07 Dec

Paris is open for business

ABTA's Lucy Dean talks about her first ever trip to Paris. 

Given the tragic recent events I was apprehensive about my first ever trip to Paris last weekend, part of me wanted to cancel it, my nerves getting the better of me, but we decided to go and I’m really glad that we did.

We chose the last weekend in November as we thought this would be the best time to go, the Christmas lights were on and the ‘Marche de Noel’ on the Champs-Elysees had begun.

We arrived at the Gare du Nord station around 11:00 on Friday morning and, as can be expected, it was packed with people but immediately we saw a number of armed police and straight away I felt a sense of ease, not the panicked and sombre atmosphere I had pictured we would face.

Our hotel was located right next to the Place de la Republique, not far from where the attacks happened exactly two weeks earlier. The first thing we saw when getting to the area was the monument that has become a place of remembrance, there were hundreds of people gathered around, laying flowers and comforting each other. This was a very humbling experience, to see so many people defiantly standing together.

The stand out moment for me, from the whole trip, was when we sat down for dinner on the Friday evening in the Place de la Republique and the waiter started talking to us about what had happened. He called it the ‘war’ and when I asked if it had stopped people going out and about, he said not at all, in fact this area, not the Champs-Elysees, was the hub of Paris and would continue to be. They had been attacked but they wouldn’t let it stop them living their lives.

We had such a great weekend, Paris really is so beautiful and no matter where we went the people were lovely. We must have walked around the majority of the city over the three days we were there and there is not one bit that I didn’t enjoy. I would really recommend taking a boat trip down the Seine, it takes about an hour depending on which company you use and you get to see all the main attractions and learn interesting facts about them along the way such as the names of the Notre Dame bells.

When we decided not to cancel our trip, I repeatedly said that we wouldn’t be going to any of the tourist attractions, to any hugely public places or on the Metro. Having returned from our weekend away I can say that we went to the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacre Coeur, visited the packed Christmas markets several times, rode the Metro and even went to the Eiffel Tower (although my fear of heights stopped me going up it!). And there was not once when I didn’t feel safe, uneasy or on edge. The spirit of the Parisians was still very much alive and I will definitely be going back.