A mural beside Le Carillon depicts Robert Doisneau’s famous couple with bullet wounds.
At Paris’ five-star L’hôtel The Peninsula, a luxe Mongolian-style yurt currently occupies its sprawling Terrasse Kléber. Guests are invited to drink hot chocolate and nosh on tartines while lounging amid mattresses and fur throw rugs strewn beneath a chandelier made of antlers. On the garden patio of the equally swanky Hôtel du Collectionneur in the neighboring 8th Arrondissement, patrons can sip champagne and nibble canapés inside a large, transparent bubble festooned with elegant floral designs.
I can’t help but think that the yurt and the bubble signify something beyond the novelties of snacking in a rustic-chic tent and getting tipsy in an upmarket snow globe. A year after terrorist attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket killed 17, and less than two months after gunmen murdered 130 others on Nov. 13, these whimsical, cozy spaces seem to embody a collective desire to find refuge from the bad memories of a 2015 that a recent Agence France-Presse headline dubbed an “année de merde,” or,”a shit year.”
This past Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo released a special anniversary edition. The cover depicts an image of a God with splotches of blood on his robes and a Kalashnikov strapped to his back. Beneath the cartoon is the headline, “A year later the murderer is still on the loose” — another of the magazine’s signature jabs at religion. The first page contains a disturbing blow-by-blow account of what happened at the magazine’s editorial offices on Jan. 7, 2015, when the fanatical Kouachi brothers gunned down 12 people, including eight staff members.
“It was unthinkable that in 21st-century France journalists would be killed by religion,” cartoonist Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau writes in the magazine’s editorial. He continues: “We saw France as an island of secularism, where it was possible to tell jokes, draw, laugh, without worrying about dogma or fanatics.”
Read more at Bustle.
Makeshift memorial near the Bataclan concert hall.
“Do you know where you are?” the young woman who stopped me on Paris’ Avenue Parmentier asked, her voice edged with worry. A resident of the neighborhood, she was on her way to her boyfriend’s apartment when armed attackers started firing on nearby restaurants. There were rumors of continued shootings in the Paris area, and she couldn’t understand what I was doing outside.
She asked me again: “Madame, do you know where you are?”
I knew where I was. It just no longer bore any resemblance to the Paris that I know and love. Reporting on the terror attacks, I had rushed over to the city’s 10th and 11th Arrondissements shortly after word got out about explosions at the Stade de France and gunfire at several restaurants and bars.
As I made my way toward the besieged Bataclan concert hall, what struck me most were the empty streets. Off the beaten tourist path, the city’s vibrant and ethnically diverse eastern neighborhoods around Canal Saint-Martin and Place de la République draw a range of fashionable, young creative types. On Friday nights these areas are usually packed with revelers looking to kick off the weekend in the neighborhoods’ numerous bars, restaurants and clubs.
However, last Friday these areas were virtually deserted. Bistro owners hastily locked down their establishments, heavily armed police patrolled the area ordering everyone inside, cordons were set up, and all around me the shrieks of emergency sirens cut through the brisk November night.
Read more at Bustle.com
The following story originally appeared on Link TV’s Global Post Blog in 2009 during my stint as the station’s series blogger.
I am remembering a talk I had with Danuta Pawlowska, the Polish grandmother of a good friend of mine, in her Warsaw apartment several years ago. A member of the Warsaw resistance during the Nazi occupation, Danuta was closely monitored after the communists took over in the mid-1940s.
She recalled a long gossip-filled phone conversation with a close friend. Two hours into the conversation, a booming male voice suddenly burst through the receiver. “Would you just shut up already?” the man groaned. “How much more of this must I listen to?!”
I had laughed at the time. For a young American with roots in Warsaw, the idea of a government agent listening to a banal chat with a friend was amusing – something fit for a dime store spy thriller.
This disconnect is also apparent in present-day Warsaw. In the city’s meticulously reconstructed Old Town, foreign tourists swarm on souvenir shops to purchase T-shirts and shot glasses, and bursts of bad American pop music filter out of the same fashion chain stores that line Paris’ Rue de Rennes or Copenhagen’s Strøget. The stylish, boisterous students crowding the bars and cafes have no memory of life in pre-1989 Warsaw.
Yet, if you venture outside of the city center, the medieval architecture gives way to monotonous tenements the color of diesel exhaust. Passing by some of these buildings at dusk is an unnerving, somewhat melancholy experience, and I’ll admit that I glanced over my shoulder more than once. For Danuta and millions of others, that reality was life.