I took a spontaneous trip to Paris. It was everything you think a spontaneous trip to Paris would be like … minus the beret, café de flore and cigarettes. Okay, so maybe I didn’t cross off all the French stereotypes, but it was my dream spontaneous trip to Paris that checked off all the monuments that I have collected in the city. I did, however, wear a striped shirt.
Where do I begin? It feels important that my last full weekend as a twenty year old was in Paris. I don’t speak the language, the romanticized images of the city that plague America makes me sick and I don’t like the majority of French food.
Why did I go? Because the city has pastries, third-wave coffee, brilliant bread and chocolate. That, to me, is reason enough to take a trip. And that’s how I spent my three days, one evening and slip of a morning in Paris.
I stayed at an apartment in Montmartre, which turned out to be the perfect choice. It was far enough away from the mounds of tourists that swarm the area around Sacre Coeur and rue des Abbesses to feel like a neighborhood. The street I was on was twisty and there were plenty of top-notch boulangeries nearby. If I opened to window and craned my head to a 43 degree angle, I had a brilliant panorama of the city. Most importantly, for me, there was a mini-kitchen and a fridge in which I could put my bounty of cheese, carottes râpées, yogurt and pastry. I was more than happy sleeping on a sofa-bed and washing my own dishes if it meant that I got to experience Paris through my near-daily monoprix pilgrammage.
My time in Paris, appropriately, started running for a baguette. I was on my way to my apartment, monoprix soup in bag waiting to be heated up for dinner, and I wanted a crusty French loaf more than you could imagine. Astonishingly, I managed to find one of the few boulangeries still open. Even more astonishingly, the Boulanger was a MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France). The baguette was good and tasted even better because it was my first interaction with the city.
The best thing about being a foodie eager to try everything is that it takes you to some interesting neighborhoods. Saturday morning, on my trip to Veronique Mauclerc, I ended up walking through the area around Parc Buttes Chaumont and watching the health-conscious Parisiennes jog with fervor. Sunday morning I walked from the Musee d’Orsay to a Pierre Herme shop all the way down in Montparnasse. I got to know the area around Canal Saint Martin quite well as the third-wave coffee shops seem to congregate there as they do in Williamsburg.
Although traveling alone, especially in a country in which you barely speak the language can be daunting, there’s also something exhilirating about it. The streets sparkle a little bit more as you walk around, the buildings look a bit more exotic and the food tastes a little better. While this was hardly my first trip to Paris, I was thrilled to be able to see this city on my own. I think I might like it better that way.
Paris isn’t a magical city to me. The streets don’t glitter, I don’t gape in store windows and I don’t really understand the appeal of the eiffel tower. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t appreciate it. Unlike Milan and Rome, Paris feels like a bustling city, filled with different types of people, unique stories and important to-do lists. Yet, there is still a slower, more European environment than you find in London. Paris is accessible to the American go-getter, while still being a world apart.
So, what did I do on my random, sponatenous trip to Paris? I walked around, ate pastry, saw some art and drank coffee. Simply put, a dream come true.
Do you like to travel on your own? What’s your dream solo trip?