Bonjour friends! I’m back from Paris and I had the most magnifique time! I was a little worried about traveling in general after the pandemic, and specifically about going to another country by myself. But I really loved the experience. Here are five things I learned on this trip that I’ll take with me wherever I go next.
Learn something. It’s very engaging and fun to plan your trip around a class or particular experience. It will give your days structure, purpose and time to socialize with other people. I looked forward to my Paris Cafe Writing workshops with fellow writers, which made my time alone feel special. Choose something specific to the location like cooking, language, surfing, dancing, history or wine tasting. If you don’t want to commit to a weeklong class like I did, put a few half-day experiences in your itinerary. You’ll come home with great memories, new skills and a deeper appreciation of the place you visited.
Here’s our Paris Cafe Writing crew (every woman traveled alone!) along with our wonderful leader, Patricia Tennison, second from right.
Don’t over schedule. My adventurous friend Rick and other experienced solo travelers made this point and I’m glad I followed it. One of my goals for my trip was to feel rested and energized the whole time. If you’re running from monument to museum, trying to get everything in, you’re likely to deplete your energy and not really appreciate the things you’re seeing. Relax. You can’t possibly see everything in Paris, or any major city, in a week. I considered it like dining at a 5-star restaurant. You can’t order the whole menu, but what ever you choose will be sublime.
After mornings of writing class, I didn’t have all day to sight see and the beautiful weather made me want to stay outside. So I skipped the Louvre in favor of a couple smaller museums/exhibits like the fabulous Elsa Schiaparelli exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. I made gardens and long meandering walks through charming neighborhoods my priority instead of tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower. And of course I shopped. The best thing about traveling alone is you can do exactly what you choose—it’s so liberating!
Photos from the Elsa Schiaparelli exhibit, a must see.
Do dine out. I have no problem going to a restaurant by myself for lunch, but dining out at night, especially with my poor French, felt awkward. Still, I pushed myself to do it. Many of my friends recommended Les Philosophes, a charming bistro within walking distance of my hotel, so that’s where I went. I sat at a tiny table on the sidewalk and entertained myself with a glass of wine and people watching while waiting for my entree to arrive. Then the waiter seated a very chic woman next to me who turned out to be an absolute delight. I thought she was a local because of how comfortably she talked with the waiter, but it turned out she was Anne from Omaha, exactly my age and full of savvy tips about Paris. I had the best time getting to know her and following up on her advice throughout the week. I would never have met her if we both hadn’t been solo.
(Here’s another important dining tip: order all the cheese!)
Take charge and change it up. Things don’t always work out as you hope when you’re traveling, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Be proactive and create the experience you want. My hotel in the Marais was okay, but barely. The location was perfect for my writing program, but the place had a run down feel that was harder to overlook the longer I stayed. There wasn’t much light in my little room and after a couple days I began to feel claustrophobic and sad about it. This was my one week in Paris! A new occupant in the room next door pushed me over the edge. His smoke filled my room, I heard every conversation clear as a bell, and when I woke to the sound of vomiting…. well, I was out of there. I spent my last two nights in a modern, bright room in a lovely hotel a few blocks away (photo at right) and was very glad I made the move.
Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. As soon as I committed to this Paris trip I began to worry about it. Could I negotiate the airport, my luggage, the taxi to my hotel? Did I pack the right things? Would I get lost on the Metro? Look stupid being alone? How would I handle the jet lag? What about pick-pocketers? What if I got sick? What if I couldn’t communicate? Would I have to pee in a hole in the ground? Why didn’t I get a prescription for Ambien? I found so many things to fret over! Then I realized that my worrying was sabotaging my trip before I even left my condo, which was silly. I vowed to do something radical—trust that my trip would go perfectly well and if any glitch came up I could handle it. Once I stopped the anxious thinking, everything became so easy and enjoyable! If I didn’t know how to do something, I asked for help. And if something went wrong, like my hotel, I dealt with it. This trip really built my confidence. I’d go back to Paris by myself in a heartbeat, but I’m also thinking about Rome and Madrid.
I leave you with a few more pics from my walks around Paris, including one of my writing pal Susie who is perfectly color coordinated with Monet’s amazing murals at l’Orangerie.
I still have so much to say about this city. My next post will be about what I packed, what women are wearing in Paris, and where I shopped. So please check back soon! Salut!