My View, Mel Hewitt: I still plan to go to cosmopolitan Paris

Mel Hewitt in the Place du Marche Sainte-Catherine, in Marais, Paris.

Mel Hewitt in the Place du Marche Sainte-Catherine, in Marais, Paris.

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I thought long and hard before deciding to talk about Paris this week.

So many people, more erudite, informed and articulate than I have written thousands of words since the inconceivable horrors of Friday night.

I’m not sure anything I could say would add anything new to the conversation or bring a new perspective to a deed so unfathomable and overwhelming in its impact.

Wise and consoling words – some from icons of peace like Gandhi and some remarkably from those who lost a dear one last weekend in the most savage way imaginable – have been posted on social media and quoted in the press.

There have also been words of hate and political cant. Those who have chosen to respond to the unspeakable with things that you hope will never be said.

Freedom of speech is precious, but to hear and read the racist and inflammatory rants of a few of our citizens in the last week stretched my own tolerance.

Their ugly words contrasted so much with the heartbreaking messages of love, tolerance and unbowed belief in the goodness of people, that has been the response from some of those who have perhaps the most reason to show hate and anger.

As I write, a huge police operation is taking place in the St Denis area of Paris. Gunfire, explosions and reports of arrests of more suspects are dominating this morning’s news channels.

I hope whatever is happening brings a little ease and peace of mind to all those who live and work in Paris - the most gracious and beautiful of cities.

Paris is glorious and its charm extends beyond the well-trodden tourist trail of Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Champs Elysees. It is, as with most things in life, about its people. I have visited Paris twice in the last 17 months and it is Parisians who made those trips special.

We had the good fortune to stay in The Marais, one of the oldest and most colourful parts of the city. Originally the Jewish quarter, many Chinese people also settled here. It is also a focal point for LGBT culture. It is a joy to be there and – even for just a few days – to be part of this cosmopolitan, multi-faith and creative ‘village’ in the heart of the city.

So, to the Morrocan taxi driver who gave us bottles of Evian water on a very hot day, the charming waiters in the restaurant on the Left Bank who sang to my mother on her 80th birthday and the multi-lingual, exuberant and inspiring lady who manages of our favourite hotel, salut!

Whilst not wishing to appear foolhardy or brave, I still hope to see you on what appear to be my now annual visits, in Paris next Spring.

The courage of the citizens of such a wonderful, open, tolerant and unique city is an inspiration to us all.