Lost in Paris – Judy Guilliams-Tapia

On my last full day in the city, I headed to the Canal St. Martin neighborhood, which my guidebook had described as trendy and charming. I got lost while trying to walk there from the metro station, of course. Once I made it there, I climbed up some stairs onto one of the iron footbridges over the canal and surveyed the scene. I didn’t find it charming but, as with all things Parisian, I found it fascinating. Graffiti adorned the footbridge and walls of the tree-lined canal, which shimmered in the afternoon sunlight. A few people were enjoying walks along the canal, but none looked like tourists. I was glad to have found a place far from the chic parts of Paris. I found a modest neighborhood bistro, enjoyed a delicious lunch of coq au vin, and then headed with a full satisfied belly to my final planned destination of the day, a nonprofit called Seymour+. My guidebook had described it as a “refuge for the soul,” a place to unwind, take a break from technology and other external distractions, get in touch with your “inner landscape,” and spark your creativity. Just what I craved. 

The walk to Seymour+ was a straight shot along the Rue des Vinaigriers (Street of Vinegar-Makers). True to its working-class name, the street was lined with modest shops and bistros, artists’ studios, a couple of cheap hotels (one advertising rooms at about $50 per night), and many parked motorcycles. Some shops looked as though they were frozen in time. One decrepit shop sold old maps, displayed on a table all covered in dust. A young man hung out in the doorway of a small bookshop with a cat draped over his shoulder. OK, so maybe this scruffy neighborhood was charming after all. The real Paris. 

I arrived at Seymour+, paid a small fee and handed over my cell phone. The place, created by an American expat, consisted of large sparsely furnished rooms with wood floors, high ceilings, and white walls. Guests engaged in a different activity in each room, guided by some simple instructions. The main idea was to look inside yourself, break through your conditioned thinking, reconnect with your subconscious, and ultimately, fire up your imagination. I was the only guest at that time and went from room to room, completing each activity in solitude. 

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