We just returned from two weeks in France, with the last 5 days in Paris. Luckily we managed to get in the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay before they were closed Thursday night due to the record flooding....bummer my plans of renting bicycles and picnicking along the Seine were dashed, but we did get some out-of-the-ordinary excitement. With President Park of S. Korea visiting, the football games coming up, labor strikes, and of course last November's Jihadic unpleasantness, the city is very much on edge. We saw many automatic weapon toting soldiers roaming the streets as part of "operation sentinel", especially around tourist spots, and sirens were blaring all over the city all day long...but Thursday afternoon while we were at Notre Dame we got a bit of a scare. We gone through a security check at the door, and had worked our way to the opposite end of the cathedral, behind the alter where there are no exits. Signage at the entrance, repeated often as we made our way up the right hand side urges "Silence", but suddenly we heard a great deal of unintelligible shouting followed by some rather loud thumping noises. "That's not supposed to happen" I thought, and as we started to make our way back up the other side we ran into a stampede of I'd guess around 150 or so panicked looking fellow tourists, pushing us back....people were diving for the chapels and displays at the sides, cowering under alters and behind artifact displays. One woman was knocked over backward by the rush, and I helped her up. There was no gunfire or anything, but very much thinking of of the Bataclan we found the nearest exit, about halfway back toward the entrance, on the side with the tower-climb line. The adrenaline was flowing freely by that point. By the time we'd walked to the square where we could see the main entrance the Army had already shut it down, about 20 or so motorcycle police came streaming in and began clearing the square, with one motor-officer sweeping back and forth moving the crowd back. Shared experiences with some Australians who'd also just made it out, but afterward we went back to the hotel and turned on the TV news....non-stop flood coverage, and nothing else. I asked a waiter at a Rue Clere restaurant later, who thought it had been a protest of some kind, perhaps tied to the weeks labor unrest, but other than spotty gas shortages (we drove quite a lot earlier in the week, but had no problems) the French media seemed very intent on not giving the strikes or numerous protests any coverage at all, and I've been scouring the interwebs trying to find what had actually happened with zero results.
Hats off to the French Army and Police BTW, they responded within seconds.