Lost in Paris – Judy Guilliams-Tapia

My husband joined me for the first week. The night we arrived in Paris, we walked along the banks of the Seine marveling at a purplish sunset and the crowd of young people who had gathered there to drink wine, picnic, and socialize. A cheap night out. We did typical touristy things, such as viewing the Mona Lisa from the back of a crowded room at the Louvre and ascending to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night to see the city at its most luminous. But we also danced to live rock and blues music in the streets of Montmartre until 3 am, as part of France’s annual Fete de la Musique. 

At the end of that week, my husband flew home. Camila, who had become an art major, was supposed to travel to Paris that same day to join me for the second week. I was eager for us to bond while exploring Paris’ plethora of art and other treasures. However, my husband called around midnight with bad news. “Honey, I’m so sorry but the Air France people wouldn’t let Camila board. The French government requires that visitors have passports that are good for at least 6 months and Camila’s is due to expire in 3 months.” I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of this requirement. No one at Air France had mentioned it to us before and it was nowhere to be found in the guidebook I had used in my planning. Feeling guilty and forlorn, I cried myself to sleep. Camila, meanwhile, went out with friends and made new plans to go camping with our golden retriever. 

I awoke the next morning with a strange realization. This was my chance to disappear for a week, go under the radar, wander through the huge maze of Paris streets, and get back in touch with my lost self. Although I started the week in my usual striving mode, ambitiously exploring the Latin Quarter to the point of exhaustion, I got looser and moved more slowly as the week progressed, becoming attuned to life in the city. I observed that the French didn’t seem to be obsessed with their cell phones and that older French women were very stylish. I bought a flowing French raincoat in a mustard color that accented my long white hair. Scanning a French newspaper, I noticed that the utterings of the U.S. president were nowhere to be found, just an article on his economic policies on page four. Taking one’s time and savoring moments—whether they involved delicious food and drink or a loved one’s embrace—seemed to be ingrained in the fabric of daily existence. One afternoon, sitting on a bench looking out over the sparkling Seine, I basked in the sunlight and sense of wholeness and freedom.

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