In the summer of 2010, I graduated from Cardiff University, drove from Wales to Switzerland with my beautiful Swiss boyfriend, said goodbye to him at Zurich airport with tears running down my cheeks and moved to California to “follow my dreams.” It was a dramatic time of change, and since that watery goodbye three years ago I hadn’t returned to that side of the world. All the amazing friends I made, now scattered around Europe and my family in Lebanon who I hadn’t seen in five years…well, let’s just say it was a long overdue trip.
A couple months before my scheduled departure from Los Angeles, I contacted all my friends in “the Old World” for a reunion in Paris which they all agreed was a fantastic idea!
Despite the 11-hour flight and eight-hour time difference, my overwhelming excitement overpowered my immense need for sleep. As I exited the terminal, I spotted my Parisian friend Deborah and we ran into each other’s arms like they do in the movies. She took me to the loft that we rented for the reunion to freshen up and begin our Paris adventure.
I made my way to the Eiffel Tower to reunite with another old friend whom I’d met during my time at AADA in New York City. She was studying in Geneva with her South African boyfriend, and it had been eight years since we saw each other. As I approached France’s iconic iron tower, I snapped a photo and it began to rain. I circled under the magnificent arch until I spotted Armelle, which wasn’t hard. Even with the Eiffel Tower stealing your attention, it’s impossible not to see her. She’s the kind of woman you have no choice but to recognize, with her tall figure and piercing eyes. She has a way of seeing straight to your soul, leaving you feeling understood and loved. We hugged for a small eternity.
One by one, the rest of our crew showed up. Adrian and Sarah flew in from Zurich, Maria from Spain, Dylan from Berlin and “the other Frenchies” Iris, Julia and Clement joined us in their city. From then on it was all talk and tears as we poured our hearts out to each other, all the stories of our lives that the others had missed.
We spent the weekend walking the streets of Paris, eating cheese and drinking hot chocolate in cozy cafes. We ascended the stairs to the Sacre Coeur, taking in the view while a street performer hung from a lamp post doing tricks with a soccer ball and another sang songs. It seemed that everywhere we went there was music and lovers. At almost every corner there were boulangeries and locals exiting with baguettes wearing scarfs and smoking cigarettes. Every preconceived stereotype I had of Paris was being fulfilled, and I was thrilled about it. Perhaps it was just the elated joy I was feeling from being with old friends in this old city, but I had decided Paris was the most romantic place in the world, and I was falling in love.
Too soon our weekend came to an end and our group of 12 turned into four. The next morning, Maria and I would continue our adventures together to Istanbul and Beirut.
On our way back to the loft we stopped in at Hemmingway’s beloved bookstore, Shakespeare and Co., filled with book lovers and charm. I skimmed the shelves, quietly overcome with mixed feelings of joy and nostalgia. On the second floor I found a room with a piano and a young man sitting in a chair reading a book. How I longed at that moment to lose myself in music. He saw me looking at the instrument and asked me in his adorable French accent, “Do you want to play?” I replied in surprise, “Can I!?” He smiled, “Of course you can, it’s been waiting for you!”
Natasha Kozaily is a local singer-songwriter and painter. She completed her bachelor’s degree in music from Cardiff University, where she wrote her thesis on Caymanian folk musician Miss Julia Hydes. She now resides in San Diego, where she recorded her latest album “Serenading Renegades.” Find out more at natashakozaily.com.