This is my favorite photo of me ever taken. I took it on my last trip to Paris, my favorite city, in 2007.
At the end of that trip, I was leaving Paris with a newly discovered allergy for wine, sick as a dog, flying over my home of Philadelphia directly to San Francisco, where I had to stand in a booth at a medical conference for 8 hours a day for a week. I didn’t like my job, and I really didn’t like leaving Paris, especially because I couldn’t even envision a future when I’d be able to return.
In my hotel room in San Francisco, sick with vertigo and depressed, I watched a Rick Steves travel show about Bath. At the time I had no idea the Roman empire had extended that far, and it was so beautiful and full of history, and I was having myself such a big fat pity party, I burst into tears, because I was absolutely certain that I’d never make it to Bath in my life, and I was so sad about it.
Eight years later, I’m tenured faculty and a medical librarian at a major research university that awarded me a grant to travel to write a book, the only goal I’ve ever had since I was a child. And unexpectedly, my travels took me to Bath. After a nice English pub dinner with my friend Dr. John Troyer & his lovely girlfriend (a tour guide in Bath), we walked by the Baths which I assumed would be closed as it was 8pm and everything else was. But no, I happened to be here during a small window of the summer when they are open late, and nearly no one was there. I wandered around the Baths, sometimes completely alone, and they were even more beautiful and mysterious than I’d imagined. I drank from the strange, warm water. I especially liked the darkened baths like this one, where the absence of huge tourist crowds allowed me to revel in the cave-like dripping sounds, the moss, the silence.
This wishing pool was full of coinage from all over the world and even had some American dollar bills floating on top. I dug around in my wallet, which currently has an odd mix of 3 kinds of currency, and happened to fish out a Septa subway token, the transit system of my hometown of Philadelphia. I hear they are currently being phased out of use. I thought about myself in that hotel room in 2007, heartbroken at the thoughts that I’d never get back to Paris and I’d never get to see Bath. I thought about where I was at the moment, how far I’d come, and that I’d be reunited with Paris again this week, and in a context that I could have never imagined.
I threw the Septa token in the bath and I made a new wish.