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.

Andrew Taber began his journalism career writing music and bar reviews at The New York Times. After one too many, he turned to health-and-fitness as an editor at Men’s Health Magazine. He has lived in France since 2002 (with cancer since 2005), working for Eurosport, L’Equipe and contributing to publications such as Outside Magazine, Women’s Health and The Philadelphia Inquirer.   

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