Paris, it turns out, is a good place to be sick. In addition to France’s enviably subsidized healthcare system, the city — in its layout, design and nature — can promote healing. Parks and gardens that, for most, might be a quick sandwich-eating stop on a work day become quiet retreats for rest and recovery. The palatial movie theaters around Grands Boulevards seem open just for you at the 1 p.m. matinee. And at the corner table of many cafes, you can wile away whole afternoons with a thé verveine and your thoughts.
I saw this compassionate side of Paris in late 2005, when I was diagnosed with cancer. As happens to anyone with a serious illness, my life did an about-face. The momentum of my life was cut. At 31, I was caught in a whirlpool cycle of chemotherapy and recovery. Paris became my buoy. I walked its quietest streets to clear my head. I found sustenance — both edible and moral — in the nonchalant discretion of cafes and restaurants. I met holistic healers and teachers, who pointed me in enlightening directions.
I have two goals for this blog. First, to tell my story. To get it off my chest. It’s an odyssey now, still ongoing, six-plus years after my diagnosis. Secondly, to offer an admittedly very-alternative guide to Paris. Not a guide to “Paris for the sick,” but a resource (restaurants, quiet walks, hidden parks) for those looking to se ressourcer, a French verb for taking life out of the fast lane and focusing instead on rest, relaxation and the quality of life.
Paris is a big city. But in its heart is a meandering pace and many places of compassion. Sometimes, I think it can fix anything.A bientôt.