In a rather disturbing trend, another mass shooting has occurred at the site of one of my previous tourist jaunts. First it was Charleston and now it’s Paris. And although Paris is a big city, one of the shootings took place only 3 blocks from the hotel I stayed at in 2009. That means if the shootings had happened back then, my mother would have been freaking the *&%$! out with good cause. I mean, look at this map:
I chose to stay at the République Hôtel because five different Metro lines flow through the République station, which means you can get almost anywhere in Paris with at most one transfer. However, several things have changed since I was there in 2009. First off, the hotel seems to have gotten rid of its golden age of Hollywood themed rooms and switched to more traditional decor.
(I’m 95% sure that stock photo is of my exact same room. Weird!)
Secondly, this is the only picture I ever snapped of the monument in Place de la République because at the time it was surrounded by a large traffic circle and I had no reason to leap in front of cars to get a picture of that particular statue.
Today, however, they’ve converted that traffic circle into a much nicer pedestrian plaza. A plaza at which every single American journalist has been anchoring their newscasts. That’s because people have been gathering there to leave flowers, candles, and other memorials.
It’s been bizarre to see day after day after day of newscasts and interviews at what was my “home base” in Paris. I walked through that plaza every day to and from the Metro. I also walked up and down the Canal Saint-Martin, which is one block away from the restaurants that were attacked. I didn’t eat at either of those places, but instead at the McDonalds one block over and one block down because my French sucks and it was the only place I was 90% certain to get what I thought I was asking for. I still don’t know what was mythic about their chicken though:
When I think of these terrible attacks, I also think of the day I walked down the Canal Saint-Martin nearby and ran into a street festival that had, among other things, a man dressed as an orangutan, a marching band, and mimes.
It was such a lovely thing to stumble upon, an unplanned delight during a highly planned trip. It was a happy surprise and the scariest thing I encountered were mimes. It’s sad to think that a block east and six years later some people encountered the worst surprise of their lives. I’m not sure why I got mimes and they got AK-47’s, why I got what was behind door A and they got what was behind door B. Neither of us were more or less deserving of what we got.
But when I think of Paris, I like to think of that parade and the unexpected festival with happy, shiny people. It’s the Paris I hope remains in the days to come. I want the city to remain as beautiful and welcoming as I remember it, though maybe with slightly less graffiti. (There was a LOT of graffiti.) When I left for the airport I felt like I’d left so much undone and unseen after only four days in the city. If I get to visit again some day, I hope Paris will leave the light on for me.