February 21, 2009

Paris: Om Sweet Home

I just cashed in a wad of American Express points and scored two free tickets to Paris for me and Dana. We're going in July.

I'm excited to spend a quality week with Dana before she throws herself full tilt into the college application process, which will consume a big part of her summer.

I know Paris well, and I spent several weeks hunting online for accommodations with the perfect mix of location, quiet, affordability, character and safety.

In an upcoming post I'll share the search techniques I used. The Internet offers such a wealth of tools and information that there's no excuse anymore for checking blindly into a hotel or apartment; indeed the Web lets you virtually visit before you book. I had a blast exploring buildings, streets and neighborhoods before settling on what promises to be a unique and peaceful haven in the center of the City of Light: The Maison Zen.

We'll have to leave our shoes at the door -- and we can't host any loud parties -- but for less than $650 for a week, we have a studio apartment with a kitchenette on the top floor of the Paris Zen Center. The elegant building is in a gated location off the busy street, and the apartment windows give on to a quiet courtyard. We're a block from the Place de la Bastille.

Owned and run by Jakob Perl and his wife, artist Grazyna Perl, the Paris Zen Center is the European hub of the Kwan Um School of Zen, founded by a Korean Zen master. Both Jakob and his wife are Zen masters; Jakob is known as WuBong, and Grazyna is Bon Yo.

Kwan Um Zen employs meditation, sitting, chanting and sharing living space and meals to help followers attain a "clear and compassionate mind" that is able to "help all beings." As guests of Maison Zen, Dana and I are welcome to participate in the Center's activities but are not compelled to do so.

I'm not big on meditation; sitting still doing nothing tends to make me crazy, and yoga is about as far along the spectrum of zenishness as I've been able to get. But I'm thinking a little om at the end of a day of sightseeing might be refreshing.