Paris Pour Une Personne
By Joanne Scully
I had three nights to conquer Paris alone in December, sandwiching it in between business obligations across the pond. Whenever I thought about La Ville Lumière, I remembered couples kissing by the Seine or tiny children standing in the midst of swirling pigeons at Notre Dame.
Paris solo was going to be a different vantage point for me and I couldn’t help but feel a bit apprehensive before going. In a city so known for love, what does it mean for a traveler who’s all alone? How does she enjoy this romantic playground?
Over the course of three days, I learned the secret to seeing Paris solo.
I spent my first two nights at the Hotel Esprit Saint-Germain, which is a very elegant boutique hotel I had chosen because I wanted to stay on the Left Bank. When I arrived, I was offered a cup of tea by the fireplace while they prepared my check in. Gazing around at the books, I didn’t think I would mind being alone in Paris.
As I settled into my room, I quickly saw that there was a bit of a danger in staying at Esprit. It was so Parisian and so full of good taste and comforts, I could quickly justify staying in rather than venturing out to see the city. But then I heard the sound of a French boy singing as he strolled below and I had to get out and explore.
One of the things I love about traveling alone is that I’m the boss of my time. I get to make all decisions unilaterally and don’t have to rush for anybody else. I wanted to just freely revisit the city I’ve always loved and take in the sites and experiences that hold memories for me. They’re the obvious ones: strolling along the banks of the Seine, wandering in the Jardins du Luxembourg, pausing for a café au lait wherever I am drawn. Seeing the architecture, the antique book shops, the bakeries…everything in Paris is special and being on my own, I had nothing to distract me from just taking it all in.
Dining out solo is when many travelers feel most alone. Sitting solitary in a restaurant, you’re on display. Some restaurants do nothing to ease the discomfort. But not so in Paris. That evening at Le Comptoir, I felt perfectly at home without a companion. Only when I discovered the menus were in French, I could have used a friend. But not to worry. Another diner came to my aid. Not only did he translate but offered some suggestions of his own. While enjoying le veau, couscous, and crème brûlée (which was the size of a swimming pool), I entertained myself watching the parade of Parisians passing by.
Arriving back to my room that evening, I found the bed turned down and the ceiling illuminated with lights that resembled stately stars. Receiving such loving care, homesickness didn’t have a chance.
Another bonus of Paris alone is the chance to shop at the city’s one-of-a-kind stores all by yourself. No need to explain “Why do you need this” or “You look better in that.” The very chic and inviting Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg on the Right Bank was my home for the third night of my short visit. Ideally situated – right off the Champs-Elysée in the Eighth Arrondissement – it allowed me the opportunity to take Paris’ shops by storm. Truth be told I did more window shopping than buying in this haute world, but felt like a true Parisian nevertheless. And after devouring two crêpes in the Jardin des Tuileries, a contented one as well.
It was only while gazing up at La Grand Roue – the Great Ferris Wheel – that I realized the one possible drawback to experiencing Paris for one. Riding up to the clouds I had no one to squeeze my hand in comfort or delight in my screams.
Of course, hovering over the fairytale town, it’s hard not to see why lovers flock to Paris.
Romance may be in the air here, but you don’t have to be a couple to fall under its sway.
Paris for one: Perfection.
Photo Credits: Girl on Parisian street by Stéphanie Rivoal, © Paris Tourist Office; guestroom at Esprit St-Germain courtesy of the hotel; confections by Amélie Dupont, © Paris Tourist Office; entrance of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg courtesy of the hotel.