This is the nineteenth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series. Please scroll to the bottom to see all the other posts in this series.
We arrived in Europe (Alba to be exact) on the morning of November 14th, 2015. The awful terrorist attacks in Paris had occurred less than twelve hours earlier. Imagine the shock, the confusion, and utter sadness we felt when we landed in Europe to wake up to this horrifying news. France had been next on our agenda. Our plan was to head to Bordeaux on November 17th, and then to Paris on November 21st.
I have to be honest. We debated whether to still go to Paris.
One of my friends suggested driving to the Basque region of Spain instead, since it wasn't too far away from Bordeaux. We wondered what Paris would be like - would there be a ton of security? Was it still safe? Wasn't one of the terrorists still at large?
Eventually, we decided to stick with our plan. Yes, I definitely was a bit nervous, but at this point, sadly, I had started getting used to living under this "new normal" - a "normal" that included a constant, underlying discomfort mixed with a bit of fear, heightened awareness, and a persistent, "we-must-go-on" resilience. We felt it after 9/11. More recently, we felt it after the Boston bombings.
So on November 21, 2015, exactly 8 days after the attacks, we stepped onto a train from Bordeaux to Paris.
In many ways, Paris was just as beautiful as I remembered it (10 years since my last visit!).
The architecture was inspiring, the views were stunning, and the city continued to carry on day-to-day activities.
From a distance, things really seemed pretty normal.
But it didn't take long before we noticed that things were actually quite different. This was a different Paris we were visiting.
Security was really, really tight. It was a bit disconcerting to see fully armed guards walking up and down Paris's most famous, tree-lined avenue, the Champs-Élysées
All museums remained open.
However, you had to go through metal detectors and have your bags checked before entering any museum.
There were police and armed guards everywhere.
In fact, we weren’t even allowed to carry our own luggage into our hotel room. They insisted on scanning it first. Our hotel was so hyper alert, they woke me up the next morning with a phone call.
“There is a person from security outside your door. Would you please let him it? We see a suspicious package outside your window.”
It turned out to be a shopping bag someone had left out there, but it still rattled my nerves quite a bit.
On our last day in Paris, we decided to honor the victims of the attacks by visiting the makeshift memorials at the location of the bombings. I must admit, it was very, very difficult for me to step foot at the site that had endured so much bloodshed just one week before.
I was blown away by the size of the memorial. It took up several blocks and there were so many people stopping by to pay their respects. I was intensely moved. It's a bit hard to tell, but pictured above is the Bataclan Theater where the most number of people were killed. In front is the memorial, which was filled with photos of the victims as well as rows and rows of flowers and candles.
At any given moment, dozens of people would line up right outside the theater, right on the road, in order to pay their respects. It made me especially sad to see just how young most of the victims were. Many were under 20, which was heartbreaking.
On our way back to our hotel, we also passed by Place de la Republic, a makeshift memorial for the Charlie Hebdo shooting victims. It really reminded us of how much Paris has endured in the recent past.
Despite the sadness, however, there were definitely signs of hope in the city. Key monuments glowed in red, white, and blue, symbolizing the country's resilience and strength.
Restaurant owners and shopkeepers chose to remain open, despite the fact that business was significantly down. Many would-be visitors canceled their reservations, which is why the restaurants were even happier to see visitors like us who had chosen to come and support the city anyway.
We don't regret going at all. In fact, it will probably be one of our most memorable trips to Paris. Despite all that had happened, Paris still shone with its beauty, passion, and pride.
I still do find Paris to be one of the most beautiful cities with one of the strongest spirits in the world, and nothing from these attacks changed any of that.
Resilience is hard, and gets harder the more times you are knocked down. The "new normal" gets exhausting at times. Sometimes I wish for the days of my youth, when everything felt freer, safer, and simpler. Right now, the attacks in Orlando are still very fresh in our hearts, and those wounds are very, very raw. My prayers go out to the victims and their families/friends. Similar to Paris's victims, many of Orlando's victims were quite young, making this tragedy especially difficult. I am confident Orlando will recover and become stronger, just like Paris did. However, I also recognize that these things aren't easy, and it will be a challenging road up ahead. #PrayforOrlando
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy
Dinner at a Truffle Hunter's Inn - Tra Art e Querce
Trattoria Della Posta in Montfort D'Alba
Nighttime Truffle Hunting with a Dog in Alba
Osteria della Arco - last dinner in Alba
Stunning Images of La Morra and Barolo, Italy
First Day In Bordeaux, France - Une Cuisine en Ville
Chateau Haut-Brion Tour in Bordeaux France
Restaurant Le St. James
Touring Bordeaux Wineries - Day 1 - Left Bank
La Tupina, Bordeaux (traditional French dinner)
Cos d'Estournel Tour
Touring Bordeaux - Pauillac, Chateau Lynch-Bages