Arriving to Paris on a City Lockdown

Arriving to Paris on a City Lockdown – My 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!

I 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, I would experience Paris like never before: military and police everywhere on the streets, no tourist crowd, and the attractions almost all to myself.

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. 

No crowd, no problem
The Hall of Mirrors

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, Yvonne took me to attend 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.

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.

Speaking of….

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.

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!

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3 thoughts on “Arriving to Paris on a City Lockdown”

    1. ohhh, the 50k includes the hotel and the tickets–but technically i rode the train from london to paris for only 11k, but i do know there are budget airlines from HK to paris that you can get for 25k round trip! 😀

  1. Charlie Hebdo was something very strong, awful and important for us. Many people didnt like the newspaper and it was actually out of money. (By killing the drawers they actually saved it. Oh ironic). But it didnt matter if we liked Charlie Hebdo or not. Despite some non intellectual people saying they deserved it, we all gathered together in the streets everywhere in france to protest because it is not normal to kill people because they just did some drawings. I was working in the police and to see those two cops getting shot was also awful. The whole three days of hunt were so stressful and everyone went insane in the panic feeling. Where were they. At the same time another shooter was also in the streets. And its with Charlie that all started. In November it was a war scene in Paris with more than 130 deaths because they were enjoying a concert or a drink at a restaurant. And last night was in Nice this time, because they were enjoying a firework … We will always reunite and gather all together when we get attacked. We dont let the fear overtake us and we keep leaving by being careful. And it is beautiful to see all the support and how everyone gathers. But it is tiring to get attacked so much like that … And we all feel anger and lost because of the government that doesnt take enough actions. France is a beautiful country but even we, french, dont feel safe anywhere in our country anymore.

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