This is my most favorite view of Paris.
You may be surprised that it’s not the Tour Eiffel or the L’Arc de Triomphe, the signature and statuesque icons of Paris.
But to me, this view is everything. This view (for me) captures the essence of Paris at its core.
Whe I took this picture, I was sitting at the tip of Ile de la Cite, at the point of the small Ile that is sandwiched between the Right and Left Bank of the Seine. Ile de la Cite has since been a forgotten pocket of Paris, often seen as a transient sliver of land that most tourists and Parisians cross over each day as they march across one of the oldest bridges in Paris, Pont Neuf.
The sun was setting at around 915 or so. With my two friends, we sat underneath a willow tree letting our legs dangle off the edge of the point of the Ile, staring at the colors changing over the rippling waters of the Seine.
The night was warm and the ambience was light. We sipped rose, snacked on Camebert & fresh baguettes purchased that morning from Eric Kayser and laughed and bantered over who knows what. We talked about life, travel, fashion, living abroad, cooking and in general, living.
And while we were surrounded by many other Parisians (and tourists alike), my friend tells me that this is the first time she’s actually ever picnicked along the Seine since moving to Paris 1.5 years ago.
And in that moment, it hit us.
This was what the “joie de vivre” was about.
And this joy is something that we all needed and in that moment, I felt ALIVE.
We sat back and clung onto every last ray of sunshine the horizon would yield as twilight came upon us. As I sat there basking in the fiery pink sunset, I couldn’t help but feel my eyes well up with tears as I reflected on my 2.5 week journey through Europe (one week of that being Paris).
By the grace of God and this city, I was brought back to life.
Six months prior, I was confronted with an abrupt and life altering experience that has changed the course of my life forever. While I felt I was making progress towards overcoming this experience, it was the city of Paris that marked the moment where I truly felt alive, free and happy once again.
In Paris, I was free to be me physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.
I fed a lost passion for writing while wandering the antiquated laneways of St. Germain des Pres, reimaging where the lost generation writers once lived in the land of the literati. To think that you were walking on the same sidewalks as Hemingway and Fitzgerald reignited and reaffirmed a passion to write.
I felt reconnected spiritually as I knelt in the pews of the Basillica Sacre Coeur praying that He heals my heart and blesses friends and family with health and safety. I felt humbled as I sat in peace during Mass at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
I felt nourished intellectually with every piece of art, sculpture, book and French conversation I encountered either in museums or cafes.
I felt absolute joy again watching Parisians dance in the streets while I sat along the Seine reading a book.
And I felt life and excitement again as I went on my midnight tour or Paris on the back of a Vespa, visiting hidden parks in hidden corridors of the city while dancing outside underneath the stars.
The food, the art, the conversation and the light in the streets.
I got to discover me. The me that I wanted to be and the beauty and vivaciousness of the city brought me back to life.
My heart broke when I heard of the attacks on Paris. Naturally, the first inclination was to reach out to friends that lived in the city. Thankfully, they are safe.
I tried not to pay attention to the news this weekend because I didn’t want to be sad about Paris. But last night when I returned, I couldn’t help but immerse myself in all the images, the stories and reports of innocent victims that last their lives.
How could a city with so much life lose so much light from its spirit? The image of a darknened Tour Eiffel made my heart sink.
The city that helped give me so much life had just gone dark. And there was nothing I could do to give back.
This morning I woke up to the sound of rain and turned to my daily devotional. I felt guilt for never finishing up the half written Paris posts sitting in my drafts.
Paris in my mind (like the other countries & cities that were attacked this week) is life. I wish I could stand in the Notre Dame and pray the world’s pains away.
But I can relive, reimagine and try to retell the magic I felt in Paris while sitting on that Ile. Especially when I try to carry that moment of Paris with me everyday.
So for the next few posts, I want to focus on the travels and magic of Paris as I discovered it this past summer. The hope is that despite fear and tragedy, others are still inspired to go out and seek their own Parisian magic.
More importantly, when I went to Paris (and Europe) the goal was to feel more connected with others in the world. I hope these posts will inspire others to do so as well.
Je suis Paris.