France warns against visiting Chicago`s South, West Sides - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

France warns against visiting Chicago`s South, West Sides

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The U.S. State Department routinely issues travel warnings about dangerous places on the globe, like Iraq and North Korea. France now says Chicago's South and West Sides are to be avoided.

Chicago is a world class city with plenty of tourist jewels. But most will say you can't be limited to the usual downtown destinations if you really want to experience the city. However, crime can happen anywhere.

The French Ministry's travel website says Chicago is okay - except for about two-thirds of the city.

The website reads in French, "Avoid the West Side and South of the city after 59th Street," which would mean anything south of the University of Chicago.

The reason for the warning could be that Chicago's crime and incidents of gun violence have affected France's view of the city, earning Chicago a reputation similar to what it had in the days of Al Capone.

Meanwhile, Mayor Emanuel recently launched a campaign promoting the city's neighborhoods. Chicago is fiercely competing to be one of the Top 5 U.S. cities for international visitation by 2020.

Emanuel said Chicago's head of tourism has crafted a cultural tourism strategy that highlights the city's beaches, restaurants, sports and shopping options. Tourists would miss out on Little Italy, Pilsen and Pullman if they avoid the West and South Sides completely.

He didn't demand that Chicagoans find a new name for French Fries or French Toast, but at a news conference on 95th Street, the mayor did give an expletive-deleted version of the phone call he placed to France's consul general in Chicago, objecting to his government telling tourists to avoid the South Side and West Side.

"Don't get me started on what I think of the French! But, that said, I don't think that would be good!" Emanuel exclaimed. "We are the most American of American cities. And if people didn't go the West Side, they wouldn't see Garfield Park."

The mayor made no mention of the appalling murder rate in neighborhoods in and around Garfield Park. Last year, Chicago, with 2.7 million residents had 514 homicides, while France, a country of 67 million had 665 homicides.

French diplomats argue it is their duty to warn first-time visitors, in particular.

Pascale Furlong, a spokeswoman for the Consulate of France wrote: "In 2012, 1.45 million French citizens vacationed in the U.S....It is our duty to inform the French citizens of some risks, in order to make sure they make the most out of their stay in the U.S. and are looking forward to coming back."

Some Chicagoans objected to the French Foreign Ministry's blanket warning to avoid all of the West Side and South Side.

"The South Side has great restaurants and very good drinking establishments," South Side resident Paul Rowan said. "That doesn't sound real well. It doesn't bode well for our business out there."

We asked celebrated chef Didier Durand, born in France but a resident of Chicago now for 28 years, whether he'd tell first-time visitors from his native land to skip the West Side and South Side.

"I would say, yeah, and not go on a bad night. Just go during the day," Durand says. "And be careful, yes!"

The French website does not go into detail about Chicago, but it hammers parts of New York, Boston and Cleveland as well. The mayor of Cleveland complained, so some of the information was removed.

France is not the only one to criticize. Last year, Forbes published a list of most dangerous cities for women to travel. Springfield, Ill. was on that list.

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