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Okay. Parisians are not known for smiling. A discreet lot, they tend to reserve this facial gesture for the the proper moment and the appropriate place. But that may be changing – at least here on the Left Bank – thanks to reports of bear sightings that began last winter and have not let up!

The sightings have provoked a chain reaction of smiles and neighbourly goodwill – not fear and running for your life as one might expect.

Residents and visitors alike prowl the streets with their cameras and cellphones, waiting for a glimpse of the giant beasts.

Photos of bears – in the most improbably places and impossible positions – run rampant on social media.

The 13th and 5th districts of the Left Bank (bordering arrondissements) have become haunts for bear trackers.

These giant plush teddies hang out in cafés, bookstores, dry-cleaners, on motorcycles, in pharmacies, hair salons, wine shops; limbs demurely crossed, drinking coffee, reclining on a windowsill, hanging over a balcony, huddled in a group, reading the paper, or simply people-watching.

Their beady eyes and loveable faces bring joy to the young and old as well as to the most cynical among us.

So what’s the story behind this ‘bear happening’?

… It all began last Christmas, a festive time, a time ripe for all kinds of magic… Philippe, a benevolent Frenchman and commerçant – he runs a bookstore on Avenue des Gobelins – began introducing the bears into his quartier. Why? «  Times were tough » , he said. «  I wanted to add joy to people’s lives and get them to smile.”

His adorable gentle giants, at almost 5ft tall and weighing as much as 15lbs, did the trick!

No marketing. Just Philippe’s crazy idea! This soft-spoken ‘bear of a man’ with a wild grizzly beard, roams the neighbourhood in rental vehicles filled with his giant bears, scouting for new homes for them.

«  From the moment the bears started appearing, the neighbourhood came alive, people stopped and talked to one another; they spoke with pleasure about ‘their village’. I’ve always had a stuffed animal and I know the power they can have! »  Philippe’s simple desire to make people happy has brought smiles to his quartier and beyond!

The ‘NOUNOURS DES GOBELINS’ operation has been a huge success! « At the beginning, I had to convince people that this was not a commercial venture. Now, I have to turn down requests! »  says Philippe, laughing.

So on your next visit to Paris, take your camera/cell phone and head out on a bear-hunting expedition on the Left Bank… And be prepared to smile!

Bear Photos were taken by the two of us (Sandy & Philippe) who separately and together tracked down bears in our neighbourhood over the past several months. Our faces are still sore from smiling.

Grin and Bear it 

8 Comments

Kate Cassidy and James Dunn · August 9, 2019 at 11:20 pm

Oh, Sandy! All the wonderful memories of last December — including our first seeing, and wondering about, the bears — came flooding back. You and Philippe did a stellar job of capturing the little devils around and about our favorite city. I thought the bears on the balcony was my favorite until I got to the very last photo of La Belle Mulane. Always a star!! Thanks for taking us back to Paris, even for a moment. Bisous, Kate et Jim

Jean Gundry · August 10, 2019 at 1:01 am

Hi Sandy and Philippe.We love your bear sightings! We hope they are adjusting to the conditions in Parisian summer. We too have had some “bear” sightings on the farm, though strictly speaking, a koala is not a bear at all. Our very best regards to you both. Jean and Ben

Cele Kieserman · August 10, 2019 at 2:56 am

Much better use of time than watching our news! Enjoy the rest of your summer.

Clem et Therese · August 10, 2019 at 5:33 am

Do they hibernate in the Metro? (Couldn’t write this in French).
Hibernat-les dans le Metro? ??

Ken Schulman · August 10, 2019 at 1:06 pm

It’s amazing how vast quantities of wine can enrich the lives of so many. Mulane is still cuter. But those bears are a lot of fun

Richard and Reinhard · August 10, 2019 at 3:07 pm

THANKS Sandy!!!! And what a lovely man Philippe must be! (yours too, of course 🙂 but yes it was a hard time for France as even we in the benighted USA remember (I have to subscribe to a British newspaper to get European news), and what an incredibly simple and wonderful solution to cheer everyone up! MY favorite photo was actually the three bears in the back of Philippe’s car looking out as if they were going on holiday……. UNTIL I got to the last photo, and as several folks have noted Mulan and the Bear along with some lady’s BIG smile is definitely the cutest photo!
Greetings from Florida, and we hope to see you and your Philippe in 2022,
BIg Love, Richard and Reinhard

Patricia Hathway · August 14, 2019 at 9:32 pm

Great article and pictures Sandy. I started out smiling and then laughing. Hope the bears are still around when we arrive. Favourite is the last photo which had Mulane in it…his expression is priceless.
Cheers
Pat

BARBRA F MAY · August 29, 2019 at 3:48 am

Hi Sandy – I hope the bears are still out and about by the time we arrive at the end of september! What a fabulous idea and what a generous and amazing man to keep taking the nounours out and about.

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