I’ve never travelled on my own before. I once got a flight alone from Newcastle to The Seychelles but I was then met at the airport by my parents..
Even school trips, more often than not, were family affairs as my Mum and Dad were teachers in my Middle and High Schools respectively, and often the trip-organisers.
Of course, since my school days, I have been away without parental supervision.. I went to Prague with my friend Chloe, I did Fethiye in Turkey with a group of Uni friends, Dublin with Emma, and Belgium with Barwood..
But I’ve always had someone’s hand to hold. And subsequently always a reason to stay home if no one was available to go somewhere with me. This has led me to be a frustrated (and cowardly) traveller for some time now.
A few weeks ago, I made a choice; I was going to brave a trip completely solo.
I’d been thinking about it, and convincing myself I could. Then a conversation with my friend Gary saw me making a decision. “Why don’t you go to a UK city?” he said. “Because I’ve done that before,” I replied, “and I know I can – there’s no challenge.”
We searched flights to Paris and found return tickets, all in, for £40 from Manchester. “Think about it tonight, and we can book them for you tomorrow” said Gary. “No, let’s book it NOW” said the white wine which had somewhat taken over my person.
So here I am. In Paris, asserting my independence.
My day (Friday) started at 4am, when the lovely Jon Lilley picked me up and drove me to Manchester airport. Slightly apprehensively, I boarded the plane and an hour later, I was en France.
I then navigated the shuttle bus and arrived in Paris an hour or so after that.
Then followed a bit of confusion, a lot of map checking, and quite a bit of queuing for Metro tickets, but eventually I worked out where I was, where I was going, and how to get there!
Once booked into my hotel, I had a quick nap, changed into ‘Paris Outfit 2’ and decided on a plan of action: Montmartre, and a veggie place – Au Grain des Folies – for lunch. (In fact, I only intend to eat in Veggie-specific cafes/restaurants because I’m on my own and I can).
No matter – I had nowhere else to be, so I ambled the streets, drank thé in the cafe Amelie worked in, walked some more, ate a croissant, did a bit more walking and wrote a postcard.
So, up to this point at least, my decision is not a regrettable one..
Oh, and one of my favourite songs has just come on. Boom.
So, after a chocolate cake dessert, a quick chat with some Canadians and a rather long journey on the metro, I made it back to the hotel last night, had a shower, pinned curled my hair up and slept for a loooong time!
Today’s plan (though I guess I should have learned from yesterday’s planning attempt): take the Metro to tour l’effiel, walk to l’arc du triumph, carry on walking to the Louvre, keep on walking to a veggie restaurant the Internet told me about. Then head for Notre-Dame after that. Then dance (if my feet are up to it!)
Well, I am currently sat in ‘Potager du Marais’ awaiting my main course. I’ve gone for a 3-course lunch which is, yes, decadent, but also very much needed.
Having left the hotel around 10:30, and being very good and not looking too closely at the antique market just outside – which was a lovely surprise to see! – I hopped on the metro to the stop just after the stop nearest to the Eiffel Tour. Not planned, I might add – I was wrapped up in deciding which restaurant to eat in and missed the stop. I was glad actually, as I then got to witness an on-train busking violinist who got on where i had intended to alight, which I quite enjoyed, even though ‘Yesterday’ has been in my head all day since.
So I crossed back over the Seine and went to be a tourist. It’s a beautiful day today, so I knew it would be busy. But when I saw the queue to climb the tour I was genuinely shocked! Can’t believe people will stand in a line that long! I did love noticing an empty Champagne bottle in one of the clear bin bags though – when in France!
I then wandered up to the Arc de Triomphe, via the Four Seasons where the lingering of Paparazzi indicated someone more important that I was nearby..
After a couple of photos at the top, I walked down the champs-élysées through the gardens and to the Louvre. I was very hungry by this point, and so didn’t stop, but carried on along the river to find the veggie restaurant if decided upon.
The veggie restaurant that didn’t exist..! I found where it was supposed to be, but alors! It was missing. I had a couple more options around the same area, so I went to the next, only to find no signage and a boarded up door! The area was rather quaint and full of little shops and busy falafel places, but I had a mission and, possibly delirious from hunger, I decided for the 3rd option on my list.
I was seriously doubting my Internet resource as I walked up the road towards a restaurant with bulls on the front.. But hidden behind it, thank goodness, was a little organic veggie/vegan place. Huzzah!
So, 3 courses well deserved. The final being creme du chocolat – a very rich, very tasty end to my meal.
The walking resumed after lunch and my weary feet took me to Notre Dame where again I was shocked by the length of the queue. Naively so, I guess..
All along the sides of the Seine are little book stalls and souvenir sellers, so I bought some postcards and carried on walking towards Place d’Italie stopping by the side of the river to write a post card, and going via a supermarche, and a pharmacie (for my feet!)
Once back to the hotel, I had a choice: beginners lindy class and a dance starting at 7:30 near ‘Republique,’ or a balboa-heavy dance at le BnF starting at 9:30. I don’t know how to dance balboa, but it was people going to that dance that had been in touch and said to come along. So, what did I do?
I went to both, naturallement!
Having decided I would definitely end up at the ‘Spirit of Lindy’ Bal-Swing event, I thought I might as well head to the other rather than hang about for a couple of hours extra. Plus, I figured it might be good to go to a beginners class in France, just incase they do things differently here..!
So I found the address, and followed someone inside. As with UK classes, there were more ladies than men, so I bravely stepped up to be a leader. It was pretty similar to every other beginners class I’ve been to, to be honest. Except that it was all in French of course! The class were very quiet and attentive, the teachers were funny and helpful (despite their lack of English, I got some good tips!) and I perfected my “desoleé, je ne comprends pas – je suis Anglaise” complete with a smile. 🙂
I stayed for a couple of dances after the class finished – one with the instructor and one with a lovely middle-aged man who professed he actually preferred Rock and Roll – and then I went back to the Metro to dance number 2!
The walk from Gare du l’austerlitz to the Dansier was further than I had thought, but it was still light (9:30pm) and so I wasn’t too worried as I tried to find where I was going. I got to see the start of the Parisian sunset too. 🙂
A gentleman called Daniel came over to introduce himself, as he recognised me from my messages on the Lindy Hop Paris Facebook group. As a balboa-only dancer, he showed me the 2 basic steps and I watched the dancers as slowly more Lindy emerged on the floor – phew!
David, another person I had been in contact with on Facebook, arrived shortly afterwards and introduced me to a few other people. Including some Americans and very good English-Speakers, which was great as I realised I didn’t know how to ask someone to dance in French..!
Luckily, monsieur Jerome was on hand to teach me, and I had a great evening lindying and chatting to Sheila, Austin, Jerome, Arnold and some other Paris-based dancers.
They even gave me a lift home, as it was past 1am and I wasn’t sure about the buses. 🙂
The only time I felt vaguely unsafe was as I was walking the 100m from where Jerome dropped me off to my hotel. I passed a man on the street who subsequently stopped, turned and followed me. Thankfully, I was less than 5m from my hotel, so all was fine!
It’s true what they say – the Lindy community is world-wide and mega welcoming. I hope those people I met come to Yorkshire sometime.. It’ll be a hardship, but I’m sure I can managed to come back to Paris too..!
After a post-midnight snack, I slept well last night and was up this morning to pack (badly), shower, and check out of the Hotel.
There were some more buskers on the metro this morning – a little jazz ensemble who made me smile with their rendition of ‘Hello Dolly’, followed by a salsa number and then ‘Hava Nagila’ – brilliant!
In a rare-show of organisation, I arrived at the shuttlebus far earlier than I needed to, so took a quick wander to a Boulangerie for un pain au chocolat and found a post box for my final postcard from Paris.
After that, I decided it was probably for the best to head to the airport. Although the weather is glorious today, I am a tad red from yesterday’s excursions and didn’t want to get so distracted as to be late, so I hopped on the bus.
I’m now waiting patiently at the airport for the plane to board. It’s a shame I can’t stay longer really – there’s a gig that the dancers are heading to tonight that I’ve been invited to.
Still, it’s been a wonderful weekend and I’m very glad tipsy Tessa pushed me to do it. 🙂