Pakhnyushcha/Shutterstock.com

The Louvre Museum especially is overrun by the vermin this year, but 'Ratatouille' may have endeared them to visitors. 

France’s capital is so damned sophisticated, it seems that even the city’s vermin are cultured. The lawns of the Louvre Museum have a new breed of visitors joining the usual art-loving crowd this summer: rats. Loads of rats.

Hiding in the formal box hedges that run like ribs across the lovely Jardin Du Carrousel, the Louvre’s rats may number in the hundreds this year. According to many reports in the French press, they've gotten so bold that they’re coming out in daylight, skittishly sucking up the crumbs of a thousand tourist picnics before scuttling back to shelter. Like most big cities, Paris has its fair share of rodents. And the Louvre’s proximity to the Seine means its precincts have always acted as a sort of murine highway. Still, Paris isn’t used to anything like the sheer effrontery of these daytime packs, who have arrived in such numbers due to a special set of circumstances.

First, Paris has had a very mild winter, meaning that more rats made it through the cold months alive, plump, and breeding than usual. Second, central Paris is currently racked with subterranean construction projects that have sent rats above ground for refuge. Third, the rats that had decided to stay below ground found themselves flushed out anyway by flash floods that hit earlier this year. (The usually reliable sewers are still frequently impassable for them.) All told, subterranean Paris is a pretty bad place to be a rat right now.

Could there be a fourth reason? Granted, Paris’ journalists are tired and waiting to go on holiday when August starts this weekend, but there’s been ample talk of a "Ratatouille effect." Public perceptions of Parisian rats have become softened thanks to Disney’s animated portrayal of their culinary skills. It seems that visitors just aren’t scared enough of them anymore. Photographer Xavier Francolon told Metronews:

For them, rats mean Ratatouille, and Ratatouille means Paris. ... You could say that tourists, like Parisians, are just used to it. They eat their pâté, drink rosé or clink their champagne next to the rats. There are even some who come here to have a siesta!

Paris isn’t taking this rat invasion lying down, however. Following sweeps earlier this year, exterminators are being sent in yet again to clear the menace. Not to worry, vermin fans: Should anyone miss the Louvre’s recent influx of rats, they can find some consolation at Disneyland Paris. The park's latest attraction? A ride based on Ratatouille, the first Disney theme-park offering not first tested in the United States. Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo visited the ride following its opening earlier this month, and it’s hoped the ride and attached restaurants will attract a million extra visitors. So maybe rats aren’t going to prove too harmful to Paris tourism after all.

(Top image by Pakhnyushcha/Shutterstock.com.)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  2. Equity

    We'll Need To Reopen Our Cities. But Not Without Making Changes First.

    We must prepare for a protracted battle with coronavirus. But there are changes we can make now to prepare locked-down cities for what’s next.

  3. photo: Former HUD secretary Julián Castro
    Equity

    How to Head Off a Coronavirus Housing Crisis

    Former HUD secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro has ideas for state and federal leaders on protecting vulnerable renters from a housing disaster.

  4. photo: 1900 Chinatown fire in Honolulu
    Coronavirus

    The ‘Chinese Flu’ Is Part of a Long History of Racializing Disease

    During a plague outbreak in 1899, officials in Honolulu quarantined and burned the city’s Chinatown. Some Covid-19 talk today echoes their rhetoric.

  5. Coronavirus

    Black Businesses Left Behind in Covid-19 Relief

    The latest U.S. coronavirus aid package promises a partial and uneven economic recovery that leaves behind the African American community.

×