I spent four fabulous weeks in Europe this past summer, and my trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. While I treasure so many wonderful moments from each country and city, spending two days alone in Paris stands out as teaching me the most. Here’s what I learned from my alone time in the City of Light.
Traveling solo can be liberating.
I’ve flown alone enough times in the US, and I’ve driven up and down the East Coast by myself. While I’ve ventured across the pond without a travel companion too, I had someone waiting for me on the other end. These two days in Paris were the first time that I was alone in a foreign country.
There’s something liberating about discovering a foreign place on my terms. Don’t mistake me –– I loved traveling with good friend and fellow blogger, Danielle Gray. We were inseparable for over two weeks. (And we’re still friends!) And Mike and I had six nights of fabulous food and wine in Northern Italy –– a very special country for us because we chose it for our honeymoon, and we finally were able to return. But wandering the Paris streets, sipping wine, eating delicious food, strolling through Place Vendome, the Tuileries Garden, and not having any agenda, but just taking in the people and culture of Paris –– those experiences will remain unmatched because I did them all on my own.
No matter how lost I get, I can figure it out.
I don’t have the greatest sense of direction, especially when meandering through a foreign country. Once I was desperately lost for several hours in Florence, and that was before everyone traveled with a cell phone!) Did I get lost in Paris? Of course. And, I didn’t have anyone to navigate and tell me which way to turn to get back to my hotel, or which direction the Paris Opera House was, or how long it would take me to walk to Le Marais. And so, I relied on Google Maps and my own intuition, and somehow, I managed to do just fine. I now have more confidence because I spent that alone time in Paris.
I can communicate even if I don’t speak the language.
Many people in Paris speak English, but not all. I encountered a few Parisians who didn’t speak any (and they weren’t being stubborn –– they really didn’t speak English). Between Google Translate, my few words of French, and their few words of English, we managed to understand each other.
My biggest challenge was a cab driver on my last night. He didn’t speak a lick of English and I was trying to communicate where my hotel was (not easy for someone who does not know Paris very well)! I knew that the hotel was close to Église Saint-Augustin de Paris (Church of Saint Augustine), so realizing that landmark helped him figure out where I was staying (giving him a street address wasn’t enough). He and I had to giggle when we finally arrived, because we knew that somehow between the two of us, we had found Hotel Augustin. And then.. two big sighs of relief.
French people are lovely.
From that taxi driver who didn’t speak English to the hotel staff, to various locals I encountered along my travels, Parisians were perfectly polite. I did greet everyone in French, though, which I found out makes a huge difference in the way the French will treat tourists. And that right there brings me to my next point.
A little French goes a long way.
Speaking the native language of a foreign country isn’t easy for any tourist, but making an effort is much appreciated by locals. I started each encounter with “Bonjour!” or “Bonsoir!” Speaking a few words or phrases in French made all the difference in my Parisian experience.
I need Paris part two.
Since I had just two days alone in Paris, I’d love to spend more solo time there, or I’d love to spend any time there. I’ve said that the other city I’d love to live in besides New York is Paris (London trails closely in third place), and after this trip, I still feel the same. À La Prochaine, Paris!
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I went to Berlin too, and I fell in love with Old Town, Stockholm. And Hamburg is such a livable city with with an amazing waterside park.