This is not the story of the girl who is nervous to go, lands in Paris, is greeted by a driver, and stays at a five-star hotel and experiences the best of the best. Nor is it the story of a girl who backpacks through Europe, stays at a hostel, and meets fun travelers. This is an in between story of a girl who had always dreamed of going to Paris, bought the cheapest tickets she could find and stayed at an affordable Airbnb while stumbling through Paris alone. Below is my journal of how I felt day by day
Well actually first I should say I’ve been trying to write this for months. I went to Paris in August and it is now almost November and I’m still trying to write these blog posts! I realized it’s been so hard because I can’t focus on what exactly to write about. When you spend an entire week somewhere and have all the experiences I had it’s hard to just say this is how my week went. And looking back I definitely should have written this while I was there or right when I came back. Luckily I did journal and take some videos so it helps to take me back to that moment. And that’s what I’m using to write this now.
Getting through the airport was a little challenging and scary. Customs took an hour to get through and there were about 500 people in line. Afterwards, the police closed off the taxi area. I finally got through to the outside where a huge group of people was waiting to get to the taxis but security kept yelling at us to wait until they said we could go. We waited for 30 minutes before being able to cross. The taxi driver didn’t speak English but got me to the right place. Then I couldn’t figure out how to get into my airbnb. I paid for city wifi, emailed my host, and waited outside with all my luggage until my host called down.
I was so happy to finally be in a safe place. But I knew I needed to get out and explore. First things first, I got some croissants and went looking for some toiletries I needed. In true Ella fashion, I got lost a few times within 3 miles of my airbnb.
One of my biggest tips (you can find more here) is to download Google maps! I didn’t learn this trick until day 4 of being in Paris. It is so scary to both not speak the language or know where you are going. I can only handle one at a time.
Once I found my airbnb again I freshened up and then ran out the door for my photoshoot. I did the photoshoot through Airbnb experiences (which you can read more about on my Paris Tips: Before You Go blog post).
The best part about the shoot was walking around with Alex. Since he was leading and knew the area, I felt relaxed and could finally enjoy being in Paris. We walked to the Louvre and the surrounding areas, which were all gorgeous. After the shoot, we went to Alex’s so he could edit the photos and get them to me right away.
Side note: I had read all the reviews on Airbnb saying this was a normal thing people did and everything was legit. Otherwise I would not go to a stranger’s apartment regardless of how nice he is.
The visit was definitely worth it though! The top floor apartment view was spectacular! And I saw a black cat on a roof! How very Paris! Le sigh
Of course I ubered home right after instead of exploring. Bah.
Today, I woke up super late and booked it to my Eiffel Tower tour! I was worried they would leave without me but I actually made it on time and had to wait for the tour guide.
The walk to the Eiffel Tower was so nice. Again, I loved being led and feeling safe so that I could gather in my surroundings and be thankful for being in such a beautiful city.
We got to go below the tower and see how the water powered elevators work. It was so cool! One of the pumps is the original one which I couldn’t believe! I learned so much about the history of the construction and how the elevators work.
Then when I went to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, our tour guide recapped history about Paris and France in a fun and modern way. Plus, told us some stories I had never heard before. Look up Eiffel Batman and UX or Urban Experience to see what I’m talking about!
I hadn’t planned on going up to the Summit but since I was there I figured I might as well. After standing in the ticket booth line for almost an hour, and knowing it would be two hours to wait for the elevators after that, I was over it.
I took the stairs on my way down so that I could take my time for pictures and to take it all in. At some moments it was a little bit scary to be up that high but for the most part it was a great experience. I would definitely recommend booking the VIP Eiffel Tower tour with Fat Tire Tours so you can cut the line and have more fun than standing around.
After this and being jet lagged I needed to go back. I napped for 5 hours! Then woke up for dinner and fell asleep again. I was glad I got a cute and comfy airbnb so I could rest when needed!
How I’m feeling
The language barrier and no map is still an issue for me but at least I have uber to get me to places on time. When I don’t have a schedule though, like for dinner, I’ve been walking in the neighborhood. I walked to dinner today while the sun was setting. It was beautiful but also kind of scary. I was able to do it and it made me feel better about exploring by myself.
I started the day waking up late. Duh. I rushed to get ready and be on time for my circuit workout. Another Airbnb experience! I got there a tiny bit early so I went to Starbucks and updated my Instagram story. Priorities.
It was nice to be more laid back than usual. I had laid out my clothes the night before so it made it easier to get ready in the morning. That’s a habit I used to have and need to incorporate again when I get home. [update: I haven’t but still want to]
When I went to the meeting spot I was worried because no one else was there. The instructor got there right at 10 and told me it was just us that day. Personal training!
He gave me the choice between circuit or boxing. I chose boxing and I’m so glad I did. It was so much fun! I didn’t think I would make it a few times though. And I was super glad I brought my inhaler.
He really gave me a workout and knew how to encourage me. Like picking up on my love for Drake and singing along while changing up the words to fit the workouts. Hehe. Afterwards, he took photos for me and gave me tips on where to go! I have a link for this experience on my Paris Tips: Before You Go blog post.
I walked around the Louvre grounds for a bit and then noticed the Ferris Wheel!! I’m a baby when it comes to heights so braving this was really scary for me but I knew if I didn’t do it I would regret it.
Ride of Terror
The ticket girl and the attendants all pretty much ignored me and talked amongst each other. I did not feel secure in any way but figured everyone else riding was in the same boat. I distracted myself by taking photos and videos the entire time. The videos are great because it takes me back to exactly how I was feeling in that moment. So scary but also fun! I had all my things that I held on to for dear life and I took some super shaky photos.
After that crazy ride, I calmed my nerves by walking along the Siene on the pedestrian path. It was very relaxing but I wanted to be up where the people are! I switched routes and after realizing I was hungry but still sweaty, I decided to head back to the airbnb to shower and regroup.
I needed to get a 3 prong converter and went off on the hunt. This turned out to be a week long search that never came to fruition but it did send me off on adventures! After no luck, I took off for Angelina. One of my sister’s best friends had told me they had the best hot chocolate and boy. It did not disappoint!
This was the first restaurant that insisted I sit down. Even after I said but I’m alone. The waiter chuckled and took me to a table and gave me a menu. They spoke English and I was sitting in a real restaurant and it all felt so nice!
I ordered an omelette and had all the rolls and butter. I had been hungry for 3 days living off croissants, apples, larabars, and a few veggies. The omelette was basic but felt amazing after no food for days.
The hot chocolate was creamy and rich. Unlike any other! From now on, the state’s hot chocolate will be known as chocolate flavored milk to me. Only Angelina’s is actually hot chocolate.
With a full belly, I left and zigzagged between Starbucks, Louvre, McDonald’s, Louvre, and then on to a bar. More on why I was at Starbucks and McDonald’s so much in my Paris Tips: Before You Go blog post.
The bar I walked to was recommended by the boxing instructor as one of the best rooftop bars. I enjoyed the walk there but skipped going up to the bar. There was a long line and it was already dark so I didn’t want to wait alone and drink alone. If I was with friends, I would have definitely gone!
This is where I stopped writing in my journal. I think I was so tired and lost track. I know on this day I went on my bike tour which is so worth it! It was another airbnb experience.
We met the guide at a bike deposit. I booked my bike pass for the wrong time of course so had to buy a new one and held everybody up. Sorry guys!
I was in a group with an American couple and the guide spoke fluent English so it was really nice to finally be able to talk in English all I wanted and understand them back.
While Paris is very tourist friendly, I found that most people only knew a few English words and it was hard enough to communicate your needs let alone hold a conversation. If I hadn’t been able to talk to my friends back home on video chat I would have probably gone crazy.
The bike tour took us along some busy roads which scared me because I’m not too savvy on a bike. If you haven’t caught on yet, I’m a scaredy cat. I prefer to ride bikes on trails and am used to drivers not checking or caring if someone is in the bike lane.
Luckily, Paris is super cyclist friendly and would give us the right of way or even calmly wait if you fall off your bike at the corner of an intersection. Yes, I fell off my bike at an intersection. And yes, a lady did laugh at me. But I got back on and my group waited for me so it was okay. I’m proud to say I only fell off once. Haha
We went on those busy roads so we could visit some hidden gardens that most tourists wouldn’t know to pop into. I found out that all gardens in Paris are public! So even if they are gated you can just walk right in and stroll or sit. Of course it’s always a good idea to be respectful especially since half of these are right below people’s homes.
After so many gorgeous gardens (and me surviving the bike ride) we stopped to get a drink at a really neat bobo cafe. Bobo, I learned, is the French version of a hipster. It stands for boujee and bohemian. Which totally fits if you ask me. For good measure I took a quiz and yep, it checks out!
“Looks-wise, you blend in perfectly with the chic, bourgeois Parisians of the Left Bank. (Please note that for someone who makes it a point to only hang out on the more ‘authentic’, bohemian Right Bank, this is a horrific insult.) Then again, only a bobo would go to a dive bar and ask for champagne. Wait, are you sure this is champagne? Sigh. Only a bobo would ask that.” From this quiz
Post cafe, I took an uber home and napped the day away. Literally.
I remember waking up to a worried text from one of my besties, my mom, and sister. My mom had convinced all of them I was kidnapped since I hadn’t posted on stories for 24 hours and wasn’t answering any of them. I wasn’t in any harm though. Just in a coma!
This is why you should journal while you’re on a trip. I did so many things but forgot about half of them since I didn’t journal. I know on this day, I ate amazing ice cream. Seriously the best ever. The second best falafel in the world. Though the best I’ve ever tasted. I took it to one of the gardens I had learned about and sat down and ate amongst the locals. Like a true bobo!
I also had vegan pizza which could have fooled me for real pizza. And had my first red wine in Paris. It was basically the day of food! After not eating for so long!
Oh! I also went to a farmer’s market and stumbled onto a Moroccan restaurant that two of my friends had told me to go to but I somehow forgot about it until I saw it. I’m so thankful I saw it because it was one of the best meals of my life! I think I have said everything I ate in Paris was the best ever. It truly was! Go try it yourself 😉
After ice cream, I got up and run to a cool bobo bar my bike tour guide told us about! It’s called Baranaan and it’s an Indian speakeasy. Finally getting the hang of getting around places on my own now that I downloaded google maps!
More food, please!
I decided to walk there because I’m crazy. It was only a half hour walk but by the time I got there it was dark and I could not find the place! I knew I had the right address but walked by it 5 times. Instead of Baranaan it was another Indian restaurant but the wrong name. Then it all clicked for me.
This was my first speakeasy and I forgot the whole point is it’s a secret! They wouldn’t have the name displayed. I looked down and saw the train tracks my guide had said to look for. I walked in and followed her instructions. I told the waiter I want to get on the train. Their job is to tell you there is no train until you insist. So I followed the tracks to a door where finally he laughed and let me in.
It’s a little scary because you are immediately in a very dim lit closet sized room. A tiger mural stares at you and then the light turns off. You have to find the other doorknob within that 30 seconds and step into the bar. Luckily, I found it in time and got inside.
It was filled with friend groups having a fun night out. I, being a single bobo out on my own, got seated at the bar. It was fine because I got to watch the bartender make many intricate drinks. I had, once again, amazing food. Especially for an Indian tapas bar. Growing up Indian and loving Indian food it is hard to impress me in that category but they did it!
After filling up and enjoying the atmosphere, I paid my tab and left. I planned to call an uber but the restaurant didn’t have wifi and the city wifi SUCKS. So I walked back the way I came. They were all busy roads and the nightlife is alive and well in Paris so I felt safe the entire time. I had read people eat late here but I didn’t realize late meant 10pm!
Oh these days are such a whirlwind. I originally booked this Paris trip specifically to go to the Local Milk retreat with special guest Tiffany Mitchell. I figured my lifelong longing to see Paris would be perfect alongside a blogging workshop. The flights were cheaper if I went for a week which is what I did! I ended my trip with the workshop and boy. I both like that I did that and also don’t.
The pro was that I got to experience Paris on my own and work through a lot of things I needed to reflect on alone. I had never traveled anywhere by myself so it was perfect for me. Plus, my jet lag was over in time for the retreat. I was so tired, homesick, and overwhelmed by Paris. Which made it a little hard to focus and take in all the information from the workshop. Luckily, that is what notes are for!
We ate at many great restaurants and drank fantastic wine, had thoughtful conversations, made friendships, and all came away stronger than before. I met many great women on that retreat. The days may be mixed together but I enjoyed shopping at Merci and the vintage markets, and drinking coffee, and styling picnics.
All in all it was a coming of age, challenging, yet wonderful solo trip to Paris that I would totally do over again in a heartbeat. I do think I could have had more adventures had I not been so shy about the language barrier or if I had a friend with me. But I learned that about myself and still had a great time.
Have you traveled solo before? Do you have a favorite place in Paris I should visit next time? Comment below!
Until the next adventure,