Though it wasn’t my original intention, the trip I took to Paris a few weeks ago became the only place in Europe that I’ve had the chance to visit twice. My first trip was in November 2011, and it was a week I spent with two friends exploring the City of Light. If you remember, I actually hated Paris, and swore never to go back if I couldn’t speak French. After too many unpleasant interactions and a genuine dislike of all people in the city, I just didn’t see the point. It was dirty, smelly, cold, and while admittedly beautiful, cured me of my wanderlust for a while. Mind you, this is still the First World, and one of the nicest cities on the entire planet. After visiting Asia, I was opened up to the fact that there are all kinds of smelly, dirty, cold, and even ugly. Paris has more than I first gave it credit for, and the random solo weekend trip I took was exactly what I needed to open myself back up to it.
It sometimes makes people nervous, and I’m sure it disturbs my parents’ sleep at night, but I have no problem traveling alone anymore. I wouldn’t go to some places, but in this part of the world, where nearly everyone speaks English, and certainly in the bigger cities, there’s a liberation in traveling alone that I just can’t have any other way. Sitting in my room in Paris, after taking the Eurostar and getting reoriented to the Metro, I couldn’t be upset about what I was missing in London. I was in Paris, with no restrictions and no demands other than what I gave myself. There’s not much in the world that makes me feel as competent as doing things simply because I want to, and because I can. Paris therefore, was a weekend of having that time to explore on my own, annoy myself, laugh at myself, and just think sometimes.
I ate out some, though not as much as I would like. French service is too intimidating, so I often grabbed street food… not that fresh crepes are in any way something to complain about. I ran some too, in the mornings, to Montmartre and the Champ de Mars. I celebrated Bastille Day with fireworks over the Eiffel Tower, and wandered the streets from the Ile de Cite to the Rue Rivoli and National Opera. I took myself to Versailles and spent hours wandering the gardens, overwhelmed by the sense of how big and opulent everything is. I vehemently avoided museums, since the weather was gorgeous, though I did walk through the courtyards of the Louvre to see the Pyramid and be slightly jealous of everyone with their feet tucked into the pools to cool off.
The nicest part was just being out of London. Given that I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress, not limited to workload, internships, job-hunting, and friendships, running away from it all is so typically me, and so healthy for me, that I relished the idea of it. Unlike Copenhagen where I didn’t want to come back, I did find myself ready for London after three days. After all, the smell of Paris in the morning can only be tolerated so long.
For a full list of my travels, click here.