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Reborn in Paris

A sojourn in a Parisian garret is a writer’s travel fantasy. Author Sonia Choquette yearned to spend time in the city where she had been a student, but family demands and a relentless career made her dream impossible – until her life imploded

the retreat

Paris beckoned like a beautiful oasis in the desert of my collapsed life. The full impact of all that had transpired over the past two years – from the sudden deaths of my father and brother within a six-week period, to walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail twice, to an unexpected and unwanted divorce – had all hit me like a tsunami. I had lived in Paris before, 35 years earlier, when I attended the University of Paris on a study programme, and had made wonderful, lifelong friends during that time. I can’t explain the need to do this other than to say my spirit called me and I needed to follow. I felt a deep soul connection to France and, for whatever reason, I felt comforted when I was there.

My love of France did not end with me. When my daughters were young, they attended the Lycée Français in Chicago. Moving to France seemed the logical thing to do after my armageddon. In addition, my youngest daughter, Sabrina, was as comfortable in France as I was and needed just as big a change after ending a lengthy relationship in Los Angeles. Paris offered distance from our problems and a safe haven when all seemed so fragile and unclear. The truth is, I got divorced and moved to Paris so fast that I didn’t have time to plan anything. On a soul level, I knew this was a door opening for me but, on an emotional level, I knew it was possibly the most painful, scary change imaginable. I had been married for 32 years – an entire identity, living in the same neighbourhood with the same people. Yet I knew I couldn’t grow and still be attached to the old: I had to make a choice.

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