Since it is not only the end of the year, but also the end of a decade, I have decided to do what everyone else is doing and produce a list. I have stuck with the Paris theme and produced a very subjective list of what I consider to have been the most significant events in the city over the decade and how I have experienced them. Although several events apply to France as a whole, I have tried to give just the Paris perspective.
The list could not have any particular order of importance, so I have decided to be date specific. Because you and I have little time to read and write blogs at this time of the year, and to spare you from a huge block of text, I’ve also decided to split the list into separate posts – one a day over the festive period!
Have I missed any events? Have you had any important experiences of your own over this period? Don’t hesitate to add your own remarks in the comments!
The Election of Bertand Delanoë as Mayor of Paris (2001)
If there is one word that has marked the first ten years of this new century in Paris it is ‘Bobo’. The city has become the playground of the young bourgeois/bohemian, a reasonably well off character who nevertheless tries to have a social conscience and live in an unostentatious manner. I readily admit that I am one of them.
If this population has one champion it is the Mayor of the city, Bertrand Delanoë. In my first full decade in Paris I have seen two Presidential elections and two city elections. The former are obviously more important for the country as a whole, but from an individual perspective, the latter have greater meaning, and this for one key reason – I am allowed to vote. As a foreigner, I have no role to play in Presidential elections, but as a European citizen I have been able to vote in city elections. This has left me with the curious sensation of feeling more part of Paris than of France as a whole.
I remember Delanoë’s election in 2001 quite clearly. I had paid little attention to his predecessor, Jean Tiberi, but Delanoë seemed like a figure who could provoke a radical and fundamental change in the city. Firstly, he was openly and proudly Gay, and in a very conformist political system, he was someone who could present a more diverse face for the city. I was clearly not the only one with this sentiment as he was easily elected as the first Socialist Mayor of the city after nearly 25 years of right-wing rule.
And the city did change. He may sometimes be accused of running Paris through stunts and show events - it is now almost as well-known for things such as ‘Paris Plages’ and the ‘Nuits Blanches’ as it is for its more permanent architectural features - but wider bus lanes, one way streets and new car-free zones have also made it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and is today listed as the tenth greenest city in Europe.
What about the man himself? In truth, Delanoë often comes across as a little cold, obdurate and humourless, but perhaps this dates back to the moment when he was stabbed during the first Nuits Blanches event in 2002. Critics also point to the limited business initiatives in the city which sometimes seems to be stalling on the world stage, but he was nevertheless re-elected in 2008 with an increased majority. Moving into a new decade, the Bobo is clearly still an important part of Paris life.