January 7, 2015, this is my ninth day in France.
Ten journalists and two policemen were killed today in an gun attack in Paris. This morning at around 11 o’clock during an editorial board meeting, two gunmen entered Charlie Hebdo and fired gunshots. The gunmen are still at large.
Francois Hollande, the French president, has called it an terrorist attack. Officials from the United States, Britain, Germany and Spain gave speeches showing sympathy and concern over this issue.
Charlie Hebdo, located in the 11th district in Paris, is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports and jokes, which are anti-religious and extremely left-wing.
After its appearance in 1969 and then resurrection in 1992, Charlie Hebdo has been under the spotlight recently due to its anti-religious and left-wing content. Its Paris office was firebombed and website hacked in 2011 after an issue featuring a caricature of the prophet Muhammad on its cover, according to ABCNews.
In 2006, 12 writers signed a statement that warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”, according to BBC.
Several main French television and radio channels continuously give reports and updates on this issue. France is all about the freedom of press; America is concerned over terrorism; China shares the basics.
As of Sunday, Jan 11, 2015, the police found and killed the two gunmen, ending the three-day manhunt. Four hostages were killed during the shoot-out between the police and the terrorists. Another group of police killed the suspect of killing a police woman the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
There had been several massive demonstrations in the big cities of France, such as Paris, Toulouse, Nice and Marseille. I was “lucky” to see the crowds in Marseille on Saturday. People were holding signs saying “Je suis Charlie” and clapping while they marched on.
More complexity is involved in the story than the basic information given here. The Guardian has a great live report, here it is.
Just four days ago, I was still in Paris, staying in a hostel in the 19th district, where the gunmen changed their car after the shooting.
I was lucky enough to watch fireworks at the Arc de Triomphe and spend New Year in Paris. However, I admit that I am really lucky to be in Aix-en-Provence right now, watching the dreadful attack on TV, not in person. Even though, my journalistic instinct secretly tells me it would be a once-in-my-life opportunity to learn and practice reporting.
Regardless, I want to show you France through my eyes. I hope to prove the truth and falsify the rumors.
Buckle up. Here we go!
Days from Dec 30, 2014 – Jan 3, 2015:
I did all the touristy things: took picture with the Eiffel Tower, sang at the Notre Dame, walked along the Seine and dined at a fancy restaurant.
Paris is a gorgeous place with very rich history. Everywhere you go, there is something to discover. I went to many places that I did not intend to, but it was worth exploring.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid of getting lost. You might find something other tourists who only aim at the big names would never see.
To be honest, what fascinated me the most was not only the ancient architecture, well-developed transportation system and elegant way of living, but also the people:
Rumor #1: French people are rude.
I’ve come along with my broken French and survived my visit in Paris. At first, I was very nervous of talking to French people. But, after walking into several cafes and tried my best, I found most waiters very agreeable and friendly. Haven’t noticed the spitting in the coffee yet, haha.
Do note that not everyone in Paris can speak English. If it’s in fairly big stores, restaurants or police offices, they might find someone who can speak English to help you. They might get a little bit impatient if you can’t make up your mind, but as they say, it’s France.
Truth #1: Paris is a romantic place.
I probably saw more people kissing on the street more than I have during all the years before 2015. It could be particular because it was New Year, but the Parisians are not afraid of showing their affection in public is true.
Lesson #2: Try not to spend New Year’s in Paris alone.
Paris is a big city with mighty hunting spirits. You may enjoy the freedom of wandering in Paris, stopping wherever and whenever you want. However, it might not be fun when followed by some drunk men when walking home alone. Also, you would want to be in photos of beautiful scenery.
If you do choose to go to Paris on your own, try to find some other lonely travelers. It’s easier for you two to pair up and take photos for each other rather than asking passing-by couples or families. I’ve met a girl from England, a guy from China and a girl from Argentina along my journey and they were all very nice!
Lesson #3: Don’t just be a tourist. Try the Parisian style.
There is always something going on in Paris: a ballet flamenco show at Le Theatre des Champs-Elysees, a photograph gallery at the Hotel de Ville, an after party in the dance club, a flower/book market down the street or an art exhibition at Centre Pompidou.
Don’t just buy the crepes and hot wine from the touristy places. Try a real French restaurant, go to a show that’s not in the Moulin Rouge (for the sake of the price, too), look for the posters in subway stations that interest you. As they always say: just follow your heart.
C’est la vie.
C’est la France.
Live your dream.