An Historic Moment in Paris

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As the razor dropped onto the floor of the shower, the handle breaking away from the blade, instinctively, I jerked all toes up in the air to avoid damage.

Thwack! The pain shot through my left foot.  A few expletives and a fair amount of moaning followed.

The pain in my foot was worse today, the pinching feeling, perhaps poking on a nerve, had me nervous that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the march from Republique to Nation to honour the 17 people killed in Paris, 12 of them journalists from the satirical newspaper; Charlie Hebdo.

Pacing up and down the apartment, adjusting the wonder shoe, testing out the crutches, wondering if they may be of help or a hindrance to me but desperately trying to find a way that would enable me to join in the rally and walk the distance was becoming a growing disappointment.

 

Soldier on, I told myself, ignore the pain and have a shower.

Instinctively, as the razor dropped onto the floor of the shower, I jerked all toes up in the air to avoid damage. The pain shot through my left foot.  A few expletives and a fair amount of moaning followed.

Stupid, stupid, I kept telling myself but then I realised, during my instinctive reaction, I had done something in a good way, maybe I re-broke the bone, maybe I moved it off that nerve, either way I didn’t care.

The pinching pain was gone and Paris Adèle was back in business!

Marching up and down the apartment, testing my stride, it is a miracle, I thought.

Frantically, I emailed Thérèse to let her know that I would join her on the rally.

 

With a mixture of anticipation, excitement and a sprinkle of fear, standing on the landing, locking the apartment door, I had a sense that I had forgotten something.

 

Of course I would feel like this.  In an effort to make myself as light on the ground as possible, I had abandoned my bag, swapped my bulky cashmere scarf for a lighter weight one, wore a layer less and stripped my coat pockets of any unwanted items, not even small change made the cut.

 

The metros in the surrounding areas were closed for security purposes and not knowing how long it would take me to reach my rendezvous point with Therese, 1.3km away, I headed out an hour earlier to meet up with her.

With so much focus on the bad foot and the excitement of being able to participate, peppered with a little bit of fear,  possibly had me not thinking straight. I have forgotten something.  I ran through a check. Camera, check, battery charged, extra memory card, mobile phone, money, identity card, check check check.

 

Looking down upon my feet on the landing, I realised I had completely forgotten to put a non-wonder shoe on my good foot.

Giggling at my stupidity, I raced back in, threw on a boot and I was on my way.

 

The streets of the Marais were relatively quiet, as I expected and walking up Rue Charlot, checking the time and my progress, I envisaged I would reach the rendezvous point earlier than Therese.

 

Thérèse had wisely suggested we meet a few streets down from Place de la Republique, which was the main meeting point.

The three or four routes would eventually converge on the destination at the square of Nation – here is a map, to put it in perspective and understand the enormity of it.

 

In hindsight, I am glad that I arrived about a half an hour early.  Boulevard du Temple was busy but still with room to move but by the time 3pm arrived, it was packed, wall to wall people and moving around was very difficult.

Here is a short video showing Boulevard du Temple at around 2.30pm, a half an hour before the rally would begin.

Mindful of my broken toe, I gingerly moved through the ever growing crowds of people, looking out for Thérèse.  There was no way, I would find her and text messages were failing to deliver.

Trying to find a needle in a haystack would be easier.

 

I was so happy to see a bright blue winter’s sky, for this historic moment, but not long after I had reached Boulevard du Temple, I heard a noise moving towards us from the direction of Republique.

Republique was the main meeting point. This is where the heads of government from around the world would pay their respects, arms linked and begin the walk.  

It sounded like a stampede, hail or rain. All of us, the crowd, not sure of what the sound could be, we looked up and down the street, the sky opened up and it poured down with a flash of rain and a rolling applause, from Place de la Republique descended upon us and the surrounding crowds joined in.

An atmosphere was building and if you listen to the end of the video, you can hear the crowds in the distance from Republique.

 

Just when both Thérèse and I were about to give up on one another, I turned around to see a hot pink jacket with Therese tucked inside of it.

Bonjour, I am here I told her with excitement.

She introduced me to her friends but told them she was doing the walk with me and we slipped through the crowds, which I am amazed that we managed to do, given the large amount of people.

 

Like a slithering hot pink cat, she gracefully slinked through the crowds, and I followed.

The people, still unsure whether they would make it to Republique or start moving in the opposite direction towards Nation, seemed somewhat lost and confused, until a man climbed a naked tree.  

 

Waving his arms up and down to the crowd below, he starting chanting liberty and the crowd followed suit .. Liberté – Liberté – Liberté.

The goosebumps were prickling my skin and the tears began to well in my eyes as Thérèse found the perfect place for us to rest on a small step that enabled me to capture this video.

Someone walked passed with a French flag and I wanted to scream yes! Thank you! Bonjour! I almost felt like a newspaper journalist myself.

Thrilled, that I had restrained myself from speaking over the video, I showed Thérèse – oh that is good she tells me and a burst of sunshine filled my face.

 

We moved as one, towards Bastille with Nation on the horizon.

Every now and then the crowd would come to a stop.

 
 

Thérèse being the architectural connoisseur, would point up to a building and remark, oh look at that!  That is a typical example of a Haussmannian building. I laughed and joked at her observations. Not one building escapes her attention.

I often wish, as I hobble around Paris, that she was sitting on my shoulder, like a little fairy, whispering in my ear, don’t forget to look up at that building you passed.

 

 

What we saw apart from a massive collection of people, and only in the streets that we travelled upon, was an overwhelming support of the Parisians and the French.

It warmed Thérèse’s heart to see all of these people, mostly Parisians come together.

I hope that these demonstrations will not stop and good will come from it she confided in me.

 

People have comforted me by letting me know that this has been an eventful trip to Paris this year, with my broken toe and the terrorist attacks.

Julien was concerned about me marching with my foot, worried I may incur more damage to it and the French Historian warned it could be dangerous.

However, The French Historian did say to me that in some respects, I should feel lucky that I was in Paris during this moment. This historical moment.

 

He was right.

 

I have watched the news footage and nothing can depict the sense of atmosphere and solidarity that I experienced today.

 

No news footage that I have seen, showed the multitudes of Parisians and people from around France and the world who came to join in this event. The media descended upon Place de la Republique but this was only one location where the crowds had gathered to march in solidarity.

 

No news footage showed all the surrounding tiny streets of Paris, also packed with people, displaying banners, or people promoting the cause for the lives lost, handing out brochures and stickers and the satirical cartoons plastered around on street furniture.

Nothing that I had witnessed via the media had represented how it felt, how I felt,  to be a part of this enormous gathering of people, the solidarity, the courage and make a stand in this historical moment.

 

Thérèse and I made it to Bastille and beyond but Rue Charrone was plugged with people, we made it half way and the crowd turned back upon us.

What is going on, I asked Thérèse.  She had no idea either but our guess is that the square of Nation, could not take anymore people. The vast amount of participants had called everything to a halt.

It was an amazing thing to see in itself. At this point, I did wonder, if something did happen and the crowd panicked, I would have been literally left for dead, crumpled for dead.

But never fear, this was not the case and everyone turned around and we headed back towards Bastille.

 

Would you like to stop for a drink, Thérèse asks me.  Absolutely!  We entered a cafe on the large square of Bastille, who I think wasn’t expecting such a large volume of customers but there we were and we finally plonked our bums down and had a glass of wine.

 

Being Sunday, I was off to Jim Haynes for dinner.

The French Historian met me at Bastille, after he had walked with his family through the streets of Paris.

I said my goodbyes to Therese and there I was having a usual Sunday evening in Paris… or was I?

 

 

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2 Responses to An Historic Moment in Paris

  • superchrissy11

    Thank you for sharing your up close and personal view of this historic day Adèle .. Thankfully it all went without any further terrible incidents…
    And …I reckon there is another story in the making in the life and time of ParisAdèle’s Sunday night at Jims !! Oui ?

    • parisadele

      Hi superchrissy11 – thanks as always for your lovely comments. It was an amazing day and yes so glad it went ahead, incident free.

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