It’s Valentine’s Day! So in honor of that, I’m sharing a love story with you (I will be watching Pride and Prejudice later…)
My first trip to Paris was 2011. I remember it vividly because the trip was a surprise and I had all of about two weeks to get used to the idea that not only was I finally going to PARIS (bucket list destination number one!) but that also I would be going to a foreign country by myself. Completely solo. Not that I hadn’t done solo traveling, I had previously done a trip to South America with other women I didn’t know, moved from FL to CA without knowing a soul, and other independent adventures, but this was different. I worried about big things like safety and trivial things like would I be able to get to the Eiffel tower by myself (and looking back, well, duh, just look up and start walking towards it, right?)
I did a lot of research online before I left so I would know some do’s and don’ts for traveling to Paris alone and my husband booked my hotel in what he had read was the safest arrondissement. I researched what to pack and how French women dressed so I wouldn’t look like a tourist.
I made my connection in Heathrow like a champ. (Good!)
The shuttle that was supposed to pick me up at the airport and take me to my hotel never showed. (Bad!)
I made it to my hotel anyway. (Good!)
It cost a king’s ransom via taxi to get me there. (Bad!)
And then it was suddenly my first day in Paris. Excitement! Nerves! Like a first date, and it kind of was…)
I should have had no concerns about finding the Eiffel tower and I realized immediately my hotel clerk’s amusement at my asking very specific directions on how to get there when I took literally three steps out my hotel door, turned left, and saw her in the distance.
So I walked that crisp November morning to the Iron Lady and upon arriving there asked a few strangers to take my photo. It was awkward. The whole morning was like a first date…my trying to do the right things and hoping it gets better…I needed to take charge of my holiday. I was only going to be there three days.
Then it happened. It pulled up, that big red bus, and a nice man asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket. “How does it work?” I asked. He told me, explaining in perfect English, and as I had no other plans (I had read tons of travel books on Paris, you would have thought I would have had some kind of plan), boarded one of the Les Cars Rouge tour buses.
And that was the moment.
That was MY moment.
And I will remember it the rest of my life. That was the moment I met Paris.
On a sunny day, on a rooftop bus, I saw the city. Bits and pieces. The Latin Quarter here, the Invalides there. What started as a bad first date, turned very quickly into the most passionate affair. That first day, besides taking the full Les Cars Rouge tour, (which being a visual person, allowed me to get my bearings of the city and attraction locations in relation to each other better and quicker than anything could have) I visited the Latin Quarter, experienced the history and perseverance of Notre Dame for the first time, spent a few hours in the Louvre (being an art lover, I practically wept at the treasures I found therein) , went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, walked leisurely down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and saw the Eiffel Tower. I made it back to my hotel, freshened up, walked to a nearby restaurant I had on good authority offered fabulous food (it did!) and as I sat in that restaurant, wine glass in hand, I had that look.
The look of a woman in love.
I had fallen in love with a city.
Day two found me more giddy than nervous, and I easily avoided the awkward pitfalls of the previous morning. I took in the Musee’ de Orsay, St. Chappelle, the Holocaust Remembrance Memorial, Trocadero, and the Museum of Modern Architecture. Being that my les cars rouges ticket I had purchased the day before was good for two days, I got around easily and this time I stayed out later as to take the full tour again in the evening. It was cold, but worth it. Every monument lit up. The city was, how can I put it, dressed in sparkle. I went to bed that night and dreamed of one more day to come…my love for this city covered me like a warm blanket. For a girl who had grown up in a town that had 300 people…I felt amazingly at home.
Day three. I was up early. I had had the forethought the morning before to arrange a half day trip to the Palace of Versailles. I was picked up at my hotel and enjoyed the morning at the former home of Louis the XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette. When I arrived back to my hotel that afternoon, with the heavy weight of knowing I had just one last afternoon and evening in this amazing city, I knew what I wanted to do. What and where I wanted to be. I wanted to be lost in Paris. To walk the city and drink her in. Words do not do justice to how life changing it was for me to have complete anonymity as I strolled past sidewalk cafes, taking in the smell of fresh baguettes, and knowing I was happily “lost in Paris”…on purpose. It was the time of my life and since then, I’ve been back every year.
I’m still in love with her. (But don’t tell London; she would be jealous).
Now you know my Paris story. Do you have a city story? I would love to read it.