Thousands of people are directly affected by the Paris attacks. Millions of people feel connected to Paris.
I thought tourism data would show Paris is the most touristed city on Earth. Apparently it is now #3, with around 15 to 16 million international visitors, fewer visitors than London and Bangkok.
2014 ranking: No. 3
The city often called the most romantic place in the world is a perennial tourist favorite, with proposals in front of the Eiffel Tower a daily occurrence. The list of famous attractions—Notre Dame Cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre —seems endless, and the world-class cuisine attracts foodies of every stripe. So of course it remains near the top of the list, with approximately 16 million visitors expected in 2015.
Seven weeks ago today I woke up in a luxurious bed inside the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel Paris. I walked the streets and alleys from Palais Garnier to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. I felt consumptive, coughing extensively in my hotel room, while recovering from a throat infection picked up ten days earlier on my second trip to Europe in a month. My third trip to Europe in four weeks exacerbated my throat with another British Airways San Francisco to London Heathrow cold and dry air flight. Visions of Paris in 24 hours included CDG airport, Stade de France, Palais Garnier, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower; all some the usual suspects for Paris sights. That is my most recent connection to Paris among a string of connections dating back more than 40 years to when I first visited the city.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
– John Lennon
Our lives are all about connections. Horrible things happen all around the globe, but most tragic events don’t tug at our heartstrings, unless there is a connection to place and people. Paris is one of those places where many people feel connections. Millions of international visitors spend time in Paris each year.
My trip to Paris in late September 2015 was the first time I had been to the city in 13 years. One of the first sites I photographed was a large stadium seen from the Roissybus I boarded at Charles de Gaulle CDG airport for the trip into central Paris.
Stade de France, Saint-Denis in suburban Paris north.
She was a Californian, he was a Garrido
One of the first victims identified from the #ParisAttacks was a Californian, Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year old Cal State Long Beach student studying design in Paris as a foreign exchange student. This LA Times article says she recently worked on a design for a “biodegradable snack pack that can grow plants”. She sounds like someone we needed for solving our real world societal problems.
Alberto Gonzalez Garrido was killed at the Bataclan theater concert. Reports state he was from Madrid, Spain and worked as an engineer in Paris. An article I read in bad Google Translate from Spanish to English mode had a statement from his wife stating he was shielding her as they lay on the floor when he was shot. She had to leave Alberto Garrido behind on the concert hall floor when police took over and cleared everyone from Bataclan.
The Eagles of Death Metal, a California band playing at the Bataclan on Friday the 13th. How bizarre is that? This band is a name and sound I had never heard before this past weekend.
The Eagles of Death Metal wikipedia page has been updated since I first read it a few days ago. I’ll post this excerpt from the wikipedia page now, since it may get altered in the coming days.
Despite their band name, Eagles of Death Metal are not a death metal band. Hughes stated that a friend was introducing Josh Homme to the death metal genre. When he played a song by the Polish band Vader and made a claim that the song was within the death metal genre, Homme then referred to Vader as “The Eagles of Death Metal”. After hearing this phrase, he wondered what a cross between the Eagles and a death metal band would sound like. In a 2003 interview Homme described the sound of the band as a combination of “bluegrass slide guitar mixed with stripper drum beats and Canned Heat vocals.” Hughes is known for his enthusiastic interaction with audiences at live performances.
My wife and mother asked me if I had been in the area of the Paris terrorist attacks. My photo of the Stade de France was as close as I came to that site in a bus on the highway. The central Paris attacks were all east of the area I walked around in Paris in the area around Palais Garnier, the Opera House. Tourist sites like The Louvre and Eiffel Tower are farther west in Paris.
The Louvre is near the center of Paris. Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees are in the western part of central Paris.
Google Maps shows Bataclan Theater at about 40 minutes walk east from InterContinental Le Grand. Eiffel Tower is about 40 minutes walk west of IC Le Grand. My walks were focused on Montmartre about 30 minutes walk north of the hotel. I don’t think I was ever within a mile of where the attacks in the eastern portion of Paris occurred. I checked a map of Paris hotels and there is Crowne Plaza Place de la Republique, but most chain hotels are west of that part of Paris.
Sacre-Coeur on Montmartre bluff, Paris
London, Paris, Stockholm
When I go to London next week, my thoughts are more likely to be on keeping track of my Oyster Card and wallet, not the 2005 terrorist bomb attacks on public transportation Underground and busses.
7 July Memorial London Hyde Park – 52 stelae for each of the 7-7-2005 victims in separate coordinated terrorist bomb attacks around London.
A couple of weeks ago I wanted to extend my upcoming trip to London and Stockholm with travel to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 in two weeks. That did not work into my schedule. Paris seemed like an important place to be hanging around in early December. I wonder how the state of emergency will affect public rallies around the UN conference?
Sweden on High Alert
This morning I read Sweden raised its country terror warning alert.
TheLocal.se – Sweden on ‘high’ terror alert for the first time (Nov 19, 2015).
TheLocal.se – Why Sweden’s terror threat is a game changer (Nov 19, 2015)
Thoughts on traveling to Europe this month
The Paris Attacks are in my thoughts with memories of a recent trip and my canceled plans for travel to Paris for the UN Climate Change agreement. I will be in London and Stockholm, Sweden instead.
In bed this morning I read an article on how to react in a situation like the Paris Attacks. A psychologist said most people are too shocked to react at all in an extreme violence situation. Best piece of advice seemed to be run away, while shielding yourself as much as possible as you flee. And don’t draw attention to yourself. Common sense reasoning, if you can remember it when panicked.
News media keeps the panic level high among the public.
I realized much of my life has included travel affected by terrorism. And I am talking about western European travel.
There is too much fear and panic. I can create a list of my personal travel experiences where terrorism played a role in my trip. I wrote that list and then deleted it from this post. I don’t think it is good to dwell and worry on the potential for bad things to happen. I prefer to remember the good things and hope for the best, wherever I am.
Memory of Paris
To close this piece is a memory from my first trip to Paris in 1974. I was 14 and our family drove to Paris with Dad, Mom, big sister (18) and little sister(8). We lived on a U.S. Army helicopter base home near Mainz, Germany and my parents planned lots of travel trips in summer.
My teenage memory of Paris, the City of Light, is my father driving in circles around the Arc de Triomphe trying to maneuver to an exit street in our US Army license plated car and, in tow, our similarly branded, green USA license plated travel tent trailer. Tiny European cars and no lane markings made accessing the inside lane too challenging to avoid a couple of 360s before Dad finally got the Arc de Triomphe in his rearview mirrors.
Are there still campgrounds in Paris?
We lived screenwriter John Hughes’ European Vacation, years before the movie came out.
Circling the Arc de Triomphe on Air France Bus to Orly Airport Sep 2015.
Loyalty Traveler – Feeling Paris under full moonlight (Sep 28, 2015)