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French Spirit Rises: Parisians Reclaim Their Cafes En Masse

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And this is just a sample of what life is like here right now. This police raid happens with people huddled indoors. Last night, many Parisians were outdoors at their beloved cafe terraces in a show of defiance. It was a campaign to reclaim those spaces after the terror attacks targeted restaurants, cafes and a concert hall. Here's our colleague, Lauren Frayer.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) Just to make...

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: It was a rainy November night in Paris, but it could have been July with such crowds in the squares and street cafes.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Singing) Watching the tide roll away, oh...

FRAYER: In the Place de la Republique, college students strummed guitars, sang and quoted the French existentialists.

ADELE PIANTAVIGNA: The sentence of Jean-Paul Sartre - what is it? It was winter, but inside of me I found summer. Yeah, something like that.

FRAYER: Adele Piantavigna studies literature at the Sorbonne.

PIANTAVIGNA: It's a bit silly, but we have to continue to smile and, like, be happy. And we had - we had a time where we were - we were crying. And this was really hard, but we have to do it, like, this way.

FRAYER: A local foodie website launched an Occupy the Bistros campaign, encouraging Parisians to repopulate their cafes after three days of national mourning. The call spread like wildfire over social media. Xiao Wang is a Chinese immigrant to France who heard about it on Facebook.

XIAO WANG: I saw spontaneous moments, like, people to show that they are not afraid. They are - have more courage, and life has to continue. And we have to bring back our Parisian life.

FRAYER: This kind of Parisian life.

PIERRE COMBRET: We're having a drink on a terrace at Place de la Republique, like we used to do.

FRAYER: Pierre Combret is on a first date.

COMBRET: It's a good way to speak about French spirit, I think, and Parisian spirit. Paris is a city of fun and party and love and terrace - joie de vivre.

FRAYER: Joie de vivre - the joy of life, wounded by Friday's bombs. France is the world's number one tourist destination, but arrivals are already down since the attacks. Across town, people packed into sports bars to watch a soccer game between the national teams of England and France. The English hosts broke with protocol and played the visiting team's national anthem after theirs. London's Wembley stadium was lit up with the French tri-color, and English fans sang France's "La Marseillaise." People here watched on TV with pride, and joined in.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in French).

FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.