Social Media

Paris on foot—navigating the city amidst the longest transport strike in French history

I love how the French fight for what they believe in and stand up for their rights. As French President Emmanuel Macron tries to implement a new pension plan, increasing retirement age for all workers to 62, drivers of the Paris Métro, suburban trains and some city bus lines have gone on strike, today marks day 45; the longest transport strike in French history. 

While many tourists shunned Paris for the restaurants and cafes in Lyon, I found it was the ideal time to visit. Unable to take the Metro, walking opened my eyes to sights I may have missed otherwise, galleries were empty and the city felt spacious and un-crowded.

white houses with balconies and shutters along the seine river paris
View along the Seine

Staying with a friend in the 13th arrondissement, I managed to get on an RER train from Gare du Nord to Denfert-Rochereau pretty easily, a ten-minute walk past bistros and bakeries later and I was in his 5th floor apartment drinking coffee. His neighbourhood is a beautiful mix of old, grand mansions with typical iron balconies and wooden shutters, juxtaposed with high-rise blocks, each covered by a bold commissioned mural. It’s in this area you’ll find amazing street art, rare bookshops, the four huge towers that make up the National Library of France and the buzzing Asian quarter. If you don't have a friend in Paris and need a place to stay, check out the Hoxton Paris for stunning rooms and a great location.

After stopping off at a nearby bakery, we started our walking tour of Paris, our first stop, Rue Mouffetard. This cute cobbled street is one of the oldest in the city and known for its food stalls and shops selling local produce. I’d never come across the street before, but here, on a Sunday morning, were shoppers picking up fruits and vegetables for the week ahead, people eating oysters and drinking wine before midday and more amazingly couples dressed up in their finest clothes dancing at the end of the street. Right by Saint-Médard Square an accordion player had set up, while local residents twirled and bowed to the music against a backdrop of discarded Christmas trees. If the strike had provided just this one experience, it was already worth the journey.

baskets of oysters crabs and prawns at a fishmonger in rue mouffetard
Poissonnerie Quoniam on Rue Mouffetard

Later, we continued our walking tour by heading towards the Grand Mosque, one of the largest in France, where you can enter the peaceful, perfectly symmetrical garden and mosque for 2 euros. We strolled through the Jardin des Plantes, a beautiful park right by the River Seine and then stopped at the bookstalls lining the river, selling old books alongside botanical prints, with not a soul in sight. The skeleton of the burned out Notre-Dame loomed large in the distance, towered over by a large orange crane.

four women and two men queue at a bust stop in paris transport strikes
Queuing for the bus

Before a very late lunch, we headed to the brilliant Picasso museum where on display is a huge collection of the Spanish artists paintings, drawings, engravings and sculpture. We viewed ‘Picasso. Magic Paintings’ a group of figurative works displayed as a collection until 23rd February, before seeing the permanent collection, spread over three floors of the impressive historic mansion, Hôtel Salé.

three portraits on a white wall at the picasso museum paris
Portraits by Pablo Picasso at the Picasso Museum

Next we walked all the way along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower in time to see it light up at 6pm. For five minutes thousands of glittering lights twinkled all over the landmark tower, reflecting prettily along the ripples of the river. Again, there was hardly a person in sight; the transport strikes had provided us a side of Paris that felt like it was only for us.

lights covering the eiffel tower at night from the seine on cloudy night
Lights take over the Eiffel Tower

Post a Comment


Theme by BD