After a relatively tranquil beginning, the past Parisian decade turned out to be one of the most tumultuous of recent times. Here, some of the highs and the lows of the twenty-tens in the City of Light …
The world’s most famous avenue went green for a two-day festival called Nature Capitale, designed to highlight the plight of traditional French farming in a changing world. It also set the lush scene for a decade in which Paris would forge a reputation as an environmentally aware capital, in which the congested riverside roads would be made over into places for promenading and picnicking, among many other initiatives of mayor Anne Hidalgo, who was elected in 2014.
Just when we thought we couldn’t love Paris more deeply, the movie Midnight in Paris came along to make us swoon with nostalgia for this historically magical city.
Proving all the original naysayers wrong, Disneyland Paris — the Happiest Place on Earth in the ultimate Happy Place — celebrated twenty years in business, with the boast of being the most popular tourist attraction in Europe. In fact, twice as many people venture through its gates each year than climb up the Eiffel Tower. Zut alors! Francophiles can rest easy that a trip to Disneyland isn’t that culturally outrageous: after all, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty — the fairytales that helped put Disney on the map —were originally penned in Paris!
French women finally earned the right to officially wear trousers! The law overturned a ban dating back to 1800, and an era in which Napoléon suppressed all that pesky female revolutionary fervour with a series of laws drafted to ensure that women were legally powerless — little more than docile dolls in frilly dresses. Of course, Parisian women have ignored the sartorial rule since Coco Chanel first slipped herself into a breezy pair of white wide-leg trousers.
A Parisian art highlight of the decade was the reopening of the Musée Picasso, after a five-year-long renovation, in one of the most magnificent of the old mansions of the Marais (although sadly all that’s left of the original townhouse is the staircase, spectacular though it is). The three floors of expansive space showcase Picasso’s lifelong artistic progression, in his paintings, of course, but also sculptures. Also on show is an exquisite selection of his personal collection of art, which includes Cézanne, Matisse and Degas.
Terrorism changed Paris forever in 2015. On January 7, two brothers killed twelve employees of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Further tragedy was to strike in November, when coordinated attacks claimed the lives of over 100 people, who were enjoying what they thought was another beautiful Parisian Friday night out. The ensuing state of emergency saw heavily armed soldiers become a common sight on the streets of Paris, an ironic but necessary means of protecting Parisians’ cherished liberté.
The Paris Agreement came into force, marking a moment of hope for combating global climate change … Sadly, changes in leadership in numerous signatory nations have seen much back-tracking … Still, it was a glorious moment while it lasted!
Former banker Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen and a wave of nationalist sentiment to become France’s youngest president, leading a newly formed centrist party, and sending traditional left-right politics into disarray. He has ever since battled resistance in his quest to modernise the French bureaucracy and many of the country’s cherished way of life and work, but his election night victory speech, in the Cour Napoléon of the Louvre, remains a wonderfully feel-good memory for many.
A grass-roots movement called the Gilets Jaunes — named for the high-vis vests every driver must legally carry, and triggered by the increase in gas prices, as much as the general cost of living — wreaked havoc on the French capital over many weekends, and seriously put Macron’s leadership to the test.
Lovers of Paris, architecture and history were aghast to see Notre-Dame go up in flames. Having been saved from total destruction by Paris’s legendary fire-fighters, the cathedral is currently in restoration mode. Debate still rages about whether the project should be a faithful recreation of the roof and spire, or the opportunity for a modern spin. But most of us are simply grateful that the heart of Paris continues to beat.