My mom and I once took a trip to Paris and, halfway through our trip, discovered that we had accidentally booked our return flights for different days. So I spent my last night there by myself. First I went to the movie Ratatouille, then had a Croque Monsieur at a neighborhood restaurant and then spent the rest of the evening wandering the cobblestone streets, soaking up the street music, twinkling lights and general je ne sais quoi.
But here’s the thing: I sort of hate being alone. I joke to Alex that, if it were up to me, I’d be surrounded by a huge group of people 24 hours a day. One accidental night in Paris was fine, but had it been any longer, I’d have felt restless, a little lonely.
New York Times writer Stephanie Rosenbloom, however, recently took a solo trip to Paris and raved about the experience:
It was easy in Paris to surrender to the moment. But why? What alchemy transmuted ordinary activities, be it a walk across a bridge or the unwrapping of butter, into a pleasure? My default speed in New York is “hurtle,” yet in Paris I dragged the edge of a fork across an oyster with a care better suited to sliding a bow across a violin.
This was not simply because I was in Paris, though it has long held a kind of magic for many Americans. It was because I was there on my own. In a city that has been perfecting beauty since the reign of Napoleon III, there are innumerable sensual details — patterns, textures, colors, sounds — that can be diluted, even missed, when chattering with someone or collaborating on an itinerary. Alone one becomes acutely aware of the hollow clack of pétanque balls in a park; the patina of Maillol’s bronze “Baigneuse se Coiffant” that makes her look wet even on a cloudless day in the Tuileries; how each of the empty wine bottles beside sidewalk recycling bins is the embodiment of someone’s good time. There is a Paris that deeply rewards the solo traveler.
Sounds meditative, right? I just asked my friend, who is working across from me today, if she’d want to take a vacation alone, and she answered, “Desperately. I fantasize about it all the time.” When I asked her where she would go, she answered, “Oh my God, anywhere.”
What about you? Have you traveled alone? Did you enjoy it? Would you jump at the chance to soak up a place by yourself, or not so much? Where would you go? I’m so curious…
(Photo by Nicole Franzen)