|Spring colour in the Marché aux Fleurs, Place Louis Lépine|
The third day of my recent Paris trip was officially the first day of Spring. The Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) in Place Louis Lépine was filled with spring colour and greenery. Paris will be hosting COP21 in the battle against climate change in 2015. Air quality was poor during my stay. French TV claimed it was worse than Shanghai.
On my first morning, the Eiffel Tower was obscured by mist and murk. At the weekend, travelling by Metro was free to encourage Parisians to use public transport instead of their cars.
Paris owes much to Baron Haussmann for its wide, "airy" streets. British cities simply cannot replicate his urban planning . Today, such an autocratic approach will not be tolerated. British cities also have much heritage to preserve and cannot emulate Paris despite inner-city congestion problems.
|Boulevard Haussmann in Paris|
The Recession seems to have left Paris with a backlog of maintenance repairs, but the solid infrastructure must leave many cities envious. Wherever I went, traffic seemed to move without too much difficulty - even during the rush hour. Accustomed to London congestion, I kept allowing too much time to get from A to B. I couldn't help wondering if the wide streets were such a blessing if they made Parisians more inclined to drive into the capital.
I was very surprised by reports on French TV. Despite regulation, the French still smoke heavily in public places - and, French women are more likely to continue smoking in pregnancy. I have always understood the French to be very health-conscious.
I saw evidence of eco-friendly initiatives. Paris has its equivalent of London's "Boris bikes". I saw row upon row of them - all largely unused. Maybe because of the high pollution rates during my stay? I also saw electric cars being charged in the streets. Again, I was disappointed not to see one in use.
|Autolib' electric car sharing scheme in Paris|
At the Centre Georges Pompidou, I saw an artwork by the British-born and New Zealand-based David Trubridge. It was an orange sphere representing the sun with white wings to either side. Trubridge used natural, sustainable and recyclable materials.
The work hangs above visitors' heads as a poetic reminder of the dangers of climate change. David Trubridge was inspired by both Maori legend and Greek myth. Like Icarus, Man is flying too close to the Sun. It seems an appropriate warning in the host city for COP21 - especially just after the solar eclipse.
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