The bad news is the devastating fire at Notre-Dame. The wooden roof burned almost completely. In a few places the stone ceiling was breached but overall the stonework survived, subject to structural review. The best site I’ve seen to compare before and after photos is here.

Paris is still Paris.
From the front the cathedral looks much the same, except that you can’t get anywhere near it.
From the rear you can see the damage more clearly. The cranes and scaffolding were from the renovation project that probably caused the fire.

July 18, 2019 Update: The New York Times reports that it took 30 minutes for the fire department to be called despite an elaborate system of detectors, and Notre-Dame was very nearly lost.

The good news is that I’m heading back to Paris this spring! The first two weeks, arriving April 28, will be with my cousins Lisa, her daughter Aya and (part of the time) her mother Jackie. We were able to get the same apartment in the 15ème that we enjoyed last year. Then I’ve reserved a two-bedroom apartment on rue Montorgueil in the 1ère for the last three weeks of May. Sherard will join me there for the last week, reprising his stay in 2016. Finally, Jared Rubinstein and I have reserved another two-bedroom apartment in the 5ème for the month of June. I’ll be in Paris this year, Insh’Allah, for La Fête de La Musique on June 21, the summer show at the Palais de Tokyo, and (just barely) La Marche des Fiertés LGBT, Paris Gay Pride, on June 29.

There have been important changes this year, however: Good apartments were much harder to find, and the gilets jaunes and friends have been rioting on Saturdays along the Champs-Élysées.

Without having done a systematic analysis I estimate that less than one tenth as many apartments were available to choose from this year than in prior years. Ever since I’ve been renting apartments in Paris (2010) I’ve been aware that the city has been trying to crack down on short-term rentals. I came to realize that technically all short-term apartments need a registration number. But until last year the common practice was to ignore the issue. While I was in Paris last year the newspapers reported that a lawsuit by the city against AirBnb was being tried. Evidently the city won, since this year all the units on the AirBnb website have registration numbers. The drop in apartments on brokerage sites like ParisAttitude.com was even more dramatic; they have very few offerings. I haven’t compared prices, since often it’s apples to oranges between different units, but it’s inevitable that supply and demand will force short term rental rates even higher. This may spell the end of the golden age of long stays on Paris.

I’m not too concerned about the gilets jaunes themselves, since I normally give a wide berth to the Champs-Élysées, and their demonstrations have been mostly focused there. But they are symptomatic of a profound malaise in France that is likely to burst out in other and potentially even more destructive forms. President Macron got elected as a quasi outsider, on a feel-good platform reminiscent of the Hope and Change of Obama’s first campaign. It quickly soured, however, because he is such an elitist and is so out of touch with the average French citizen. This, I’m afraid, may lead to the election of Marine Le Pen, sort of an Ivanka Trump figure who appears — but isn’t — less awful than her obviously toxic father. Bottom line is that I don’t feel particularly threatened this year but I’m anxious about the future of France (as I am about the future of the U.S., and of the very idea of liberal democracy).