Selecting travel dates did not come easy on account of the busy work schedule of the friend with whom I trekked to Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam this past fall as well as that of my own. However, the ultimate timing of my relatively recent visit to Paris turned out to be quite fortuitous.
We ended up traveling toward the latter part of October (2015), which turned out to be between the Thalys train attack that was foiled by some attentive American Marines (Ooo Rah!) and the following coordinated terror attacks at various locales throughout Paris in November. We were actually supposed to be in Paris over the dates of the November attacks, but we decided to move the travel dates a bit earlier to allow me to attend Halloween festivities upon my return. While I’m not a big celebrant of Halloween, I’m so happy that my friend Suzy planned a party that night, which evoked the travel date change… (Thanks, Suz!!!) While the odds are against us having been in any of the exact locations of the mass shootings, one never knows, does one? The horrific events that took place does give one pause about congregating in a public place, or being in any shooting-fish-in-a-barrel type of situation. We did also ride the Thalys, albeit in the opposite direction and pondered the unlikelihood of a second shooting taking place after the first failed attempt to wreak havoc. Never did we imagine that a larger scale attack would take place just a couple of weeks after our visit to Paris.
All that being said, our short stay in the City of Light allowed us opportunity to see and experience many things, yet still merely a glimpse of what Paris has to offer. Some of what we did was a repeat of activities from previous visits to Paris – Tour Eiffel, The Louvre, The Pantheon, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Arc de Triomphe, just to name a few; but, so very many things in Paris are worth experiencing more than just once. Seeing the modern architecture of La Défense was a novelty to me this visit, and quite an interesting departure from the nostalgic beauty of most of the city.
While a visit to the Tuileries outside The Louvre wasn’t my first time in the Garden, it did happen to be the first time I was locked in a park. After a stop at Angelina to pick up (the world’s most delicious) hot chocolate and a spectacular dessert to enjoy al fresco, we ended up resting our weary feet just a bit too much. By the time we got up to head back to our hotel near La Madeleine, we discovered that the park’s main gate is locked at night. After a short panic attack and contemplating the possibility of having to spend the night on a park bench, we realized there were other park visitors also on the wrong side of the fence and decided to shadow them to see if they were privy to an escape route. While it was a bit of a hike toward Place de la Concorde, we found an open gate and freedom from overnight park incarceration.
My friend’s Fitbit proved that we racked on the miles, but despite the wear and tear on our feet, we had some pleasant moments …. soaking in the city, visiting slightly less-touristy places (Parc de Bercy) with a close friend of my friend, grabbing a bite to eat in an American diner in Paris (really!), and taking in some of the ‘typical” sights of Paris.
While Paris may not have been at the top of my priorities travel-wise, since I’d visited previously on more than on occasion, I’m so glad that I rescinded my “swearing-off” of Paris prior to my last visit. One cannot and should not hold this city accountable for the preconceived notions one may have embraced without having had the opportunity to personally formulate firsthand opinions about the City of Light. And in this case, sometimes timing (of a visit) truly is everything.