter, mirrored my own sentiments. She can count me as one of them.
The entire city is under reconstruction. That must be the “green” they’re all talking about…the green of the barricades around all the construction! According to Dossiter, more than 8,000 projects are underway. It seems like even more! Place de la Bastille is just one among several major circles that are undergoing complete facelifts…such as Place de la Madeleine and Nation. Six hundred miles of bikelanes are being installed, not only creating complete havoc on the streets of Paris, but confusing who and what is supposed to be traveling in which lane in what direction. As a pedestrian, I find it absolutely frightening and I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a biker or scooterer (is that a word?). The lanes intended to make it safer and easier seem to only make it more complicated and confusing. Add to that the new number of “pedestri-wheels” (what I call the people who behave like pedestrians, but are riding on scooters or electric unicycles).
Drivers are seriously complaining, as well are the passengers stuck in traffic (like me). Hop in any taxi or Uber and you’ll get an earful of resentment from those who are earning less because each trip takes longer. I got plenty from my driver to Orly who said it’s like this 24-7. Then, I heard plenty from the taxi driver leaving the Nice airport, too…about how all his passengers coming from Paris have complained to him about the insanity of it all. Sure, there are fewer cars (from 60 percent of households in 2001, to 35 percent today), but there’s even more congestion than ever before. Yes, Paris is more bike friendly (from 17th place to 8th on the list since 2015), but guess what? Ozone levels and pollution are UP since she started her “greening” of the city. (A great site for this data is: airparif.asso.fr/en/)
According to the article, Mayor Anne Hidalgo blames her bad press on being a woman — that her decisions upset a lot of men who make up most of the drivers. Hogwash is what I say. Everyone I talk to has some beef with her…even the woman dermatologist I saw recently couldn’t wait to vent her own anger. And it had nothing to do with traffic.
I get it. We all want to fight climate change, but not when the means to the end is counterproductive. When she closed down a good long stretch of the highway along the quay of the Seine making room for pedestrians and bikers, she displaced about 40,000 cars into the city streets causing traffic jams and the pollution levels to rise. (See the pdf report in English) We love it for the pleasure of hanging out on the Seine, but there has been a price to pay.
And has anyone noticed that the city is dirtier than ever? I don’t think we can blame the construction for that, but it reminds me of the “Broken Windows” theory. “The broken windows theory is a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.” (Wikipedia.org) She isn’t inspiring us to pick up after ourselves while the city is in such mad chaos. I can remember when Mayor Bertrand Delanoë launched a campaign contest to spruce up your windows with flowers and plants. Before long there were window boxes with flowers everywhere. It was a lovely gesture that put smiles on our faces thanks to the new greenery and the color of flowers growing everywhere you looked.
My biggest personal beef with Madame le Maire has been her handling of the housing shortage, with one-track decisions regarding short-term rentals (illegal for secondary residences, rendering them vacant, rather than inhabited. And now long-term rentals, imposing rent control in spite of evidence that such regulation actually causes properties to be taken off the market and rents to rise. Again, it’s counter-productive. What I’ve seen from her is a lot of “shooting from the hip” type tactics, making quick decisions without really having and considering the facts. I want to send her a copy of the book “Factfulness” to teach her how to think like a responsible adult instead of a Socialist who just wants to get the vote.
No, Ms. Hidalgo, it’s not because you’re a woman that I dislike you. In fact, it’s very upsetting to me that a woman who claims to be futuristic, can be so short-sighted. Madame, this is a global society and our transiency is not going away…in fact we’re becoming more transient every day. While you’d like to keep Paris for the Parisians, that’s just wishful thinking. Paris is for everyone, just like New York, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Sydney…international cities across the globe that are becoming more diverse every minute.
We have to deal with the fact that we travel more, we live and work virtually without being tied to a desk, we are mobile and take our lives with us when we walk or ride or wheel. We need and want to have the right to live in many different places and enjoy the 21st century and all that technology has afforded us.
That’s what you need to embrace, Madame le Maire de Paris: the pleasure of Paris. You have taken away much of what used to be the pleasure of living in Paris — a vibrant city with overwhelming beauty and oozing romance that was a constant sensual experience at every turn…and that’s largely gone, at least during your reign as queen of the city.
And for that I may never forgive you. I certainly won’t vote for you.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with Lisa Anselmo at Après Midi)
P.S. Yesterday at Après Midi, Lisa Anselmo, blogger, author and marketing guru, held an audience of about 60 in the palm of her hand as she taught us all how to find our authentic voice. Targeted to people who have the urge to write…a memoir, a blog, a podcast or just about anything, she had us all convinced that any one of us could do it, as long as we followed her method to think like a brand and build a strategy. Read all about it and see photos by visiting our site at Après Midi.
P.P.S. Amazing Grace is Yellow.
In preparation for a full stage production, a reading of Deborah “Silver” Wainhouse’s new play, Amazing Grace is Yellow, is scheduled at Columbia Global Centers, Reid Hall, Paris. The play depicts the life of Beauford Delaney, who lived and worked in Paris from 1953 until his death in 1979.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
7:00 p.m. Free Admission
4 Rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris, France
Metro Vavin – Line 4.