Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paris: A Jammed Site Harder Parisians Adapt to Strike by Helping Each Other, Finding Creative Travel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Paris: A Jammed Site Harder Parisians Adapt to Strike by Helping Each Other, Finding Creative Travel

Article excerpt

WHAT AMAZES me is how so many Parisians seem to think this is all just a lark," said Karoline Knoth, a German museum director who came to Paris just in time to find the museums and nearly everything else closed by a strike.

There was still no end in sight Wednesday, so Knoth, who is staying with friends in the suburb of St. Cloud, hitchhiked into the city.

"People help each other out," she said, "but another friend of mine who works in a private school on the other side of Paris says she has no idea how she is going to get to work tomorrow."

The entire French rail network has been all but closed for two weeks in protest against a government plan to trim the system of unprofitable branch lines. But four or five high-speed express trains go daily between Paris and Brussels, Belgium, so Knoth, like many other foreign visitors, is planning to go home by way of Belgium.

French workers in the private sector continue to ignore calls by the unions to join the strike. Most keep going to work somehow - by foot, by car, by thumbing a ride, by rollerskating, even by boat.

While the railroads are mostly idle, truck deliveries continue. The neighborhood baker still has fresh baguettes every morning, and the corner bistro has steak, fries and red wine. Chances are the bistro also has plenty of free tables.

The biggest problem during the strike is getting around Paris. It can take two hours to drive a distance that takes only 45 minutes on foot.

With police suspending most parking regulations, there are not enough spaces even when Parisians invent them, leaving their cars in the middle of wide boulevards designed a century ago to make it easier for the police to control rioters.

Police officers in riot helmets used those boulevards Tuesday night when a few hundred young anarchists peeled off from a peaceful demonstration and began overturning cars and garbage cans.

Jean Nicolleau and Henri Quantin, two businessmen in their 50s, walked down to the Seine in the tony neighborhood of Passy on Wednesday to try a new method of getting across Paris - a free shuttle boat service provided by the city, using the big sightseeing vessels that floodlight Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Pont-Neuf for tourists.

"You can survive this if you have a pair of healthy legs," said Quantin. "But it's no joke if you live out in the suburbs 25 miles away."

Quantin's brother lives in Creil, a half-hour north of Paris when the trains are running, but an eternity of traffic jams when they aren't. "He's staying with me for the duration," said Henri Quantin, who lives in a high-rise overlooking the boat stop. "He works near the Arc de Triomphe and can walk there from my apartment in about three-quarters of an hour."

Mark Austin, 25, a graphics designer from Birmingham, England, said he had to shut down his business when the strike began. …

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