The only time I visited The City of Light, I was going on my tenth month of living and working in Europe. I had travelled heaps for work (and for fun) and by that stage I was pretty blasé about the whole thing. I was already itching for something new and exotic like Asia.
The weekend in Paris was a girls trip to visit some of my colleagues who were based there. It was meant to be more of a social catch up rather than sight-seeing.
I took the train in from Amsterdam where I lived at the time. As it sped through Brussels I hardly glanced out the window. Eyes instead on some book I was reading and ears listening to whatever music I was obsessed with at the time-most likely Muse and Death Cab.
My friend Ruby met me at the station so I wouldn’t get robbed by gypsies. We cabbed to her flat and after distributing the chocolate penises I brought from The Dam I started getting ready for a night out.
I was so used to the casual Netherlands that I looked a bit like Pocahontas in my outfit as the girls generously pointed out. Clearly I had not spent enough time in sophisticated Paris. Even so, as we stepped into the night we felt like an international version of Sex and The City laughing and hobbling our way down the Champs Elysees with the Arc Di Triomphe in the background.

And then I saw it. The Eiffel tower all lit up against the navy sky. I swear my heart stopped beating. All the movies, poetry, books, posters, and myths about this structure loomed large in my mind. I felt ‘the thing,’ that feeling you lust for as a traveler. It’s a little bit like the rush of falling in love, the realization of how insignificant we are and the reward for living out of a suitcase.
This is the moment- you can hardly see the tower in the background (or my outfit) but I’m glowing.

This momentous steel structure could look like a radio tower if it did not mean so much to us culturally. All the history, the connotations, the importance we gave to her is real and it’s powerful and you can physically feel it.

I remember being grateful to Paris in that moment. Europe had not completely desensitized me to beauty, to wonder and to history. I could still feel it’s magic that was an unexpected surprise.
When Paris was terrorized over the weekend I’m sure it was a target because of that significance. Because of what it means to so many of us. Whom ever planned the attacks, they were ruthlessly targeting a collective soft-spot. A little piece of my heart broke for the city of light and a big piece of my heart broke for the world we live in. 
Death, fighting, genocide, and war ravage the middle east every single day. We’ve ignored it for a while and now it’s being shoved in our faces again. We need to do something…but what? It feels so impossible when we individually feel so helpless.
Candles in Notre Dam

Paris is another wake-up call to the Western World that we need to end war and violence- I have no idea how this can be achieved. I just hope it happens before our hearts are so broken that there is nothing left to fight over.

Author: dawnrieniets

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