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PROTESTS

‘Yellow vest’ leaders call for resurgence to protest French pension reform

Four years after the start of the start of one of France's most powerful protest movements, the 'yellow vests' (Gilet Jaunes) have announced plans to mobilise on Saturday, to protest rising inflation and the government's plans to push forward pension reform.

'Yellow vest' leaders call for resurgence to protest French pension reform
A protester, wearing a yellow vest, waves a French flag at the start of a rally in October 2022. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

The group also told BFMTV that it would be protesting the government’s repeated usage of “Article 49.3” which in their view cut short democratic, parliamentary debate in order to pass the 2023 budget.

The Yellow Vests will be primarily mobilising in the Paris area, but organisers have not “excluded other rallies” across the country, according to BFMTV.

Turnout

The ‘yellow vest’ movement is a far cry from its heyday when tens of thousands of people took to the streets all over France to protest. 

Small ‘yellow vest’ protests continued throughout 2020 and 2021 – sometimes merging with anti-vaccine passport protests and Covid conspiracy theory groups – but even in Paris they could muster at best a couple of hundred people.

Leaders say they have noted a higher than usual response for the event on January 7th. One Yellow Vest organiser told BFMTV that the call has received “a lot of momentum and response in the media and on social networks.”

Nevertheless, reporting by BFMTV showed that only a few hundred people reported that they planned to definitely “participate” in the movement on Saturday on Facebook events. One such page called “Tous à Paris le 7 Janvier” only counted 336 internet users who confirmed plans to participate.

According to reporting by Ouest France, “chances of large-scale mobilisation” on Saturday is low, citing analysis by Stéphane Sirot, a historian specialising in social movements. 

Sirot said that the Yellow Vest’s last mobilisation in Paris – which marked four years of the movement – only gathered a few hundred demonstrators. 

“There have been resurgences of the movement but they have never managed to rekindle the flame of 2018.”

Pension reform

The rallies are scheduled just a few days ahead of the President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiling its controversial pension reform plans. Unions across the country have promised to mobilise against pension reform, primarily the president’s goal of raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 or 65.

In a survey carried out by Public Senat in mid-December, approximately 67 percent of French people do not support plans to gradually raise the retirement age to 65, with most stating that this project is “not a good reform.”

At the start of the Yellow Vest movement, the group protested for over 60 weeks consecutively, initially protesting the unpopular fuel tax meant to help finance the country’s green energy transition, and ultimately calling attention to rising cost of living, inequality, and a sense that city elites had forgotten non-urban France. 

However, the movement began to lose momentum in Autumn 2019, though there have been some “waves of mobilisation” coinciding with the introduction of the Covid-19 health pass, Magali Della Sudda, a researcher at Sciences-Po in Bordeaux, told France 24.

Della Sudda said in April that the movement could “gain traction again” particularly “if Macron puts his pension reform back on the table.”

Locations

The routes for Saturday’s protest are not yet finalised with the Paris police préfecture, but according to BFMTV, the group hopes to rally at 11am at place de Breteuil in Paris 7th arrondisement, with the goal of marching toward either Denfert-Rochereau or place d’Italie later in the afternoon. 

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PARIS

Apps, reservations and flying taxis: What to know before visiting Paris this summer

If you are visiting Paris this summer, then you know that there will be large crowds in the city on account of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but there are a few other changes and new services to be aware of.

Apps, reservations and flying taxis: What to know before visiting Paris this summer

France’s capital is expected to welcome 15 million people between late July and early September – considerably more than the 6.2 to 6.4 million visitors who came between July and August in 2023 or the roughly 10 million summer visitors Paris saw in pre-pandemic days.

On top of a larger than normal amount of visitors, there are some other changes that visitors to Paris should anticipate this summer, as well as tools to help make life easier.

Access to monuments and tourist sites

Planning for wait times – This new French website – Affluences – shares in real time the wait times for more than 700 tourist and cultural sites in the Paris region, including the Louvre, Versailles and the Eiffel Tower. It also provides a forecast for the expected wait times throughout the day, as well as the operating hours of the site.

The platform, which partnered with the Paris tourism office, is available online and in app form. You can also see whether or not the site requires a reservation in advance, and it will offer links to take you to their official website.

The company Affluences has been equipping Paris’ major tourist sites with accurate accounts of crowds, to help them manage large flows of people for 10 years, but now their tool is available for the public online.

According to Le Parisien, the tourism company Atout France estimates that it has a 99 percent reliability rating.

Modified hours and disruption – Several popular tourist sites may have altered hours during the Games, and particularly during the Opening Ceremony (July 26th). It would be best to reserve any cultural activities in advance if possible.

As for the Eiffel Tower, despite being next to a venue, it will remain open during the Olympics period apart from the day of the Opening Ceremony (July 26th). However between July 18th and July 25th the Tower is in a security zone so you will require a QR code to enter – more info here. From July 27th onwards no QR code will be required for visitors – the Tower will be in a red zone, which has restrictions on vehicles, but which pedestrians can enter freely.

During the Olympic Games, the Louvre will remain open to visitors, except for July 25th and 26th. However, all visitors from July 1st to September 8th must book a ticket ahead of time. As for the Tuileries Garden, it will be closed on August 28th and throughout the Games it will be in a security zone, meaning vehicular traffic will be severely limited – although pedestrians can still access it.

You can find more info about Olympics related disruption/changes for the Louvre HERE.

When it comes to Versailles, the château, as well as the gardens, will remain open to the public throughout the Games, with normal visiting hours.

READ MORE: Travel deals to take advantage of as prices drop ahead of Paris Olympics

Special taxis 

During the summer of 2024, the city of Paris will debut the ‘Taxi Seine Paris’, a new boat shuttle service launched on June 13th.

It can carry up to six passengers at a time and will cost €145 per trip, or divided by six, a little under €25 a person. 

As of mid-June, there were only 10 Seine taxis, but there will likely be more to come. The taxis will allow passengers to go from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre within 15 to 20 minutes. 

The service can be booked online up to 24 hours in advance, and it will service two stops (the Louvre and Port de la Bourdonnais, just in front of the Eiffel Tower).

As for the flying taxis, there will be some test flights during the Olympic Games. However, they will not be available to the general public initially.

“If we see that they’re not effective and that they make too much noise, then we’ll draw conclusions,” France’s transport minister told AFP.

The vehicle – known as an eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) – is more of a small helicopter or even a large drone. It is four times quieter than a typical helicopter, according to Volocopter, and powered by an electric battery. The idea is that the devices will eventually operate like a shuttle service linking the city and its airports.

As for the regular taxis, these will of course be available, but you should read our tips to ensure you take an official taxi and avoid being overcharged. For people with disabilities, transport authorities have promised a fleet of at least 1,000 accessible taxis during the Olympic period.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How accessible is Paris for people with disabilities?

QR codes and Olympics disruption

From Metro stops to areas around Games’ venues – several parts of the city will either be closed off or placed within a security zone during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

In order to help people in Paris plan for disruption during the Games, the French government has created a website – called ‘Anticiper les jeux’.

It is filled with information – from setting up alerts for possible disruption to checking which Metro stations will be closed and planning your routes while travelling during the Games.

The most useful section is undoubtedly the interactive map which allows you to search for any disruption by area or by a specific Metro line or road. It will also show you whether the address you are looking to visit is within a security zone, in which case you may find yourself needing a QR code.

READ MORE: How to check for Paris Olympics disruption in your area

Increased pricing for transport

Those visiting during the Games will also pay a higher price for public transport.

Between July 20th and September 8th, the price of a single ticket – which can be used on the Metro, buses, RER trains or trams – will go up to €4, in contrast to the €2.15 it costs currently, and purchasing a 10 tickets at once (a carnet) will increase from €17.35 to €32 during the Games.

This does not affect residents with a travel pass or monthly card, or people who buy tickets in advance.

READ MORE: How to avoid public transport price hikes during Olympics

What’s on besides the Olympics?

Paris Plages

Each year, the city creates a seaside resort away from the ocean, with swimming areas, games and plenty of family-friendly activities. In 2024, the Paris Plages will be open from July 6 to September 8th, with some minor changes from previous years, namely the Canal Saint-Martin being the primary relaxation area.

The swimming area at La Villette basin, as well as the usual deckchairs and relaxation areas along the banks of the Seine, will open starting on July 27th, after the Opening Ceremony has concluded. The full programme will be available in the coming weeks on the Paris town hall website.

Exhibits

There are plenty to choose from, but we’ve picked three.

If you are in Paris at the start of the summer, you can visit the ‘Paris 1874, Inventer l’impressionnisme’ exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay, which celebrates 150 years of impressionism. It will remain open until July 14th. More info here.

There is also the ‘Paris!’ free exhibit at the Hôtel de Ville, which gives an overview of the city spanning its culture, major events, tragedies and everything else that makes up its identity. It will be available all summer long, though you should reserve ahead of time.

You might also consider another free exhibit – the ‘Stage Jewels of the Comédie Française’. This exhibit is hosted at the Hôtel de Mercy-Argenteau, located in the 9th arrondissement. You can admire all of the stage jewellery used by France’s best actors and actresses from the 18th century onwards. It will be open all summer, with normal operating hours.

Concerts 

There are plenty of summer festivals and concerts across the country, but mark your calendar for the Rock en Seine festival from August 21-25, with artists like Lana Del Rey, LCD Soundsystem, PJ Harvey and more. 

READ MORE: 26 unmissable summer 2024 festivals and events in France

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