The #1 visitor destination in Paris is the magnificent Eiffel Tower. We are in Paris for two lengthy visits per year and are often at or near the Eiffel Tower, as many of our favorite restaurants are on Rue St. Dominique. As such, we have an excellent feel as to what to expect in terms of visitors. We know what the parked bus lineups look like, the hordes of tourists filling near every square meter under and around the ET, the long lines of impatient visitors snaking around the entrance booths to the ET, and the dozens of hawkers from Senegal waving mini Eiffel Towers.
And this visit? In a poof, it’s gone. The ET is now surrounded by a security fence. No more crowds milling underneath. The waiting lines? Reduced to a mere trickle, approaching zero. The Senegalese hawkers? Prohibited from the zone. The long lineup of tourist-filled buses and crowds of waiting riders? Almost completely gone. It’s shocking and sad and hard to see conditions changing soon. Could there any better measure of French tourist activity than the Eiffel Tower?
The word that sums up the prevailing situation is crisis. European voters know what is going on, and what to do about the crisis. In Austria, the coalition government that has ruled the country since WWII didn’t even make it out of the first round of voting. The UK—shockingly to many—has voted to exit the EU altogether. In Germany, Angela Merkel is on the ropes. In Hungary, the hard right is prevailing. In Poland, the mood is the same. And here in Paris, the mere mention of François Hollande draws snickers of disdain.
Europe is reacting strongly against the radical Muslim horde that has been sweeping over the region. And the political worm has turned. In the U.S. as well. Donald Trump has made it clear that he understands voters’ fears. At Trump’s country-wide rallies, he draws record-setting crowds, while competitor Clinton draws an ET-like trickle. The American media and the deeply entrenched Washington political elite would have voters believe otherwise. Who will be the wiser this November remains to be seen.