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HEALTH

‘We’ll end up drinking like the Brits and eating like Americans’ – French react to curfew announcement

Too far or not far enough? When French President Emmanuel Macron announced a 9pm curfew for the cities worst hit by Covid-19 the reaction was swift.

'We'll end up drinking like the Brits and eating like Americans' - French react to curfew announcement
Leisurely dinners or late night drinks in the café will not be possible from Saturday.Photo: AFP

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” Macron said during a live sent interview on Wednesday evening, where he announced an imminent curfew in nine of the hardest-hit areas of the country.

It was the first time since lockdown in March that the president announced sweeping new measures to restrict social gatherings in France.

But after weeks of spiralling Covid-19 rates that are now threatening to overwhelm hospitals in several cities including Paris, the president said it was time to stop playing around.

“We won't be leaving the restaurant after 9pm,” he said. “We won't be partying with friends because we know that that's where the infection risk is greatest.”

From Saturday, a curfew from 9pm to 6am will be in place in nine areas – the greater Paris Île-de-France region and the metropole areas of Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Grenoble, Montpellier, Saint-Etienne, Rouen and Toulouse.

READ ALSO What you need to know about France new nighttime curfew rules

Although expected, the announcement of the curfew provoked swift backlash from critics and on Thursday morning #GeorgeOrwell – the author of the world-famous fictional account of a society watched by an omnipresent Big Brother – was trending on Twitter.

Many immediately began joking that the curfew would force them to adopt British or American habits.

 

“So we've stopped kissing and now we're going to eat at 6pm,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“It's not a Chinese virus, it's an English virus,” he said.

 

The Local headed out to ask some Parisians for their reaction to the new rules, which come as infection rates soar and the boss of the city's hospitals has issued a stark warning

Leo, a 23-year-old school high school supervisor, said: 

“I think the curfew is a stupid idea. People still take public transport to go to work, and young people go to classes.

“I wanted to organise a party next week, so I'm quite disappointed. Apart from that, the curfew will not change my everyday life but I do not approve of it.”

But an overwhelming majority of those who spoke to us were supportive of the new rules.

Emmanuel, 40, said: “We cannot go out to the cinema or the theatre anymore, but it is necessary to contain the Covid wave. When people gather in a private sphere, interactions are much closer than at work and people are less careful.

“Our lifestyle here is very different, we have dinner quite late and I do not think it will change. It is a temporary bad time, especially for people who have trouble with staying home. Some will maybe go to the restaurant a bit earlier!’’

Jean-Louis, 51, said: “I don’t know if a curfew is justified, we will see how it turns out. It has been done in other countries, so why not here as well?

“In any case, measures have to be taken, so I think a curfew is a good idea. It will not change my habits so much, despite dinners or evenings with friends. We do not know how long the curfew will last, but of course it is temporary.”

 

Blaise, a 21-year-old student, said: “’I go home from classes way before 9pm, so my life won’t be changed so much. Considering what is happening in Paris, the curfew is justified.

“I know many people in business or medical studies who keep on having parties. Parties are a cool thing to do when you’re a student, but a curfew for one or two months is really important.

“Of course the virus will keep on spreading during the day as well as after 9pm. But the curfew’s aim is mainly to avoid huge student events with 100 or 200 people for example.”

Elio, 18 and also a student, said: “It's a very good idea and a completely justified one, especially because young people are the ones who go out the most in the evening.

“There is no need be dramatic about the curfew, which is completely doable. It will prevent people from going out during week-ends, but it’s nothing compared to the lockdown.

“If people do not respect the curfew, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is another lockdown.”

A poll conducted by the Harris Institute for French media LCI found that 73 percent of French people were in favour of the introduction of the curfew.

And in a rare favourable review for the president – 60 percent of people found Emmanuel Macron convincing in his TV address to the nation on Wednesday night.

Member comments

  1. I find it interesting that a lot of people are arguing against the curfew claiming transit, work and schools as as the main transmission points based on the cluster data, but the government keeps pointing out that the clusters represent less than 20% of the total cases and untracked social situations are the key spreader.

  2. Young peoples social gatherings I think are the greatest spreaders. They probably remain asymptomatic and so won’t get tested. They pass it on unbeknown to vulnerable people. We can’t blame them, it’s natural. This is a sensible move to reduce the infection rate a bit, we need to get it down for hospitals to cope. We can’t stop the spread it’s just not possible unless you want a very strict six week lockdown.

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CULTURE

Skulls, beer and a ‘cathedral’: Discover the secrets of underground Paris

You've certainly heard of the Metro, maybe the catacombs and perhaps even the Phantom of the Opera's underground lake - but there are some things lurking beneath Paris that might surprise you.

Skulls, beer and a 'cathedral': Discover the secrets of underground Paris

One of Europe’s most densely populated cities, Paris has over two million people living within its boundaries. As those inhabitants walk along the Champs-Elysées or Rue de Rivoli, they might be entirely unaware of the extensive underground world that exists below their feet. 

These are some of the hidden gems beneath the famous monuments in the City of Light:

Skulls, beer and police

The final resting place for over six million Parisians – the catacombs are the most well-known part of underground Paris, but did you know that the 1,700 metres of catacombs that are open to the public represent less than one percent of the whole of the catacombs in Paris? In fact, the underground network is thought to be around 300 km in size.

The catacombs are also known as the Ossuaire Municipal, and they are located at the site of former limestone quarries. The Ossuaire as we know it was created during the 18th century, because the city’s cemeteries could not withstand its population growth and public health concerns began to be raised. Gradually the remains of millions of Parisians were moved underground.

The bones of Parisians only comprise a small section of Paris’ ‘carrières‘ (or quarries), which can be seen in the above map.

These subterranean passages have fascinated cataphiles for many years – with stories of secret parties, illicit tunnel exploration and much more. During the Covid lockdowns, the catacombs infamously served as a location for clandestine parties. At one point, over 35 people were ticketed for participating in underground raves

The network even has its own police service, the Intervention and Protection Group, known colloquially as the cataflics, who are a specialised police brigade in charge of monitoring the old quarries in Paris.

Though these quarries might be a location to secretly throw back a few pints, they are also connected to beer for another reason, as they are the ideal environment to both store and make beer – with consistently cool temperatures and nearby access to underground water sources.

In 1880, the Dumesnil brewery, located in the 14th arrondissement, invested in the quarries underneath its premises, using them to store the thousands of barrels of beer that it produced each year. Over the years, the brewery simply turned its basement into a real underground factory. 

If you really want to visit the ancient underground quarries specifically, you don’t have to just go to the catacombs. You can also do so by visiting the “Carrières des Capucins.” Found just below the Cochin hospital, located in the 14th arrondissement, access to these tunnels is allowed to the public (with reservation) in small groups.

As for entering the rest of the old quarry system, that has been illegal to enter the old quarries since 1955, which has not stopped several curious visitors and explorers from trying to discover what secrets might be underground. 

Sewer Museum

Recently renovated, this museum might not be at the top of a tourist’s list in the same way the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay might, but the museum of sewers actually has a lot of fascinating history to share. It took almost a century to build Paris’ sewage system, and it is largely to thank for the city’s growth, protecting the public health of inhabitants by helping prevent disease outbreaks. 

Visiting the sewers is not a new activity either – according to the museum’s website, “as early as 1867, the year of the World’s Fair, visits were met with immense public success, the reason being that this underground space had always been hidden from the curious eyes of all those who dwell on the surface of Paris.”

Ghost stations

A total of 16 Metro stations go unused underground in Paris – some were built and never put into use, others were decommissioned after World War II.

The most famous is Porte des Lilas – a working Metro station that has an unused ‘ghost’ section which these days is used for filming scenes in movies and TV.

If you’ve ever watched a scene set in the Metro, chances are it was filmed at Porte des Lilas, which has a section of track that Metro cars can move along if needed for action sequences. 

The extra section was taken out of commission in 1939 due to under-use, and in the 1950s it served as a place to test new metro cars.

Beware if you find yourself in Haxo station – it does not have its own entrance or exit and is only accessible by following the Metro tunnels. It is one of the six that never opened, similar to Porte Molitor, Orly-Sud, La Défense-Michelet, or Élysée-La Défense.

Other stations were closed for being too close to other stations, such as the Saint-Martin station, which was closed after World War II as it was too close to Strasbourg-Saint Denis. 

These phantom stations are usually off-limits to the public, but sometimes access is allowed for special guided tours or events.

Reminders of World War II 

Paris’ underground played an important role during the Second World War.

First, there is the French resistance command bunker, which is now part of the Musée de la Libération at Place Denfert Rochereau.

It was from here that Resistance leaders co-ordinated the battle for the liberation of Paris in 1944.

There is also the anti-bombardment bunker near Gare de l’Est. Normally this is closed during the year, but it is opened on Heritage Day in September. (Journées de patrimoine). 

The bunker was originally commissioned in 1939 to keep trains running, even in the event of a gas attack, and it was completed by the Germans in November 1941. It is located between Metro tracks 3 and 4. The bunker itself – which can fit up to 50 people – has basically been frozen in time, featuring a control room and telephone. 

Another river

You’ve heard of the Seine, but what about the underground river that flows through the city of Paris? Prior to the 20th century, the Bièvre river flowed through the city as well, running through Paris’ 13th and 5th arrondisements. Once upon a time, tanners and dyers set up shop next to the Bievre, shown in the image below. 

The river eventually became quite polluted and concerns arose that it might be a health hazard, so in 1875, as part of his transformation of the city, Georges-Eugène Haussmann decided that the Bièvre had to go. It was mostly covered up, and now what remains of the river flows beneath the city, with some parts of it joining Paris’ sewage system.

The Phantom’s lake

If you are a fan of Phantom of the Opera, you would know that the Phantom’s lair is below the Palais Garnier (the Opera house), and that Christine and the Phantom must cross a subterranean lake to get there.

This body of water is not a figment the imagination of Gaston Leroux – though not an actual lake, a large water tank can be found below the grounds. It is even used to train firefighters to swim in the dark.

The Phantom’s not real, though (probably).

‘Cathedral’

The Montsouris reservoir is one of Paris’ primary drinking water sources, along with L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Saint-Cloud, Ménilmontant and Les Lilas.

But while it’s undoubtedly very useful, it’s most famous for its looks.

The structure resembles a kind of underground water cathedral and is home to over 1,800 pillars, which support its numerous vaults and arches. It’s closed to the public, but its rare beauty means that it’s often photographed by urban explorers.

Mushroom farms

And last but not least – the ‘mushroom houses.’ Les champignons de Paris have been grown below the capital’s soil for centuries.

READ MORE: Inside Paris’ underground mushroom farms

“Paris mushrooms” have been grown since the 17th century. The rosé des près (meadow pink) mushrooms were a favourite of Louis XIV and were originally grown overground – their colour comes from the limestone that Paris is build on.

By the 19th century they went underground, which provided more space and allowed the fungi to be cultivated year-round, but eventually the construction of the Paris Metro pushed many growers out of the capital.

Today, there are just five traditional producers in operation – Shoua-moua Vang runs the largest underground mushroom cave in the Paris region, spread across one and a half hectares of tunnels in a hill overlooking the Seine river. 

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