In all honesty, it is hard to know where to begin with this post. We were so excited for PARIS. The Paris that Julia Child fell in love with, the Paris that Ernest Hemingway describes as a “moveable feast”, the Paris that Ina Garten just can’t get enough of, and the Paris that has always been on our bucket list. The city of lights. The city of love. The city of magic. Well, our time in Paris was magical, as Paris should be and will always be. But also somewhat tainted by the terrible attacks that happened on November 13th, 2015.
(Below is a video of our time in Paris, and at the end is a tribute to the lives that were lost and/or affected by the attacks.)
The evening we arrived, the first thing we saw was the Eiffel Tower, lit up in all of her beauty, off in the distance. I thought to myself, “Psh, no way…how cliché is that! To see the Eiffel Tower peaking it’s way through a small street moments after arriving in Paris. This place IS magical!” That night, we enjoyed a small dinner at a little bistro just up the street from our apartment, where we talked about all the wonderful things we were going to see (and eat!) and tried our best to plan out our 10 days in Paris.
The next day was simple. We didn’t rush, we just took our time taking in the city that unfolded in front of us by walking the streets, sipping coffee at a café while scarfing down a nutella crepe, walking through a park after accidentally stumbling upon the Louve and window shopping (I know you’re probably thinking we looked through the shops of Chanel, Louis Vouton, etc…but come on, you should know us by now! We were window shopping for wine that we will never be able to afford, cheese that was so stinky it hurt our eyes, and vegetables that were as bright as the rainbow). We ended the day at a night market where we picked up the ingredients for the ever-so-famous Coq Au Vin. As we crammed into our little studio kitchen, we filled the apartment with smells of red wine, braised chicken and sage mashed potatoes. It was heavenly and smelled like how I have always imaged a French home might smell.
By the time Friday rolled around, we thought it would be good to at least entertain the idea of seeing such sights such as Notre Dame, Arc d’Triumph and all those other famous places…vs. just a food market, a famous restaurant, another food market, a bistro that Julia Child dined at…OH LOOK! Is that a boulangerie? Let’s go in! So anyways, we found a tour that took us to all those places and yes, they were incredible. The Notre Dame was gorgeous and the walk we took along the Seine River lead us to the “love-lock” bridge and then to the courtyard of the Louve where we saw those giant glass triangles (you really can’t miss them, can you?). Sean made a comment that went something like this…”if we have a day where we aren’t sure what to do, lets go to the Louve!” and at the time, I was like “Great idea!”…but we learned that there is always something to do. In our case, there is always a market to see, a café to sit at, a pastry to try or a new restaurant to stumble upon. So no, we did not go to the Louve but we plan to actually make time for it next time we are in Paris!
That evening, we toyed with the idea of going out to dinner. Our lunch had kept us full but we were fueled by the energy of a Friday evening to go walk the lit up streets of Paris. We found a good restaurant about an hours walk away so we headed out…out for a night of Parisian magic. We took side streets, we allowed ourselves to go down alleyways that looked lively and we didn’t pay much attention to direction because we knew we would get there someway, somehow. One of the alleyways we walked down was Rue Bichart because it lured us in by the life surrounding the restaurants. “Look at all those people enjoying themselves! This is a really cool area!” Rue Bichart was alive that night at 8pm when we walked by….an hour later, it was terror. While we sat and enjoyed our dinner now miles from where we had just been, blood stained the clothes of people clinging for life. Attackers were on the loose and seeking innocence. It was a cold-blooded massacre.
I am not going to go into detail of the happenings that night because #1. They are way too sad and #2. Because you all know what happened. We didn’t even realize the city was under attack until we returned back to our apartment, completely oblivious and then the first phone call came in from my dad…"Hey, are you guys ok?”…"Yeah, we are fine? I mean we just had the best burger ever, but yeah…we are fine. What’s going on?” And then we received a message from our AirBnb host saying to stay inside. Then, the sirens. The sirens that started, and didn’t stop for hours. Finally, we turned on the news to see the horror that was happening on our street, half a mile from our apartment. We sat in shock, in tears, in fear, and in utter sadness for the innocent people and their loved ones.
We didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know what the next few days meant for us. We didn’t know if we were safe. We didn’t know if we should stay or go. We didn’t know if we should plan to come home. We just DIDN’T KNOW. It is never something you plan for…or should ever have to plan for. But we couldn’t help but feel anything but sadness for the grieveing city around us.
After making the decision to stay, we took our days slow. The first day after the attack, we stayed inside all day except for the 30 minutes it took to get some groceries and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to be out and about…even just 10 steps up from our apartment. The following day, we woke up with a prayer – God, please reveal to us why we are here during this time. What do you want us to do to help these people or are we just here? We went to pay our respects to the lives that were lost by visiting the memorials, leaving our Olive Juice Letters…many of them saying “You Are Loved” and a very special one that said “Let your faith be bigger than your fears” which I placed by one of the bullet holes that took a life. It was completely overwhelming and my heart was pounding the whole time. The picture of it all – inside the restaurants, plates still had food on them. Glasses were still full of the wine they had poured. Coat jackets draped over the chairs. And blood stained the floor marking where tragedy struck. The city was in unison as they held strong to their motto – “we are not afraid”…and they will stick by it by living out their lives the best way Parisians know how…full of love, passion and soul.
Despite the strength that was surrounding the city and the power of thousands of policemen and military patrolling every street corner, fear laid over Paris like a heavy blanket. I can only speak from our perspective but like I said earlier, I was terrified to be out and about. We took a beautiful…and I mean GORGEOUS walk along the Seine River at sunset and as much as I was taking it in, I was also listening closely for sirens, gunshots, and bombs while keeping my eyes peeled for anything that looked suspicious. Each time we entered a subway, I couldn’t help but notice everyone around me while scanning their belongings and I was constantly trying to figure out ways to escape if something were to happen. When we walked down the street, I didn’t want to walk close to the edge of a sidewalk in fear that someone would drive by with another gun. I was always aware of places that we could duck and hide if something happened. To a point, it was crippling. The idea of everything crashing down once more haunted me and kept me awake at night. To hear the stories of the people that were involved broke my heart and left me feeling guilty for the moment I wanted to abandon their beautiful city in the wake of terror. I wanted to escape to a “safer” place…wherever that may be. But Sean, being the strong and opptimisit person he is, understood the fear and felt it himself but just knew that Paris still had so much to show us. He reminded me that we are not in control, God is.
Half way through our 10 day stay in Paris, we moved apartments. We decided to experience Paris the way she deserves to be experienced…with wide eyes and awestruck wonder while still respecting the current events. The following days seem to run together because all we wanted to do was spend our time taking in the magic and for us, that didn’t mean tour after tour. It meant seeing where the day took us, stopping for a cup of French Hot Chocolate, picking up ingredients from a market, having a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, eating croissants, seeing Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland Paris, meandering through a bookshop, and following the footsteps of some of Paris’ most famous. We really began to see the Paris that Julia Child fell in love with, the Paris that Ernest Hemingway describes as a “moveable feast”, the Paris that Ina Garten just can’t get enough of, and the Paris that has always been on our bucket list. The city of lights. The city of love. The city of magic.
We ended our time in Paris utterly sad to leave. As we walked back to our apartment after our final dinner (which was a meal of burger and fries…seriously, who are we?!), we realized that we can be added to the long list of “people who have fallen completely in love with Paris.” Our version of this city might differ from others, but it’s apart of our story and our hearts. Us, with many others, will continue to Pray For Paris long after the memorials have been removed, the restaurants have reopened and the news reports slowly fade away. Will you please join us in praying for Paris? But let’s not stop there…please pray for humanity, please pray for our beautiful world. If we have learned one thing from our 3 months of travel thus far, it would be that God gave us beautiful places to explore, beautiful people to meet, and the opportunity to love one another without boundaries. Break down boundaries for good reason. Break down boundaries to show that the world can be a better place and that strength can be found even in tough moments. And break down boundaries to explore new places, experience different cultures and show others that even if we are a little shaken, we are still going to find that beauty…because without fail, it is a beautiful world. And Paris, oh Paris…continue to shine bright.