I love Paris no matter what is happening and nothing stops JoJo from visiting the city of love! I received a recommendation to visit Hotel Costes and have a few drinks in the courtyard. The hotel is gorgeous from the moment one steps inside which truly is a remarkable sight to see. The entrance is as if one is walking into a fabulous yacht and once through the main hallway after being greeted by the very friendly doorman, one is welcomed by a group of bar and restaurant staff with all smiles. I have been given a grand tour of the dining areas and the courtyard simply to choose my spot to sit which is very kind of the staff to do. I have to decided to sit in the courtyard and this is where the majority of the Parisian crowd is sitting. Although smoking in the courtyard is allowed, I am not bothered by it as it’s a reminder I am in the one and only city of Paris. After meeting fabulous people and being served two of the best glasses of red wine I’ve had in quite some time, I think I’ll go for a stroll around Place Vendome.
I say my goodbyes and head out. For some reason the streets are quite empty which I find a bit odd. I look to my left and see all of sudden the finest shops such as Gucci, Versace, & Prada have all been boarded up as if it’s a ghost town. I think to myself “Well this is interesting”. I turn to my right and there’s a full blockade of Parisian police with shields. I can’t even see their faces. I walk up to them and their shields are quickly pushed towards my face and heightened to their face. I speak but only head shakes in the motion of “No” are motioned. I decide to turn around and then realize Hotel Costes not only is boarded up but also closed. Suddenly I feel as though I’m in one of those premonition dreams I have every so often. As I start to walk down the streets of Paris in some of the finest neighborhoods, I see an enormous police blockade wall so it looks like I can’t go that way.
I’ll go this way. Suddenly an enormous parade of yellow jackets and flags shouting French chants come barreling down the street in front of the Catholic Church L’eglise de la Madeleine on Rue Royale. I hear what sounds like giant booms and begin to see not only fires erupt but smoke and the smell of tear gas. I decide it’s time to run the other way and make a deal with the French police. As I’m running back towards Hotel Costes, I pull out my iPhone to go Instagram & Facebook Live with a cable connected to a giant battery back in my pocket. I run to the police and say “Je suis American! Tourist!”, one policeman walks forward and asks me to take the majority of my clothes off and fully pats me down and allows me to pass through. On my way to the Metro, motorcycles and cars are being knocked over and set ablaze. Another fine shop’s windows are being smashed by men who aren’t wearing yellow jackets and a girl is standing right behind the swinging of the railing that the looter must have grabbed from a railing Instagramming his crime. I record the event for a bit but then as smoke begins to rise I begin to run faster. I have to hop over knocked over motorcycles that are about to be set on fire. Each Metro I run to has been shut down and the only way to get out is to run. I make it back to my hotel in one piece. I wake up and realize my live videos expired after 24 hours and are impossible to retrieve from Instagram nor Facebook.
Looks like I’ll need to book another flight to Paris and this time be a true journalist and put myself in the riots.
A week later I am back in Paris and head to two locations that I was informed by a yellow jacket is exactly where the protests would begin. They are both completely empty. One of them is Place de la Bastille while the other is Arch De Triumph. I go to both and they are empty. I then have another bird tell me it’s Arch De Triumph so I head back to Arch De Triumph and start seeing a crowd form. Now it’s incredibly foolish to be even remotely near events like these but I had a deep sense of journalism in my heart and soul and am prepared for the worst going back into this chaos. If I make it out in one piece, It will all be worth it and what a story!
I get to Arch De Triomphe and the crowds start forming, police start forming, and tear gas starts igniting. Just being present in this crowd of not so happy out-of-town French citizens, I am soaked with information and experience I never would have dreamed of getting by simply watching the news. I interviewed countless yellow jackets whom all had the same response: “We are hear protesting because we are being taxed when we shouldn’t be”. No one who is protesting actually lives within Paris and some of the protesters are incredibly friendly. Speaking of friendly, the French police are super friendly! They are speaking calmly with the protesters and both parties are actually smiling with each other throwing a few laughs.
If anyone in America decided to protest like this, let’s just say we would never see them on planet earth ever again and I do not believe the protesters here know how good they’ve got it! Far more protesting rights than American citizens. I am speaking with the French press, radio stations, TV networks all who are risking their lives for their jobs. I ask if they are receiving overtime or additional pay and they are telling me absolutely not! I notice that the only time the police take action is when someone taunts them, throws something at them, then they charge and throw tear gas as well as make these sonic booms from these big black cannons in which the protesters all together shout “Boo!”.
I’ve run into a Santa Clause this round of protests, a yellow jacket wearing a Guy Fawkes Mask, and a few other protestors including a drummer and some dancers. Talk about a wild crowd all in front of the Arc de Triomphe. On Av. Des Champs-Elysees. I begin to noice that the crowd is getting wilder, more compact, and that the police are closing in on all corners of this beautiful boulevard. A giant release of tear gas hits me, I scoot to the Five Guys restaurant in which the sliding glass doors are locked with the manager standing at the door motioning his head with the gesture of “no”. I turn around and a man is laughing in front of me with tears running down his face and he says in French “They got me oh they got me good!”.
After many attempts through different side streets I am able to escape through the French police wall! Every day is a good day in Paris no matter what! More to come! -JoJo
More to come! -JoJo