Paris is the only city I’ve ever lived in besides the Chicago area. It truly is my second home! That is why when the terrorist attacks happened in Paris on November 13, 2015, I refused to cancel a trip that had me arriving into the City of Lights one week later.
I felt a responsibility, not only as the owner of a travel company, but also as an American, to show my support to this city I love so much and to not let terrorism rule my life. Flying out of Chicago was a breeze… the Delta flight attendants commented that the flight was typically always sold out, but due to what had occurred we were only at half capacity. Arriving into Paris was a normal experience and surprisingly the customs line was quick and without any noticeable security enhancements.
It wasn’t until I got into the city center to check into my hotel in the 8th arrondissement and took a stroll where I saw the heavy military presence around every block. My first day was a sunny weekend day so I was pleased to see locals and tourists – and many families with small children – out walking the streets and playing in the parks (I walked through the Tuileries Garden and the Luxembourg Garden). The streets were certainly quieter than normal as fewer people were out and those that were spoke in hushed voices. Clearly this city was still rebounding from such a devastating blow, but it was good to see that Parisians weren’t letting what happened scare them into changing who they are or what they do.
When dusk came everyone scattered out of the streets, except on the Champs-Elysees, where I was surprised at how many people stayed out enjoying the lights and Christmas markets. Seeing military presence every 20 yards likely gave them comfort.
On my second day in Paris, I spoke via Skype with WGN-TV News in Chicago on what I was witnessing – the segment can be watched HERE.
On my third day in Paris, the U.S. State Department issued a global warning to all U.S. travelers that advised of staying away from crowded areas and to use precaution. I have traveled all over the world- oftentimes solo – so the precautions I took in Paris were similar to ones I would have followed anytime I was by myself in a foreign country. To be safe, I opted to dine only in familiar hotels or in a brasserie close to my hotel as recommended by the concierge. Since it was dark, I took a taxi ordered by either the hotel or restaurant to get to and from my dinner. During the day, I felt very safe walking the streets around many of the major tourist areas of Paris (Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Place de la Concorde, etc.), but I did not linger where there were crowds.
I have now been in Paris for six days and never once have I felt unsafe. The French, as expected, are grateful for those tourists who did not cancel their trips as tourism is an important industry for them. The hotel where I was staying – Le Bristol - said about 1/3 of their guests cancelled immediately and rebooked for sometime in early 2016. I made a visit to the recently refurbished Plaza Athenee, which reported a similar amount of rescheduled guests. Much to my delight, I bumped into an acquaintance from the U.S. who was staying in my hotel with her husband and two young daughters – they said they also felt very safe and were happy they had not cancelled their trip.
Since arriving in France, I have received many messages from friends who have upcoming trips wanting my “boots on the ground” opinion of what is happening. They are asking if it feels like a war zone or if I’m scared, etc. What I tell them is that they should absolutely still come to Paris! And no, it definitely does not feel like a war zone! Yes, perhaps they will be a little bit more anxious because the events were so recent, but that is the sad reality we now live in regardless where we travel. My opinion is we cannot let these terrorists scare us into changing our habits. Paris and the French need our tourism support as much now as we needed them in NYC after 9/11. Don’t cancel your trips and don’t let the media reports scare you. Paris is alive and well and spectacular as ever!
If you have any specific questions about Paris or my stay, please CONTACT ME.