I went to Paris for the first time in 2008 and was desperate to return ever since. My husband and I decided to go back in 2015 and take our children, much to the dismay of almost everyone we came across.
2015 marked a shaky and unpredictable year for the French. In November of that year unspeakable acts of violence plagued the streets of Paris, killing 130 people including 89 people inside the Bataclan Theater. We were getting notices from the Embassy to travel on high alert. To be aware of our surroundings and report any suspicious activity. It was a little daunting and I almost sided with the people in our lives that were skeptical of our trip.
“Is it safe to travel to Paris right now?”
This was the question we were asked over and over again when we told our friends and family we would still be going to Paris just months after the terrorist attack struck. We were only a few days away from our departure when the July 14th celebration of Bastille Day turned deadly in Nice. Nonetheless we were ready to go. We had plane tickets, hotel reservations, and had spent hours researching kid-friendly activities, events, and landmarks we wanted to visit. I cautiously boarded the plane the following summer, took a deep breath and moved forward.
When we arrived in Europe we were met at almost every train station, airport, and major subway station with armed soldiers. As tight as security is here in the US, I have only ever seen armed guards walking around the streets military style once, in DC after 9/11. The word terrorism itself can inflict numbing feelings of fear and accompanying anxiety no matter where disaster strikes. But does that mean we shouldn’t have traveled to Paris with our young children that summer? Of course not.
As ominous as it initially felt, we felt safe the entire duration of our Parisian vacation. We walked through Paris’ Northern 18th and 19th districts near La Chapelle at night without trouble, despite dismal warnings from travelers we met on the train. We dined like royalty eating world-famous Brittany crepes with homemade caramel dripping down the sides at Bering Café for dinner. The day after that we melted over the Napoletana pizzas of Maria Luisa for lunch. Feeling so relaxed and secure, we even decided to make a detour to Nice despite the terrorist attack that had occurred only a few short months before.
I learned a lot from the French in our time traveling through their country. My children and I always felt safe under the watchful eyes of beachgoers in Cannes, appreciated the help from Parisians when we got on the wrong subway and even hung out with a kind family we met at the park. My children were able to go to the Louvre, sit under the Eiffel Tower, eat mouth-watering croissants in the park, play soccer outside the Stade de France and ride the subway without fear after midnight.
We learned, as a family, that to travel despite terrorism meant to live without fear of the unknown, because no matter where you go there is always that tiny chance that something could go wrong. As a human being you’re more likely to die of heart disease or be killed in a car accident, yet Americans still grab for the double bacon cheeseburgers and strap their kids into car seats to go the grocery store. If we stopped ourselves from participating in any activity that may or may not result in our immediate deaths we shouldn’t take a bath or stand in front of a bookshelf either — because you’re still more likely to die in your bathtub than in a foreign terrorist attack.
We weren’t ready to miss out on the beauty and culture of Paris because of terrorism. This world is far too beautiful to ignore.