I met Average Yogini in 2001 through mutual friends. I believe I was in attendance at her first or one of her first yoga classes at our mutual and beloved studio Edge Yoga! I feel proud, like I attended a birth of sorts. She was one of my inspirations for starting 1874, so I thought it would be appropriate to ask her to post here and to my surprise she wrote about Paris. How appropriate for 1874.
And speaking of ending up in unexpected places, I think about Paris a lot. It was the first place where I truly learned to enjoy my own company.
It sounds fancy, but it wasn’t as sophisticated as you might imagine it.
My Sophomore year of college I decided – from one day to the next – that I hated the California crunchy granola-ness of my school so much that I would have to find a way to get off campus and go somewhere a little less… parochial. I was SO tired of all the flip flops and yoga pants and the supposedly really smart people saying dumb things like “you don’t look like you’re from Nicaragua.”
So I took a couple of semesters of French, packed my bags, and headed out to Paris during the Winter of my Junior year. That’s the thing about me. I get a ridiculous idea in my head and come hell or high water I’m going to find it way to get it done.
It was so achingly lonely in Paris that Winter. It was 1998, so there were no smartphones, no wireless, no way for me to stay in touch with my loved ones except by phone and Internet Cafe. But it was SUCH a bittersweet loneliness, I still think back on it with a sense of nostalgia I don’t get about any of the other places I’ve had the good fortune of living.
I lived in what the French call a Chambre de Bonne – a tiny, one room studio apartment on the top floor of an older building – and shared a bathroom with the other three apartments on my floor.
I don’t remember the days much, but I remember the nights.
The hustle and bustle of Rue Bonaparte kept me company on lonely nights, and on REALLY lonely nights I would walk down to the Latin Quarter and duck into a Thai restaurant to have a late (second) dinner by myself. There was nothing to do at the dinner table but watch other people and think about how in the world a girl from Nicaragua had ended up in Thai restaurant in the Latin Quarter of Paris – via California, no less.
On the way back from dinner, I’d stop by the crepe cart on the corner of Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue de l’Odeon and polish off a Nutella and Banana before taking my time getting back to my Chambre, and finally falling asleep staring out the window at the apartment across the street where – according to my French sponsor family – Catherine Deneuve lived.
That Winter in Paris was the first time it occurred to me I didn’t have to make friends or be with other people. The city was so amazing, and every street around my neighborhood so breathtaking, that I was content to hang out with Paris – and me – for the short few months I was lucky enough to call it my home.
I was twenty-one years old, 5,000 miles away from home, and fifteen pounds overweight by the time the Spring came around and I had to head back to California to finish my college education. But as cliche as it sounds, I really found myself in Paris, despite having landed there out of that misguided need to escape reality that even nearing my forties I still do battle with from time to time.
I finally got a chance to go back to Paris by myself a few years ago. I went looking for the Thai restaurant and my old crepe cart but I couldn’t find either. So that night instead of wandering the Latin Quarter I stood on one of the bridges – I can never remember which one is which – and thought about how the city had changed as much as I had over the years and how on that occasion I actually wished I had someone to share it with.
The featured image is by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). All Van Gogh’s works are in the public domain.