“ça va Paris?” How are you Paris? — How I had longed to ask that question, when I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport on December 20. Ever since the November 13 terror attacks, I had worried about my family, my friends, Paris and her people. It did not help that French and international media relayed alarming news incessantly in the weeks that followed: “Parisians are in shock.” “Department stores are empty.” “Many visitors have canceled their hotel and apartment bookings.”
I had to go see for myself, and ask ça va, Paris?
By mid-December, I changed my travel plans and decided to spend all of my hard-earned time off in Paris. Nice and the French Riviera would forgive me. I would not make it South this time. I was not sure what I would find there, in the great city I once called home. I hoped that eventually, Parisians would prevail. This was not the first time Paris had been under attack. This was not the first time the army or the police would be patrolling the streets and guarding major monuments around the clock. This was not the first time I might feel nervous, staring at a seemingly abandoned backpack, while riding the Métro or the RER. As soon as I arrived, I knew I had been wrong to worry. Five weeks after the attacks, Paris and the Parisians were still standing, bruised and battered, and a bit weary, but determined not to give in – and yes, defiant. I felt pride for my people and their spirit.
The day after I landed, I met my brother at his office, located a few minutes away from place de la République. This is our ritual, once a year. We always have lunch in the neighborhood; later I walk along le Canal St Martin; check out the new colorful collections chez Antoine et Lili. This trip would be no exception. La Bonne Bière was the first restaurant hit by terrorists to re-open last month. It sits across the street from my brother’s office, and he and his co-workers go several times a week. He calls it “ma cantine,” (my cafeteria.) On the way, he pointed at the impact of a kalashnikov bullet in a wall; and the reality hit home. I realized how lucky he and his friends had been, that Friday night, when they could have been sitting outside the restaurant, celebrating the end of the work week. ça va, Paris?
The media frenzy had subsided: At la Bonne Bière, it was business as usual, and all tables were full by 1:00pm. The manager offered us a glass of bubbly. My brother had told her about his “American sister, French Girl in Seattle.” Service was friendly. Food was good; and we chatted for a couple of hours, until some cousins joined us. I did not leave la Bonne Bière until 6:30pm that night. Nobody bothered us, even after we stopped ordering coffee. There was no doubt: I was back in Paris.
La Bonne Bière and la Place de la République (the Parisians seem to have adopted it as their favorite memorial and gathering place,) were the only two places linked to the terror attacks I visited for the next two weeks. I was determined, like Paris, to move on, and to experience the city as I always do. But every day, as I walked the streets, I caught myself staring at people, trying to read their faces, as if to check if they were all right. ça va, Paris?
Again, I need not have worried. Everywhere I looked, crowds were back. Le Marais was still its bustling self on a Sunday afternoon. There were long lines in front of the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, or le Louvre museum.
One good thing to have come out of the terror attacks: Sitting at a café terrace, always a favorite Parisian pastime, has now been elevated to the status of act of resistance. Chairs and tables pop up all over the city, outside establishments big and small, famous and more modest. I joined the crowds with renewed enthusiasm every chance I got.
Everywhere I turned, I saw reassuring signs Paris was still standing. La Seine, the city’s lifeline for over 2000 years, flows, mesmerizing, magnificent.
Along her banks, Notre-Dame stands tall and proud, watching over Paris, day and night, like she has for over 800 years. The old lady does not seem to mind the ant world at her feet, or the heavily armed soldiers patrolling along le Parvis. She has seen, and survived so much. I took it as a good sign that part of the personnel was on strike the morning I visited; and I could not climb the 400 steps up the South Tower and say hello to my old friends the gargoyles. In France, some things never change.
This special trip deserved a special celebration. Two days before Christmas, my parents and I enjoyed a thrilling experience: lunch at the Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant, on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. It was worth every Euro listed on l’addition. We are old friends, la Tour Eiffel and I. Many years ago, I got teased mercilessly as a Paris resident, for visiting the Tower on a regular basis and always gawking as I walked or drove by. That’s all right. Anyone who has researched Gustave Eiffel’s incredible life and career understands what a prowess he accomplished when building Paris’ Iron Lady in a little less than two years. And just look at her, 127 years later!
Paris is much more than grandiose streets and monuments. Stately façades, medieval streets, elegant or colorful shop windows, and lavish gardens delight and reward visitors who stray off the beaten path and have an eye for detail.
Paris is also about enjoying glorious food and, along the way, a few disappointing salades de chèvre chaud or croque-monsieur in touristy areas. The ubiquitous café gourmand makes up for the occasional bad fare served in the city’s restaurants. The local pâtisserie is always a reliable provider of sweet nothings, preferably sampled on a bench, at a local park.
ça va, Paris? I asked last month. “ça va,” Paris replied. “Of course, I am all right. I am even more beautiful than before. Take a look. I am Paris, after all!”
All photos by French Girl in Seattle. Do not re-use without permission.
French Girl in Seattle
For all of you who are concerned about Paris and her people, here is a short video I shot at the Square du Temple in le Haut Marais.
Look and listen, les amis, for these are the sounds and colors of Paris.
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Thank you, FGS , everything you write is relevant.
Je vous en prie, Rémy. I am glad you enjoyed this story.
Thank you for this positive and beautiful commentary on our beloved Paris. I always enjoy your postings. Greetings from not too far away Mt. Shasta. Geri Metz, pronouncingfrench.com
Merci de votre visite, Geri, ma presque-voisine. 🙂
I love your write-up, so sensitive and personal. I LOVE how the Parisians – and you – gathered in sidewalk cafes as a form of La Resistance! Vive La France!!
The recovery of Paris post terrorist attack means so much to me – and boy did Paris meet the match and overcome!
Paris proved her “force de vie” in the extraordinary achievement of the COP21 talks, not 3 weeks after the attacks. The whole planet breathed a sigh of relief that Paris allowed these talks, with thousands of dignitaries, delegates, advocates and activists arriving under heavy security, and that the talks yielded a 190-nation legally binding agreement!!!
Frankly the land of Jean D’Arc feels preternaturally equal to this extraordinary moment in history, for the planet. From the caves of Lascaux to the deft and hardballl tongue of Laurent Fabius – a new day for the planet was saved. It was a matter of intention that this happened, following the strong direction of President Holland – and the role of France is forever part of the world’ potential success.
There is so much work to do, state by state, region by region, industry by industry, to get the carbon emissions down, as needed by physics, to sustain the bountiful life of this planet.
I cannot say strongly enough how symbolic and felicitous it was that COP21 was settled in PARIS just after the City of Lights was attacked. To me it symbolizes humanity’s chance to rise from the knife edge and prevail. As with France – so with the whole world!
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Anne. I was personally amazed Paris did not cancel the COP21 talks, and so impressed city and government officials pulled through, with very positive results I must say. Let’s hope for the best now. As you pointed out, there is still much work to do if we want to treat our planet better than we have in the past. Bonne journée et à bientôt !
Superbe reportage, comme d’habitude ! Ah, une grève à Notre Dame, tout va bien !! Merci Véronique !
En effet, Monique. Une grève est un signe de bonne santé dans la Belle France 🙂
I make an application in order to get your approval for sending some
– i.e. 4/5 – of your beautiful pictures of Paris to my niece, in Grenoble .
Would it be possible ?
Certainement. Envoyez-moi un email avec des détails s’il vous plaît. Merci, Rémy.
Beautiful posting. Thank you for photos during your visit and thank you for reliable coverage of Paris during the terrorist’s attack.
Je vous en prie, Sally. Thank you for following French Girl in Seattle through good and bad times. Bon weekend!
Thank you for this beautiful post, your photos are superb, as always. Paris is a survivor and you capture that perfectly in this post. I am so looking forward to returning.
Merci Chérie. I know you will enjoy your next visit even more than the previous one. Sometimes, being close to losing something makes it even more precious, and worth hanging on to.
FRENCH GIRL….I ADORE EVERY SINGLE WORD AND THOUGHT AND PICTURE IN THIS POST!!!! without exception- once again you have captured the heart and soul of a city which has faced a lot-and ALWAYS returns more spectacular than before! I loved the daily updates via your facebook page but somehow this post just conveys it all! I hope you and jr have the most wonderful new year ever and here is to DREAMS COMING TRUE IN 2016! How is your beautiful addition- settling in fine I hope…..
Merci, as always, faithful g. 🙂 I wish you a Happy New Year! The new addition – aka Mademoiselle Coco – is settling in just fine and has me wrapped around her cute little paw already. She is a great companion (and one who does not snore at night. ;-)) As for dreams coming true in 2016, I have been holding on to one for a few years now, and hope I will be able to realize it, sooner rather than later. Bonne fin de weekend!
This makes me so excited for my trip to Paris in March! I have been in love with Paris for so long, and am looking forward to introducing her to my sister. I’ll have to research your blog posts for some cafe recommendations while we are there.
Merci de votre visite, Diane. Paris will feel somewhat different from Toulouse, my hometown, but you already knew that 😉 I don’t have particular cafés I visit, as the fun part for me is to walk; and walk; and walk some more, then sit down at a random -but appealing- café terrace when I get tired. The more space for people watching, the better. Enjoy the beautiful French capital. May she meet all your sister’s expectations, and yours. Bon voyage! Say “Bonjour” to Toulouse, the friendly Southern Belle, for me.
What a wonderful tribute to Paris, a city I love and hope to visit as often as I can. Thank you!
Je vous en prie. Merci de votre visite.
What a great piece! I was there in September and plan on going back, again, next year! Your writing puts me back there spiritually. Thanks.
Je vous en prie Robin. It’s always fun to plan à trip, especially if it involves Paris.
Glad I found you. You’re a lot better than some others. Like Adrian Leeds, for instance.
Bonjour Ralph! Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle. Glad you found me too! 😉
Love seeing your photos and reading your account of the visit. Can hardly wait to get back; this time we’re going in July, but I really do want to schedule a December visit one of these years. Yes, to cafe gourmand, one of my favorite things about Paris, especially enjoyed en terrasse.
Thank you for your visit, Susan. July sounds like a fun time to see Paris. I might see you there this year! 😉 Bonne semaine!
Just returned from a week- being there in January was wonderful! I had concerns about the weather but they were unfounded, the temperatures were not bad at all and there was just a bit of rain. No queues at the museums- we managed to see 10 exhibits! Great article????
Merci beaucoup pour cet hommage magnifique à Paris. J’adore Paris et ça ne va jamais changer. Vive la France! ❤️
Merci beaucoup Lisa!
You picked the slowest month of the year, Nancy. Well done! Glad you enjoyed your visit. 10 exhibits sounds wonderful. How many cities offer this many? Vive Paris!
We were actually in the cab en route to the airport on the evening of November 13th. Our trip was cancelled but we were determined to return as soon as able. We were able to use all of the exhibition (4) tickets we had purchased in advance, the only monies we lost involved a jazz show. I was so happy to see that many of the holiday decorations were still up, they were just beautiful to see – as I knew they would be. We found the 6 remaining exhibits that we saw just by walking around the city and seeing the advertisements on walls and kiosks. Tried three new restaurants, two of which were wonderful! I am still floating on air!
10 exhibits! Don’t you just love Paris?
Very nice read. Sounds like a wonderful trip and the photos to boot! Yes I’m jealous of you having French food again. Funny how it can be a hit or miss even when it comes to French food. I had a miss in Nice for. Niçoise salad. I know! And I not going to even tell you where I had an amazing chèvre wrap. Lol Happy Parisians are on point.:) xo
Niçoise salad: Tout un programme, as the French say! I have a good friend in Nice who always rants about green beans. Because, apparently, authentic niçoise salade does NOT include green beans 😉 A bientôt, Sandy!
I’m with your friend! No green beens on the Nicoise s’il vous plait!;) lol 🙂
Je complète ce qui est parti de la tablette??
Superbe reportage Véro…
Merci Mom! Biz
Look forward to being in Paris again next week
Enjoy for both of us, will you, Ralph?
So glad I found your wonderful blog through a French Fry in Paris! I’m smitten!
I am happy you found me too! Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle, Maria!
I just finished booking our flight for this coming summer and the news broke out in November.
For a moment I thought of cancelling our trip but my husband said No. It will be fine by the time you go, Paris is going to be safer than ever.
I’m glad I did not cancel, and the planning has been exciting.
I can’t wait.
Reading your blog just made me more excited.
We are going to the French Riviera as well, and I’m wishing we are staying longer than a month. So much to see.
It sounds like a wonderful trip to me; and I am glad you did not cancel your plans. Bon voyage dans la Belle France!
Please allow me to compliment you on your very fine photography.
This is my first visit to your site from a link in an article on “The Local” Internet magazine website.
I will be looking in here again in the future.Cordialiment,
Merci beaucoup Allan, et bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle. A bientôt!