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Paris At A Standstill

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Paris, life has ground to a halt. A general strike there is in its 11th day. And there are daily protests, too. Unions are upset about Emmanuel Macron's changes to the country's retirement system. And they are threatening to continue striking through Christmas. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It's not the protests that are the problem. If you're not on the march route, they don't really affect you. But the transport strike is killing everyone.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

BEARDSLEY: Most of the metros and buses aren't running. That's put thousands more cars, motorcycles, scooters and bikes into the streets and onto the sidewalks. Paris has become an obstacle course. I tried going out one night this week.

Ten of Paris's metros are closed. I'm coming up to mine. I desperately need to go somewhere. Is it going to be open or closed? No. It's closed. I feel very angry. I'm invited to a holiday reception, and I can't get there.

I jump on a Lime scooter to get to the other end of the avenue, where I've heard there's a bus running.

Here we go. Oh, God.

(SOUNDBITE OF DING)

BEARDSLEY: It's dark. I don't have a helmet on. I've just never seen Paris so snarled.

But that bus never comes.

(Speaking French).

So I get a taxi. Driver Dillon Maignan tells me, even if there's more demand now, it's not worth it.

DILLON MAIGNAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "But in fact, I'm lucky. The strike is inconvenient. But I have a home office and don't have to get anywhere."

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

BEARDSLEY: But it is eating into other people's livelihoods, like my part-time nanny, Marites David. She lives within walking distance from me. But she's been unable to get to her other jobs.

MARITES DAVID: I didn't work for the last week - whole week. Half of my earning is gone.

BEARDSLEY: Down the street, Cedric Gougeon runs a restaurant and cafe. He says his business is down 30%. And his chef has been sleeping in the back room because he can't make it home and back every day. Gougeon says you'll never see a shopkeeper or restaurateur striking because they've got bills to pay.

CEDRIC GOUGEON: (Through interpreter) Strikers are just complainers. We have a young president who was elected to reform the country. But people only want reform as long as it doesn't affect them.

BEARDSLEY: But most everyone in France is hoping that, even if there's not a deal, maybe there will be a break in the strike for Christmas. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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