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What to expect if travelling soon to Paris

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Undoubtedly, visitors will be looking for a bright, exciting Parisian Christmas atmosphere and may not find the joyous experience they had hoped for - especially if they've been here before during this period. It's still around, but you might have to look harder to find it.

The Christmas markets are open, though they are not crowded at all. The atmosphere seems a lot more festive after dark, when the lights come on and a few more people are out. Many people might feel better about the number of armed soldiers patrolling the area, but others might find this puts a damper on the festive atmosphere. Kids don't seem to notice, though. If you want to visit the markets, you won't have to worry about waiting in line for anything, and though vendors are desperate to make a sale, they probably aren't authorized to bargain with customers.

The open-air food markets were allowed to resume regular hours beginning Sunday (yesterday). My market at Bastille was operating at about 1/4 capacity at noon on a bright, sunny day, soldiers patrolling the market and the surrounding neighborhood. There were no busloads of Asian tourists, very few other tourists, I saw only a couple of my neighbors. But the man playing his hurdy-gurdy was there, the crepes and tartiflette were waiting for someone to buy them, the guy with the "Ronco" vegetable peeler was ready to do his thing, but had no audience. This was the first time I did not see any of the usual beggars who work this market, who are always there, even in the rain and snow.

In my part of the Marais, locals don't seem ready to go out. Popular restaurants and cafes are not even half-full. Only die-hard smokers are on the terraces. Tourists are the main customers, and there aren't many of them in my neighborhood, which is usually overrun with them. It's obvious that many people have gone home earlier than planned and many people have cancelled or postponed their trips. You probably wouldn't need a reservation to get into most restaurants, but it might be wise to make one, anyway, in case others have forgotten to cancel theirs.

The stores on blvd Haussmann and Champs-Elysees are less than half-full. The busloads of Asian tourists who are always present are not there. Other tourists are shopping, but locals are either not in the mood, are postponing their shopping or doing most of it online. There are soldiers on the street everywhere you look, as well as patrolling inside the Metro/RER stations. If you are in the mood to do your holiday shopping, now would be a good time to get it done. Kids would have a good time looking at the windows and lights. You should pay attention to pickpockets even more than usual - fewer tourists means they have to work harder, and the police have other concerns. Be prepared to have your bags, backpacks, purses searched when you enter any store.

Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre have experienced a significant drop in attendance, especially for the permanent exhibits - locals are going to the new expos, but many tourists have cancelled. If you want to actually get a close look at the Mona Lisa (or any other masterpiece) you would not have to fight an enormous crowd to do so. Again, the museums are being heavily-guarded, though the soldiers are not concerned about pickpockets, so you should be. Crowds are down at the Eiffel Tower, so the wait for walk-up tickets won't be as bad as usual. Security will take a little longer than usual.

The most popular Metro lignes are not crowded, with the exception of rush hours. Neither are the bus lignes. I have not seen soldiers or police patrolling the buses, but there are plenty of them in the Metro stations and passing through the trains. I don't feel unsafe taking either Metro or bus. If you want to take a taxi, you won't have any trouble finding one.

If you come to Paris during the holidays, waiters and salespeople will be happy to see you, though they probably won't welcome a conversation about the attacks. Many people are still too sad to think about anything more than making it through one more day. But if you smile, let them do their jobs, and thank them when you leave, this will have meant a lot. And would be the best holiday present you could give to Paris.

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