Tristesse, means sadness in French. And it's been a week of much sadness in Paris.
As you can imagine, the last thing I wanted to do this week was write about fun things to do in and around Paris – so soon after the terrorist attacks on Friday the 13th.
I had been working on several topics, and had planned on finishing up a blog post on Saturday morning. But, that didn’t happen. And it’s taken me several days to write this post. I've been too numb, and stunned to even think about writing.
It was a long night on Friday night - following the events on T.V. and online and even hearing some of them unfold outside my window. I live only 4 blocks away from the Bataclan concert hall. I finally went to sleep at 4:00 a.m.
Earlier that evening, I had watched the sunset over the Seine and walked through the Tuileries at dusk on my way to the just-opened Christmas Market on the Champs Elysees.
As soon as I had finished dinner at home, there was a knock on my door – it was a cute Parisian Pompier selling calendars. Everyone in Paris loves the Pompiers – especially my friend Lisa. Just to make her jealous, I asked him if I could take a photo. He happily agreed. I bought 2 calendars too. And then eagerly posted his photo on Facebook.
While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed a post by David Lebovitz, the American expat blogger and cookbook author, about shootings in the 10th Arrondissement. His post caught my attention, since shootings are so rare here. It was posted at 9:59 p.m.
I immediately texted my friend Lisa, and then turned on the TV. There was no news - yet. Shortly, the reports started pouring in. It was difficult to keep up with what was happening - right in my neighborhood. It was scary.
At one point it occurred to me how my Pompier’s night had changed too. Here he was out selling calendars - just as the terrorist events were starting. And later that evening I have to think that he was helping shooting victims, since the Pompiers are also the first-responders in France. The thought made my heart ache.
The next morning, after some urging, I met Lisa and another friend for lunch. My original plans were stay in - or at least stay close to home. But they convinced me that it would be better to be with friends that day.
With the nearby metro stations closed, I had to walk to meet them. My route took me very close to the Bataclan. I will never forget the explosions I heard on Friday night - which came as the police stormed the concert venue.
The café was crowded and we finally snagged a booth inside, making sure to avoid the terrace. I declined a dinner offer because I wanted to get home before dark.
On Sunday, we visited the memorial at Place de la Republique and several of shooting sites. The memorial was moving. The other sites left me feeling empty and sad.
I came home well after dark, after spending time on a café terrace, not far from where the shootings took place. It just felt like the right thing to do. And we weren’t alone – the place was packed. I felt better, and hopeful - an indication that things could return to "normal".
And as each day passes Paris feels more “normal” to me. After 3 days of official mourning, the museums and monuments have reopened. The Eiffel Tower stood proud wearing a beautiful gown of bleu, blanc and rouge. The metro stations are open - except for the one closest to the attacks. The kids are back in school and people are back to work. Life goes on.
I find that I'm appreciating more, many of the little things about life in Paris. I was even moved when my favorite restaurant crafted a heart in my coffee cup. Something that I hadn't even noticed before.
My heart goes out to all of the victims and their loved ones. I cannot imagine what they must be going through right now. Especially knowing how hard it has been for many of us to completely grasp what happened in Paris last Friday night.
And while we grieve, we must also continue to live our lives. I plan to do this by spending more of my time on café terraces and not live in fear while doing so.
Paris is strong and resilient. She’s been though a lot in her life. Please come and give her a hug. She needs one right now.