This Morning’s News

We left Paris three weeks ago, and I’d planned to write separate blogs for each of the attractions we saw. Today I was going to post about The Louvre and Montmartre. Then I woke up to a barrage of messages from loved ones. They were worried and thankful that we weren’t there for what happened yesterday evening.
Dazed and unsure of what the messages were referring to, I got out of bed this morning and googled what happened in Paris. It broke my heart. In a beautiful city, filled with amazing food and even better people, something atrocious happened.
My mind instantly went to the men working at a Turkish restaurant just outside our flat who helped us on the first night we arrived by providing internet access. Then they checked in with us each morning, asking how we were doing. Are they okay? What about the painters and impressionists we chatted with on day three, the guy dressed in a nice suit, most likely on his way to work who stopped when he saw us hopelessly staring at a city map and offered directions. How are they?
I imagine that if they aren’t hurt, they’re scared. They’re angry and confused. I’m angry and confused. I’m mad that this sort of thing goes on. But mostly I’m sad. I’m sad that there are innocent people who were taken down. I’m sad that there are brainwashed people who think killing is the best option.
Then I think of the streets, how quiet they get in the early morning hours as a mist lays heavy all around. The Eiffel tower peeking through to say good morning, and the smell of fresh coffee and cinnamon crepes in the air. I think of the cobblestone sidewalks in Montmartre, the pristine entry to The Louvre where we stood taking pictures before exploring inside. What are those streets and sidewalks like this morning? When people wake up, how will they see the city today? Surely its beauty has been robbed. When the locals and tourists look out their windows, what are they thinking today?
On our second to last day there, Dylan and Evan asked if we could move to Paris next. They fell in love with the city like I did, and like countless others who visited before us. The city was… is warm, kind, and inviting, and one of my favorite places.
Tomorrow I’ll finish writing the series of blogs I started about our time in Paris simply because Paris deserves to be known for its charm and beauty rather than this horrible thing that happened there. But for today I’ll ask you to join me as I mourn with the people there, hope for those who we came to know, and pray for all of the people affected that they experience peace in times of terror and love in times of worry.

Bekkie

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The Eiffel Tower

Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea to take on the Eiffel tower on our first day. We’d already done a lot of walking, and the boys were tired. But Tyler and I get stir crazy when we sit for too long, and by too long I mean more than thirty minutes. It took some coaxing, and telling them that we’d get dinner at the end, but we managed to convince the boys to take the 40 minute stroll with us. If we left quickly, kept a solid pace, and didn’t stop we’d be there right at sunset, eek! I was thrilled about the potential pictures.
We started out at a great pace, but about 20 minutes in the boys were over it. Dylan complained about his sore legs and Evan’s mood had shifted from sweet little boy to rotten little monster. The two of them bickered back and forth, Evan decided to stop walking, and they both agreed that they didn’t like Paris anymore.
I reminded them that there would be food at the end of our walk, and offered piggy back rides, which they took. But they’re both getting bigger and the rides only lasted a few blocks.
30 minutes into the walk, we’d stopped so many times I lost count. I tried to encourage the kids, but with each few steps I could feel myself getting dragged into sourpuss station. The sun was setting. My back hurt, and I could see the tower still taunting me in the distance. It was so close yet so far. We were going to miss the shot I’d hoped for. But darn if we didn’t walk all the way for no reason. A shot in the evening was better than turning around… right?
Then the lights came on, first as a soft, yellow glow, then bright white, each light dancing around like sunlight reflecting on the snow. All four of us stopped and marveled at them. When we rounded the corner into the park, we were taken aback by the size of it and all of the intricate, ornate beams. We took a few pictures, sat under it for a while while we ate some snacks, debated taking a cab home, and promised the boys that we’d only make one stop the following day… The Louvre.

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The City of Lights: our first impressions and first day in Paris

Our first view of Paris was late in the evening on Saturday. Exhausted from a day of traveling, I didn’t expect to enjoy the ride to our flat in the 3rd arr.. I wanted more than anything to take a hot shoer and go to bed. But riding in our taxi, I couldn’t help but take it all in, staring, gaping out the windows as we drove past Notre Dame through crowded streets. Restaurants were packed with noisy rugby fans, or so we were told by our driver when we heard the hoots and hollers. Each turn of our taxi revealed another amazing view filled with lights, cobblestone and traditional Parisian architecture. The cab ride itself proved to be worth the cost in what we saw.
When morning came we scurried out as quickly as possible, forgetting that Europe sleeps in on Sunday. The streets were nearly silent and a light, still fog hung in the air. We took our time walking to Notre Dame Cathedral, grabbing warm, cinnamon crepes and coffee for breakfast on the way.
The cathedral was grand to say the least. We counted ourselves lucky that there was no line, and slipped during an early morning church service. Hushed, we made our way around, listening to French recitals of scripture. Each wall was adorned with imagery and culture from its past. Walking a loop around the inside, we were provided the history of Notre Dame, its construction and everything that happened on the inside and out.
And I can’t lie, I did think a little about the hunchback when the bells sounded.

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Up next we walked to the Catacombs. The stroll there proved to be way shorter than the line outside which wrapped around the small block and took nearly two hours. Practicing quick math facts with the boys got us through a good portion of the wait. Then we debated whether or not we should have lunch right after and the boys started jumping in place, fighting with each other, and singing Minecraft songs at the top of their lungs. When we finally went inside, we were ready.
We trailed down eight flights of spiral stairs so quick I thought I’d be sick from spinning. But with droves of other people in front of you and behind you, the pace at which you travel isn’t an option. At the bottom of the stairs we passed through long, damp hallways until we reached the rooms that held the remains of six million people.
The Catacombs, at their construction, served as a solution. With bodies piling up, and mass graves already packed to the brim, the former mines were renovated to hold the remains. Haunting as it was to think about the fact that all these skeletons were once people, seeing the works of art blew me away. There was fountains, figures, and ornate columns all made out of skulls. I marveled at the time and precision it must have taken for the individuals who constructed such a grave.

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The air was thick and cold. Moisture from the roof of the mine dripped and made the ground muddy under our feet. The boys walked through wide their eyes wide, pointing out shapes, or oddly large skulls. Walking ahead of Tyler and I, they liked to spot things and report them back to us so we could take a picture.
We came out of the mines a few blocks away from where we entered, squinting as we adjusted our eyes to the sunlight again. “I think I have dead people on my feet,” Evan announced, looking at his feet. Sure enough, they were covered in mud, but I assured him it wasn’t dead people.
We walked back to our flat for a break before embarking on our third adventure of the day… the Eiffel Tower