Travel via your mind

IN these exceptional times when we are told to stay indoors, I chose to take myself out and escape to one of the most beautiful cities in the world—Paris.

It’s said that springtime is one of the best times to visit Paris—that’s when the weather starts to warm up and the trees burst into all shades of colour including the cherry blossom which adds a soft pink hue to the city. No visit to Paris is complete without the prerequisite trip to the Eiffel Tower in the seventh arrondissement (district). Putting my fear of heights behind me, I took the elevator to the very top to absorb the size and scope of the city that has entranced people for years. Most of Paris’ charm lies in its architectural landscape. No one comes for the mountain views—because there aren’t any; rather everyone wants to feast their eyes on the classic works of art at the Louvre or go to Notre-Dame which inspired the author Victor Hugo and experience walking along the Seine.

I then made my way to Café Flore for lunch—toute seule. After a short break, I was off to Montematre and to the iconic Basilique du Sacré-Cœur which offers some of the most picturesque views of Paris. As the daylight began to fade turning the colour of the buildings into a sombre grey I took a stroll along the Pont Des Arts, with its medieval arches, that stretches from one side of the Seine to the next.

The sights and sounds that I had experienced in those few hours of sightseeing were enough to fill several pages of my journal but the day wasn’t over because later in the evening I had a seat reserved at the Opéra National de Paris to see the ballet Giselle.

While all of this may sound bizarre, if you have a really vivid imagination and reliable Wi-Fi—it’s not impossible. Yes, the reality in these days of COVID-19 is that we, like so many millions around the world, are confined to our homes. And France, just like its neighbouring countries have closed their borders, people are ordered to say indoors and famous sites like the Eiffel Tower are closed off to the public; ballets and operas have all been postponed for the foreseeable future.

But that didn’t stop me from taking myself to Paris—and it shouldn’t stop you either, that is, if Paris is your cup of tea.

It’s all a matter of perspective. We may not be able to travel at this time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t transport our minds to different places. Thanks to the Paris Tourism Office website, I was able to go on a virtual tour of some of the most visited sites in Paris—of course nothing beats the real thing but apart from providing pretty good views of the city, the virtual tours add to our knowledge of the place and can improve the quality of our conversations with others at home. And some of the world’s best theatres including the Paris Opera are offering online performances of operas and ballets—no need to purchase tickets or stand in long lines. We may be a long way from Parisian cafés, but there also are channels on YouTube that give recordings of the sounds from busy Parisian restaurants that can mentally transport you to a chic bistro. Reading is another form of escapism, I made the decision to finally tackle a 453-page book based on the history of Paris and I’m halfway through.

Maybe your passion isn’t learning about countries or cultures, whatever it is there are tonnes of resources about every topic under the sun waiting to be explored. So after you catch up with family and friends, why not take the time to learn a new skill or language or learn as much as you can about something that really interests you?

It is said that Isaac Newton did his best work while under quarantine as the Great Plague swept through England in 1665. He described it as the most intellectually productive period of his life. While we are still coming to terms with social distancing and self-isolation, by shifting our perspective we can begin to see the good that can come out of it. We may or may not have a stroke of genius as Newton had but we could turn this rough period into the most productive and creative time of our lives.

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