ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It was 250 years ago that Frenchmen Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau founded the fur trading post that would become St. Louis. Now the French government has some warnings for travelers coming here.
On a French government website, readers can find a list of American cities the government of France has issued travel warnings about, organized by region.
Listed in the “Sud” – or South – region is St. Louis. The warning reads “éviter le quartier nord entre l’aéroport et le centre-ville, mais la navette reliant l’aéroport est sûre.”
Translation: Avoid the northern area between the airport and the city center, but the airport shuttle is safe.
“The French government can do what it wants but in the end, you know, we’re still going to have people come in and enjoy our city,” Mayor Francis Slay said.
The French Ministry website warns that in dangerous American cities, most of the crimes are committed at night. “The majority of homicides [take] place on the public road and is particularly linked to the trafficking of narcotic drugs,” it warns.
North St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said Friday that French fears are uninformed and called the travel warnings unfair.
“Being so far away, I’m sure they are uninformed about the nuances between the particular neighborhoods but frankly, this is nothing different. A similar warning was also in the Saint Louis University student handbook for many years, up until recently,” French said.
The government website lists 16 American cities for which it has issued travel warnings.
“If you think about it, it’s actually not that bad of a list to be on,” Slay said. “Almost every major city in America is on the list, including St. Louis of course. If a Frenchman were to decide to avoid or be discouraged from visiting cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans, their visit to the United States would be a lot less fun, a lot less enjoyable.”
In New York, travelers are told to avoid Harlem, the Bronx, and Central Park after dark. In Chicago, the French are told to stay away from the city’s West Side and all areas south of 59th Street. In Richmond, Virginia the order is even more strict: don’t visit the city on foot.
A warning by the French government to avoid three Cleveland suburbs – Cleveland Heights, Lakewood, and Euclid – recently upset the mayor of Cleveland Heights.
Furthermore, the French government advises French travelers to avoid talking about crime issues in the cities they’re traveling in “because of the current international context and to the sensitivity of the American public opinion.”
The U.S. Secretary of State’s website lists 34 countries it has issued travel warnings about. France is not among those on the list.
“I will not escalate this debate by putting out a strict ban on French dressing, French toast, or even French fries,” Slay joked. “So we’ll leave it at that.”