Paris: A Tourist’s Perspective in Light of Recent Events
Despite a number of high profile denouncements of the actions of terrorists in Paris from President Hollande, journalists and TV presenters alike, it can be difficult to translate this resilience to the ordinary tourist deciding whether the city is safe.
There’s always going to be a degree of risk when planning any holiday of course, but the focus on attacks in cities is arguably more present, and to some degree more likely, than ever before given this was the second attack on Paris in the same year.
With reports that some were cancelling holidays to the French capital, hotels and airlines took a cautious standpoint, neither advising nor dissuading tourists to cancel or continue with their bookings.
As a result, in the two week gap between the attacks and my own impending departure to Paris for a long weekend, the overwhelming feeling was one of nerves. Ultimately though excitement at the prospect of food, culture, fashion, art and shopping took over – in short, everything I love about France, all captured in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Along with two friends we embarked on the train from St. Pancras to Paris’ Gare Du Nord, fully aware that the iconic city was in mourning and likely to have a different atmosphere. We didn’t expect the usual mix of laid-back, chain smoking, slightly aloof (and often grumpy) Parisians that embody French style and spirit.
Much to our surprise the city that greeted us, though slightly less crowded, was exactly as we had envisioned had the attacks not taken place. Tourists adorned the Sacre-Coeur with an abundance of selfie sticks, waiters overcharged for a croissant and coffee breakfast, groups of teenagers flocked to the bars and sat talking, eating and laughing together.
We agreed that the presence of soldiers made us feel safe rather than frightened and walking around the city came across the best anecdote to the attacks – art. True to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in February, French street artists, or more likely young Parisians, stuck posters and stickers on the city walls, spray painted ‘Rest in Peace’ graffiti and added messages of love across numerous buildings, in clear view of locals and tourists. Along with flags from apartment windows, it was a compelling and emotive sight.
A waiter on our last day put it perfectly: “We are French, we have staged uprisings and we will not be frightened in the face of terror. Life in Paris continues and so will we, this will not beat us.”
On that note all that’s left to say is a vehement Vive la France!