A Portadown couple on honeymoon in Paris during last week’s terrorist attack has described the sombre mood but defiant spirit within the French capital.
Chris and Vicky Wright (nee Chapman) spent three nights in the city to celebrate the couple’s New Year’s Eve wedding.
The attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo happened during the newlyweds’ penultimate day. A phone call from back home revealed to the Wrights news of that first shooting.
“We were up in the Eiffel Tower that morning when my mum phoned from Portadown to check everything was okay,” said Vicky. “That was the first we knew of any attack, then we got back to street level and heard lots of police sirens.
“It was strange in some respects as no-one really told us anything and there did not seem to be much of a disruption overall.
“We got a bus to the Louvre Museum and that was actually closer to the scene of the attack, with 30 police vans lined up outside one building near the Champs-Elysees.
“Aside from that, everything seemed to operate as normal, although there was some talk on the bus between the tourists.
“Public transport was operating okay and none of the officials warned us against travelling anywhere.
“We had a cruise along the River Seine booked and it only went halfway down but, again, no-one explained if that was a security issue.
“It did not really impact on normal life at that point and even back in our hotel everything seemed normal.
“It was only when we got back to our room and saw the television footage that the full extent hit home.”
The following day, the couple’s final few hours of the Paris honeymoon, proved a different story.
“We felt uneasy on Thursday and could sense a sombre mood everywhere, with the streets quite quiet,” said Vicky. “We wanted to visit the Arc de Triomphe for the midday vigil to pay our respects.
“Around 100 people had gathered at the eternal flame and stood in silence, which proved quite moving.
“There was a sign explaining how the Arc de Triomphe was closed.
“We did not feel like doing anything under the circumstances so headed towards the airport as a precaution against any delays.
“You could see the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (‘I Am Charlie’) signs on display in the windows of homes and shops, plus in the streets.
“Everything was fine at the airport, with the exception of what seemed like extra security.
“I think some of the late-night flights were disrupted but our plane left on time.
“Although it was quite unsettling on the Thursday, I would not hesitate to go back as everyone we met was so warm and friendly.”