“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway
Ever since reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” when I was in college, Paris has been one of my favorite cities in the world. Having visited the City of Light on several occasions, I always discover something new about the French capital that features world-famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the incredible Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral, to name a few. In addition to the plentiful treasures it offers, Paris, for me, is best enjoyed while sitting at an outdoor café, absorbing the atmosphere and watching the world go by. On my most recent visit just last week, I again discovered something new, though this time it had nothing to do at all with iconic attractions or sidewalk cafes.
News of the horrific terrorist attacks just blocks from my hotel last Friday sent chills down my spine. It was even more unsettling when I realized that only the day before, I was casually walking those same streets where the bombings and terrorist attacks occurred, simply enjoying the beauty of life in the same manner that more than 100 victims were.
The day after the attacks, there was a chill in the air, in more ways than one. Up to that point, I’d experienced perfect autumn weather during the previous several days, with blue skies, plentiful sunshine and temperatures hovering around 60 degrees.
By Saturday morning, however, that all changed.
French President François Hollande had declared a state-of-emergency throughout the country. As if on cue, the weather seemed to cooperate with his edict, with gray skies overhead and temperatures now in the mid 40s.
That morning when I stepped out of my hotel, I joined the throngs of locals and tourists who were simply trying to find a semblance of normalcy. Despite the closure of all monuments, museums, parks and other attractions, including the underground Metro, residents and visitors found strength in numbers on the streets of Paris. The 1,500 fully-armed military soldiers patrolling the streets as a protective show of force may have had something to do with that collective attitude.
Despite all that had happened the night before, this was still my last day in Paris, and I wanted to absorb the atmosphere of this vibrant city one more time. I stopped at the outdoor cafe of the Notre Dame Hotel, across the street from the Seine River and the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral. Sipping a glass of Bordeaux and drinking in the atmosphere, I fully appreciated the moment for what it was, for who knows what might have been, what could have been.
I finally arrived safely back home in Olympia on Sunday. Sitting comfortably in my favorite rocking chair, I reaffirmed that Paris will forever be a moveable feast.
Olympia resident Rick Stedman was in Paris during the terrorist attacks.