Why Visit Paris Now

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Why Visit Paris Now
I was scheduled to give a food tour near the Canal Saint Martin last Saturday, one week and a handful of hours after the terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and hundreds more wounded. My route winds through the 10th arrondissement, ambling along rue de Lancry before hooking a right on rue Bichat to pass Le Petit Cambodge, then meandering along the quai de Valmy. It’s one of my favorite tours because the places we stop at are small businesses, each the fruit of someone’s passion and perseverance. I was sorry that whoever had canceled their tour at the last minute wouldn’t get to meet the couple who run the tiny, fragrant cheese shop on rue de Lancry (he’s a butcher, she’s a vegetarian), or taste a flaky orange-blossom pastry at the bakery with the pearly-black 19th-century facade, or experience the strange alchemy of a runny Saint Nectaire and a garnet-inflected Pauillac at the wine cellar where two young Parisians share their expertise without pretension. I don’t know why that couple canceled; maybe it had nothing to do with what happened at the Bataclan or outside Le Petit Cambodge. But they weren’t the only ones to back out of a tour or rethink traveling to Paris in the wake of the attacks: the small company I freelance for received an overwhelming number of cancelations last week; a good friend of mine called, exasperated, to say her mother wanted to cancel her spring trip to Paris. The comments feed on certain Paris travel pieces reflected panic from would-be travelers whose first instinct seemed to be to draw their shutters and lock their doors. All this made me very sad. Because despite a feeling of understandable grief that hangs over the city, Paris is still Paris. It’s still beautiful and imperfect. And full of people living, breathing, laughing and loving, even as they grapple with a new sense of vulnerability. I’ve heard that after experiencing trauma, like a bike accident, the best thing to do is to get back to doing whatever you were doing when the accident happened, as soon as possible. Otherwise you risk developing a tenacious fear of something you once loved. I don’t want that to happen to me, my friends, or any of the people who have a special relationship with Paris, whether that’s a year spent abroad at the Sorbonne 20 years ago, or an as-yet-unrealized dream of sipping a glass of wine on the Canal Saint Martin on an impossibly long summer evening. Paris, like bike riding, has always had its dangers; but we shouldn’t give it up now, just because we’ve been frightened in the flesh by possiblities that we have always known were there. We should take it slow and with respect to our new vulnerabilities, but we must take back the road. We must keep on riding. Since November 13th, my Facebook page has been awash in French flags, Pray for Paris banners, and a vitruvian Eiffel Tower stretched into a peace sign. The sentiment is kind, but what really sent a surge of gratitude through my news-weary mind Tuesday afternoon was seeing a group of young American girls striding through Montmartre as I made my own way home. They giggled and groaned as they trudged up the winding staircase to Sacré-Cœur. They hadn’t stayed home, or in their hotel rooms. I smiled; we were out there together. They got their perfect picture at the top, three Crest-white smiles glittering in the bruise-purple of Parisian twilight, and I headed down the other side of the butte to meet a friend for a beer because, merde quoi!–life must go on. Photo credits: Canal Saint Martin by Marko Maras/Flickr; Sacré-Cœur as seen from the Eiffel Tower by Antonis Lamnatos/ Flickr

Lead photo credit : Canal Saint Martin by Marko Maras/Flickr

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Kate Robinson is a freelance writer and editor in Paris. When she’s not drinking craft beer, she can be found planning her next outdoor adventure.


  • James Luce
    2015-11-27 10:53:24
    James Luce
    As a devoted friend of and frequent visitor to Paris since 1961 the recent violence in Paris is deplorable but not unprecedented. I’ve been in a Paris patrolled by machine-gun-toting police during the Algerian War of Independence and also in a Paris filled with rioting students and workers during those perennial social disturbances there. Putting events into perspective is always helpful. On average 30,000 people die in Paris each year or at a rate of 82 people per day. The 130 unlucky victims of jihad in Paris account for less 0.4333% of the total annual number of Parisian fatalities. Thus, any fear of dying in Paris due to jihad is irrational. However, it is certainly rational to want to avoid any city that is shut down by tightened security, teeming with police armed with automatic weapons, and generally not in a festive mood. Yet often reason succumbs to illogic. The magic, mystery, and mystic of Paris remain a powerful attraction no matter any particular ongoing disruption of normality.


  • Patou
    2015-11-23 21:21:14
    I just returned from my yearly several-weeks visite to Paris, where we rent an apt. Paris -and France-are my favorite places (along with NYC, where I live). I was there when the monstrous attacks occurred but fortunately, not personally affected. The city was basically in "lock down" the following weekend, my last for this year. I made it my business to venture out, noting the eerie, mournful emptiness of Boulevards-reminiscent of the days following the 9/11 attacks in NYC. Parisians-and the gorgeous city itself-are rising up unified and strong, and I stand with them. To give in to these terrorists and lose out on the opportunity to inhale all that Paris offers is to let them win. I hope people continue to visit this glorious city, and immerse themselves in the vibrant, chaotic, and completely incomparable life and energy it holds. I can't wait to return in November 2016!


  • Helen
    2015-11-23 21:16:31
    Beautifully said! I went after 9/11 and all my friends thought I was nuts. It was one of my most memorable trips to Paris and there have been many. I am returning again in June. I refuse to let these people take control f my life and force me to live in fear. I am in Paris at least once a year and have been for almost 40 years now. Paris will always be Paris. Vive la France !!


  • Maz
    2015-11-23 10:25:00
    Well said Kate. Sadly there is nowhere 100% safe. To avoid Paris because of the atrocities is to give these terrorists what they want, the disruption of our way of life, our freedom of choice. All the more reason to visit Paris and demonstrate our support. To live in fear is to acknowledge that these unspeakable people are getting what they desire, to imbue in us a fear of travel, crowds, enjoying ourselves. a chipping away of our fought for freedoms. We need Paris and all she represents, as much as Paris needs us.