“France cannot be destroyed. She is an old country who, despite her misfortunes, has, and always will have, thanks to her past, a tremendous prestige in the world, whatever the fate inflicted upon her.” ~ Pierre Laval
Five years ago I left my heart in the Seine. Literally. The night before I left to fly back to the states, standing by the river outside Notre Dame, I threw an American penny into the river with not just a wish, but a promise that I would be back.
While I had travelled a lot in my young twenty-one years, this had been a trip of a life time. It had changed me in ways that I had never imagined. In learning about a beautiful vibrant country, I had learned about myself in the process, connecting and healing in ways I had never envisaged.
Everything you hear about France is true. They embody that joie de vivre you hear so much about. I had flown there on the invitation of my aunt who goes every year. I was still going through a traumatic time in my life complete with a raging eating disorder and the use of an exorbitant amount of alcohol all to hide the colossal anguish I was in.
Yet, during that time of being in France, I was just that. Being. I allowed myself to not rush, to not try to dilute my thoughts or my feelings. I took each day to enjoy where I was. Yes I did the touristy things, like attend mass at Notre Dame, see the Eiffel Tower and walk through the Tuileries. But I also strolled along the cobbled streets. Took yoga classes where I could only understand when they spoke in Sanskrit. I sat in coffee shops reading and writing. Pausing.
In the hustle and bustle of a city whose language I didn’t speak, I transformed.
That anonymity, the isolation of having to face who I was, in a country I was not a part of, allowed me that healing, and in that way they welcomed me into their world and I did in fact become a part of them.
Half way into my trip, the one touristy thing I really wanted to do was Versailles. Having written multiple essays on Marie Antoinette, I wanted to explore the gilded palace, complete with its exquisite gardens.
Wandering through the grounds with autumn nipping at the air, the tumultuous history of Versailles swirled around me enveloping me with its tales of triumphs, sordid love triangles, tragedy, but also renewal, friendship, passion, growth, and most of all hope.
Phases we all go through in this crazy thing called life. It is when you step back into history that you are reminded it is just stepping stones. Like Versailles with her turbulent history, fleeting moments that whilst they transform us irrevocably, you do come through them stronger, tougher, and with a bigger appreciation for life.
Standing along the river, the wind gently swaying against me, I threw a penny in the river for it is there I found my heart again, in the Seine.