In Christmas season, Paris is aglow but uneasy

The candles at Republique signify a city shocked, the LEDs at Elysees a city looking ahead.

December 16, 2015 03:53 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:03 pm IST - PARIS:

The slogan 'CLIMATESIGN' is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21 in Paris.PHOTO: AP

The slogan 'CLIMATESIGN' is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21 in Paris.PHOTO: AP

The tributes and the vigil at the Place de la Republique square in Paris continue with candles, flowers and the occasional song. Everyday, volunteers adjust the candles and flowers meticulously, more people come to remember, and slogans of peace and solidarity are all around the statue and monument that proclaims the formation of the Third Republic.

A month since terror

Just over a month after the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, the city is nervously moving on, preparing for Christmas. The Eiffel tower shimmers with lights, beaming a spotlight out to the world, and the Champs Elysees is aglow with LED lights on trees.

The Paris Metro, the RER trains and the climate-controlled buses ferry tens of thousands of people smoothly. A cold Monday evening does not deter thousands of visitors, who stroll along the boulevard from the Arc du Triomphe, under the watchful eyes of armed police. The avenue trees that in summer make this vista a living watercolour painting now have an LED light canopy. Kiosks selling vin chaud (hot wine) are everywhere, interspersed with those selling French handicrafts and clothes.

Paris struggled after the November 13 terror attacks which came on the eve of the Christmas season, emptying hotels in good measure.

The successful climate change conference steered by the French presidency helped the city recover, having hosted 150 heads of state on a single day — a unique security challenge for any city in the world, and more so for one that experienced a terror attack.

Tourists — from within France and outside — have spent a total of €149 billion in France, the country with the “most international tourist arrivals” according to official statistics. Paris claims to be unique in having Welcome City Lab, an incubator for tourism-related start-ups with the city administration partnering in the venture. Following the climate conference, hotels are once again focused on attracting tourists.

Solar power

A good deal of LED illumination of the Champs Elysees, with its cinemas, designer stores and top-of-the-line car displays, is being powered this year by solar panels to highlight the climate theme.

The panels sponsored by the furniture major IKEA are themselves an exhibit on this high fashion stretch, with a live display that says over 95 units of power were produced in a not too sunny day.

Other tourist attractions in Paris are also attracting a large number of tourists. At the Notre Dame Cathedral, famous for its flying buttresses architecture, security personnel with automatic rifles scan the long line waiting to enter. Everyone is screened with a metal detector.

This December, there are two kinds of lights in Paris. The candles at Republique, at the Bataclan theatre on Boulevard Voltaire (where the maximum number of people were killed in the November attack) and at other places which tell the story of a city shocked.

On the Champs Elysees and other boulevards, the LEDs around silver buntings seem to symbolise the city of lights looking ahead.

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