Monday, January 7, 2013


Eleven Days Alone In: Paris

Edith Zimmerman: Frequent traveler and Wikipedia enthusiast Chiara Atik just took a trip to Paris for Christmas and New Year's, which she chronicled on Tumblr and Instagram, inspiring both jealousy and vicarious delight. Chiara! Did you stay in one place or did you move around, hotel/apartment-wise?

Chiara Atik: One place! AirBnB. I think I'd be too lazy to move around, but that seems like a cool way to see different parts of a city. It was so nice to have an apartment there, though, to grocery shop, hang out on the couch, and just feel like a local for a week. 

What French phrase proved the single most useful? I also loved the part you described on Tumblr about the steak — how would you say "rare"? Bleu?? (Haa.)

Everyone greets you constantly, constantly — walking into a store, walking into a restaurant, passing on the street, everywhere, people say "Bonjour!" And when you leave a restaurant or store or boulangerie or whatever, they say, "Merci, au revoir!" So even if you don't speak a lick of French, greeting people upon entering somewhere and thanking them when you leave will go a long way in terms of politeness, I think. Also "Nurofen" is ibuprofen in French. That was useful. And "rare" in french is "saignant," which means bloody. Unnecessarily descriptive!

I don't even know if I should leave this question in, because it seems sad/pathetic, but whatever — in the past I've been intimidated by the idea of traveling solo, not because I'm afraid or lonely, but because the general "look" of people, or their attitude, or whatever it is, makes them seem cooler/better/prettier/more together than I am, which makes me feel like an outsider, or that I'm otherwise unworthy of the city or having fun in it. I guess I haven't felt like that in a while, and maybe part of getting over that was just getting older and realizing that everyone is great and together, including me, or everyone sucks and is a mess, including me, and everything will be fine. Do you know at all what I'm talking about?

Yessssssss. I mean, anywhere, but especially in a city like Paris, especially when it seems like every other week there's another book or essay or movie mythologizing contemporary French culture and especially French women. You're intimidated before you even get off the plane, and then you're in a restaurant and it's hard to tell if everyone is ACTUALLY insanely glamorous, or if you're just looking for it, focused on it, because in New York you're too busy living your life to sit in a restaurant by yourself analyzing the clothing choices and comportment of everyone else in it.

When I was there I definitely did have a few moments of — wanting to slink into my chair or wishing I could stop being so fucking dowdy, how did I never notice how dowdy all my clothes are? Etc. etc.

And I think the answer, or an answer, is to just get over yourself. Fucking get over yourself! You're the only person who is wrapped up in whether or not you deserve to be there, whether you fit in, whether you're cool enough. You're the only person taking yourself that seriously. There's a point when being preoccupied like that just becomes vanity.

And it's The Other that's fascinating and alluring! It's not like French girls are sitting around luxuriating in their own chicness, or even aware of it, just like New York girls aren't. We sometimes romanticize foreign cities and put their inhabitants on a pedestal, but really, most quotidien lives are full of the same preoccupations, whether you're in Paris or LA, Yves Saint Laurent or Mossimo for Target.

Also how are people looking in Paris these days? Still beautiful?

Yeah. Yeah.

Tell me about that Sunday Dinner Club thing you said you were going to! How was that?

I didn't go! I chickened out. The day came and I was just like "I don't ... want ... to be at a dinner party with 20 strangers right now."

[I hear that!] Most/least useful items of clothing you brought?

Most useful was black pants, black heeled boots, black-and-white sweater. I basically wore that every day of my trip and left everything else in my suitcase. People love monochrome there! Also useful, now that I think about it, was my puffy, white monstrosity of a winter coat that I didn't wear once, but that came in handy when it was time to transport some dinner glasses back to NYC.

Did you fall in love????????????????????

With every single scarf-wearing French guy I saw. (Those men know how to wrap a scarf!)

Did you travel outside of Paris, or outside of France? 

Not really. I mean, I flew in and out of London, but, I didn't really travel. Maybe if I had been there for longer. Eurohopping, that thing where you cram, like, three or four countries into one 10-day trip, isn't for me. I like feeling languid in a city, really sinking in, having mornings where you don't rush out or feel guilty for not being at a museum. And the thing I like the most, always, is just walking, walking with no particular agenda. Hard to do if you're only in Paris for a few days before moving on to the next place — more pressure to make the most of your time and see the Top Hits. (I do, however, completely understand the appeal of wanting to make the most of a trip to Europe and see as many places as possible! Just not my personal preference.)

Did you ask people over Twitter or Facebook for recommendations, and was it more helpful to ask specific questions — "cool bar in [Parisian neighborhood]" — or to be more general — "I'm going to be in Paris for 10 days what should I doooo"?

I asked for very general recs on Tumblr and Twitter, and got amazing amazing responses, a lot of great email lists from people who had lived or spent time in Paris. I also have to say that the much-maligned maps feature on my iPhone was very helpful for looking up directions, both walking and subway, actually. (I didn't have regular phone service, so I'd look up a route before leaving the apartment and just ... vaguely follow it from memory.)

Most delicious meal?

That steakhouse. Also, because I had an apartment it was fun to go to the market and try various things. I sampled many cheeses. Many. And I loved breakfast every day. On my first morning I ordered the "complete breakfast" at the cafe I mentioned, which included orange juice, a croissant, a tartine which amounted to like, half a baguette, and a cafe creme. On the second morning I ordered it again. By the third morning, I had decided that it was sort of a ridiculous amount of carbohydrates to have in one meal, so I decided not to order it, but when I got to the cafe they just brought it to me when I sat down, and I was so thrilled at the thought of having a "usual" in France that I ended up having it for breakfast every day.

Most disgusting meal?

I had steak frites at a neighborhood brasserie that included a pretty noteworthy piece of gristle that lodged into my teeth so terribly that I had to excuse myself to get rid of it.

What was the deal with that butcher you kept photographing?

THE BUTCHER. Was this guy. Who, every. single. morning. at exactly 8:40 would walk from his shop across the little square to the cafe where I would have breakfast, and he would order a coffee and sit at the exact same little table and talk on his phone for exactly 20 minutes and then walk back. I guess there's nothing so remarkable about that, really, but I was so charmed by the rigidity of his routine. And, I don't know, I watched Beauty and the Beast a lot as a kid, so that song kept going through my head, and at 8:39 every morning I'd be like, "There goes THE BUTCHER with his coffee, Like. Al. Ways!"

[Bonjour, girl!]

And I just started ... taking his picture every morning, sneakily, creepily, as sort of, proof.

... I know. I see how this reads, now.

But I really like those pictures, all of them. They made me laugh. They're all like, crooked and he's always slightly out of frame, just this butcher straight from central casting secretly being photographed by that American girl who has the huge breakfast every morning and eats alone. My favorite is the one I took on January 1st: I'd gone to the cafe, as usual, but it was closed. But I walked by a Starbucks one street over, and there was my butcher. And I was so pleased to have found him, and he looked so funny, so anachronistic, The Butcher in his apron sort in this tiny little Starbucks chair.

Most interesting or otherwise meaningful conversation you had with someone new?

Well, I write about dating for a living, so that inevitably always leads to conversations about love, and finding love, and relationships. One man I met told me about meeting his wife. She was Italian, and had been studying French in Nice, and he was there taking an English class. They met at a party thrown by the language school, he walked her home, and they started dating for the rest of the six-week course. Then he had to go back to Paris, but the day he got back, he bought a plane ticket to go visit her in Milan. So he went to visit her in Milan, and met her family, etc., and this is only after six weeks of knowing each other. And her father was pretty skeptical of the whole thing, and said to him something like, "You know, long distance relationships are very hard, how is this really going to work?" And the man replied, "I guess we'll get married." And three months later, they did, and she moved to Paris, and that was 20 years ago.

"When it's natural, when you don't have a lot of questions, when you're not insecure or analyzing too much, that's when it's good," he told me. "You just meet someone, and when things between you are natural, then you choose that person. And get married."

I told him that his story was very nice, but that I wish things were that easy in New York.

"What do you mean? It's the most natural thing in the world. You see someone at the boulangerie, you smile at each other, the next day you see each other again, you meet, if things are easy between you, it goes from there ..." (I realize I'm making him sound like Maurice Chevalier here, but that's really what he said.)

I told him that it was just different in New York. I don't really know why, but it is. It's a big city and people have baggage and agendas and exes and oats to sow and quirks and separate social circles and careers and different priorities. No one just meets in boulangeries and falls in love.

"Ah," he said. "Then move to Paris."

Are you ever coming back?

I'm baaaack.


[A day passes]

Wait, people are going to be like "how can she afford to do that/must be nice" etc. Is there a place for me to say that I got a free plane ticket, do you think?

Haha. Chiara, how did you get a free plane ticket???

I was coming home from London one year and the flight was oversold so I gave up my seat! They put me in a hotel for the night, gave me a dinner voucher, and I got on a flight the next morning. In return, Virgin Atlantic gave me a free ticket anywhere they fly — which means I could have gone to Hong Kong, to India, to Cape Town, anywhere! In the end, because the ticket expires this coming February, I just booked a ticket to London and took the train over to Paris. And I sort of regret not getting my act together and going somewhere really far. But the point is, when you check in for a flight you can always ask if it's oversold and just tell them you'd be willing to get bumped. (I tried on my way back, but unfortunately, the plane was practically empty.)

Whoa, that's incredible. It's like the flip side of that travel voucher vortex that Sharon Salt got sucked into that other time!

122 Comments / Post A Comment


Oh that first picture. How I miss the French breakfast.


pfff this is easy @m

sarah girl

Ooh, this is so topical - my bf and I are tentatively planning a trip to London/Paris for this summer and I'm so excited! I've never been to Europe before, I don't even know where to begin with researching.

Quinn A@twitter

@Sarah H. Try the Rick Steves guidebooks. That's what I used, and he did not steer me wrong!


@Quinn A@twitter Rick Steves is just the best.

Judith Slutler

@Quinn A@twitter At least for Italy, Rick Steves' restaurant recommendations were so good that I could hardly believe it! I was resisting using his guides to pick places to eat at first but it only took one meal to realize that Rick Steves is AMAZING.


@Quinn A@twitter Heh, my ex used to do this ridiculous Rick Steves impression; we would mute the TV show and he provided his own X-rated voiceover about Rick Steves' scatological, drug-fueled activities around Europe.


@Emmanuelle Cunt Ooh, the best meal my husband and I had on our honeymoon was in this total hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in Munich that Rick Steves recommended.


@Sarah H. My friend and I became obsessed with our Rough Guide book for Paris, it was so useful! We got the pocket edition and it had really nice walks and maps and pretty damn good food recommendations. By the end of the trip (we were becoming a little unhinged maybe) we started calling it pet names and like, cooing at it...

YFN Dentonista@twitter

@Exene Oh I would pay to see a matinee of that.
I love me some Rick, but he is, literally, unbelieveably straight and narrow.
Your version sounds thrilling!


@Exene Good, it isn't just me who thinks that Rick Steves is constantly high on some primo shit! He just hides it well.

Lush Life

@YFN Dentonista@twitter Fun Fact: Rick Steves was the co-sponsor of Washington State's recent Initiative 502, to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Not as narrow as I had previously assumed!


@hands_down We also went to Munich on our honeymoon and brought along our Rick Steves book. We visited Rothenburg as well and brought our trusty book into one of the recommended souvenir shops. The shop owners started pointing at us saying "Rick Steves!" and then rushed over and gave us a free bag and map (which was part of some Rick Steves book special offer thing where if you mention Steves or bring in a book you get free stuff). They then doted on us the entire time and when we went to buy our items showed us a picture behind the counter. It was a picture of them with what must a been a 20 year old Rick Steves wearing a giant backpack. Apparently they go way back :)

Also, this is a funny parody (STEVE RICKS!):

Quinn A@twitter

I went to Paris by myself, and it was the best five days of my life. GOOOOOOO. Don't be insecure! Just go!

(I was totally insecure about not being cute or stylish enough, but I found that if I wore a scarf I was invariably mistaken for a French person. At least until they heard the terrible accent I use to speak fluent French with. I think it actually helped that my hair was always a mess - everyone had fantastic outfits and somewhat less-than-sleek hair.)


@Quinn A@twitter oh my gosh, I'm so glad to hear that. I can pretend I can put an outfit together (I'll get my little sister to approve some outfits before I get there), but my HAIR! I just CAN'T! It's curly, but also flat on top because it's heavy, but it's actually kinda frizzy and fine, and oh man. just forget it.

*goes to pack some scarves*


nurofen is a brand of ibuprofen. its like saying kleenex or scotch tape etc...
why is this the main thing i picked up on???


@titsgrande That was my first thought too! My second was how Nurofen is codeine and paracetamol...a little more of a kick than ibuprofen.


@kerrypolka i like nurofen plus, its ibuprofen, aspirin and caffeine in one tablet. best hangover cure.
and i didnt know that nurofen was codeine! ive been taking codeine for 15 years?! maybe its different in continental europe then it is in england...


@titsgrande Nurofen Plus is the one with codeine, I thought - at least, I think that's the one I buy when I am in London, since the year I went to visit my friends for ten days and came down with the most horrific sinus infection almost the moment I stepped off the plane and they first took me to some corner store where I bought cough syrup that was like 15% alcohol, and then to Boots where they purchased the ibuprofen + codeine for me, and it was glorious. (The back of my throat was still all swollen and horrible, but I couldn't feel it!) So the last time I was there I bought some again, and I sort of hoard it because you can't get OTC opiates here, and sometimes you need that extra.

prosecuted hamburglar

Ah! This is relevant to my interests as I am planning a week-long trip to Paris this summer (staying in an apartment in Montmartre!). Sadly this means ridiculous airfare, which I am praying to the travel gods goes down- the cheapest ticket is like $1334 right now, ugh, and that's not even a direct flight.

I may or may not have spent about 5 hours yesterday down the rabbit hole of TripAdvisor's Paris forums....

honey cowl

@prosecuted hamburglar I just bought two tickets to Europe in November (into London, out of Paris) for $850 each -- try Iceland Air. They have crazy cheap flights.

honey cowl

@prosecuted hamburglar I bought them in November, the tickets are for March/April. That wasn't clear, sorry!


@prosecuted hamburglar try air transat. not sure if they fly out of the states. but they do fly from canada to the uk/europe for cheap fares.
then use easyjet/ryanair/wizzair when you get there.

prosecuted hamburglar

@honey cowl Thanks for the tip! One problem is I'm coming from LA so that seems to up the price majorly, vs if I were coming just from JFK. But maybe I could finagle a cheap flight to NYC and then a cheap Iceland Air flight.


I'd settle for 3 days (okay, like an hour would be great) alone anywhere, but I am super super hulk green with envy right now because PARIS.


Oh, this was so nice to read! It made me feel so inspired/warm/happy. Good on you, Chiara!


'You're the only person who is wrapped up in whether or not you deserve to be there, whether you fit in, whether you're cool enough. You're the only person taking yourself that seriously."

I reeeeeeeeally hate to bring down the positive vibes of this post but I lived in Paris for about three years and that just was not true for me. I'm a relatively fashion-conscious person, but other people were paying way more attention to my clothes than I was and i could not believe the nerve they had in telling me some of the completely unsolicited things they told me about my clothes being cheap/ill-fitting/the wrong color (or worse, about my body being all those things.) It was exclusively people who were originally from Paris (not expats or transplants from other parts of France.)

Also I used to live down the street from that square in the fourth picture from the bottom!


@Amanda@twitter I wonder if there is a difference between being a resident and being a tourist. If I spend a few weeks in Paris and people look down on my frumpy clothes, why do I care? I'll literally never see them again. But if I'm living there for 3 years then of course their judgements about my frumpiness have an effect on my life.


@muddgirl You really shouldn't care ever anyway, but the implication of that paragraph is that no one is paying attention to you anyway which is probably true in most of the world but not in the city where feeling superior is a competitive sport (it's a stereotype but it's so truuuue!)


@Amanda@twitter Ahhhh this is my nightmare. (And also, I've found that people in NYC also spend a lot of time telling me my body is cheap/ill-fitting/the wrong color.) SIGH times 1000.


@Amanda@twitter As an almost-three year-resident of Paris myself, I completely agree that Parisien(ne)s can be a bunch of judgy bitches, but I think the real take away from that paragraph is this: "I think the answer, or an answer, is to just get over yourself." When I first lived here I spent SO much energy trying to fit in and be cool and "French" (whatever that meant to me at the time), but eventually I got over it, and myself, and have had a much better time ever since! That doesn't mean that I'm not still intimidated every once in a while by the modelesque french girls with their hair tousled just so and their simple-but-perfect outfits that seem to run this city, but in the long run, there are so many other, better, and more fun things to worry about!


@novanovanova i never really managed the "getting over yourself" part, and I have since just felt a lot better living in cities where the insecurities bouncing around in my head all day aren't constantly reinforced, even if those cities aren't as nice to look at. But I bet it's great if you can manage to stop worrying about it, or if you're not really there long enough to start worrying about it in the first place!


@novanovanova Yeah, I kind of agree. There actually is a fun side, or a fun way of looking at, the idea that people really do care what you wear and look like - how nice to be paid attention to! at least for a narcissist like me - but I think the point is that it doesn't mean you don't have a right to be anywhere. I think it's that feeling that we should all try to overcome, not literally that nobody is looking at us.

For what it's worth I was on a study abroad program in Paris during probably the absolute lowest period of my appearance (overweight, bad at makeup, bad at clothes, missing a bunch of hair, bad dye job), which was awful timing but I never felt treated badly because of my appearance. Probably because I wasn't even worth appraisal, but I still didn't feel out of place beyond not getting to participate in the local style which I'd definitely try to do if I were there now.


@Ellie There is something to be said for being sooooo far away from the ideal that it's kind of liberating. Like, I know that 99 percent of dudes in this city I live in don't even see me at all because I'm outside the weight range they find visible, so basically I can wear and do whatever I want and they still won't see me. So...I don't really care about having my scarf tied the trendy way, I can tie it however I want, TAKE THAT, DISMISSIVE NYC GUYS. #crazyspinster4eva


Just hop on the RER A2 - not a chic outfit in sight.

Lila Fowler

Butchers! I love your butcher story. When I lived in NotAmerica, there was a butcher around the corner from my apartment. Every morning before he opened, he would sit behind the meat counter by himself and play the saxophone for an hour. It was literally the most charming thing I have ever seen and I wish I had a secret picture of it. Butchers!

Also, that boulangerie is making me feel pretty swoon-y. phew


Anyone else have experiences with AirBnB? My accommodation plan for part of my trip to London is no longer an option, and I don't particularly feel like staying in a hostel with several other people.

Edith Zimmerman

@meetapossum It's so great! I have had only wonderful, humanity-reassuring experiences.


@meetapossum I did it in Seattle and had a good experience. Just pick somebody with a lot of good reviews already if you don't have a back-up plan. Also if you haven't been to London before it's HUGE area-wise so even if you're staying somewhere that looks fairly close on the tube map it could take a while to get to the center of the city (this is the mistake I made the first time I went to London.)


@meetapossum I am staying in an AirBnb apartment right now and it has been nothing but pleasant! It's a really great option. I'd start looking and e-mailing now though, a couple people I messaged never got back to me, which was OK since I booked this place way in advance.


@meetapossum I did one in NYC and it was glorious.


Awesome! Thanks, all. I'm looking up places now (Work? What work?).


@meetapossum my dude and I just got back from a road trip though Arizona, and the nights we stayed at Airbnb places were fantastic. The owners were friendly and we liked having stocked kitchens and easy parking.
The one negative experience we had was on the first night of two we spent in Sedona, when we came back after dinner to find the heater broken and the place freezing. Not the owner's fault, and she brought us so many heaters the next morning that we could have baked a cake in the bathroom if we'd wanted, but since it was late that first night, we just dealt with it by staying under the covers. (Also not terrible...) So, there's no staff to take care of problems, but overall we loved it.


@jilt Ah, all good things. I've been reading reviews for some of the rooms where people complain that it's cold even when the heater's turned up, but I lived in England (internationally) and I know it's freezing all the time.

I am just now realizing that the least appealing part about hostel sleeping to me right now is the bathroom. The gross, shared, hot, crowded bathroom. I just can't do it anymore!

Tuna Surprise

When are you going to be in London? I have a spare room in my apartment if your looking to save some cash. I would put it on couchsurfing but i'm too lazy so this is my pincushion-surfing.

Judith Slutler

@Tuna Surprise pincushion-surfing XD


@Tuna Surprise February 8th - 17th, but I only need a room until the 12th.

Tuna Surprise

Awesome! Email me for more info. caw351 ( a ) gmail.com


@Tuna Surprise Piiiinnnners helping Pinnnnners. (I'm singing this, in case that isn't clear.)

E-mail sent!


@meetapossum Airbnb is the best! I have used it a ton in a variety of different places and only had great experiences. I am adding my voice to the positive throng just to note that I also totally fell in love with one of my Airbnb hosts (despite him not being present while I was staying there.)

Beatrix Kiddo

@meetapossum It was really easy to use and awesome in Montreal.


@meetapossum I would say Aribnb is a better option than a hostel but I personally found the whole thing kind of awkward when I did it for a trip to Barcelona. I just didn't feel fully comfortable in someone elses' home, their garage was wonky, and it was out of toilet paper (and I somehow accidently bought paper towels at the shop down the street without realizing it because I'm an idiot!) It was a trip where we stayed in a combination of hotels, with family, and this airbnb place and of course I would be the lame-o who prefers a hotel because it's a nice, consistent experience (and there's always gonna be TP) but obvs you can save some money and maybe get an interesting story out of staying at a stranger's place!


@meetapossum I would say Airbnb is great if you don't plan to spend a lot of time at your lodging and just need a place to sleep and drop your stuff. If you're the type who likes to lounge around a lot, go grocery shopping and cook meals, etc. it might not be the best idea (unless you find one where you get the entire house/apartment to yourself). One of the best things about it, other than saving $$, is that the host will give you lots of cool tips about the area that you definitely wouldn't get at a hotel.


Tuna Surprise has become my Hairpin savior!

@bitzyboozer Yeah, I plan on making the most of this trip. I'll mostly be on my own until I go to Reading mid-week, at least during the days because all my London friends have work. I'm going to revisit some museums that I haven't been to in years, like the British Museum and the Tate Modern. And at least one good English breakfast.

oh well never mind

@meetapossum Reading! I live in Reading! :)


Last time I was in Paris I ended up alone for half a day and it was amazing. I made a list of all the things I wanted to see that I couldnt get anyone else to try.

I ended up walking around St Germaine, Going to the museum of medival stuff (very game of thrones all crowns and swords and stained glass windows), attempted to chat up the cute sales boy at the museum with my horribly basic French ("je suis en vacances!"), and having a picnic in Rodin's Garden which is so pretty where I drank nice coffee and read The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard.

Sorry if this all sounds very 'I've travelled internationally' but if any one is going to Paris, these are all strong recommendations!


Also, I loved this post, the pictures of the butcher and really - how do French boys tie scarves so well?


@teaandcakeordeath My bet is the French girls -- or,perhaps, their mothers? -- teach them.


Perfect timing! I'm planning a trip this spring/summer. I have to go to England, and so want to take the Eurostar over for a few days. People who've been, how long do you recommend? I feel like, since I'm going all that way, I want to have enough time for strolling/reading/eating things and not feel rushed, but of course, the longer I stay, the more it costs. Would 3 or 4 days be best?

Also, I'm looking at Air B n B too, since hotel rooms are crazy expensive. Has anyone had a great experience with a specific apartment rental via the site? What areas would you recommend staying in for the perfect pinterest collage-type vacation?


@movieormaybe Paris is really small in area compared to most major cities, and if you stay anywhere in the city proper (and not the suburbs outside the boulevard peripherique) you will probably get Pinterest-worthy photos, but if for some reason you end up in a non-Pinterest-worthy neighborhood it should be a pretty short walk to one.


@movieormaybe I'd recommend the Marais (3rd/4th arrondissements). Charming, centrally located, mostly pretty quiet, and there are deals. Check VRBO as well as airbnb. I stayed there last year in a charming, if small and interior, apartment for a decent price. Great trip until I got pickpocketed on the last day. :o(


@purefog @amanda@twitter Thanks! And also, argh for the pickpocketing. I've been thinking about the Marais, since I'm more into the 'wandering pretty neighborhoods' than ticking off tourist sights. I also kind of want to follow Jesse and Celine's route through the city from Before Sunset :)


@movieormaybe Honestly, I would take as much time as you can to see Paris. It's one of those places that you want to be able to be leisurely in, but there's still an intimidating amount to see. Considering you could spend your whole life just wandering the art museums, if that's your thing. So I'd suggest 5 days if you can get away with it.

And the Marais is my favorite neighborhood! If you go, you MUST eat a falafel sandwich at L'as du Falafel. There will be a long line, but it will change your life!


@Pygmalion if there's a queue at L'as du falafel, go around the corner to Marianne. Less hilariously boasty name, superb (better) falafel nonetheless.
Lemme put a word in for the rive gauche. For the wandery, quiet types, I think the south part of the 5th arrondissement (where the author of this piece stayed) is extremely cool, and you'll get more alone time and less clothes shops. It's overall more OG, even just for doing the "American in Paris" thing. The northern edge of the 13th and 14th is fine too since you don't care about school districts. And the 6th, but it's depressing on weekends, filled with the equivalent of Jersey plates.


Paris <3
I went with my best friend which was amazing--we laughed and laughed and treated ourselves and had a great time, but someday I do want to go alone.

I smell burnt toast

Perfect breakfast! I love the butcher! I just reread the comments on the 'Hey Girl' video linked to in this article and a few people commented on how they basically live in Belle's village, and I want to know WHERE and HOW so I can live there, because of BREAD.


@I smell burnt toast Oh hey, that was me! Castres, in the Tarn département in the south, is the town where I lived, but there are scores of other places around there that would also apply.

I smell burnt toast

@rayray Oh my gosh! That must have been so splendid! I vow that one day I will live in a place where I recognize the baker/butcher by sight.


Ugh January is my high-point of hardcore Jonesing for France. I miss you, France.


I love travelling alone. The first time I was in New York, like the very first minute after I stepped out of the subway, someone asked me where Time Square was. I happened to have looked on a map just before that, so I knew where I was, and where Times Square was relative to that, so I confidently pointed them in the right direction, and I felt like a LOCAL. (Even though I know you locals don't actually go within walking distance from Times Square. But the OTHER tourists thought I was a local, and that's what matters.)

the angry little raincloud

@Eva@twitter Yes, I love traveling alone as well. (Sometimes I think I prefer it, because that allows for so much spontaneity, but then I realize it's really dependent on my traveling companion. Needy, untraveled person? I'd rather be by myself. Traveling with someone I really like, who also knows how to travel? Awesome.)

But, I'm also someone who goes by bars and restaurants by myself on a weekly basis. (I live in NYC.) On one hand, I think it's a control thing. But, on the other, I feel like I've met more new people and had interesting new experiences precisely because I was alone, and could lost control, sort of, whereas being out with others provides this protective bubble. The bubble is nice, sometimes, but it's still a bubble and still sometimes limiting.

Also. Maybe I need to go to Paris by myself, too? I running precariously low on bath gel (Le Petit Marseillais--best stuff ever, and so cheap) and Bioderma Crealine.


@Eva@twitter For some reason I get asked for directions anywhere and everywhere I am, and the tragic part about it is that I have the worst sense of direction of anyone, ever. So even if you're asking in the city I actually live in, there's a fair chance I'm going to steer you wrong. If you ask me in freaking Dresden, Germany, in German, (*I don't really speak German*) I really cannot help you. I'm convinced people are doing it as a joke or something because it's getting ridiculous.


@the angry little raincloud I totally agree: everything is dependent on your traveling companion.

I did two weeks of traveling around Italy by myself (a kind of test) and, though I was nervous at first, I discovered that I am my own favorite traveling companion. There's so much freedom in being on your own, and I definitely met a ton more people and made more friends because I was solo.


@Eva@twitter Someone in *Madrid* asked me where something (a Metro station, I think) was, and while I could not actually answer them in Spanish (there have been points in my life where I could have, but that was not one of them), and had only been there a day, I had spent enough time walking around and studying the map that I could point in the generally correct direction, and was crazy proud of myself.


@the angry little raincloud Paris is a great place to be alone. I spent two weeks alone in Paris when I was 21, and experienced exactly what you describe about the things you experience without the "protective bubble" of other people.
Also, I am obsessed with Le Petit Marseillais! It's so nice to bring home useful souvenirs, like hand soap for the bathroom. Although my little fantasy was ruined somewhat when my roommate at the time pointed out that we could buy Baleine brand sea salt in Little Portugal :/ Similarly, last time I was in Montreal, I bought some Le Petit Marseillais...


When I was in Vienna this summer, after I visited the museums in the daytime, I soooooooo much wanted to fit in with all the other young people who were lying around on the cool art benches in the Museumsquartier in the evening and drinking beer and smoking and reading and talking to their friends and spraying graffiti. So, I went and bought a beer and lay around on the cool art benches smoking and reading. I still felt a little left out because I didn't have friends to talk to or spray graffiti with. But I'll always remember that day anyway! I love participating in the daily life of the place I'm visiting.


@Ellie Exactly how I've felt about any of my travels anywhere.


Holy crap the food pics. Also The Butcher pics. This sounds delightful though. I definitely want to go back to Paris as an adult.


My friend went to that dinner-with-strangers thing, and had a lovely time! In all fairness, though, she went with her boyfriend; I would have chickened out if I were alone too.


This was such a delight to read. Paris is #1 on my bucket list. I'm too much of a chicken to travel by myself though! (Also, I'm so lazy, I know if I was by myself I'd be like "Meh, I can see the Eiffel Tower tomorrow, let's stay in bed and refresh tumblr.")


Lovely! I like this bit: "When it's natural, when you don't have a lot of questions, when you're not insecure or analyzing too much, that's when it's good," he told me. "You just meet someone, and when things between you are natural, then you choose that person. And get married."
It reminds me of the Caitlin Moran interview, when she said that you know you have the right relationship when you just don't really talk about it.
And down the flight search engine rabbit hole I go.

Judith Slutler

This sounds like a great trip! Personally I need at least 5 days to get used to any city and just settle in, so 2 weeks sounds perfect.

Also, I've never actually been to Paris :/

But I know that "wow everyone else is so stylish" feeling, from Stockholm. Last time I was there I passed by a 2 guys sitting in a cafe, one of them had an American accent and was apparently in the midst of a bitter tirade about Stockholm: "I don't look Swedish, I don't have the money..." he was saying. Yes, my random fellow American, I feel ya.


Hairpin, how did you know I spent the weekend looking up trips I would live to take? This piece was a lovely affirmation of the joy of solo travel. I've been stuck in a rut for too long, second guessing the feasibility of some dream trips. Here's to being a confident solo adventuress in 2013!


Love the butcher pics! I lived in Paris for five months in college and I was almost always wandering around alone. By choice! Paris is one of the best walking cities in the world and it's so easy (and so much better) to get lost and see the sights by yourself.

Good loner tip: you can usually get into museums for free if you flash a student ID (even better if it's an art history ID, which I had there).


@lafleur I seem to remember that the Louvre specifically DIDN'T have student tickets, but was free for the unemployed.

Beatrix Kiddo

I've been itching to go on a solo trip soon (probably to somewhere in South America-- suggestions, anyone?) and this confirms it.

Also, if you have wifi at your Air B&B apartment but no internet while walking around, look up the route to walk somewhere from home and take iphone pictures of each step!


@Beatrix Kiddo I haven't been to South America but I spent a week in Costa Rica a few years ago and it was AMAZING! Everyone is so friendly, there's incredible rainforest nature reserves to hike, volcanos, gorgeous beaches, tons of activities like zip-lining, and it's relatively inexpensive.

Otherwise, I had two friends who studied abroad in Buenos Aires and absolutely loved it!

Traveling alone is just the best!

Beatrix Kiddo

@Pygmalion I have actually already been to Costa Rica, and you're right, it's great! My problem was that everyone spoke English, so I didn't really have much of an opportunity to practice Spanish. But I've been thinking about Buenos Aires, and you may have just confirmed it for me! Thanks.


Man, what Paris is everyone else visiting? The Parisiens I know shop at Zara and H&M and never, ever eat in restaurants. They're good with a scarf though, I'll give you that.


Chiara, I think you will be very happy to hear that there is an outpost of that delicious steakhouse you loved (Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote) in New York, on 52nd. I saw Bill Murray there once, wearing a pretty flashy pair of suspenders.


Ahh I went to Paris for a very long weekend when I was studying abroad. It was so cold and very rainy but it was Paris, and though I was visiting a friend I spent a lot of time wandering around alone and seeing museums and stuffing my face with pastries. I faked French and had a lovely time.

I loved how people always said hello and goodbye in shops and restaurants. And the pain au chocolate I ate every morning hot and fresh at a bakery near my friend's apartment was so incredible. I died.


I'm kind of worried that my anticipation about how "Paris is literally going to be the best ever" is going to ruin my trip a little. But, you guys: Paris is literally going to be the best ever.

I arrive in London on the 21st of Jan, and I'll book a train to Paris by myself as soon as I get my bearings (at my sister's place, in central London), and I am SO EXCITED. I'm about 98% sure that there's not a chance at all that Paris won't live up to my expectations, but the other 2% does worry a little.


@Olea Relax. Paris is the best ever.


@Olea yeah, you'll be fine (unless you're Japanese). maybe check out ticket prices for the Eurostar before you get to London though.

Jen Anderson@facebook

Just FYI, that steakhouse has a location in midtown Manhattan. And the food is amazing.

As for fashionable people, I spent a semester in Paris, and I've been back a bunch of times. Do enough people watching and you'll start to notice the people who are wearing two plaids together that they shouldn't, things like that. Just like in NYC, the metro is the best place for spotting fashion disasters to make yourself feel better.

I also try to watch the fashionable people to see how they do it. When I was in school there in 1990, mixing purple and green was a big trend - purple & green coats, etc. Just yesterday I wore a green scarf with a purple top and got loads of compliments. I never would've thought to mix those colors if not for the Parisians.

Also? While you're there, go to Poilane bakery and get the cookies called Punitions (punishments). They are amazing.


I think I would love to go to Paris (or maybe not Paris, because I speak no French - maybe somewhere in Italy or Spain, I can fumble around enough in those languages to get by) alone, because the last time I went to continental Europe, I was the oldest on a student trip, but it took me half the trip to be comfortable enough to go places alone, to say "I want to do this and y'all are welcome to come but I'm not waiting around for you to decide", and I missed out on so much when we were in Paris the first time (we flew into London, took the train to Paris, then around Italy and Spain, then back to Paris and London) and am just kicking myself. There was an Anselm Kiefer show that I didn't see because the girls I was out with got tired and we turned back, not realizing that the show was going to close *just before* we came back to Paris, and really, I should have just gone on alone.

I'm not going to get my solo trip to Paris, though, because I'm going at the end of May with my boyfriend, to visit his family - he somehow convinced me to take two weeks off of work, which is crazy, now that he has his green card and can actually leave the US and expect to be let back in again. (He's French, raised in Paris and Monaco.) As I said above, I don't speak French at all, and as much as I *intend* to learn, I am not sure I will have the time to commit to classes, and him teaching me is laughable - he's probably the *last* person I will ever try my French out on. So basically I'm going to be relying on him to do all the translating while I drag him around to museums.


@squishycat Yeah, shame about that Monumenta Kiefer show, because the space itself (the Grand Palais) is AMAAAAAAZING. The Buren show this past year from the same series of installations was beautiful. There'll probably be another one with a new artist while you're here, do check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLff2y_G8d4

Also getting comfortable doing what you wanna do is the best way to travel/live and it's taken me a while to get there too. Also French dudes, we are pretty much okay, right


@lbf OMG YES YES I WILL DO THIS. Boyfriend is not as into art as I am but is perfectly amenable to checking out installations with me, so YES. It will definitely help make up for the whole "being scrutinized in a language I hope I will half-understand by my pseudo in-laws, who are probably not as snobbish and judgmental as I imagine but oh God oh God HELP".

(It was a really weird trip for me, because not only was I the only non-teenager, but I was basically the only person there who wasn't all about devoting their lives to art/acting/filmmaking/music/philosophy, so when I *flipped* over an exhibit on Ancient Egyptian medicine at the Louvre (and was epically disappointed that there was no English translation of the French translation of the hieroglyphics, though I can puzzle out small amounts of written French, and the guards were all super friendly and helpful, so I got some meaning out of it), they all thought I was just weird. It's really a bizarre feeling to be seen as *less cool* than the 14-year-old. Which is why I figured out that I had to stop caring about whether anyone else wanted to go with me, and just go, and the trip got so much better.)


@squishycat still kicking myself for not going to the Anish Kapoor edition even though I live here.
btw if you're into museum cafeterias (WEIRD TOURISM FIXATION OK), cross the street to the Petit Palais and have lunch/coffee there. Cool as fuck courtyard and space.


I got by in Paris just fine with bonjour and merci. Most of the people we encountered spoke English. Same as Rome. You'll be fine, especially if you have someone fluent with you.


This looks like a Mouffetard-heavy photo album, which, FUCK YES LE CINQUIÈME. Wisely chosen. Most underrated arrondissement.


In terms of not getting lost / needing location specific suggestions while wandering the city, I can't recommend the TimeOut iPhone app highly enough. Their maps work without using any of that precious roaming internet and show recommended places nearby -- It feels like having a superpower.


@joshc OR get an Android phone, where the Maps app lets you download and cache huge areas when you're still at home on wifi.

Suzanne Kenworthy@twitter

I love the fact that you ate the breakfast because it was now "your usual" in France. I so would have done the same thing~

Lulu McGigglesby

Late to the game, but a friend and I went to Dinner with Strangers and had a great time. If possible, go early in your trip because it is a great way to get tips from other travelers and meet locals.

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I am planning to go to Paris this June and decided to do it solo. I realized a long time ago, that when you are by yourself, nobody but yourself is paying attention and/or judging you. You will be surprised who you will meet and start long relationships with. You will appreciate the freedom of moving at your own pace.

I am even more inspired and looking forward to my first solo trip...hopefully not my last.


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