The Bears of Paris
How Hundreds of Bears Have Taken Over the City
I’m not sure exactly when or where I saw the first bear on the streets of Paris. Certainly it was in the Les Gobelins neighborhood, and most likely at a café. In fact, there were two of them sitting at a table complete with coffee cups, visible through the large windows facing the sidewalk. It may have been 2019.
Shortly thereafter, these stuffed animals roughly four feet tall started to appear everywhere in the 13th arrondisement. The Harley bear with a leather jacket on a motorcycle, the ophthalmologist bear at the eyeglass shop, it seemed like most everyone had a bear. Or two. Or five. But why?
A reporter for the newspaper Le Monde claims that Phillipe Labourel, a bookseller in the 13th is behind the bear population explosion. Phillipe explained something about the two bears who lived with him being lonely, and as a family they acquired triplets. The number of bears continued to grow, and now he loans the bears to local shops and cafés who are free to display them as they wish.
During the Covid lockdown period, the stuffed animals replaced their human counterparts in restaurants and bars. Post Covid, Phillipe’s bear family has spread to other parts of Paris including Boulevards Saint Michel and Saint Germain. These Teddy bears even have their own Facebook page – Les Nounours des Gobelins, where they can be seen traveling the world.
Whatever the real reason for the hundreds of bears roaming the streets, they seem to be enjoying their freedom, and are bringing smiles to Parisians and tourists alike. Winnie the Pooh would have plenty of friends to join him for a cup of tea with honey in Paris.
Next time you are in Paris, look carefully. See how many bears you can find. Then tell us, what was your favorite bear of Paris, and where did you see it?