Paris attacks: City is numb as terrorism casts shadow over tourism

Police officers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris Image copyright EPA
Image caption Police officers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris

Stepping off a bus at the Arc De Triomphe on Saturday night felt more like Belfast in the 1970s than Paris in the 21st Century.

On one corner was a large group of armed police officers, on the other was a squad of young soldiers.

There was a khaki-green army pick-up truck beside them, looking totally out of place in a part of Paris associated with tourism rather than terrorism.

A walk down the nearby Avenue des Champs-Élysée was eerie.

The normally bustling boulevard was near-deserted. The city felt numb.

It looked like Saturday evening in central Belfast 40 years ago. Empty streets. Shutters down.

On side streets, there were more signs of life. Some people did still want to go out and socialise, just not in the most obvious places.

It was a night when people wanted to keep their heads down.

Indeed, that was the official advice from the authorities with citizens urged to stay indoors with France entering a state of emergency.

In Paris, it seemed everyone had a story to tell, a direct or indirect account of Friday night's sudden attacks.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A rose in a bullet hole in the window of a restaurant in the city

For young people, social media is usually a vehicle for gossip and humour, but for young Parisians it's now being used for hospital updates and sympathy messages.

A French woman I sat beside on a plane from Dublin to Paris, turned on her phone when we landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport only to find out on Facebook that a friend had died.

Some airlines are offering passengers refunds if they don't want to go to Paris.

Disneyland Paris is closed for three days and some families due to leave Dublin for Disney decided not to go.

Hotels in Paris are doing their best to make life easier for tourists and business workers still staying in the city.

'Mass killings'

Some hotels are putting on free food and refreshments for guests who are reluctant to venture outside.

At the same time, those wishing to leave early are not having to pay cancellation fees.

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Image caption Flowers and candles left outside Le Carillon Bar to remember victims of the Paris attacks

Paris wants people to stay. But if they go, the city wants them to come back soon.

Just like London and New York in the wake of mass killings in recent years, Paris will try to slowly recover.

The city's Latin motto is: Fluctuat nec mergitur. The translation is 'tossed by the water but not sunk'.

Already this weekend, you can see the phrase being scrawled on walls.

Yes, Latin graffiti.

Paris is still Paris.

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