It is strange to be publishing this first post after a night of terrible violence in Paris. Up until last night Margi and I have been getting around, exploring Paris and having lots of mainly-great experiences. I had drafted my first post yesterday but I delayed because my photos are not accessible just yet and in that delay the terrorism happened. It made the post I had written sound so strange.
Today Paris is shut. Few shops are open. Things scheduled have been cancelled. We are staying at home with our generous couch surfing hosts – Florent and his charming seventeen year old daughter, Clara, and Nicola her fourteen year old brother with little spoken English (although much more understood I’m sure) and the winning smile.
I am still processing the terrorism of last night and right now feeling quite drained, but here is the post I had ready to go before that terrible tragedy occurred. This is still a beautiful place. I have found the delights of this city have been putting a smile on my face and I have seen the same smile in so many around me. This too is Paris.
…….. Been here just on a week now and loving it. Sure I had my wallet stolen from my bag on the third day in (on the metro by an expert) but on the second day my proffered payment for oysters and wine was inexplicably refused with a smile and a “Je taime”.
Random acts of kindness and very friendly locals far outnumber the few surly, snooty ones. Frustrations with phones and laptops and sims and storage are all part travelling I’ve realised and of course it gets pretty tiring moving around a lot with luggage but enjoying a picnic at the Trocadero and drinking in view of the pretty Eifel Tower makes up for any little glitches.
Margi and I have wandered the streets exploring local markets, the canal, community gardens and charming cafes. We’ve met people from Munich, Manchester and hung out in Montmartre. We’ve mastered the metro, been down the funicular and taken a trip in an electric rickshaw. We discovered a sauna and spa in the leafy suburb of Nueille and a Haman steam bath in crazy Barbē full of chattering African women. We’ve stayed in two funky backpackers, slept in an awesome church and are now couch-surfing with a delightful French family in St Cloud. There’s been music in the subway, sirens in the streets and city scenes with iconic features everywhere – opulent bridges, palaces, archways and spires. Great coffee, baguettes and the best croissants ever.
This is all in the ambience of extraordinarily mild Autumn weather with some misty moments but much more sunshine than expected and with shedding trees and fallen leaves on the streets and, of course, the imminent COP21.
Paris is on red alert for terrorism and direct action from radical protestors. Thirty thousand police will be deployed for the ten days of the COP and already we’re aware of soldiers carrying machine guns looking very out of place. There have been threats of violence from people who are called anarchists and lots of talk (in French) of the level of surveillance – some think excessive – that has been unleashed as a result.
We’ve already been to a climate meeting, a campaign launch and an exhibition but I will report on more of that roller-coaster experience soon.
So that’s just a little update. There is more to tell even from the last week. I will send another post soon.
PS. Much has happened since writing this. It is so terribly sad what has happened. Still very hard to grasp. We, like everyone here, will now be more guarded but we are still here and we are fine.