Paris remains a moveable feast
It was my first time since the dreadful events of Friday, November 13th, 2015. I didn’t know what to expect: would the city be different from the last time I was there? If yes, how would it be different: would I feel safe? Would it still be as vibrant? What would people’s spirit be like? With 5 days in Paris, some on my own, some with my friends, I was going to find out how Paris & Parisians were coping.
Did I feel safe?
Going through Charles De Gaulle airport’s customs upon arrival, I certainly could see that security was tighter than in the past – hence a longer wait, be prepared to stand in line. Two weeks later, going through security upon departure, security was normal and quite efficient in spite of the massive number of people leaving for their annual vacations at the beginning of August.
While I was in France, I did quite a bit of travelling thanks to the TGV – Train a Grande Vitesse: high speed train – and went through three of Paris’ railway stations. As much as there were young soldiers in arms, they were not by any means a novelty as they’ve been patrolling the railway stations for ten years. Even the luggage consignment was open: provided you scan your bags and pay the fees, you can store your luggage at any of the six Paris’ railway stations. With a bit of luck, you can even be there when a young woman beautifully plays Adele’s song “someone like you” – very moving!
A question asked by a lot of people: is it safe to use the subway? There is no such thing as “zero risk” yet I can tell you that I used the subway extensively while I was in Paris. It remains the most efficient and affordable way to go from one area to another: taking the bus will get you stuck in traffic while using a cab, besides being more expensive, will also get you stuck in traffic. The alternative is walking, which allows you to see plenty of Paris’ beauty and to indulge even more on charcuterie plate – yet you won’t be able to cover as much ground.
Overall I felt safe while I was in Paris this July – maybe because I was born there, maybe because I travel to a lot of different places or maybe simply because I think that I am at a higher risk of being hit by a car at home due to driver texting…
Is Paris still a vibrant city?
When I go to Paris, wandering the streets is my favorite activity: checking out who is still here, who’s not, who’s new, is a great way to take the pulse of the city and re energize myself with the surrounding beauty. Always in awe when looking at Paris’ most famous architecture – the legacy of centuries of thoughtful urban planning -, what I find even more striking is the fact that in pretty much every single street you can find a remarkable building or an unexpected piece of street art. There is something special worth the detour in every street and a lifetime could be dedicated just exploring all of them.
Paris wouldn’t be so special though if it was just empty buildings. The best part of it, what gives its soul to the city is truly its people and the creativity they bring with them: drawing from all the corners of France and the world, Paris attracts people who express their creativity through arts, fashion & design or food. Whether it’s a gallery, a store or a restaurant, they create their own unique place and the diversity that ensues is a much-needed soul-refreshing alternative to the mainstream brands that can be found everywhere.
What’s people spirit like?
When talking to my friends I could certainly hear their concerns. Yet, as they have been living in Paris for many years, terrorism is not a new thing to them: 1980, 1982, 1986, 1995… – Albeit reaching a whole new level, it was certainly not the first time that Paris was hit by bombs. What I felt also with them and throughout the city was people’s determination: being French – read: free-thinking people who let nobody thwart the course of their life – they go on with their lives and projects as an act of resistance, echoing Paris’ motto Fluctuat Nec Mergitur: Tossed but not sunk.