Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris, Part 1

So many friends have seemed surprised and impressed that I chose to travel to Paris, France on my own this past February. There are two background stories that influenced my decision to do so. 

Three years ago, my husband and I traveled to Egypt and France with our thirteen-year-old granddaughter. By the time we landed in Paris, we had traveled the Nile, roasted in the desert, ridden camels, camped in the Egyptian desert, ridden horses in the desert, visited the pyramids and much more. On arriving in Paris, my two companions were pretty pooped out. But I was in the city of museums, and I so wanted to spend time in The Louvre. Our visit at The Louvre was quite disappointing. Neither Mike nor Angelica wanted to fight the crowds, nor did they show any patience for finding our way through the miles of hallways to see much of anything. Of course I was disappointed and pretty much brought it up to my husband many times (sorry, Mike) over the last three years. "Some day I'm going to Paris and I will spend as much time as I want in The Louvre!"

Under the Christmas tree this year I found a large envelope. In the envelope was a cashiers check, a proposed budget for an eight day stay in Paris, some travel information, and a gift card reading, " To Margaret Sue, From Her Love."  Needless to say I was speechless and emotional. It was the most surprising gift I have ever received. Mike told me that it was my choice to go on this trip alone or to ask a friend or relative to accompany me.

I mulled over various scenarios for the next few days while searching the internet excitedly for hotels, mapping out the area of Paris I wanted to stay, and looking at the museums and monuments that called to me. All the while, the second backstory that helped me decide to go alone, kept popping in and out of my brain.

When I graduated from high school, I followed a dream to go to New York City. (I had lived my first 18 years in a small town in Oregon with very few adventures.) I applied to several colleges in New York and accepted a large scholarship to attend Mills College of Education in Manhattan. I knew no one there and had no experience getting around in a large city, yet I "cowgirled up,"  got on a plane, and arrived at JFK, on my own for the first time.

So as I quandered the decision to go alone or invite someone, I kept thinking about the courage I had at 18 years old. Could I muster up the same adventurousness I had back then? The personal challenge was one I couldn't say no to, so on February 11, 2018, I got on a plane by myself for an experiential journey.
I found my hotel.

Once landing in Paris I had a decision to make. My hotel, Hotel Dauphin Saint Germain, had sent me an email prior to arrival giving me options for traveling from the airport to the city. The easy ones were cab, shuttle, or Uber. The more challenging was to take public transportation--a 30 minute trip, dragging my luggage through the terminal, through the unknown streets of Paris, not speaking or reading French, to find my new residence for 8 days. I thought about my 18-year-old self charging through the streets of Manhattan, and accepted the challenge. After all, this was in a way testing myself. After a good cup of coffee at Charles de Gaulle Airport I began asking for directions. I was told to walk 15 minutes in a certain direction and I would see a train sign. So for 15 minutes I walked and  kept hoping I was headed in the right direction. The CDG is a huge airport with several terminals and so many ways I could go wrong. But I made it. I figured out how to get a train ticket and boarded the train to central Paris. I carefully watched the stops. I knew where I needed to get off the train. I was able to have a bit of a conversation with 2 men and began to see that all Paris was possible. I eventually saw the evidence of a city, and got off the train at the appropriate stop. But then another challenge--there are many exits from the underground station to the streets, and I did not see the exact street exit the hotel had mentioned.
My 5th floor street view.

I picked an exit sounding close and headed to daylight from the underground. Ah Paris! But where was my hotel? It turns out Rue Dauphine, the street where my hotel was, is only 2 blocks long, so no one I asked knew where it was. I had just an inkling of what direction to walk and eventually found a very small hotel on a very small street. I was home! (At least for awhile.)
Where I had my first meal in Paris.
My French bed--so quaint. 

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I always knew you’d love doing this trip solo! You’re smart and collected, and independent. All traits that I admire :) Can’t wait to see your next post.