Tourists bitter as France endures strike
19 November 2007, PARIS - Tourists who have descended on the French capital despite a crippling transport strike are trying to make the best of the inconvenience -- they just walk or give up on sites they had planned to see.
19 November 2007
PARIS - Tourists who have descended on the French capital despite a crippling transport strike are trying to make the best of the inconvenience -- they just walk or give up on sites they had planned to see.
"The strike is okay, but we had to walk for miles," said Myriam Gonzales from Spain's Canary Islands, one of the thousands of tourists from overseas trying to enjoy Paris anyway.
"It's really a huge problem because there's no metro, no bus, and taxis are hard to find. We wanted to see the Palace of Versailles, but gave up.
"We accept the strike but what do tourists have to do with it," she wondered.
"And it's so cold," she added on Sunday morning, shivering as an icy wind blew over the city's Palais Royal, just off the Louvre.
The strike over generous pension conditions for train drivers kicked off Wednesday, hitting train service across the country and paralysing public transport in the capital, may last until talks set to begin on Wednesday.
Near the Louvre pyramid, David and Patrick Ee, 24- and 25-year-old students from Singapore, said they had "walked 20 kilometres in two days" because there was no public transportation. From their hotel in the northwestern suburb of Clichy it takes them two hours every morning to get to central Paris.
"But look at it this way, we get a different glimpse of Paris. When you take the metro you don't see anything," David said.
Not really in the know of what the strike is about they still respect the right to industrial action.
"In Singapore, this is absolutely impossible, and the unions support the government", said Patrick.
Mathew Barlow, from Colorado, came to Paris to show the city to his girlfriend.
"In France, strikes are a sport, like baseball in the United States," the 25-year-old said with a grin.
Barlow wanted to try Paris' new eco-friendly bicycle rental scheme to get around the city but said "it didn't work".
He now opted for a car rental to go to the Alps as plans for a trip by high-speed TGV train came to nothing.
But in the scenic Montmartre district, Bindi, 22, and Anisha, 24, who arrived from London on Friday night, think that visiting Paris by bike is "a new experience" -- in spite of the icy cold.
Russian Viktoria Gaushchina, a 31-year-old marketing expert for a Swedish company in Moscow, fears neither cold nor strike.
"I thought it would be a big problem, but it isn't. I just walk, it's charming," she said with a huge smile.
"The French love to go on strike. In Russia we say: three Frenchmen and expect a revolution. In Russia, it wouldn't lead to anything. We have a different kind of democracy."
While some are taking the strike in stride, others are more bitter.
"I arrived yesterday and it took me four hours to get from the airport to my hotel" near the Eiffel tower. "I'm worn out," said Vanessa, a 28-year-old Spaniard.
She was planning to stay in her neighbourhood, which is not far from the Champs-Elysees shopping district, before leaving on Monday.
Stephan from Switzerland, who went to Versailles by car, was equally disgruntled.
"We have been visiting Paris for some days now but for us this strike is a real disaster. Tomorrow we'll go back to Switzerland."
Subject: French news