Despite the bombs and bullets, Paris will endure

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To any traveller who has visited Paris, the terrible news this past weekend came as a wrenching blow: a series of terrorist attacks across the city, killing more than 100 innocent people in senseless acts of violence. It was an outrage, all the more so because it was an attack aimed at one of the great cities of the world – literally, one of the centres of modern civilization.

If you read The Travelling Boomer, you know that I’m a great admirer of France’s capital city. On my visit this summer I was captivated once again, not only by its beautiful architecture and timeless monuments, but by the way it was designed for people, not just cars and commerce, and by the way Parisians enjoy life, browsing the street markets and art galleries, having a coffee or a glass of wine in the city’s legendary cafês.

So like many of you, I found it painful to see this iconic city scarred by terrorists’ bullets. But at the same time, I was reminded of something I’d seen in my wanderings during my latest visit to Paris. Walking along the Seine, very near the National Assembly, I noticed an inscription on a wall that was pockmarked with holes and signs of violent impact.

Clemenceau inscription Paris

“On the 11th of March, 1918,” it read, “Paris was bombarded by projectiles launched from planes, which fell upon the Ministry of War, where Georges Clemenceau was leading the government of the Republic.”

Nearby, another monument many passers-by would probably miss: a stone basket with a dried-up bouquet and another poignant inscription: “Slain for France: Here, Henri Jean Pilot, law student, fell heroically at the age of 23 on the 20th of August, 1944 for the liberation of Paris.”

Henri Jean Pilot plaque

Sombre memories from times when Paris was shaken far worse that it was this week. The German bombing of World War I left much of the downtown in ruins, and during WWII the city endured years of hardship under Nazis. In its 2,000-year history, Paris has seen and withstood an endless series of wars and conflicts: civil wars, revolutions, sieges, occupation by the English, the Prussians and the modern-day Germans. The city has seen many a dark day.

And yet, it’s still standing, bigger and more beautiful than it’s ever been. Shattered buildings have been rebuilt, or transformed into parts of modern Paris; scenes of old conflict, like the Bastille and Place de la Concorde, are now busy traffic routes. The sun still shines on its great boulevards, people still debate art and literature in the cafés, and tourists still line up to see its world-famous galleries and cathedrals.

And after the recent atrocities, Parisians took stranded citizens into their homes. Cab drivers gave free rides to those in need. Then, the city took a pause to recover from the shock, and returned to the task of living. Paris will endure, and while the security may be tighter, it will still be a fine place to visit.

Paris walk

 

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About Author

Paul Marshman is a retired journalist who spent 30 years as a writer and editor on Canadian newspapers, while travelling to the ends of the earth. Now he continues to travel while passing on his travel experiences to you.

3 Comments

  1. Paul:
    Thanks for sharing your sentiments and those lovely images. I was reminded of the many small plaques paying homage to people and events, large and small that remind us of the enormous history and upheaval that Paris has witnessed.
    And like you I share a delight in the times I’ve visited – it is the one large city that never disappoints – from the delicious pastries at Du Pain et Des Idées at Canal St. Martin to the sparkling illuminations on the Eiffel Tower at night. We too were there last summer, and were already making plans to return in July.
    We will not let these events deter us from our intentions, nor our enjoyment of Paris. If it somehow happens that sitting on a Paris street corner with a café crème and a pistachio pinwheel turns out to be the last moment of my life, it will be a very happy ending.

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