As I stood in the line at Bagelstein, I was excited; this was the first day in forever that my schedule was completely free and my friends in the global health and critical theory programs also had the day open. We decided to take advantage of this good luck and use the day to kick off our “tourist weekend” in Paris. We had been talking about “tourist weekend” for weeks: it was a time to fit in all the things we’ve been wanting to do and all the places we wanted to see but hadn’t had time for yet with our workloads, class schedules, and travel plans.
While I waited for my bagel, (on a scale from 1-New York I’d give it an 8), I chatted with the girl who worked there and we bonded over wearing the same hamsa necklace – the Hamsa is a symbol used in many faiths, as a Jew, I wear it as a symbol of protection against negative forces. After the interaction I remember thinking to myself, French people are more friendly than we give them credit for. I took a moment of gratitude for these little interactions that make me feel like I’m slowly becoming a part of the Parisian community.
With bagels in hand, we hopped on the metro and met the rest of the group at the Pompidou (the modern art museum in Paris). I was struck by how many different mediums of art there were: paintings, sculptures, movies, music, and even a time travel pod, and this was just on the two floors that are free for students. We went out onto the balcony where we talked and joked around as we took in an amazing view of the city.
After the museum we walked to Marché des Enfants Rouges in le marais, where you can find great Mediterranean food and, if you’re lucky, some pretty cute dogs that belong to stand owners. When we finished our shwarmas and kababs we ventured 10 minutes away to Passage du Grand Cerf, one of the “arcades” leftover from the early 19th century. Arcades are glass-covered alleys lined with stores that were built so Parisians could shop in any weather before the development of department stores. Many of the arcades were destroyed during Haussman’s renovation of Paris but luckily Passage du Grand Cerf is still around and has some pretty unique stores. After perusing the shops and picking up some great finds, we left for our last destination before dinner: acclaimed macaron shop, Pierre Hermé.
My friend Abby and I had a mutual friend visiting Paris for the weekend and so the group went to meet her for dinner at The Grilled Cheese Factory – not exactly the most Parisian cuisine for her second night in the city, but still delicious. By the end of the day we were all a little tired from sight seeing, but three of us decided to go for a drink before heading home. We went to Le Comptoir General, my favorite bar in Paris, only 10/15 minutes away from Bastille (where we were eating dinner). We left the restaurant around 9:15 and once again hopped on the metro.
Walking from the metro to the bar we crossed the bridge over Canal St. Martin and paused at the crosswalk as an ambulance drove by with its siren wailing and lights flashing – a strong contrast to the complete stillness of the canal. Once inside the bar my friends commented on the interesting décor (the bar has an unique mix of antiquish furniture and cozy chairs and the walls are lined with American movie posters from the ‘80s). After I finished my drink, I gathered my things and announced I was heading home to get some work done. Before stepping away I got text message from a friend who lives in le marais:
I decided not to write a post about my experience on the night of November 13, because that still feels a little raw. I decided not to write a post about my feelings in the aftermath because to be honest I’m not even sure what those are or how to make sense of what has happened here. So instead I wrote this: a post about a Friday in Paris, probably one of my favorite days of my study abroad experience, and how abruptly it became the day the city I’ve come to love, my temporary home, changed in a profound and terrifying way.