It had been 9 years since I visited Paris. Arriving 4 days after the initial Charlie Hebdo incident, the city was a bit quieter than it had seemed to me in 2006.
My flight to India had a 12-hour stopover, or passage, in Paris. Since the city is so full of beautiful famous landmarks, I was able to see a lot of special places I'd seen in my first visit to Paris.
Starting my passage en Paris, I went to my favourite icon in all of Paris - Sacre Coeur.
My perception in 2006:
and in 2015:
On the stairs leading up to the church, I was greeted by a smiling man who asked if I was married and how many children I had. After I answered, he asked to see my hand and I could tell something was up, so I just told him I didn't have any euros. He laughed, at my implication that he would be asking for money, and proceeded to take out a string. He asked me to point and as I kept insisting I had no money, we got into a light conversation about travel and life while he braided a quick bracelet attached to my finger. Once it was finished, he said I should think of it as a token of friendliness and to remember my time in Paris while wearing it. The bracelet fell off a few days later in Mumbai.
After the bracelet encounter, I reached the top and sat on the windy stairs, recalling the time 9 years earlier when I had shared a bottle of wine and strummed a guitar on these exact same stairs, staring over the same view, with a few traveler friends who I met at a hostel. To my surprise, I also remembered a particular lookout point where you could see the tiny Eiffel Tower in the distance.
The passage continued through the streets of Paris, passing the Moulin Rouge, the Palais Garnier, and reaching Jardin des Tuileries. The most beautiful sunset was emerging.
My friend who lives in Paris said she hadn't seen a sunset like this, ever. People were stopping to look and take photos.
The walk finished at the Notre Dame Cathedral, where you can catch the RER train which goes directly back to Charles de Gaulle airport. I was back with enough time to have a cup of tea and catch my flight to Mumbai.