Where to begin?
We’ll start with Life Lesson #1: ALWAYS check if a restaurant is open before biking across Paris to eat there.
Today started with the same intention as many other days: go explore the Latin Quarter. I finally did it, but it took a bit of doing. I worked a bit in the morning, then took the train down to Saint-Michel with the expectation of eating at the first place that looked good. The problem? It was really touristy right by the train station, and I didn’t know which way to walk.
BTW, here’s the fountain (not my finest photo, but it gives you an idea):
That’s when I remembered the list. You know the one… the magical list you get from someone who knows what they’re talking about. In my case, it came from Alexandre, a Parisian I know from my time in Spain (where he lives now). I put a couple addresses into google maps until I found one that was about a 15 minute bike ride away. Of course, with me and these twisting Parisian streets, it was more like a 25 minute ride. I rode over, excited for something delicious, found the place, and it was closed. CLOSED!!! I should have known, August is the month of holidays, and lots of places shut down for some or all of the month. The takeaway? Double check on the restaurant’s website before heading over.
I was hungry and indecisive, so I wandered around, failing to find anything that tickled my fancy. I was getting hungry, tired, and frustrated. Ultimately, I biked back to the Latin Quarter. Right before I got too hangry to think straight, I found a restaurant on this lovely little plaza by Luxembourg Gardens and the university:
I ate a satisfying Boeuf Bourguignon and sipped a glass of red wine while people strolled by and the breeze danced through the trees. It all worked out, but it was a mighty close call.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s a good thing I was traveling alone today. I was probably more hangry than I realized. In fact, the only reason I didn’t bite someone’s head off was because there was nobody there. #perksofsolotravel
Life Lesson #2: Don’t let FOMO stop you from eating. Eat before you get hangry.
Life Lesson #3: HAVE A PLAN. Even if you don’t follow it, at least you won’t be wandering through the streets as your stomach starts to turn you into an evil monster. Other times to have a plan? Always. It prevents many things other than evil monsters, including, but not limited to: redundant travel, long lines, lack of direction, ill-preparedness, and missing out on opportunities. I need more plans in my life… I tried to give it up, but I’m kind of regretting it.
Fed and satisfied, several hours later than intended, I finally began my exploration of the Latin Quarter. Can I just say, not all of it is tourist shops, and even the parts of it that are can be pretty cool.
I went to Shakespeare and Company, which was packed with books. They were everywhere! In the arches over doorways, the nooks under the stairs… no matter where you turned, there was a book. It was charming, and I wish I could have stayed forever.
Unfortunately (though not surprisingly), it was swarming with tourists, so I didn’t stay long… I had places to go and people to see. Well, no people to see, but that’s another story entirely.
Next, I wandered into The Church of Saint-Séverin:
A few blocks away was a hidden gem I didn’t know about, a (Canadian) bookstore called The Abbey Bookshop. If I thought Shakespeare & Company was packed with books, there were no words to describe how packed this English-language bookshop was. I loved it. My only regret is that there’s not space in my luggage for more books right now. *le sigh*
I wandered around some more, stumbled upon some charming side streets and little shops, the slowly found my way home. I’ve got a tickle in my throat and a bit of a cough, so I don’t think I’ll be going out too much for the next couple days. Hopefully it will pass quickly, and not get worse. Also, it’s supposed to rain for the next few days, and I have work to do. I guess that’s what you call good timing?
Regarding the “people to see” comment:
When I’ve traveled solo in the past, I’ve stayed at youth hostels in shared rooms and taken advantage of the events hostels organize (free walking tours, pub crawls, cultural exposure events). They’re all great ways to meet people. This time, I’m having a little more trouble. I’ve rented an airbnb because I need some solitude… spending 3 months sharing a room with bunk beds with 8-20 other people sounds like hell. Also, an airbnb (theoretically) gives me a place to work. The disadvantage of airbnb is that I’m not meeting all the people I would if I were at a hostel, and don’t have access to the same events. It’s not bad, it just means that if I want to go to events and meet other solo travelers, I need to be more intentional. I need to plan ahead, look for opportunities, and actually walk up to strangers on the street or in cafes and talk to them. That’s kinda out of my comfort zone. A lot.
I guess it’s time to conquer another fear.
And if anyone knows a good place for me to go get started with this… I’m taking suggestions!