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Trip Report Must be the season of the witch: Nikki's autumn trip to London and Paris

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Ten years ago I flew to London with my husband Alan and our daughter Lauren. We landed at Heathrow at 8:30 AM on July 7, 2005. As we rode in the taxi from the airport into London, traffic piled up and the driver turned on the radio. Public transportation had been shut down throughout London. There was speculation that it had been caused by a power surge on the tube. Crowds lined the roads looking for taxis. The driver told us there were always problems with the underground, this was normal. But it didn’t seem normal to us, and eventually we heard the announcement that there had been an explosion on a bus. By the time we reached our destination we heard there had been bombs both on the underground and on a bus.

We arrived very late at our rental apartment near Sloane Square and were greeted by the agent, who had been writing us a note as he could not wait any longer. He did stay long enough to let us into the apartment and show us around. The agent told us that it was a terrorist attack but that London knew how to cope with such an event and we should make ourselves at home and get on with our plans to explore London. We spent most of that first day glued to the television as the story was pieced together and then analyzed.

We spent a week in London and then Lauren went home while Alan and I went on to France. We flew home a week later and I wrote a trip report describing the experience.

Almost three weeks ago, Alan and I flew to London. We spent a week in an apartment, once again near Sloane Square, rented from the same agency, A Place Like Home. We took the train to Paris and spent a week in an apartment there. Then we flew back to Boston on Thursday evening, November 12, 2015.

We had been home less than 24 hours when we heard about the gunfire and explosions in Paris and sat glued to the breaking news reports as it became clear that there were many casualties and several locations in Paris had come under attack.

As I think back on our week in Paris, I remember the joyous atmosphere on the streets, the exuberance of crowds of young people spilling out of the cafes onto the sidewalks. It is devastating to think of the bullets that shattered the peace and security that makes such a scene possible.

I have debated whether to write a trip report set in the time immediately preceding the violent horror that changed the scene in Paris so dramatically. But I will write it in the hope that I can capture some of the feeling of visiting a great city that offers so much and that will continue to captivate visitors long after the events of this week find their way into the history books.

I had planned this trip for two reasons. The first is that I have not been allowed to travel since the stem cell transplant I had on May 4 (a date which I will always remember as Star Wars day: May the Fourth be with you). I was told that after six months my immune system would be up to the task of international travel.

The second reason was a bit of fortuitous scheduling. For a while I was turning most of my energies in other directions and hadn’t been paying attention to many things I would otherwise have been noticing. As I was starting to feel more part of the real world again, I decided to check whether some of the French singer-songwriters I love to listen to had new recordings out and found that some of them did. Then, just out of idle curiosity, I checked their websites for concert dates, and found that Sanseverino was playing a concert in Paris in November. A few more minutes on the internet showed me that Francis Cabrel was playing in Paris that same weekend.

I quickly calculated that this would be just six months after my transplant, turned to Alan and asked if I should buy one ticket or two. Two, he said. He’d even go to the concerts with me.

We decided to go to London for a week before going to Paris. We had postponed several planned trips there since our last visit six years ago for various reasons, and Alan has family that we really wanted to visit. So we bought concert and theater and airline tickets and held our collective breath in the hope that circumstances would not conspire against us and we would be able to take this trip as planned. The time came, nothing happened to prevent our travel, and we left as scheduled shortly before Halloween.

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