Being a pilot’s daughter, I assumed it was the anticipation of traveling that explained the butterflies my stomach.
But when I arrived in Paris, I felt a seismic tremor, reverberating in my life. I reverted to my twenties, when I had last studied abroad, drinking in the city, the history, the art, and the people again. I felt the return to my educational roots, my primal alignment with the universe, my personal purpose. Paris had been a turning point in my young life. And now, it seemed to be so again.
I soaked it up as I roamed the Marais, ate falafel, and photographed the Hotel de Sens and the walls of Phillippe Augustus. I immersed myself in it when I sat on a green bench in the Luxembourg Gardens, eating a mille-feuille and watching the men play boules. I was drenched in it as I strolled through the Cluny Museum and sat on a stone terrace in the Arènes de Lutèce, bathing in the history and architecture. I was showered with sacred awe as I revisited Notre Dame and Sainte-Chappelle, with their inspiring windows and architecture, on the Ile de la Cite.
I’m not able to put into words all the ways I was tried—physically, spiritually, emotionally—while I was away for the month. In fact, my companions also had times of trial and challenges. But after an initial period of shock and complaint at each situation, I tried my best to forge ahead. And we all tried to make it easier for each other.
Wandering the green battlefields of Verdun, the medieval streets of Strasbourg, Victor Hugo’s apartment in the Place des Vosges, the alleys of Montmartre, and streets of the Seizième, filled me with a sense of history and culture that fueled my passion and creativity.
Just standing in the Cathedral at Reims, where Clovis was baptized and Joan watched Charles being crowned, moved me, as I contemplated the centuries of worship that had taken place on that spot.
Sitting at a sidewalk café, eating mousse au chocolat in the Latin Quarter, or trying sausage and choucroute in a tiny restaurant in Kaysersberg, or schnitzel at a table by the river in Breisach, filled me with gratitude for the diversity and tenacity of culture.
Rambling through Saint Denis, the resting place for much of the royalty of France, turned me pensive and invited me to contemplate my own contribution and mortality.
My cultural awareness began in Paris many years ago and was continuing to evolve here again. However, I have since realized it wasn’t Paris itself, but the beauty and truth that culture, travel, and history represent to me, that was speaking to my soul. Beauty and truth are the essential part of me, the foundation of my life and my life’s purpose.