Our trip to Paris was eventful the moment we arrived at Gare du Nord from London. Upon exiting the Eurostar train and making my first step into Paris, a dozen French police stopped two men before us; told them to put their hands on the back of the head and searched them. I remember the anger from the men, voices starting to raise and the growing crowd of onlookers.
What a shock of a welcome. Bienvenue à Paris!
We would later find out that just hours before our arrival, the Charlie Hebdo shooting had just happened. The city is on a manhunt as they pursue the gunmen responsible for the terrorist-driven shooting that left 12 people dead. What a time to come to the world’s most romantic city.
For the next few days, we would experience Paris like never before: military and police everywhere on the streets, no tourist crowd, and the attractions almost all to ourselves.
Whoa, wait–Paris without a crowd?!?
While that may sound far-fetched, we came to Paris on winter season heightened by the heinous act of terrorism. There was an odd sense of stillness in the air. Even going to the nearest supermarket was a little daunting.
Nonetheless, seeing the French police with their big guns on every block of the city made us feel safer. We can’t even see any police around our Sinulog festivals, so that was comforting to see.
Here’s a comparison of our Paris photos on January 2015 vs. fellow CAFA colleague Carla’s photos on May 2014. If you want to know more of Carla babe’s Euro trip adventures, you can visit her blog here.
It’s amazing how the French uphold in what they believe in so much. ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ – freedom of speech & freedom of the press. Throughout our trip, we would randomly walk into peace rallies held by people of all religions on the streets.
On our fourth day in Paris, Ejay and I along with a friend showed our support and attended the anti-terror rally in Place de la République, among the city’s busiest squares. An estimated 4 million people congregated in one place. Some were already climbing on to the trees and statues.
“Charlie, charlie, charlie”, the crowd chanted in unison. People were waving French flags, with placards, posters and banners in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic. They waved pens and pencils in the air, all the while singing ‘La Marseillaise’. It was mesmerizing.
Here are photos Ejay took of the said event:
I wonder how despite having such a large crowd, they could still remain orderly. No pushing or shoving or violating of personal space. Personal space means a lot to me.
‘The French are not afraid to speak.‘ What can you expect from the descendants of the French Revolution? They value their freedom of speech so much, and instill those values to the young to not be afraid to say what they think. In the rally, the parents brought their children (some as young as 3) to join in the chanting and sharing of experiences. ‘They are just as passionate for their freedom as they are with their french kissing’, I joked.
It felt good to be able to take part in such a historical event. The rally is said to have had the largest gathering in France (with 4 million people) since the nation’s liberation in 1944… Until of course, the following week we saw on the international news that a mass was held in Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines with Pope Francis and 7 million Filipinos. Kaning pinoy, di jud papildi. hehehe
I’ll talk more about Paris on my future posts and how we were able to travel there in less than P50,000 for five days (without missing the most important spots) Watch out for that soon!