Archive for the ‘Travel Tips’ Category

Service of Traveling Alone: My Paris Trip III

Monday, June 19th, 2023

I’m outside Chartres Cathedral–a visit my sister urged me to make that was well worth the trip.
Chartres Cathedral. Blue skies every day of my trip.

I’ve traveled a lot to countries as far ranging as Ethiopia and Turkey to India, Iran, Haiti, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, throughout Europe, South America, the Caribbean and here and there in the U.S. Before my recent Paris adventure, I’ve always been on vacation with another person except once. That weeklong stay, many moons ago, was in Aruba, and was among the best thanks to a superb hotel manager. Business travel alone doesn’t count.

There’s nothing like having a good time by yourself.

Montparnasse railroad station, a daunting shock of fellow travelers to absorb before figuring out where to buy a ticket to Chartres.

When I first learned I was going to Paris again after more than a decade I couldn’t contain my excitement. I’d pass a mirror in my apartment and shout, “I’M GOING TO PARIS!!!”  One of my friends suggested that the most fun part of a trip is in the planning—and that was partly true. Planning is crucial. [My husband did all the planning when he retired and he did a magnificent job.]

I wondered if the real thing was going to live up to my expectations. It surpassed them.

What’s so great about traveling alone? Following are some examples.

After a few good dinners with scrumptious desserts—baba au rum my favorite—one evening I decided I wasn’t in the mood for anything for dinner with sauce. After a day of museums and walking, I detoured to the magnificent Bon Marché in the 7th arrondissement. It’s so easy to make a u turn like this using the efficient metro system. The department store’s renowned food emporium is a showcase of fine food. I left with a selection of four divine cheeses—the inside of the Camembert at its prime oozed out of its rind–bread, strawberries, salad, a bottle of olive oil and a bag of mini madeleines and I feasted in my room. Oh, I also had wine.

If I’d been with someone else this last-minute decision would not have worked out. You might be thinking that I saved money by doing this. You’d be wrong. Remember: I was at the Bon Marché!

Veggies at Bon Marché

I mostly ate a hearty breakfast of croissant, some of the bread that came with it, OJ and café au lait at a brasserie near my hotel. I was surprisingly thirsty throughout my stay [which rarely happens at home], so I drank a lot of water but had lunch only twice because I wasn’t hungry. Some traveling companions might gripe at that.

I woke up when I wanted to, went to sleep the same, didn’t have to think a moment about being late for a meetup [except for the timed museum tickets and the Giverny tour]. I took the day trips of interest to me—to Giverny and Chartres—that might not have been compelling to someone else and didn’t think twice about what time I’d return to the city. There was no rush: It got dark at around 9:45 pm.

Even though I gorged on museums, I didn’t nearly check off all the ones I wanted to see. Had I tried to accommodate someone else’s druthers, which my personality tends to do, the “didn’t get to” list would have been much longer.

Just a tiny percentage of cheese for sale at Bon Marché.

And by the way: In addition to museums I love visiting stores and I did which is not everyone’s cup of café.

I tried brushing off my rusty French that had there been a witness who knew me, I’d probably not have done. And I quickly got over my silly reluctance about asking for directions.

Flowers at Bon Marché

There were moments that gave me pause but having someone else by my side wouldn’t have helped. I entered the Montparnasse railroad station that was chockablock with passengers and no information center—if it existed–in sight. I suspected the Monday overcrowding was due to an anticipated strike the next day and folks had decided to travel while they could, which I’d not anticipated. The line to purchase tickets from a person was at least 30 passengers long so I used a machine to buy a ticket which I’ve done at home for years. I told myself if I did something wrong, I’d work it out with the conductor. Ticket purchased, I learned the train left in 12 minutes. Easy peasy. I had deliberately not looked at timetables. I didn’t want the stress of an unnecessary deadline.

Proof I was in Paris–it wasn’t a dream! Paris hopes that Notre Dame Cathedral will be open in time for the Olympics next summer.

A traveling companion might have found the elevator at the Montmartre metro station that I missed so I ended up mounting the 144 steps to the street. Likewise, they might have directed me to the funicular saving the additional 237 steps to the top. All those metro steps before my visit to Sacré-Coeur Basilica prepped me for this exercise.  

I’m so grateful to my nephew who sent me Business Class, which makes a huge difference at airport check in especially. He also paid for my hotel. Can you imagine?

Being in touch daily with folks from home via text and email was super.

Nobody is a better traveling companion than you are. You know if you want to lick a lemon gelato at 4:00 pm or visit one more site or call it quits or order dessert or cave and take an Uber or overtip a helpful hotel staffer or visit another store or read your mystery novel or snap another photo or instead of watching TV, listen to a magnificent classical music radio station via cable.

Have you enjoyed solo vacations? If you have any questions for me, fire away!

Grandma buying ice cream for her grandson outside the Bon Marché on a warm June day.

Service of Travel Tips

Monday, June 12th, 2023

I could almost have a picnic on the floor of this metro stop in midtown Paris.

I just returned from 10 glorious days in Paris. I plan eventually to share my thoughts about various adventures and impressions, but first some travel tips of both general use and about the City of Light.

Paris is cleaning the Seine so that Olympic competitors can swim in it next summer. Shot this from Batobus.
Not many Paris metro stations look like someone’s living room.
  • A portable charger for your phone is essential if you take lots of photos and rely on Apple Maps or any GPS app that gobbles up a device’s charge. I’d leave my hotel room in the morning and not return until evening and I’d want to be able to check what number metro to take.
  • Don’t hesitate to pack an extra pair of comfortable shoes/sneakers. You’ll wear them all and change them often if you’re a walker.
  • Jackets and vests from Uniqlo have deep inside pockets. These are perfect to store your passport, room key and metro card. The pocket protects these items against pickpockets and are easy for you to access.
  • If you plan to handwash socks etc., bring along a plug in case there is no stopper in your hotel bathroom sink.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel, listen to Nancie Steinberg when she suggests you bring a small bar of soap, unless you use gel for everything.
  • Pack cream rinse.
  • When you leave France, security is serious about seeing the quart-size see-through kit or baggie in your carryon luggage with liquids such as shampoo, mouthwash, makeup, etc. so keep it handy. You and the other tourists line up about 8 across facing security guards. Unless it’s right on top you’ll go nuts finding it in the mayhem of placing it, your jacket, electronics, camera, handbag and carry-on luggage in different plastic trays.
  • Bring a small empty plastic bottle that’s light and easy to refill with water and carry as you tour. Museums allow you to bring in liquids in bottles. Not usually a thirsty person, I was crazy thirsty during my trip.
  • If when you travel abroad you tend to react to the change in water and air [as I do, violently], I’ve found probiotics, one a day, help mitigate the worst. Check with your doctor. And as tempting as ice may be, pass when it’s served and drink your soda without. I even used bottled water for my water pic!
  • Don’t depend on Apple Maps. It was great to identify the number metro to take and which exit to use but unreliable above ground.
  • Paralyzing traffic goes on above ground and the metro is so easy to use. Compared to the NYC subway, you can eat off the floor.
  • Batobus is a great way to see Paris from the Seine. It stops in nine crucial places and you hop off and on as often as you like. I got on at the Eiffel Tower, took the entire tour and left at Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
  • Museum Pass was a lifesaver except at the Sainte Chapelle where the day I was there an angry security guard admitted those in the prepaid line last. [We’re supposed to go first.] I reported it to the museum pass folks. While literally broiling in line, I looked up the site and learned that the former chapel is now run by the government.
  • Even if you have a museum pass, unless you love waiting in long lines, if a website—such as the Louvre or Musée de l’Orangerie–recommends you get a timed entry, do so. Otherwise, having the pass gives you first priority access and that’s all you need.

Please share your travel tips about Paris or anywhere in the world.

This was the line for timed tickets at the Louvre. It moved fast. Sadly, my videos of the line without timed tickets were too big to post here.
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