Today, I have a special guest here on the blog! Raquel Segura, founder of Je Suis. PARIS, tours created by women for women to the City of Light. Through the words below, Raquel takes you along on her magical summer trip through France...
64 DAYS OF SUMMER
by Raquel Segura
64 days ago Pierre (that’s my suitcase) and I boarded a Paris bound flight on a one-way ticket with no return date in mind. My intention was always very clear… see how long I could pull off staying in my beloved Paris and traveling around my beautiful France. This was to be the summer of whatever "happened" happened. But in my wildest dreams, I never imagined that this adventure I set upon was going to turn into the most amazing summer thus far. I have truly had the time of my life and then some.
In these past 64 days, I’ve been to 4 countries and about 15 cities. I’ve traveled on 4 flights, 6 trains and had three of the most memorable road trips with two of the most amazing and interesting people in this world. However, I’ve managed to spend the least amount of money of any holiday I’ve taken. I watched the night turn into morning, and the city of Paris come to life from a bench on Pont Neuf after my reservation was canceled because I arrived late to the hotel and there was no room available. I’ve crashed on friends’ couches, stayed in some nice and shitty hotels. I slept in the car on the side of the road in Spain and France. And very reluctantly slept in a tent in Saint-Andre-de-Cruziers that was bigger than many Paris apartments. Funny enough it’s the tent that today I miss the most. In this dreadful tent, I had the most comfortable and restful sleep of my entire trip.
I swam in the cold waters of the Atlantic and ran like a child through the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, all within a 48-hour period. I soared through the skies like a bird on board a glider and cooled myself off from the excessive Southern France hot days in different rivers, without caring that I didn’t have a bathing suit with me. I rode countless times on the back of a scooter around Paris with a dear friend, who by his own admission is crazy. Often he was lane splitting between buses and trucks and more than once jumping onto the sidewalk to avoid stopping for traffic.
I met amazing people from Brazil, Germany, Seattle, Belgium, Holland, Asheville, SF Bay area, New Orleans, Spain, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Korea and Turkey, just to name a few. Oh, and how can I forget the Russian girl who drank all my wine during a picnic (she’s not my favorite person of this trip). I’ve shed some pounds along the way, even though I’ve eaten more food than I would ever do at home. I’ve scraped my knees and been scratched and bruised… each one a badge of honor in my opinion. Danced Salsa, Merengue and Bachata in a Parisian nightclub with a Dutchman who lived in the Dominican Republic and danced as if he was Dominican. I twirled like a ballerina on the banks of the seine with a Frenchman. And on Bastille Day, I showed the good people of the Rhône-Alpes region how a true Latina dances Salsa.
In Paris, I walked a lot and often times without a set destination in mind. Soaking up the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded me, but somehow, I always wound up exactly where I should be. I sat on a park bench for 4 hours and chatted with a 70-year-old art historian. She has lived the life of 10 people… What an interesting character she was. Happily listened to my friends sing and play their guitars during countless jam sessions. Enjoyed Gay Pride and discovered that Cleopatra was alive and well in the body of a French Drag Queen. Was hit on countless times by strange men on the streets and sometimes I even accepted their invitations to have a glass of wine.
I turned the banks of the Seine, the Champ de Mars and Canal St-Martin into my personal dining room, picnicking as often as possible with old and new friends. I mastered the art of the siesta in park lawns. I overcame the lack of AC with midnight strolls to cool off from the summer heat. Wasted the afternoon away at Paris Plage. Served as a tour guide to a Parisian friend who forgot to enjoy his city. Wingmaned my dear friend and helped him pick up girls. I ate more butter than Julia Child. Enjoyed cheese, baguettes and caramel butter salt ice cream as if they were my last supper.
What can I say about the South of France… IT STOLE MY HEART… Period!!! I left my beloved Paris for what was supposed to be a four-day weekend getaway to Aix-en-Provence, and stayed in the south for almost a month. No words can ever describe the amazing and unexpected adventures I found here. I set my eyes on some of the most charmingly picturesque villages and mountains. Savoured my first of many bottles of champagne. Ran freely through sunflower and lavender fields. And yes, I even rolled around in the dirt frequently like a country bumpkin.
Jumped on a train from Aix to Marseille without paying after the credit card system was down and I had no cash. Knowing the French, it would be hours or days before the system was back up and running. Lost one hot pink sandal and then like Cinderella got it back 2 days later. Rosé o’clock, Pastis o’clock and Gin and Tonic o’clock arrived with great frequency.
One afternoon I was getting a bit obnoxious and was pushed into the pool right after I had dressed to go out and about in town…. I laughed so hard I could barely swim and my mood changed immediately. I ate more tomatoes here than I ever have in my 30 + 10 years (and I hate tomatoes). Grew very fond of a cute and sweet pregnant stray cat. I had one of the deepest and most unnerving conversations with a perfect stranger. Sipped my tea every morning from a big bowl like a good Frenchie under my favorite mulberry tree. Lived in not-so-perfect harmony with wasps, scorpions and other creepy crawlers that freaked me out. And upon my return to Paris I had a stowaway spider inside Pierre. Sweet melons and jamon Pata Negra were my regular snack. Waded in an almost empty pool so I could cool off from the heat. Lazed around on a hammock more often that I should’ve. Took a nap after lunch each and every day. Found a new love and appreciation for nature. I tapped into my inner Martha Stewart at an old silk factory. Sipped delicious Armagnac every night while stargazing. Did laundry and hung it up to dry on a line outside… Who needs a dryer? Went shopping to the local market and had some of the sweetest tasting fruits. Makeup was infrequently applied and wearing shoes was rarely an option. Dear South of France, I fell in love! Merci Beaucoup!
When I boarded my Paris bound flight 64 days ago, my hair was perfectly cut, styled and colored in a beautiful shade of red. My manicure/pedicure flawless and my eyebrows were impeccably shaped. As I write this, I am about to board my 5th flight of this summer that will bring me back home to my children and my reality. My hair is less than perfectly styled and in need of a deep conditioning. I have about an inch and a half of roots showing and my lovely red hair has brassed out. My hands and feet are a complete and utter disaster and my eyebrows are very misshapen. But somehow, I just don’t seem to care, because I’ve had the time of my life and these vanities seem to be a small price to pay for the experiences I’ve lived.
For the first time in my life, I truly let go of trying to be in control of everything around me. I’m 30 + 10 years old and I finally understand the meaning of Freedom!!!! I opened my heart humbly and honestly to every experience that came my way, and asked my mind to go silent for a while so I could be guided by my heart alone. I disconnected from most social media and limited my calls home. I was happy to float freely from place to place and situation to situation like a leaf blown around by the wind… It felt amazing!!! I giggled like a schoolgirl often. I laughed so much and sometimes so hard that my stomach hurt. I marveled at truly beautiful landscapes, sunrises and sunsets. And I will never forget the stars and the moon. And there were countless moments and certain situations that took my breath away. There are so many memories I will take with me to my grave… these are just too intimate and personal to share with anyone else. On this journey I’ve experienced happiness, joy, excitement and pure unadulterated bliss. I am grateful for every positive and negative moment. And yes, I even cried when I had to say goodbye… yes truly went into the ugly cry while traveling at great speed onboard the TGV back to Paris. For the first time in what feels like an eternity, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and it felt good.
As I sit here at my gate awaiting the bird that will fly me home, I am feeling a mélange of emotions. I’m excited and happy to kiss and hug my darling children. I want to see my family and my friends and sleep in my own bed. But I’m sad to say goodbye to the carefree life I’ve lived these past 2 months and even sadder to leave those special people who made this the most amazing summer of my life. I am a traveler at heart and I’m always happiest when I’m in motion. I am fully aware of the fact that I am a very lucky woman and that these experiences are not always afforded to others…. 64 days ago a stressed out, tired and very controlling woman boarded a plane for Paris. Today a different woman returns home.
As Shakespeare’s Juliette says “Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
What a ride… Until we meet again!!!