Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Paris Remembered

I was a student at an extension campus in Tours.  At that time Americans were still loved.  I could hitchhike (usually with a masculine companion, just in case) with an American flag on my backpack, and be sure of a pickup and a lively conversation and a drop-off in some Paris location where  I would be pretty sure of a cheap overnight stay  and quick access to a neighborhood boulangerie with wonderful croissants – the apex of morning  delight.

Later I revisited Paris on business.  I stayed in the 7me arrondissement, home of the American University, and thus accustomed to the eccentricities of American visitors. In between business meetings, which I reached via the Metro, I walked everywhere – to the Eiffel Tower, the Grand  and Petit Palais, the Louvre, the Musee D’Orsay (which I remembered as the Gare d’Orsay, before it had been repurposed as a museum), Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle.  I was never in danger.  I could speak French like a twenty-year-old, minus the slang. I was at home.

Still later I brought my husband along on a pleasure trip. I showed him Paris as if it were my home town – the Metro, Sacre Coeur, the bookstalls along the Seine, Bertillon’s ice cream. Later he gave me a diamond-and-gold pendant of the Eiffel Tower, wrapped in a box with the souscription “We’ll always have Paris”.

To me, Paris has always been a Safe Place, where I knew my way. Today, with the terrorist attacks, I am shaken.  Why would anyone want to destroy something so beautiful?

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One thought on “Paris Remembered

  1. This must all have hit you so much harder than those of us who have never been to Paris! I felt the same way when the Boston Marathon was bombed, I guess–Boston is a city I consider “mine.” The Parisians, like Bostonians did, are reacting in ways to make you proud.

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