10 years ago, I was studying in France when a large-scale transportation strike fell over the country for several weeks. It appears that they’re at it again with another strike. In 1995, the mÃ©tro, SCNF, and bus lines were all severely impacted, causing the entire city to take to cars, hitchhiking, and walking. Pollution levels increased during this time, the city cast in a haze of gray.
I lived in the chic 6e, so my morning commute was a walk of about 45 minutes. I travelled down rue Bonaparte, passing St. Germain des PrÃ¨s on my way to the pedestrian foot bridge, Pont des Arts. The charming bridge leads right into the Louvre museum, but I took a right to cross through several French quarters till I hit Avenue de la RÃ©publique. From there, it was a straight shot to the ESCP, where the Stanford Center was located.
Other friends in the program didn’t have it as easy as I did. Supriya and Tamar had to frequently hitchhike to get to the center and their classes. Others stayed home and chilled, at least until the Program Director, Mme H., came a calling!
From what I hear, the transportation strike got a lot of Parisians to begin to re-appreciate the beauty of the city. When I revisited Pont des Arts last year, I was surprised to see so many people picnicing on the wooden planks of the bridge. I don’t recall that from my time in 1995. Of course, the majority of people are still using public transportation, and everyone in the mÃ©tro have the same “mÃ©tro face.” Rae didn’t understand why I looked so pissed off in the subways until I told her about the face; she thought I was mad at her for some reason!
One thing that stayed with me from my French sÃ©jour was the following saying, “The French work to live. Americans live to work.” Isn’t that the truth!
Photos from our trip to France in August/September of 2004.