It always feels so good to go home, back to Paris. The city of lights, the city of love; the city I grew up in.
There is something so special and invigorating about coming back. Almost four years ago, I left home to go study in the U.S. and live the American Dream, as people say. Since then the word “home” has taken a whole new sense for me. Home. And saying it out loud is like mentioning a guilty pleasure, something I can only have twice a year.
Coming back home is of course synonymous with the indisputable pleasure of seeing family and friends. But it also means rediscovering Paris, its charm and its language.
Coming back home means wandering in the old Paris of the Latin district, crossing the river and enjoying the view of the back of Notre Dame; it means strolling in the historic Marais where buildings haven’t changed since medieval times, smelling the odor of falafel in Rue des Rosiers, stopping to get a bite at L’As du Falafel and finding an eccentric leather jacket in a second-hand clothing store for dessert.
Coming back to Paris means going out Rue Oberkampf and navigating from bar to bar; it means walking down the steep and narrow streets of Montmartre. It means drinking wine, eating bread, cheese, croissants, pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and having coffee under the sun on terrace.
Coming back to Paris means walking on the banks of the Seine where groups of friends and couples meet to savor a sweet moment. Coming back to Paris means being amazed over and over, like any visitor, by the density and the simplicity of the metro system.
But this year coming back Home also means coming back to a city that has recently suffered from unexplainable atrocities and observing changes. After the attacks, posters of the coat of arms of Paris on which is written Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, “tossed but not sunk” in Latin, have been put in the metro and in the streets. French flags flutter outside of windows since President François Hollande called on the population to do so as a sign of resistance. In large stores your bag is constantly being checked. Military soldiers, in numbers I had never seen here before, patrol in the streets, in train stations, in museums, etc. Everyone is on alert. Every day, somewhere in Paris, the metro is being stopped and evacuated because of suspicious, abandoned packages. Firefighter sirens are being heard much more often than they used to.
I haven’t been back on any site of the attacks, but I heard people still come with flowers. I have heard additional stories about the night of Nov. 13. Some are tragic, of course, but some extremely beautiful and revealing the best aspect of human kind: solidarity, love and kindness toward one another.
It is certain: The attacks have affected the city and will remain in everyone’s hearts forever. But Paris remains this beautiful city in which people live, are happy, go out, go to the movies, to concerts, to restaurants and walk at night under the stars. Paris remains the beautiful city it will always be: the city of lights, the city of love; the city I grew up in. Home.