They wanted to see France and they saw France… We don’t know if in 2023, Jacques Brel would have revised the lyrics of his song, but we have to admit that foreign tourists, who have come to visit the most romantic city in the world, were served on this Wednesday, March 15, 2023.

Between the garbage cans that puke from all the sidewalks of the “City of Light” and the demonstration against the pension reform that cut the capital in two, limiting visitors in their journeys, we suspected that the postcard would turn out to be less idyllic than foreseen. Disaster aside, there was no worse day to visit Paris. So at 20 minuteswe criss-crossed the tourist places to find out what foreign tourists were really experiencing in this troubled period.

“Paris remains Paris”

“If you remove the smell, it’s bearable. Hilarious, Kerstin and Markus sum up perfectly what the vast majority of visitors to the capital smell of. Both from the suburbs of Innsbruck in Austria, they are coming to Paris for the first time: “We’ve been together for two years and we’ve never made a real trip before. It’s a first honeymoon. »

The ubiquitous garbage cans in every street, it does not surprise them. Informed by their hotel of the situation before their arrival, they were offered a postponement of their trip, which they refused: “The cost was too expensive and then Paris remains Paris. “However, the shock was harsh last Sunday: “The news in Austria talks about the strike here, but when you see it in real life, it’s more impressive. “Too bad, determined to take advantage, they stay in their bubble:” The Eiffel Tower is high enough that you don’t see the trash cans in the photos and beautiful enough to make you forget the rest. »

“We know why it’s so dirty”

A philosophy adopted by the majority of tourists on this “day in hell” in Paris. No Bruce Willis here to save the day so Marcio, Mauro and Ronald, three Brazilian friends on a “road trip” in Europe for three weeks: “We knew there were movements here, without really knowing what was going on. passed. Now there, we understand better. ” Not scalded for a penny, they crisscross the city omitting the rubbish: “We know why it’s so dirty. It’s episodic, bad luck. But that won’t stop us from enjoying it. »

The Champs-Elysées, although spared by the accumulation of waste, retain some traces of the situation.
The Champs-Elysées, although spared by the accumulation of waste, retain some traces of the situation. – R. Le Dourneuf / 20 Minutes

Like them, most tourists cannot ignore the task on the stay. But once there, there was no question of letting the opportunity slip away. “The hygienic side sometimes leaves something to be desired. But tourist places like the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Élysées remain clean. So we do with » comment, not discouraged, Uma and Ted. Both from Chicago, they came to visit their daughter, Laura, a music student in Paris. “It’s a mix between Emily in Paris and Ratatouille, except that Ratatouille does the garbage rather than the kitchen,” laughs Uma.

“Unusable” neighborhoods for Instagram

Not everyone is so positive about the situation in Paris. Some for the panorama, like Avara who regrets that the poetic image of the capital is ruined. Follower of Instagram, this Indian plague about certain streets of Paris indisposed to clichés because of the garbage cans. Fortunately for this tall redhead, the rue de l’Université remains as immaculate as its view of the Eiffel Tower: “But some magnificent neighborhoods are unusable because of waste. »

A situation that others take with philosophy. Julianne, an Irishwoman who came with her husband and two children, takes advantage of the Champs Élysées, barely affected by the garbage collectors’ strike: “It could be problematic. But at the same time, it’s “so French” to go on strike that you might think it’s part of the visits, ”she laughs. More seriously, it poses the pros and cons.

Why not join the demonstration?

A little disappointed with the image she shows of Paris to her children, she takes the opportunity to explain to them the reason for this carnage: “The French are fighting for their rights. We caricature them for that. But they are the ones who are right. They have rebellion in their blood, and we should be inspired by it more often because they don’t let it go. This is an opportunity to explain to our children that if the bins are there, it’s because people pick them up every day. And that today they say that their job is too hard. »

Hardly had these words been spoken than she wondered about the relevance of going to see the demonstration of the day: “It seems a little violent sometimes, but our AirBnb landlord told us that it was safe as long as we didn’t go not at the end. »

View of the Eiffel Tower from the banks of the Seine, Paris on March 15, 2023
View of the Eiffel Tower from the banks of the Seine, Paris on March 15, 2023 – R.Le Dourneuf / 20 Minutes

Warned, they may find there Ambrozy and Weronika, two Poles, in their twenties who stumble upon the start of the demonstration in front of the Invalides: “We came as tourists to see the building and we saw all this agitation. Police everywhere, people with flags, music. We decided to picnic here to have a look. Unaccustomed to demonstrations, they are impressed by the organization and the crowd that drains into the square: “We always see the images of violence, but there, we have more the impression of arriving in Sziget”, s ambrozy.

“It is also the charm of the French”

Wrapped up by the flags, the atmosphere and the music, they are on the verge of joining the procession: “We only have three days in Paris, so we don’t know yet. But it’s tempting. For the demonstrations, the French are the kings and it is legitimate to defend one’s rights. »

For Sofia and Martin, two English Erasmus students in Nice and Grenoble, there is no doubt that they will be part of the procession: “We came to visit a French friend who was at our university last year. And we decided to demonstrate,” explains Sofia. His second demonstration after a first against Brexit during his adolescence: “It is also the charm of the French to be able to return the country for this kind of thing. In England, we have a great tradition of trade union struggle. But that died out a few decades ago. So we come to take lessons, ”she smiles. Classes in the middle of garbage cans, that’s also the “French flair”.

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