by Toni CERDA
Tourists can finally flock to Paris after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic but many are frustrated by the construction works spoiling views of famous sights such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Monuments including the Louvre museum and Grand Palais are covered with scaffolding, wooden fencing or billboards as the City of Light gears up to host the Olympics in 2024, sparking disappointment in tourists looking for the perfect snap.
“It’s a shame this area is under construction because it’s also the most emblematic part of Paris,” said Spanish tourist Eva Caro, as she wandered around the Trocadero esplanade overlooking the Seine river.
Every year millions of tourists head to Trocadero as it offers a picture-perfect view of the Eiffel Tower — used as a backdrop countless times by celebrities and fashion models.
But the lengthy renovation works on the esplanade, which are nearing their end, pepper the horizon with fences and make the hunt for the ideal photo for social media more challenging.
“Finally after Covid, we get to come here … I don’t know if this is a temporary construction or whatever but it’s bugging me,” said Tami Agmon, a doctor on holiday from Israel.
As the sun beats down on the dozens of tourists massed on the square, some climb a barricade to try and capture the iconic monument built by Gustave Eiffel for the Universal Exposition in 1889.
“I think it’s dangerous to have to go up (on the wall) because we could fall and it would ruin the trip,” said Caro, who climbed up to get a snap with her hands making a heart around the Iron Lady.
French tourist Francine Cabrier, who has come from the Alps where she works as a city hall employee, is even more annoyed.
“Frankly, it’s very, very disappointing. It’s a shame! To take a photo you need to be much farther away. It’s a waste!” she told AFP.
Across the Seine at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, scaffolding around the monument in the midst of a makeover forced tourists Maria Paz Lindeman and Ernesto Silva to lean down for a low angle shot.
“We were just wondering which was the best side to not see so much scaffolding… There’s no place where you can take the perfect picture,” said Lindeman, a Peruvian schoolteacher.
It’s a similar story in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, which is undergoing extensive renovation works after the 2019 fire that almost burned the Gothic monument to the ground.
“We were at the Eiffel Tower and our pictures were ruined a little bit because of the construction going on there but nothing as much as over here!” said American tourist Steven Engelberg.
-‘Paris is Paris’-
Parisian monuments have opted for different techniques to ease the eyesore — the Madeleine Church is covered with a billboard featuring Mont Saint Michel, while the National Assembly — parliament — opted to reproduce its own facade.
At the foot of the obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, tour guide Thierry Collegia told AFP he faces questions about the extensive construction works.
“I mainly tell them that it’s because of the 2024 Olympics,” said Collegia, adding that mostly tourists were delighted to be back in Paris.
“And there are so many monuments in Paris to admire that if some are undergoing building work, it’s not such a big deal,” he added.
Paris is clocking up visitor numbers that resemble those before the Covid-19 pandemic brought trips to a stop.
Some 12.1 million people visited the capital between January and May 2022, only three million fewer than during the same period in 2019, according to City Hall.
Colombian lawyer Gloria Ramirez, 56, said she did not regret crossing the Atlantic.
“We would have come anyway even if we had known about the construction works. It’s not a problem — Paris is Paris,” she said. — Agence France-Presse