As we near the end of 2018, news of the upheaval in Paris these last few weeks has left travelers bewildered and anxious about this iconic, and for many of us, beloved, destination.
Scenes of the gilets jaunes, or "yellow vest," demonstrators torching cars in Paris and, heartbreakingly, vandalizing the Arc de Triomphe, along with reports of injuries and fatalities, seem more widespread and ongoing, rattling the nerves of locals and tourists alike.
The U.S. state department has issued a level 2 travel advisory as well as a series of alerts urging Americans to practice caution in Paris and cities throughout the destination.
Already there has been a drop of 15% in hotel reservations in Paris because of the unrest, according to Didier Chenet, president of Groupement National des Independants de l'Hotellerie et de la Restauration (GNI), which represents hotels and restaurants throughout the city.
The validity and tactics of those participating in the demonstrations are more than I want to get into in this space, but -- as often is the case nowadays when planning international leisure travel -- it doesn't hurt to consider a little perspective.
For one thing, the violence is not targeting visitors, according to Emmanuelle Lachaussee, spokesperson for the French Embassy in the U.S., who said at press time: "As far as we know, no tourists have been hurt."
That said, it is understandable that some travelers might rather postpone their visit to the City of Lights until the situation has stabilized. If that is the case, there are of inducements to visit other areas of France in 2019.
Here are a few that have me packing my bags:
• The 500th anniversary of the birth of the French Renaissance and the death of Leonardo da Vinci will shine a spotlight on the Loire Valley in 2019. The region will host a number of commemorative events throughout the year, including a traveling digital exhibition combining art and music, guided tours and dances and concerts at various venues.
Key attractions will be the "Leonardo da Vinci, his students, the Last Supper, and Franois I" exhibition at the Chateau de Clos-Luce in Amboise, where the artist spent the last years of his life, and the "Children in the Renaissance" exhibition at the Chateau de Blois, where many French kings spent their childhoods.
• The International City of Gastronomy in Lyon, arguably France's most famous foodie city, is set to open this coming summer. Massive at about 13,000 square feet, the facility will feature permanent and temporary exhibitions, interactive demonstrations and, of course, restaurants, cafes and stores.
Themed around eating well, both for pleasure and good health, the project is the product of a partnership between the Metropolitan City of Lyon, Lyon City Council and a number of private partners.
• The 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings will kick off June 6 in Normandy to much fanfare. Commemorative events on tap include an exhibition of major paintings, including Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms collection at the Caen Memorial from June 4 to Oct. 27 as well as an Armada of Rouen event, from June 6 to 16, featuring more than 50 tall ships.
• The northern city of Lille is gearing up to host Eldorado: Lille 3000, a citywide fete that takes place once every three years.
Art exhibitions and installations will be held indoors and in the open air, including a Giacometti retrospective with more than 150 of the artist's works at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.