Tim Wood | November 16, 2015 3:28 PM ET
One Day in Paris
I have spent one day of my travel life in Paris.
After decades of bucket list daydreams, my job finally afforded me that moment in February.
It was just about as perfect as any day in my life. I haven’t written about it yet because it just felt so cliché. I actually thought to myself while I was taking it in that it felt like a very special episode of “Growing Pains.”
And I didn’t write because I was a bit ashamed for nealy not letting that day happen, for almost canceling that trip out of fear.
But as I was sitting in shock watching the news coverage Friday night, the memories of that day came flooding back.
I have heard so much talk by too many talking heads over the last 48 hours that we’re living in a brand new world today, our global way of life changed forever by this latest culmination of a year’s worth of senseless ISIS terror.
A world where lives are randomly ended to somehow put an exclamation point on how much this group hates us, our freedoms and our expression of such freedom.
Sadly, that reality was there before Friday. It’s happening daily in Syria and across the world where the drama and the struggle can not be packaged so perfectly in a three-minute Nightly News story.
And yes, fear struck me here. Texts poured in from U.S. friends who unfortunately had a very personal connection to the death toll. And I feared for my friends there.
I immediately thought of Sara Lieberman, a colleague from 15 years ago that I reconnected with randomly at a cafe in the historic Marche des Enfants Rouges farmers market on that day in February.
She had moved to Paris months before by herself, a rising-star travel writer in search of a new adventure. I thought of her kindness in inviting me to the iconic Theatre du Chatelet that night to see “The Little Prince.”
And though she faded quickly that night as flu symptoms took hold during the show, she thought of me when I forgot my Metro passes at the hotel. She gifted me a round-trip on the Metro and spot-on directions that got me to see The Eiffel Tower near midnight of my perfect day.
That is my Paris. Not what a group of cowards wants me to feel.
My Paris is a tour of the city in a classic Citroen 2CV. Walking the “Locks of Love” bridge I’d written so much about.
It’s a postcard-worthy moment in the Square du Temple city park. And that moment ruined by a rooster way too comfortable around humans, a site that even the locals had not seen in 20 years.
I think of the friendliness of the farmers market locals as I soaked in the most vibrant produce I’d ever seen or smelled, in full-on tourist mode and proud of it.
My mouth waters remembering the beef bourguignon at the aforementioned café. Savoring every authentic bite, knowing it’s a taste that would not be replicated stateside.
Over the course of that day, I got why everyone raves about Paris. I saw a city still reeling 34 days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, but refusing to surrender its soul.
When that attack happened, I felt wholly unqualified to write the “we must keep traveling” piece that my colleague James Ruggia so eloquently delivered, a love letter to the city he’d come to cherish over decades of visits.
I’m still unworthy. I spent one day in Paris. This much I can tell you. It was the single best travel day of my life, so memorable that it’s hard not to be sad I couldn’t share the moment with my wife and kids.
That memory is yet to come. It will happen soon, despite the heightened security and fearmongering ever present in the 24-hour cable news cycle.
We all show solidarity in our own ways. French flags fly on landmarks around the world. Facebook is flooded with profile pictures shaded in the blue, white and red stripes.
Terrorism is real. Yes, dates like Sept. 11 and Nov. 13 changed our lives. It is a new world we live in, but that simply means that we must be aware of that reality.
Exercising the freedoms that so many of these terrorists loathe is our most potent retort. Choose to turn your travel bucket list into a plane reservation and a hotel booking.
Your perfect day in Paris is waiting for you, too. It will take more courage than usual to find it. But I can now tell you from experience. The memories will be far more powerful and empowering than any paralyzing emotion you felt Friday night.
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