A short essay from my personal memoirs from Paris in August 2008 for the 10th anniversary of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” anthology. If you would like to join me and be part of her anthology, you can submit an essay here: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/eatpraylovemademedoit/
On a warm summer’s day six years ago in the Left Bank of Paris, I awoke one morning nestled in a bed in a hotel on Rue Christine. An entire day ahead of me awaited with no particular agenda or tasks as I was on holiday. What a luxury it was as much as the bed in which I had slept in the night before.
Not soon after, I left the hotel after getting dressed in search for a boulangerie on my way towards a FNAC so I could purchase an adapter for my phone which I had inconveniently left at home. I headed to La Poste to mail some postcards back home to friends in the States and a copy of the first-edition book of love letters (“Love Letters of Great Men“) as a gift for a dear friend in San Francisco. To my delight, I had purchased a copy for myself as well.
On my way back I found what I was searching for, a boulangerie called Boulangerie de Papa, near the St. Michel Metro stop. I ordered a petite déjeuner formulae complèt. (Pain au chocolat or croissant, café au lait, jus d’orange.) With my small bounty in hand, I went outside in search of a place to sit. What I saw was this:
I had just finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love” the month prior and her story had haunted me. It was the first book that I had written notes in the margins – songs that I was listening to when reading passages, notes, thoughts, and emotions. At the time, I had never traveled alone before either always with family, friends, or colleagues. It was in the beginning of a transfomative time in my life. I was a mother of a young toddler, still finding my footing on motherhood and life. It was also the first time I traveled by myself and separated from my daughter even though I had travelled to Paris before and speak the language. So seeing this young woman seated at a table with “Eat Pray Love” in her hands was a welcoming and familiar sight with no tables available in the small Parisian patio designated to the restaurant.
I walked over and asked if I could join her and she politely nodded her head. I mentioned that I had just finished reading the book and how much I had enjoyed it. It was a coincidence in the middle of Paris that one would find something that had inspired me to take a risk and venture out to seek answers of my own. I immediately asked her for her permission to take a photograph of her for my writings. With a giggle, the word “yes,” and a smile, I snapped the photograph above of a lovely young woman named Chantal from Canada.
Memories of the anxieties of young motherhood and the emotions swirling about still come back quite vividly, but with the filter of time and separation. The book inspired me to take a risk and encouraged by the knowledge of another, do something for myself that I would have otherwise put off for years. My life has changed so much in the past seven years, similarly on a path not far too different from Elizabeth Gilbert’s. We share a love of food, an adventurous spirit, courage to face our fears, leave the paths that don’t suit us, and find ones that fulfill us, time to be still to meditate and focus within, and an abundance of love.
I travel around the world now building social impact businesses and have joined the thousands on Instagram in photographing and writing about the places that I visit. This would not occur with that first step years ago on a summer’s day in August in Paris. The natural light in the City of Lights is a photographer’s dream regardless if you are an amateur or professional.
To this day, I still have the copy of ““ on my bedside table, a little tattered, marked up with tabs, and the highlighted passages faded over the years. I also bring my daughter along with me on some of those travels to share with her life beyond the confines of our daily lives. She is my best traveling companion and is learning also about how to eat, pray, and love. Eat Pray Love
Places in Paris featured:
A Relais-Chateaux property
3, Rue Christine
21, Rue Bonaparte
La Boulangerie de Papa (now closed)
1, Rue de la Harpe
Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris
6 parvis Notre-Dame
Place Jean-Paul II
Le Centre Pompidou
Places Georges Pompidou
A Dorchester Collection Hotel
228, Rue de Rivoli
Les Jardins des Tuileries
Rue de Rivoli