Last week my friend Lindsey was in Paris. She’s a French teacher back in Ohio and was leading a group trip to France – a ten day shindig that began in Paris then took them through the beautiful chateaux of the Loire Valley, then back to Paris before flying home. I try to pop across the Channel and see her when she does this every other year (although the last time I couldn’t go because the Home Office had my passport, so the last rendezvous was in 2012). And that is how I found myself on a fancy new Eurostar last Tuesday afternoon, with just my travel bag and a good book to keep me company.
Getting in on Tuesday and leaving on Thursday was a perfectly okay amount of time. Paris is always wonderful! I spent my time alone, wandering around the city in the sweltering heatwave, and met up with Lindsey and her two friends who were acting as chaperones for the trip in the evenings for wine and catching up.
One of the best parts of traveling alone is the opportunity to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I had no itinerary, only the vaguest of ideas, and days to fill with whatever I felt like doing. (There was a lot of walking. And also some Pokemon catching, I couldn’t help it!)
As a huge museum and historic home buff (that exists, right?), I wanted to tick some smaller Parisian museums that I’d never visited off of my list. In this case it meant that I spent my last afternoon at the Musée de Montmartre, a charming little home-turned-museum with beautiful gardens and a small vineyard, just a few quiet blocks behind the Sacre Coeur, where Renoir and many other artists used to live in the heyday of the Moulin Rouge and impressionist movement. While I was sitting in the garden a girl came up and began playing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from Les Miserables on the piano, which got me all verklempt and was also the Frenchiest thing to happen that day, probably.
The other new-to-me museum was the Musée de l’Orangerie, which is right on the corner of the Jardin des Tuileries and is such an interesting shape! The main rooms are two giant eggs with four walls, each wall containing a huge Monet mural – one room has the waterlilies, the other, willows. The four walls and the paintings represent how the light changes throughout the day. And then there’s essentially another separate museum as well with smaller pieces from the impressionist and post-impressionist movements.
Besides those two museums, my short stay found me doing my version of the classics – wandering through the Tuileries in search of a cheap baguette sandwich, visiting my favorite museum, the Musée d’Orsay, traipsing through the cobbled streets of Montmartre, and heading with Lindsey & co to the Eiffel Tower after dark to watch it twinkle on the hour (this trek to the Tower is always a pain in the ass and the crowds are horrible, but when it first lights up and the whole crowd just …exhales and giggles with unconcealed pleasure, it really really makes up for any discomfort). She’s a beaut.
There was also a fair amount of sitting around in front of Notre Dame, one of my favorite things to do, but it was ruined by a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone. No bother. Next time, fair lady!
I also had the best avocado toast of my life, sat in the coziest little bistro right across from one of the smaller La Durée locations, enjoyed with a glass of rosé. If anyone says travelling alone as a woman is no fun, or dangerous, please point them right….here. To this moment.
I mean, look at that chevre. Look at it!
Paris, experienced mostly alone, is a dream. It’s not perfect – I ran into a few tough spots which I don’t think would have happened had I not been a blonde female on my own in the city – but it’s still a wonderful place to be if you are by yourself, male or female. It is a city for wandering and quiet introspection, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.
And there’s no shortage of things to do in Paris that don’t need any camaraderie – museums, cafes, gardens galore. On Thursday I was completely alone, with my Eurostar back to London not booked until nearly 7pm and Lindsey’s group leaving first thing to head to the Loire Valley. The day felt long and aimless in the best kind of way. It’s surprising how such a short trip could seem so long. I think it’s a consequence of spending so much time alone, too – time passes more slowly.
It feels so strange that I can honestly use the phrase “pop over to Paris”. What a crazy life that has brought me from middle America Ohio cornfields to this. My childhood self would be thrilled, believe me. My adult self is also thrilled, actually. (Although I miss Ohio, always).
Before catching my train, I hit up the closest Monoprix to stock up on cheap, delicious French wines and cheeses to take home for Jon and I to share. That’s my pro tip : don’t go to a wine shop or even a fromagerie in France, the shops have a wonderful selection and they are much, much cheaper. My other pro tip- go to Paris whenever you can. Paris, after all, is always a good idea!