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Fabric of Paris

Stories of the streets, railways and buildings of the most beautiful city in the world

Paris: a love story of six years and counting

I ❤️ Paris

A Tale of One City and One Man: personal reflections on my relationship with the city of love

Six years ago this week, I moved from London to Paris for the first time. A lot has happened to us both since 2014, but I am more in love with it today than ever before. I wanted to write something to mark the occasion.

Notre Dame Cathedral, April 2019
The cathedral shortly after a fire ravaged its spire and roof in April 2019.
Benjamin Chadwick [CC BY-SA 4.0]

Paris has been through a lot since I arrived here. Terror attacks, a deadly gas explosion, the startling Notre Dame fire. Serious flooding, a record heatwave, the first real snow in decades. Weeks of disruption from the gilets jaunes protests. Once-in-a-generation transport strikes. Streets emptied, cafés closed and rush hour commutes abandoned during the coronavirus lockdown.

It’s also had tremendous moments of triumph. Winning the bids for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Summer Olympics, hosting matches for two international football tournaments and welcoming a victorious team back from Russia at the end of the 2018 World Cup. Taking centre stage for COP 21 and the signing of the Paris Agreement. The completion of major building developments, including the Canopée des Halles, the Philharmonie, the Cité Judiciaire and Station F.

Cité Judiciaire, Paris under construction
The Cité Judiciaire, a major new courthouse in the Clichy-Batignolles neighbourhood of northwestern Paris.
Fred Romero (cropped) [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

The city has faced its share of political challenges, including housing shortages (exacerbated by the rise of Airbnb), rising homelessness, the 2015 refugee crisis, the failure of the Autolib car hire scheme and the botched rollout of the second generation of Vélib bikes. On the other hand, its high profile achievements include the pedestrianisation of the right bank of the Seine, an ambitious (if only partially realised) “plan vélo” to take space away from cars to give to cyclists and a ban on the most polluting vehicles; significant transport developments, including the beginning of the Grand Paris Express, doubling the length of the metro network; and the implementation of the Budget Participatif, an initiative to let local residents choose each year how 5% of the city’s budget will be spent.

For my part, I’ve got married, bought a flat, had several job changes, and spent a year away living in Burgundy. I’ve learned to code, got a gorgeous cat, and applied for French citizenship. And as I’ve discovered more and more about the beautiful city I now call home, I’ve grown to love it all the more. Starting this blog has helped me to further develop my appreciation of the place, honing my senses such that I notice things I never would have spotted before, from street furniture to wall plaques to curious signs.

Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin street sign
An example of something I would have paid little attention to in the past: a street sign where the most important information is the hardest to read.
Benjamin Chadwick [CC BY-SA 4.0]

As well as being a beautiful city with a rich history, a varied streetscape and a wealth of delicious food from around the world, it’s also been my home for most of these six years. I love it like I love my family. It’s not perfect – it’s expensive, polluted, often dirty and chaotic – but it’s beautiful, it’s given me so much, and it’s mine.

I’m looking forward to the next few years with excitement at the changes I can expect, both in my own life and in the life of Paris, as we continue our love story together. In the coming years I’ll be looking for ways to give something back to the city I love and contribute to the ongoing story of the City of Light. And as long as I keep having new ideas, I’ll keep publishing articles here about the infrastructure and transport of this wonderful place.

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