Nuit Blanche Paris 2015

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-juliuspoppFor years Nuit Blanche has been my favorite night of the year. The “white night” or “sleepless night” is a night of art installations where the city becomes a giant, free gallery. In Paris, Nuit Blanche is always the first Saturday in October, and each year there is a different ‘parcours‘ (route) to explore different areas of the city. Installations this year were in churches, firehouses, on bridges, in front of a train station, in schools, in museums, and inside abandoned rail tunnels. Most installations opened at 7pm and went until 7am (personally I only made it to 4am). This year’s theme was climate change in honor of the upcoming #COP21 talks that will be in Paris in December.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-juliuspopp2Julius Popp Bit.Fall raining words on bridge Rue de l’Aqueduc in the 18th. The outdoor installations that can be seen from multiple locations are always a favorite because they don’t involve waiting in line! (A reality of the popular night). The raincoats were a nice touch, however, I’m not sure how sustainable they were, especially when they were thrown on the ground…

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-minimummonument1#MinimumMonument by Néle Azevedo was a highlight for me. Waiting in line for another installation, I took a peek at the #NuitBlanche hashtag on Instagram and saw that these ice men were melting quickly, so I was happy to catch them before they disappeared. The installation was supposed to go until 1am, but we were there around 10:40pm, and the ice figures on the top steps were long gone – talk about climate change at work!

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-minimummonumentThroughout the night there were mediators. My enthusiasm for this exhibition was met by a mediator telling me that these 3,000 ice figures took 20 volunteers 10 days to create. Earlier in the evening the public placed them one by one on the steps.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-leandroerlichIn front of Gare du Nord was Leandro Erlich‘s ‘Maison Fond’ (melting house). With the crowds it was hard to see the bottom of the house, which was the most telling part of the untraditional house.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-casernechateaulandonBesides Bal des Pompiers, it’s fun to see an art installation in a [former] firehouse: Caserne Louis Blanc. Seeing the still images of Zimoun’s ‘1.8km Rope’ doesn’t truly do it justice as the wooden poles danced, tied to mechanisms installed on the ceiling. The sound was loud and echoed in the space. The line to get in however, was unnecessarily inefficient.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-zimoun2I like to go for the spaces as much as for the works!

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-eglisestmerriOne of the challenges of the night is avoiding the masses, but also being aware of the hours. From peeking on Instagram, Saint-Eustache looked cool, but arrived right after it closed at midnight. Thankfully Eglise [church] St. Merri was nearby with Djeff et Monsieur Moo.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-djeffetmonsieurmooThere’s something extra surreal seeing the inside of church transformed. In addition to the boat and broken glass installed in the choir and apse of the church, the lighting changed as if to reflect the state of the world.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-petiteceintureThe section of the Petite Ceinture in the north of Paris is typically closed to the public (although I did have the chance to walk it this summer for Danse sur les Rails). For Nuit Blanche they opened a 1,5km section to walk.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-stephanericordelStéphane Ricordel’s ‘Nuage’ (cloud) was overhead and snowed from time to time. Throughout the night there were performances which involved the artist, but unfortunately around 2am I didn’t catch any of that. Instead we continued forward through the long tunnel.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-michelblazy2Inside the tunnel there were sound installations, but also Michel Blazy’s textured paintings at the far end. However, the thing most striking to me was how much cleaner the tunnel was from when we walked it this summer!

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-104Despite the fact that Nuit Blanche is one night early, the good news is that not all of the installations are over. Inside 104 (Centquatre) contemporary art center, Follia Continua is on until November 22nd, with many noteworthy artists on show, including Anish Kapoor.

pretavoyager-nuitblanche-anishkappor-104Part of Follia Continua, Anish’s Kapoor’s ‘Ascension’ is an impressive piece to witness (as well as his installations at Versailles) where the moisture comes from the floor boards and is sucked into the tunnel above. The way you enter the room is also memorable.

pretavoyager-nuitblancheparis-posterQUICK TIPS FOR NUIT BLANCHE

  • Pick up a paper program at Hotel de Ville about a week before the event. (There’s typically a PDF map on the website to download too). The printed programs and maps are also available the evening of Nuit Blanche at the key venues, but sometimes are a bit harder to track down.
  • Download the free app.
  • Make sure you bring extra battery charge for the night – it’s a photogenic night!
  • Realize that the more central you are, the more crowds there will be. Also, the more certain pieces get press, the more people will go to those places.
  • Don’t try to see it all – decide which interests you the most and start in that area. It’s also a fun excuse to visit parts of the city you’ve never explored before.
  • Use social media (Twitter and Instagram) to search the #NuitBlanche hashtag — it’s a great way to scout, just be warned, some other cities around the world may get mixed in as well.
  • There are a lot of unofficial installations which can be just as fun. Many restaurants and bars stay open all night. In recent years, food trucks have been integrated into the routes.
  • Wear comfy shoes! You had to wear close-toed shoes to access the Petite Ceinture. I also ended up walking home from across the city because I didn’t want to wait for the bus.
  • Depending on which areas of the city are featured each year, certain sections of the metro are open all night and free after 2am. (The map in the printed program is super handy for this information).
  • Mark your calendars for the first Saturday in October for next year!
Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! Don’t miss my new Paris Posters Tumblr! … I also have a new 2 week Résumé Redesign Session kicking off this week!

Top FRENCH Paris Instagram Accounts

pretavoyager-faveFrenchInstagrammersI was recently honored by being named one of the top Paris Instagram accounts to follow by Conde Nast Traveler (I even got listed 1st! YAYYY!). I’m in good company and lucky to know several others who made it on the list as well. Something that caught my eye, however, is that there were only one or two FRENCH Instagrammers, and three men on the list of thirteen.

Anyone who has read my Medium article on Swimming Against the Internet Stream knows that one of my recent pet peeves is how so much of the internet looks the same, so I wanted to create this post to help round out the original list. I also think the expat and local perspective are a bit different, so it’s important to share both sides of the story. These French accounts (in no particular order) also happen to be some of my favorite people to follow regardless of where they’re from, so I hope you’ll take the time to check them out. You’ll also discover some amazing places to visit – in Paris, and beyond!

instagram-linstantparisien@linstantparisien has a magical way of capturing the creative and hidden side of Paris through a wonderful photographic eye, and captions that enrich their discoveries. Laurent and Fabrice are behind the camera and have an incredible series of features on their website, L’Instant Parisien, with beautiful cinemagraphs that come to life (click into the archives – noteworthy are my pals Kali and Print Van Paris!). Word on the street is they have a magazine in French and English coming soon! {Check out the original post for the cool story behind this space}


instagram-marieannebruschi@marieannebruschi is a French journalist I discovered while researching a hashtag online. Her photos caught my eye from the first glance. She has a way of capturing new/special events and places in a truly genuine way. {Click here for original image to learn more about this space.}

//instagram-usofparis2@usofparis (Alexandre) and I first connected at Hotel de Ville when the city was running a blogger event. Years later he’s still on the tip of what’s happening in the city. Even if he goes to places that are closed to the public, he makes you feel like you were there. {Click here for the original image and more on this expo.}


instagram-elodierambaud@elodierambaud is a Parisian food and lifestyle stylist. Her book Shopping Insolite à Paris was recently translated into English under the title, Paris Style Guide (I like the UK cover better than the US one). I find Elodie’s account refreshing because although she is a professional stylist, her account doesn’t feel overly styled or forced. Elodie is also a good friend of mine from when we connected when I was working for Design*Sponge when I first moved to Paris. {Click here for more on the original image.}


instagram-parisvsnyc@parisvsnyc (aka Vahram Muratyan) is best known for his illustrative series juxtaposes Paris and New York that started as a blog and morphed into much, much more. Vaharam may be traveling the world more than staying put in Paris at the moment, but he has a great eye and way of sharing things, so even the clichés don’t seem so cliché. {Click here to read the entertaining caption that goes with this image.}


instagram-rueamandine@rueamandine uncovers the latest openings and events in Paris that are open to anyone (especially families). Behind the scenes Amandine and Isabel run Rue Amandine, a fantastic Paris apartment rental and concierge company for a personal, local touch during your next trip to Paris. I particularly love their “road book” custom itineraries. {Click here to learn more about the original image!}

instagram-papiertigram@papiertigram (aka Papier Tigre) is spearheaded by three French designers: Maxime, Julien and Agathe, who not only know how to collaborate together, but every few months they release a new collaboration with an outside brand such as Marlette, Diptych, Mama Shelter and more. Every year the they push their line of paper projects further (including onto dresses and ceramic plates in Tokyo – both of which I’m proud to say I own). Of course their Instagram account gives you a sneak peek into what’s coming next… {Click here for the original image.}


instagram-benjaminmillipied@benjaminmillepied is a ballet dancer, choreographer, and Director of the Opera of Paris ballet (FYI they just launched an very cool digital platform; @operadeparis is another Instagram account to follow). Let’s face it, Benjamin is not taking all of these photos himself, but his account is a beautiful look inside the world of dance, and pulled me in from first glance. It doesn’t hurt that the Opéra Garnier is a gorgeous building. Trivia: he’s also married to Natalie Portman, who he met while choreographing the film Black Swan. {Click here for the original image to learn more about the dancer.}


instagram-invaderwashere@invaderwashere is a French street artist who has invading the world since the late 90s. Fact: he graduated from Les Beaux-Arts in Paris and La Sorbonne. I need to write a separate post about my adoration/obsession with his Flash Invader app (I’m currently ranked 212 in the world, but last week I was 207). While Invader keeps invading all over the world, it’s clear Paris has a place close to his heart. {Click here to see the original image. I need to go hunting this one, I could use the 50 points!}

Who are your favorite French Instagram accounts??

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! Don’t miss my new Paris Posters Tumblr!

New class: InDesign in 30 minutes

InDesign-in30minutes-Skillshare-ASDInDesign in 30 Minutes is an easily digestable class that can be taken on your lunch break to help build InDesign skills and it’s my latest Skillshare class that is now online. All Skillshare classes are project based, and in this class you’ll recreate your favorite magazine spread. There are even some helpful PDF cheat sheets I’ve created that you can download in the class resources. Sign up here + if you have friends who may be interested, share this link:

UPDATE: Starting October 6th I’m offering at 2-week Résumé Redesign “Session” on Skillshare where I’ll be sending regular updates, new Discussions, giving feedback, and sharing a bonus 10-Year Plan activity. Don’t worry if you get a late start. Sign up for Skillshare using the link above, and then join the Session here.

For those looking for other InDesign options, I also teach a Basic InDesign class (which is a longer form version where I walk through a few other features), as well as a Redesign Your Résumé (or any professional document to make it less boring) class. For something a bit more “fun” there’s Map Making and Travel Posters.

Jean Jullien, Petit Appétit

Collaboration is one of those words that has come to be overused, or used in the wrong way (particularly when you’re a blogger and get asked to do a million things for nothing). But when it’s done right, it can be awesome. Case in point, French illustrator Jean Jullien‘s latest collaboration with Fricote Magazine, a French urban food magazine published in French and English, and Colette, the long running Paris concept store in the 1st. Jean’s latest work, Petit Appétit, a playful look at food, was for a double show at Colette, and l’Imprimerie with a handful of other delectable collaborations embedded in it. If you’re in town, definitely stop by l’Imprimerie (16 rue Saint Merri 75004, near Centre Pompidou) while the show is still up for the next two weeks. And if you’re not in Paris, I put together this post to give you a taste of Petit Appétit!

jeanjullien-petitappetit-3Now open

jeanjullien-petitappetit-4Full house


jeanjullien-petitappetit-5jeanjullien-petitappetit-6jeanjullien-petitappetit-8DJ booth with cool changing screen in the downstairs “cave”.

jeanjullien-petitappetit-9Posters for sale.

jeanjullien-petitappetit-910Jean Jullien x Abois

jeanjullien-petitappetit-10Jean Jullien x À la mère de Famille chocolate shop


jeanjullien-petitappetit-1Jean Jullien x Olow

jeanjullien-petitappetit-12Fricote Magazine spread showcasing Jean’s latest show. The magazine will be on newsstands in Paris next week. (Look for the cover with the cherry eyes and pea smile).

jeanjullien-petitappetit-coletteColette’s basement water bar.

jeanjullien-petitappetit-ralf2Jean signing a copy of his book Ralf for me at the Colette opening. French illustrators are seriously the most creative book signers!

Bon Petit Appétit!

For more of Jean Jullien’s work check out his website and shop, Handsome Frank (UK agent), and follow @jean_jullien on Instagram!


Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! Don’t miss my new Paris Posters Tumblr!

Paris Poster Tumblr

parispostersMy theme for 2015 is EXECUTE as a way to encourage myself to actually do all these projects I’ve talked about for years. A couple months ago on a Sunday afternoon, I decided to sit down and finally create a Tumblr ( as a way to showcase many of my favorite posters I’ve documented over the years. Putting something like this together is something I’d been pondering far too long.

Yes, I not only love public transportation for getting from place to place, but I’m constantly inspired by the posters around me, and love how everyone is exposed to art even if you never make it to the museum. I’ve long cited my first trip to Paris when I was in high school, and seeing that design could be smart from the posters on the halls of the metro, as one of the first hints that I wanted to become a designer. Now I not only photograph my favorites, but I’m the person that goes to the bottom right corner and also tries to document the name of the illustrator whenever possible. I’ve hashtagged all the posters by general theme, specific venue/event, and illustrator – it’s fun to see them adapt over time. Also, they tend to serve as a good reminder of places I want to go or shows I want to see.

In terms of hobbies it all feels a bit Amélie to me in the way that Nino used to collect footprints and laughs before starting his albums of discarded photobooth photos, but it brings me joy and a way to share my inspiration. I’m always adding more posters to the collection (which is more impressive on desktop than mobile, FYI). Click here to view the full collection!

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable! I also penned the Paris Small Shops Herb Lester map!

Paris Small Shops : Herb Lester Map Guide

parissmallshops-pretavoyager-herblesterI’m so excited to announce my latest project: a Paris Small Shops map guide! Herb Lester makes the coolest maps, so it was such an honor when they reached out to me late last year to work on one for Paris. I wrote the guide, curating the the 40 shops, both new and old, while the amazing team of  Crispin Finn illustrated it (all of their work is red and blue, which is so cool!). The best part was that we all got to meet when I was in London in February, which truly felt like a match made in heaven. The crazy thing is this is the first Herb Lester map they’ve made where the entire team has met together in the same room, as they work with talented folks around the world (both the Herb Lester and Crispin Finn teams are British). I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! And while so much of Paris – and the world – sometimes feels the same to me these days, I’m thrilled to celebrate these places that are truly one of a kind. I hope they’ll stay in business forever :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA perfect pocket-sized travel companion or souvenir, Paris Small Shops celebrates 40 of the best independent specialty shops in Paris! You can pick up your own copy on (only 4£!). They’re hot off of the presses, so they may not be in shops just yet. If you’d like to see it stocked in your local shop be sure to let them know!


Top image by me (on Instagram), others courtesy of Herb Lester.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

The Art of Travel Posters

There’s a really awesome feeling when you realize that so many things you’ve worked on the past come together to form another project. This week I kicked off my latest Skillshare class, The Art of Travel: Create Your Own Tourism Poster. For years I’ve been taking pictures of posters on the walls of the metro that inspire me. One of those posters for Morocco even inspired my thesis on tourism and new media in Morocco. After my Map Making class was such a hit on Skillshare, I wanted to do another travel-inspired class. I love that my classes become a community that welcomes both designers and non-designers who get creative in their own ways. In my new class we look at a brief history of travel posters as well as contemporary tourism campaigns to help inspire you to create a travel poster for the place of your choice. (My poster was inspired by my #pariscafechairs series on Instagram – I explain more about my thought process on my project board on Skillshare). The entire class is less than an hour broken down into easily digestible video lessons, which leaves lots of time for your own exploration!pretavoyager-Skillshare-ArtofTravel-title-600So here’s what you need to know about Skillshare. 1) I’m addicted and it’s my favorite online learning platform. I love not only the classes, but the teachers. They’re totally my style. They’re everyday professionals like myself to some of my design idols like Ellen Lupton and Debbie Millman. 2) All classes are project based so there’s incentive to work towards something and learn in the process. 3) Skillshare classes can be a great way to connect with others by sharing your work on an online project board, and commenting on the work of others. I’ve discovered some really cool designers that way! 4) There’s a new $9.95/mo membership model which allows you to take as many classes as you want (unlimited access). There’s even a free 15 day trial if you want to test it out. In other words, it’s completely affordable, and there’s no excuse not to learn something new.

I’ll be sharing some student work here on my blog once that class really gets rolling (you can also follow along with #ArtofTravelPoster on social media). In the meantime, I’m focusing on spreading the word. If know anyone who may interested, just share this link: (It was thanks to blog readers like you that my first class went viral!)

My other Skillshare classes are ongoing and I still give feedback to students who upload their work to the online classroom:

Holler if you have any questions. Don’t you just love learning!?!

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, Travel Posters, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

Jerry Gretzinger’s Imaginary World Maps

pretavoyager-jerrymap-palaisdetokyo-1A few years ago I happened upon the magical mini documentary about Jerry Gretzinger who has been making maps for decades. While the places he maps don’t actually exist, the maps aren’t aimless by any means. He has a systematic way of making them, where a special deck of playing cards tells him how the next map card will develop. It’s fascinating.

So you can imagine my excitement when on @PalaisdeTokyo’s Instagram I saw that part of his map (3,200 cards, I believe) is in the Le Bord des Mondes exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo (one of my favorite museums for many reasons, but mainly because it’s open until midnight). I could stare at it forever. It was hard to pick my favorite photos to share, but the Vine I took gives you a sense of it and the different details.

I’m just sad I missed it when Jerry was here for the installation.

pretavoyager-jerrymap-palaisdetokyo-2Check out Jerry’s official site here.pretavoyager-jerrymap-palaisdetokyo-3

Speaking of maps, if you don’t already know, I teach map making on Skillshare (super affordable!) where one of the class exercises to to make an imaginary city. Stay tuned because I’m launching a new travel related class this week!

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

Roald Dahl Museum & Story Center

My last two trips have been inspired by my favorite childhood author, Roald Dahl. Without really realizing it as a kid, I started collecting his books, which I loved for their quirkiness. Each book was illustrated by Quentin Blake, and thinking back to it, he was the first illustrator who I was able to identify by style. I probably never really realized that was a real job growing up. I’m definitely one to take advantage of good travel deals, but my most recent Eurostar 69€ round-trip deals (sign up for their newsletters and follow Eurostar on social media!) were the perfect excuse to revisit some of my greatest inspiration from my childhood. Creative pilgrimages are THE BEST! Go see what inspires YOU!

Roald Dahl Museum & Story Center. Characters pictured above also found inside.

Back in October, I took a day trip to The House of Illustration, a new “museum” near King’s Cross Station in London that celebrates – you guessed it – illustration. The inaugural exhibit was ‘Quentin Blake: Inside Stories’ and despite being small, it made me very happy. The show ended in November, but you can read all about it on The Paris Review and The Financial Times. The exhibition was far more than Blake’s collaborations with Dahl, but his style remains distinctly his own. (Here’s my peek inside on Vine).

pretavoyager-quentinblakeinsidestoriesIt was thanks to this expo and following the museum on Twitter that I discovered that there was a Roald Dahl Museum. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a magical place like this could exist! What luck! It’s a 45 minute train ride out of London in Great Missenden where Dahl lived. I decided to save it for my most recent excuse to go to London. To get there take the Chiltern Railways from London Marylebone to Great Missenden. My ticket was 11 Pounds round trip, and the museum is a charming, short walk from the station. Trains leave twice an hour.

If Vine is not appearing correctly, click here to view.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center isn’t particularly large, but it’s full of charm and small details. It made me laugh because the website says it’s aimed at 6-12 year olds. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much! There’s a look at his childhood and schooling (the school groups there were VERY excited to try on his school uniforms) with letters from the archives. Starting at boarding school Dahl would write letters to his mother every week, a tradition that continued, and she saved every one of them. Then a look at his life as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, where he experienced a plane crash that caused him to have back pain for the rest of hist life, along side a re-creation of his Writing Hut, complete with chair that had a hole cut out of it to lessen the pressure on his back. If you look hard enough you’ll even find drawers with fingers and fake teeth – how many museums can claim that!?! The final “story center” section of the museum is more interactive. It reminded me of Kaleidoscope in Kansas City where I grew up (part of Hallmark!). There’s a chair to sit on, part of the set of Fantastic Mr. Fox, things to cut and color and make. It’s absolutely delightful. I also wanted to sneak into “Ms. Honey’s Classroom” with the school group that was visiting the museum, but resisted.

pretavoyager-roalddahl-storytellerpretavoyager-roalddahl-writinghutHis Writing Hut was meticulously re-created. 

pretavoyager-roalddahl-mrfoxpretavoyager-roalddahl-storycenterTo my surprise there was still more! With your entry fee they also give you two map brochures with local walks. The village walk is much shorter and closer. I never knew that I was going to visit his grave, but with mention of footsteps from the BFG nearby, I knew I had to. The area is beautiful! There is also a countryside walk that takes a bit longer. I’ll have to do that next time!

pretavoyager-roalddahl-villagepretavoyager-roalddahl-greatmissendenThe Village is charming.

pretavoyager-roalddahl-BFGFound the BFG’s footprints on the way to Dahl’s grave site. People had left various gifts and mementos, but most touching was a letter RD had written to the people of Britain to encourage vaccinations after losing his daughter Olivia to the measles at a young age. Both The BFG and James & the Giant Peach are dedicated to her.

pretavoyager-roalddahl-redpumpThe Red Pump which inspired the garage in Danny the Champion of the World.

And if that all wasn’t enough, plan a visit to Café Twit. I of course had to have a slice of their signature Bogtrotters chocolate cake with mini marshmallows and candy on top! It only seemed appropriate. I picked up a copy of Dahl’s memoirs, Boy and Going Solo in the bookshop. They’re amazing to read because instead of trying to cover his whole life, they’re snippets of his childhood (Boy) and life (Going Solo), that make his books came alive. Candy definitely played an important role, and you can see so many characters unfold.

pretavoyager-roalddahl-twitcafeI already asked this on Instagram, but what’s you’re favorite Roald Dahl book!?! I re-read The Twits on my train ride home, and I do remember that one being a favorite alongside The Witches and The BFG. But little did I know that Dahl also wrote adult fiction. I picked up Kiss, Kiss as my first one (thanks to a tip on Instagram)!

pretavoyager-roalddahl-bookspretavoyager-roalddahlmuseumThe Roald Dahl website is extensive. Follow the timeline of his stories, read through his archives, or plan your visit to the museum. There is even a Marvelous Children’s Charity in his name, and a percentage of the proceeds from his books benefit his charity.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

Paris After Charlie

pretavoyager-nogozonesTomorrow marks 1 month since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which in many respects feel much longer ago than that. I’ve been wanting to post about what happened for some time, but haven’t found the words, nor time until now. In short, I was very impressed how Paris handled everything. A few weekends ago I Instagrammed the photo above. The caption read:  Strolled through Fox’s “no-go zones” which are my favorite areas in Paris. I love how diverse and international Paris is and I can learn a lot about the world without going far. I feel safe here. #paris75018

At the time I followed the developments of Charlie Hebdo offices closely thanks to Twitter. A journalist from Yahoo Travel reached out to me. Only a short comment I sent over made it into the final piece, but I thought I’d post my full reaction I had sent her below, and expand on a few observations. While Paris feels back to “normal” I still felt it was important to share.

When I first studied abroad in Paris I arrived two days before 9/11. As an American it was strange to experience it abroad, but I felt safe here and received compassion from strangers. As bizarre as it sounds, soldiers with machine guns in the metro were never anything I saw as fear inducing so much as protection. You still see men with machine guns all over – particularly in front of Jewish institutions. Am I the only one who worries they are not warm enough with their close shaved hair cuts and small hats? It’s been very cold lately.

On January 7th I was on my way back from the pool on metro line 8 when I heard that the stop Richard Lenoir (line 5) had been closed by the Prefecture of Police. That is different from the typical closure announcements, so I should have known it was something serious. It wasn’t until I got off at my stop and got outside that I received a text from a French friend who was on holiday, asking if I was OK because she knew I didn’t live far. She did make the point to say that the events seemed targeted to the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. I immediately pulled up Twitter and saw what had happened. I told her I was fine and headed straight home, even skipping my plans to pick up groceries. I realized later the metro where I got off essentially runs parallel to line 5 in that area and I walked across the same street where they [shooters] had driven away. After the video emerge the next day I recognized the location where the police officer lost his life, as I know Richard Lenoir, because I often walk to the market there on Sundays. It was a reminder of what a small “big” city Paris is. There is never an excuse for violence of this kind, but the realization that it was a highly targeted attack seemed a stark contrast to many of the headlines in the US regarding attacks.

I spent the majority of the next few days in my apartment glued to the internet, tweeting and sharing what I learned, along with a few observations when I eventually ventured out (sirens, sirens, sirens, sirens…). My goal was to stay educated and aware, looking for facts before sharing rumors.

That Friday I met a friend for lunch in central Paris, and when we left I looked at my phone to see the news of the hostage situation at Hypercacher. I know Paris is a small city, so I decided to walk home, taking the long route avoiding any place that had the slight chance of being a target. The thing that made it scary is how many sirens I heard around Hotel de Ville, while not knowing what was really happening. I’d look around and see tourists smiling and going about their own thing. That’s what made it eerie to me that day. But a couple weeks later I was walking that same route alone at night, and realized I really do feel safe despite feeling scared that day.

pretavoyager-mondearabe-charlieThe city of Paris reacted fast from making Charlie an honorary citizen with ‘Je Suis Charlie’ banners in black and white outside Hôtel de Ville (city hall) to this Je Suis Charlie installation in French and Arabic going on the Institut Monde Arabe the day of the march.

What I think impressed me most was Friday night after the hostages had been freed I watched the French news (FRANCE24 is international news from a French perspective in English, French and Arabic channels). Myself and so many of my American friends in Paris noted how refreshing the news coverage here was vs some fear/terror inducing headlines I saw coming out of the US. The reporting in France was clear, smart, and didn’t point fingers or overly speculate. The French style of news often involves a panel or debate, and I heard from experts in terrorism, negotiation, about the French police and more. It was enriching and reassuring, in a way that is not easy after such a dramatic and traumatic series of events. As I see headlines shared by friends around the world, I do still think that so much that happened in Paris is hard to grasp if one doesn’t view it in context and take into consideration the French perspective (and history). The conversation needs to continue. pretavoyager-charlie-march-Jan11I just know I refuse to live in fear, and I think the January 11th march proved an incredible solidarity amongst the people in France. I found myself over a mile away and everyone was going the same place. The crowds were packed so deep, and it was truly moving (not to mention you could barely move). The turnout was incredible. From posters to pencils in pockets it was a huge relief that it was a peaceful march. I don’t handle crowds well, but did do the full march later in the evening to see what remnants and reminders were still around. pretavoyager-charlie-pencilsFor me, I was also reminded of cultural differences in surprising ways. Many Americans may have been surprised to see “Waldo” in the crowds, but in France he goes by “Charlie” (in the UK he’s “Wally”). Hence he became another way to say we are “Tous Charlie” – we are all Charlie.

pretavoyager-touscharlieIt’s still hard to fathom that week in January. As hard as it sounds, it did bring France together. Solidarity is the first word that came to mind for me. Now, a month later, it is the stories of hope, like the Malian man who helped hostages escape at Hypercaher (he later received French citizenship), which are the stories that stick out in my head.

pretavoyager-pencil--charlieFor additional reading, here are some of the articles that I found interesting at the time:

parsonsparis-pencils-600-xx-2I was proud to get to work on the Parsons Paris holiday card this year. Alongside my colleagues this was our response to Charlie.

Follow me @pretavoyager on Instagram + Twitter + Medium! I teach MAPS, InDesign, and Redesign Your Résumé on Skillshare, and give Paris tours through Vayable!

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