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. The cathedral will certainly be rebuilt, but I expect that this will take several to many years.
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 2ème 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 yet 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 Fierités 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 as 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 this year the common practice was to ignore the issue. While I was in Paris last year 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 in 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. The brutal racism against les Arabes — North Africans and their descendants, who typically live in slums around the periphery of Paris and other cities — is a powder keg that will itself explode at some point, with or without Le Pen. 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).