Tributes to Paris
We received so many messages of solidarity for Paris that we couldn’t publish them all in the magazine. Here are some of our other tributes to the City of Light
My love letter to Paris
From the higgledy-piggledy, granite-grey rooftops to the charming little cafés whisking out their steaming espressos to the twinkling pinpoints on the Eiffel Tower, there are so many things to love about the city of light. But I think the thing I love most of all though is the people – who must be the proudest, the most spirited and frankly, at times, the most obstinate in the world. I mean, where else can you go into a shop and feel like the person is doing you a favour by deigning to serve you? And that’s if the shop is open at all of course – which frequently it won’t be because the owner has decided to close early just because he fancies a half-day off. Now don’t get me wrong, I used to struggle with this in my early days in the city, but that’s because I didn’t understand – didn’t realise that the shopkeeper, the waiter and the chef are all respected, cherished and even revered because they are the very pillars of Parisian society. They are what make the city tick – and, indeed, I am lucky to be served by them – because they are the very people who will see the city through this difficult time.
The waiter at our local bistro who knows our order off by heart; the glamorous fashionista at my favourite vintage store who could spot a piece of Dior a mile off; the cross-dressing cabaret club owner who invites all the elderly people in the area to a complimentary lunch every month. They are the ones who will carry the city through – with the Parisian pride in their way of life that no one can ever take away. This is a city that has seen difficult times in its past: the siege of Paris in the 1870s; the German occupation during the Second World War; and, more recently, the riots. Each time, though, those stoic Parisians dusted themselves off, got on with things and recovered – and they will do so again.
In short, they are the ones who will ensure that the city of light will never lose its sparkle. The light may have dimmed for a while, but, thanks to them, it already blazes again, brighter than ever before.
Editor, Surrey Life
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City of enchantment
For me, Paris remains a city of enchantment, of love, laughter and of friendship. Some of my happiest memories reside in its cafés and cobbled streets, which always felt safe, and where I walked or cycled everywhere, day or night, for the four blissful years that I called Paris my home. From the first moment I set foot in the city at the age of 11 for an all too brief weekend with my Parisian aunt, it was a place with a sophisticated allure that intrigued and bedazzled the visitor. We went shopping at Galeries Lafayette, visited the Louvre, walked for what felt like a hundred miles through a city soaked in history, and I enjoyed my first taste of champagne. It ignited a lifelong love affair – both with Paris and the fruits of the champagne region.
I returned to live in Paris in late 2003 as one of the BBC’s Paris correspondents. After covering the war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq, it felt like a safe haven in a difficult, dangerous and divided world. Living in the Marais district for the next four years, my quartier was the Paris I had always dreamed of: with a bistro downstairs where the waiters always had time to swap gossip over a morning cigarette and a noisette, the boulangerie opposite that provided fresh croissants, and the friends and neighbours who helped me to improve my French, recommended new galleries and restaurants, and always had advice on how to deal with the impenetrable nature of French bureaucracy.
It wasn’t always peaceful. We covered the Paris riots that showed the deep fissures bubbling up within French society, and the political divides and arguments that endure to this day. Paris can be an infuriating place, as well as an enchanting one: it is full of talent, creativity, and welcoming to those who embrace French values, yet it can struggle to offer its talented young the job opportunities they crave. Paris offers an intellectual life that is rich in debate, with a respect for culture and ideas that is second to none – not to mention some of the best food and wine on earth. And yet its people have real fears – even before the latest attacks – of what the future holds for Paris and for France. I left to return to London in 2007, but Paris remains in my heart, as do all my friends there. The Paris and the Parisians that I know and love will survive these attacks with an elegant defiance that keeps the cafes and the terraces full of those who love life, who value friendship and freedom with passion, and who will not allow themselves to be divided or intimidated by hatred and brutality.
Paris will remain a place for laughter, and for love. It is a city where life is to be lived to the full, a place made for music and for melody, for lovers of life walking hand in hand over its bridges at night or sharing that last ill-advised kir royale as the street sweepers pass by in the early morning light. It is not a city of tears – even as we shed them now for those who died and those who were injured, and their families. Paris must remain the City of Light, and we – and it – must not let the darkness win.
Caroline Wyatt, former BBC Paris correspondent
An affair that lasted
During my early twenties, long before I worked as staff writer for FRANCE Magazine, I spent a summer in Paris with my American then-boyfriend who had been commissioned by some rather bohemian Parisians to collaborate on an art project. Both of us positively penniless, we took up residence in a cramped little third-floor apartment in the 20th arrondissement – a place I grew to love for its unpolished quirkiness that jarred with the quintessential Paris I knew from books and family visits.
While the American worked by day, I’d spend hours roaming the ethnic shops of the area, where I got to know the shopkeepers of mostly North African descent, who would take pride in educating me in their aromatic herbs and teas and exotic grains and spices. Or I’d idle away my solitary hours in sunny parks or pavement cafés sustained by strong coffee and a doorstop novel. After work and at weekends, we acted as any starry-eyed young couple should do; we strolled Paris’s winding boulevards and dangled our feet in the Seine; we argued over map reading and fell asleep on the métro; hung out in bookshops and sought out cosy bistros to spend long evenings sipping wine to candlelight and background jazz.
It was every bit the romantic Paris cliché, but to me felt utterly authentic and unique. And while the American love affair didn’t stand the test of time, something of the magic and uplifting freedom I felt in Paris that summer still remains in my heart today.
Zoë McIntyre, contributor
Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s hard to sum up exactly what it is about the place that makes me feel so happy and comfortable when I’m there. Undoubtedly, the archetypal French architecture, café culture, tree-lined avenues and museums all help make it a place that is a joy to spend time in, but in reality I think it’s the sense that Paris welcomes its visitors with its arms wide open that really makes me feel so much at home there. Despite the horrific events that have taken place, I hope that the spirit of Paris does not change, and I know that I will always look forward to being there.
Stephanie Sheldrake, assistant editor, Living France magazine
Je suis Parisienne
Why does Paris matter to me? It could be my earliest memory of dad driving us around the Arc de Triomphe with the family caravan in tow, or from the same childhood trip, mum ordering ‘sauce de tomate’ in her best French, only to be answered with, ‘ah le ketchup!’ at McDonald’s. It could be my first visit as a student during the Easter vacation when my best friend and I were thrown out of a seedy hotel reception at 7am simply because we asked to see the hotel room before we paid. The owner’s indignant, “Vous me prenez pour un con [idiot]?!” resonated in our ears for the two blocks we walked until we found refuge at Young and Happy hostel on Rue Mouffetard. We stayed there every trip thereafter.
It’s probably all those walking tours said friend and I orchestrated when we had visitors on our year abroad. Out of our flat on Rue Duhesme, up to Sacré-Cœur, down to the Grands Boulevards, past Fauchon to purchase the finest jam known to humanity, across Place de la Concorde, through the autumnal Tuileries Gardens to the pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre, along the Seine to browse the bouquinistes’ stalls, and back to our café préféré for a croquet-madame. Our other favourite route was through the Marais from St Paul. I can still hear her saying “And this is Rue Pavée...so called because it was the first paved street in Paris!” Oh we were so proud to be Parisiennes, even for one year. Maybe it’s working on the Champs-Élysées that matters most. I used to pretend, rather embarrassingly, that I was French to avoid giving tourists directions in English to the ‘Arc of Triumph’. They’re missing out on the beautiful language, I’d moan. But when someone asked me, “Excusez-moi, où se trouve la virgine?” in their best French I sent the poor chap off on a wild goose chase to some statue of the Madonna I’d heard of in the 17th. I only realised my mistake when I reached the Virgin Megastore to buy my little brother a birthday present. Silly young thing that I was. But I did so love Paris.
It’s definitely got a lot to do with the many hours I spent sitting in Café Panis near to Notre-Dame, planning issues of Kilometer Zero Magazine with friends from Shakespeare and Co. bookshop, people-watching, smoking, drinking too much kir, and feeling that this is where life really began mattering for me. I’ve been back to that café every trip since, because nothing beats un bon vieux Coca en bouteille after a hot summer’s wandering, or a café crème after a late-night discussion and too much vin rouge.
Paris: please don’t stop celebrating the end of your working week, or the start of the day, or your new book purchase, or a friend’s birthday, or the fact that the sun has come out by sitting en terrasse and enjoying the première gorgée de bière. These plaisirs minuscules are the memories my Paris life is made of. And no terrorists should be allowed to take that past, present and future Paris life from us.
Cate Hamilton, reader, via Facebook
Our first visit to Paris was in 1989, the centenary of the Eiffel Tower, and from the top we saw the city at night, it was a magical view. Not wanting to miss anything by taking the métro, we walked everywhere: from the Louvre across Place de la Concorde, up the Champs-Élysées (stopping for refreshments outside to watch the world go by) and then climbing the Arc de Triomphe. We visited Notre-Dame Cathedral, Pigalle and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, and bought a painting from Place du Tertre. A tiring but exhilarating five days. On our last night we went to the Folies Bergère cabaret; walking up the red-carpeted staircase in evening dress with a quartet playing in the foyer was very special, as was the show.
Our visit in 1999 coincided with the solar eclipse, which we watched from just below Sacré-Coeur. Families had taken picnics (with wine of course!), which they insisted we share with them. When it became dark, all was silent, even the birds. We could see the lights all over Paris and then there was a tremendous cheer and applause. The same year we also went to the Lido. We dined and danced then watched the most spectacular show with amazing costumes and special effects. On other visits to Paris we have strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Marais and the Latin Quarter, cruised the River Seine, had delicious food and good wine. We have seen shows at the Moulin Rouge and Paradis Latin, yet there is much more for us to see and do. We will never tire of Paris. Our thoughts are with the Parisians. The City of Light will never be dimmed.
Ann and Ken Joynson, Yeaden, West Yorkshire
Paris is a shining light, a city of elegance, beauty and culture. Its very essence is freedom – we cannot let this atrocity mar that. I first visited Paris when I was very young and it touched my soul. There is something magical about it, one can feel the history and the glamour around every corner, to say nothing of the wonderful smells of coffee and delicious food. Paris, we are all with you – long may you reign.
Lynne Baker, reader
Paris has a special place in our hearts as it is where we spent our honeymoon thirty years ago last October. We have been back to France every year for the past twenty plus years and even had our own holiday home in Brittany for ten years. We love the country, its way of life and its people. We will not allow the terrible events of 13th November stop us returning next year to show our support to the country and its people. In the meantime, our thoughts are with all the families that have been caught up in these tragic events.
Brian and Sue Stannard, readers