This holiday season in Paris was marred by weekly citywide violence that unfortunately became a regular part of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests. To guard against further vandalism and looting, shops started to board up their windows and close for business each Saturday during the protests, resulting in an estimated loss of 2 billion euros in sales during their busiest shopping season. Museums, like the Louvre, and monuments, like the Tour Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe, also shut. Private property and cars were burned. A firebomb was hurled into the Tuileries gardens just beside the Jeu de Paume, an historic building now an art museum. The world shuddered collectively. Was nothing sacred?
While I can sympathize with the cause of the gilets jaunes, I can’t condone the violence, and especially the vandalism of precious heritage sites. I found myself deeply shaken. The explosion of violence around the city tweaked the same nerve for me as the 2015 terror attacks. Something about the loss of beauty and innocence, perhaps. My sense of safety.
Many expats felt the same, but the French seem to take this all in their stride. Destruction and disruption was just a part of the right to protest, they said. It would pass. And indeed, the city workers would swoop in and clear away the debris, the evidence, and by Sunday it was as if nothing had happened. Life continued, unhampered.
It’s yet another life lesson courtesy of Paris: finding peace amid the chaos and unpredictability of life.
In the days before I flew back to the States to spend the holidays with family, I walked around Paris, in many of the same neighborhoods battered by the violence, as if to assuage my unease. The beauty of the city, bedecked for the season, still shone bright—from the glamorous swags of lights across Rue Royale to the sweet, intimate gestures of daily life in my own arrondissement: a man and his son walking home lugging a huge Christmas tree they’d just purchased; a cheery snowman in the window of my local pharmacy. All these things spoke of the hope of the heart, the propensity toward joyfulness, and the resilience of the human mind.
We cannot deny that the world seems perched, uneasy, at the edge of some major change. We may feel uncertain, shaken by world events, like the violent protests in Paris. While we cannot control what happens outside ourselves, we can control how much it affects us, how much negativity we allow into our minds. We can choose to focus on the beauty of life, have gratitude for the gifts we’ve been given. There is peace amid the chaos, and it lives in each of us. I wish you all peace this holiday season, and in the New Year. XO Lisa
Some signs of holiday joy in Paris
Cover photo top of post: The carousel on Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, near the Champs-Elysées, an area that has been ground zero for violence and vandalism during the gilets jaunes protests. This photo was taken during more tranquil times. I made this image my holiday card this year in honor of the resilience of the city.
Learn more about the journey that led to My (Part-Time) Paris Life in my memoir of the same name, ON SALE NOW! Finalist for “Best Paris Book,” Expatriates Magazine, 2017.