But there is no bad time of year to be in Paris, and this is one of the best.
The holiday lights beckon shoppers to the Galleries Lafayette. The crisp night air seems to make one more aware of just how much bigger the sky is in Paris, crowning the lower-slung buildings of this ancient city, than in newer metropolises where it's reduced to darting into one's eyes between the sides of skyscrapers. In less than a week, the city's largest Christmas market will open and the latest vintage of Beaujolais nouveau, the easy-drinking red wine with a short fermentation, will arrive from the south. There's just enough of a chill most evenings to throw on a scarf over one's sweater, then slowly unwind it in the warmth of a cafe.
It's a scene just like that — friends speaking energetically (but never loudly; those are almost always les Américains) around an emptying bottle and a bowl of olives or nuts — that I picture when I think of what was interrupted, what was taken, what was shattered, on Friday night.
The horrors being told by survivors from the hijacked concert at the Bataclan theater, the all-too-imaginable scenario of explosions rocking a packed sports stadium: These are spectacular images of terror, and were intended to be so. But consider the routine nature of the cafe, the restaurant, the brasserie. How many of us pored over photos of the storefronts of the assailed venues to see if they looked familiar and thought, didn’t we go there, or was it another place? Consider the violation of the everyday, like returning to a burgled home. Consider the terror in that, a terror that can’t be rationalized away.
And yet, Parisians are a famously resilient people. Their reputed prickliness, which most visitors deem an unearned slander, is better understood as pride in their city and culture, which they defend like a mother’s honor. It is a pride that will serve the people of Paris well as they stand against these latest terrors, and the evil men who wrought them.
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