“Before coming to Paris, I was starting to feel, or rather have felt for a while, like I lost my adaptability, my spontaneity. Things are so routine at home for me most days. And sometimes often times, I’ve found myself stuck in my ways. And I greatly dislike that feeling. I also think…that’s not the real me!!
Life is what comes at you. And what you make of each moment. I’ve felt like I haven’t made very much of what I’ve been given. I’ve taken a lot for granted. Maybe I’ve rolled with the punches, but I’ve whined about being punched in the first place.
But along comes Paris and ‘Hello, old girl!’I got lost on my first day. I found myself wandering in circles around the Paris Opera House and all of a sudden where I was going didn’t matter, cause look where I was! And hey, I saw more of the city that way, then I did from knowing exactly where I was going and making it there in one piece. Sure my pinkie toes are still busted from New Year’s Eve, but along comes over the counter Paris Advil and we’re back in business.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, my will is stronger over here, in a place I’ve never been, in a country where I don’t speak the language, when I’m on my own and lost, than it is when I’m comfortable and settled and home. Over here adaptability is my middle name. Over here I am Nomad, I am Wanderer, I am giving directions to lost Canadian tourists.
Hello, familiar feeling of being capable as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!! I am much more capable than I give myself credit for in my every day life.
But…this is the challenge. To bring this spirit home with me. I need to find this version of me in my own backyard. I need to keep all this in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s memory and recall it every single day. I need to draw on this strength of character. And I don’t have to wonder if it’s there…I KNOW IT IS!
I know that the every day life needs to be tended to. Bills need to be paid, routines upheld, commitments fulfilled. But, oh yeah…Life is a grand adventure. I was starting to forget that or maybe I even made it all the way to ‘forgot.’
At the same time that I know I have a life back home worth living…I also know that I could be happy living life on the run.”
Interjection: All this existential life searching happened while I waited in a 3 hour line to get into the Palace of Versailles. It was cold and rainy and the line was discouraging at first. But then I put my headphones in, listened to The Greatest Showman and started writing and all of a sudden I was walking through the doors of the Palace!
“WOW! Versailles is the epitome of French to me. Walking through these palatial hall, I can’t imagine anyone, even a King, living here. One could get lost simply trying to find the closet.
What I can imagine, are the kinds of royal parties that must have been held here and in the gardens outside.
This was worth every freezing cold minute I spent standing in line this morning. I would love to come back and see these gardens in the Spring (I’ve added that to my to do list for when I return, and I will return!)
I opted not to have the audio guides as I walked through the Palace today. I’m sure they are illuminating. I’m sure they add a lot to the history and understanding of this place. But I have enjoyed using my own imagination and thoughts as I’ve wandered through these rooms.
Another banner day! Will Paris ever cease to amaze me? Probably not!!
I ended my Versailles day with dinner AND dessert crepes. Can you have too many crepes…the answer is no! Trust me! And a side of Rosé Cider.
“It’s officially 2018. My word for this year is BRIGHT and I think I’m off to a really great start!
I’m off to “L’endroit le plus heureux sur terre.” Which according to Google translate mean, “the happiest place on Earth.”
Oh, hey! Bonus! All the subways and trains are free on New Year’s Eve and most of New Year’s Day too. What a lovely New Year’s gift! Thanks Paris!
I’m eternally grateful that today and tomorrow include lengthy train rides in my schedule. My feet are in dire need of a rest after last night. Plus, I always did like train rides out of big cities and then back again. I used to love the train rides I’d take up to Bedford in New York. There’s something so soothing about watching the world fly by you.
I debated about including Disneyland Paris in my itinerary. Should I…shouldn’t I? Is it really how I want to spend one of my precious days in Paris? But the answer kept coming back as a resounding…YES!!! After all, this trip isn’t about the Eiffel Tower (though she was just what I needed last night.) It’s not even really about Paris itself (thought she is a dream I want to live in always.) This trip is about me! Letting go of things. Discovering new things. And ultimately…being incandescently happy for as long as humanly possible.
My rose gold ears…the coveted ears of the year, come from @michelleashleyhoughton and @desirae_jae on Instagram. I won them from those beautiful Instagram ladies and they added extra magic sparkle to my day!! Thanks ladies!!
And may I just say…as I walk up Main Street and see that big, bright, pink castle waiting for me….this was the best decision for today!!
You guys!!! This place is amazing! They have Sleeping Beauty’s Castle instead of Cinderella’s and…IT’S PINK!!! Could there be anything more lovely about today?!!
What I loving about Disneyland Paris are the similarities and differences between this park and Disney World back home. The park retains that familiar Disney flavor, but it also has it’s own spice to offer. Plus…I have a new FAVORITE RIDE OF ALL TIME. Hyperspace Mountain. It’s Space Mountain, but with Star Wars (and without the crick in the neck when you get off.)
Couldn’t leave without getting a pic with little Annie!
One thing that is different here is their “Haunted Mansion.” In Paris they have “Phantom Manor.” Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue…”Phantom Manor.” You can’t help but say it with an accent. Or maybe that’s just me!
I picked the perfect day to go to the park because #1: Everything in Paris is closed on New Year’s Day…says so in my guide book. And #2: This is the grossest, soggiest, most dreary day. And because I’m at the happy place, the rain and the cold…they just don’t bother me at all!
I’ve also discovered a new life goal to add to my list…make it to every single Disney park in the WHOLE WORLD!!! A lofty goal to be sure! But in 2018, I’m already going to be seeing 3 different Disney’s in one year. Obviously Disneyland Paris, Disney World back home, AND…Disneyland California in June with my friends Erin and Cristina! I love how a plan comes together!!
Disneyland Paris has 2 parks to experience. And since this is my big trip…why skimp now! I bought a park hopper and it has been TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!
Ok, something I’ve discovered over here. The meals are amazing! In Paris, they believe in a balanced meal. So every meal comes with a side salad or veggies, a dessert and a drink. And it’s more affordable than I would have imagined a complete and balanced meal at Disney to be.
I couldn’t resist a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse. Even though I meet and greet him all the time back in Orlando. Doesn’t matter! Every time you meet Mickey Mouse, it’s like being a kid all over again!
And guys…Mickey LOVED my bright green hair! How cute is that!
I miss the big hat that used to be at MGM (Hollywood Studios) back in the day. But look what Paris has…
The day just got better and better as it passed by. The weather went from dreary to almost sunny, back to dreary, then there was a break around sundown and the evening was perfection.
I wandered back and forth between parks, doing as many rides as I could, watching both fireworks shows and just generally being the very happiest version of myself!
Best thing about going to Disney alone…delicious Mickey-shaped cakes for ONE!!
First fireworks show of the night was at Studios…
And then it was back over to the pink castle for their fireworks show!!
It was fantastic, stupendous, majestic, unforgettable, just what I needed…what’s the word…oh yeah…MAGICAL!”
“I woke up way too late today. Jet lag hit me harder than I was hoping. I slept till almost 10am and the whole morning was wasted. However…I feel very well rested, so maybe it was for the best.
Paris weather is a lot like Florida’s. It can’t decide if it wants to rain or shine. Right now…it’s landed somewhere between the two.
I stopped by the Louvre this morning, on my way to pick up my Paris Museum Pass and got some exterior pictures. How funny to be able to say “I stopped by the Louvre this morning.” Like that’s something so casually done by little old me. I found myself to be completely enchanted with the whole landscape of the grounds at the Louvre. I know the pyramids were traditionally frowned upon as not reflective of the architecture usually found in Paris, and while that’s probably true…they are truly magnificent to behold. As I saw them from afar, my heart started to race and the closer I got the more I knew that Paris was exactly where I belonged!!
My cousin Sterling and her husband, Wes, got me my pass for Christmas! Instead of a 4-day pass, I got 2 2-day passes. Because of the way New Year’s Day falls in the middle of my trip, I didn’t have 4 consecutive days to work with and I didn’t want to lose a whole day! It was a little more than just a 4-day, but I think it will end up being worth it!!
While searching the city for my Paris Museum Pass, (I purchased one online and had to pick it up…somewhere) I found myself a tad lost. Luckily, there were plenty of times where I’d let myself get “lost” in New York City when I lived there. The thing about big cities, for me, is they are surprisingly easy to navigate. So even getting “lost” doesn’t really mean being lost. Not when you have a map in your hand.
In the midst of my morning wandering, I found a little cafe where I could get my bearings and sit a while. From the moment I walked through the door, this gorgeous French cat made eyes with me and found in me a kindred friend. I sat down at a table by the window which was invitation enough for her (I’m assuming it was a girl cat, she was so pretty) to come join me. She hopped up on the chair next to me and kept me company as I looked at my map and reoriented myself for my day’s adventure.
She reminded me a little of my cat at home, Tom Hanks, and she kept me company at a moment when I most needed a friendly face! I’ve named her “Fille Française Hanks” which translates to French Girl Hanks! Here she is…
I have to make a confession to make. Before the Louvre and before finding the cafe where Fille Française Hanks lives, I stopped in at a Starbucks. I was in desperate need of caffeine and was walking in circles, when lo and behold…there was Starbucks like a shining beacon of just what I needed! So I went ahead and did it and you know what…I couldn’t even feel bad about it if I wanted to because it was just what I needed, right when I need it! And one should never feel bad about tiny, personal miracles!
I’m starting the day’s adventures off at Musêe D’Orsay. It’s the museum I’ve been most excited to visit. It has my beloved Impressionists.
I finally made it to D’Orsay, with my Starbucks tea in hand! My many trips to Disney World have well prepared me for waiting in seemingly terminable long lines. And the line at D’Orsay was at least an hour and a half wait if not more. But I had Spotify to keep me company. And with the right music playing, lines just don’t seem that long. I wish others could appreciate and try this little trick. I heard lots of complaining about the line happening in this line before I turned my volume up and tuned the negativity out. If everyone had a soundtrack playing as they waited, maybe they’d feel like they were in their own little musical. That’s how I feel! My biggest struggle right now, in this moment, is not breaking out into song! I’ve been listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack all day and it is putting me in the very best mood!!!
The entirety of D’Orsay was just as breathtaking as I imagined it to be…more so, even!”
Interjection: What follows is a noting of a lot of (not all, I chose a handful because the list ended up being more intensive than I anticipated, but I love art THAT much) the paintings that caught my eye in Musée D’Orsay. Here are some:
La Rue Montorgueil by Monet
Chemin montant dans le hautes herbes by Renoir
Régates à Argenteuil by Monet
One thing I discovered about myself is that I have no time for portraits. They are just not for me. I’d much rather get lost in an impressionist’s landscape or a gorgeously painted vase of flowers than some 17th century face. To each her own, and for me…the portraits were skipped over really quickly!
Vase de piroines sur piédouche by Manet
Le Bassin aux nymphéas, harmonic verte by Monet
There was a special Degas exhibit happening at the museum while I was there. Despite my dislike of most portraits, there’s something in the faces Degas draws that captures tue beauty and I find myself drawn to.
La Repasseuse by Degas
Degas’ dance sculptures are simply breathtaking. The way he captures the body in motion!!!
I like his blue dressed dancers the most.
I couldn’t leave without seeing the Van Gogh exhibit!
La Nuit Etoilée by Van Gogh
I could go on and on about the different pieces of art that captured my attention. There were quite a few. I knew I loved impressionism, I always have. But I was surprised to discover an interest in the Neo-Impressionists as well, like Henri-Edmond Cross and Maximilien Luce and Théo van Rysselberghe, to name a few. As well as finding a particular interest in the works of Toulouse-Lautrec.
After leaving D’Orsay, (I had to finally tear myself away) I headed to L’Orangerie where I heard there are more Monets waiting for me.
I walked into the museum with no idea what was waiting for me behind door number one. But I managed to capture the look on my face as I walked into the room and beheld the majestic site of Monet’s Waterlillies in all their glory…
And yeah….that thing I said about Monet’s Le Bassin stealing my heart from Monet’s Waterlillies…I was WAY OFF!!! I didn’t know what I was talking about. Having only ever seen Monet’s Waterlillies in pictures I just couldn’t imagine what breath-taking magic awaited me here.
The paintings cover entire walls. There’s a whole series of them and they wrap around you from room to room.
Waterlillies are most definitely my favorite paintings of Monet’s if not of all Impressionists…EVER!
Wow, wow, wow. I think I could sit in one of these rooms, just staring at these paintings for hours and hours. Probably long past closing time and one of those nice security guards would have to come remind me that I don’t in fact live in Monet’s painting.
How hard would it be to get one to take home and put on my wall? They probably frown on trying that!
With my hair painted these colors right now, with these greens and teals and blues, I feel as if I belong in a Monet painting myself. I feel just exactly like one of his Waterlillies!
So many thoughts went through my head as I beheld the magnificence of Waterlillies. It dwarfed all other exhibits in L’Orangerie. They had a whole exhibit on Dadaism which was fascinating. But Waterlillies capped this day off so well for me that I felt quite content rushing through the rest of the works available to see.
After tearing myself away from Waterlillies, I hit the gift shop and bought an obscenely long postcard of Waterlillies. Then, it was time for dinner.
AND wine and dessert!! Don’t forget about my Paris rule…always wine and dessert!!!
My first meal of the day, in fact. Walking around the city today, I definitely found myself too purpose minded to eat. I’ve been running on that one Starbucks, I had this morning, all day long. This is a rare occurrence for me.
As I was walking by the windows of Galeries Lafayette, after dinner, I heard the familiar sounds of the song “This is Me” from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman. The soundtrack of my trip to Paris. The soundtrack of my heart right now! I’ve been listening to it so much and humming it as I walk along, I just thought my mind was playing tricks on me. But as I turned around I was faced with these beautiful window displays the Galeries Lafayette had of costumes and props from the movie.
Right there…waiting just for me. It cemented the lyrics as my anthem for 2018!!
“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out I am brave, I am bruised I am who I’m meant to be, this is me Look out ’cause here I come And I’m marching on to the beat I drum I’m not scared to be seen I make no apologies, this is me.”
You know what I’ve discovered…I don’t feel at all alone over here. Not just because this is a big city, full of people to see and interact with minute by minute. But also because I know so many people back home are watching for updates about my trip. That has added a level of fun that I didn’t expect to have. I mean, I love sharing my every day life with my online communities and interacting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. But this trip…it certainly takes it to another level. Like they’re all here with me every minute.
I LOVE that feeling. It makes traveling by myself the farthest thing from lonely.
PS, I remembered to say Bon soir to my waiter tonight instead of idiotically muttering ‘Bonjour, Adios, Goodbye…Au Revoir.’ Good grief!! I’m trying…that’s something!”
But I’ll bet you’re wondering what I got up to when I finally made it over there.
Before I even left for Paris, I created a very tentative list of things I wanted to do, along with a vague outline of when I might cross each thing off my list. Traveling with a strict schedule is just not how I do things. I wanted to leave a lot of space to change my mind, add new things to the list and choose days I thought would be best for each item.
Here’s the Master List:
I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at about 1:30pm on Friday afternoon, December 29th. I opted to rely on wifi in places and turn my phone on airport mode to avoid roaming charges while in Paris. This meant that simple tools like my GPS and the internet were not available to me, except when I was in my hotel or at a cafe that had wifi. It also meant that I had to rely on my scrappy travel skills (of which I have many!)
An excerpt from my travel journal upon arriving in Paris after finding my way to my hotel:
“Finding my bearings in Paris makes me feel like it’s my first time in New York City all over again. There’s a feeling that I truly have no clue where I’m going or what I’m doing. I don’t speak this language and maybe I’ve been out of the big city game for too long.
But, there’s also the absolute knowledge and confidence that I am capable of mastering this. Flying solo can be a little scary initially, but also exciting and energizing! I’d forgotten that feeling. It’s not something I feel very often in Winter Park, Florida.
On the plane, I sat next to Max, a very kind, young guy, probably a bit younger than me in age if not in spirit. He gave me some recommendations and we shared laughs throughout the flight. I was reminded that there are new friends waiting around every corner, if you’re open enough to look for them. Brave enough to talk to them.”
Interjection: This was the start of a flood of writing that began the moment I landed in Paris and has not stopped since I’ve returned home! And I was certainly grateful to be reintroduced to the writer in me, all over again!
“My hotel, Libertel Gare du Nord Suede on Boulevard Magenta in the 10th Arrondissement, is so charming and tiny. It’s the absolute perfect size for me and my solo adventures! It’s cozy and has the right number of hangars for the Paris wardrobe I brought with me. More than just coincidence, I think!
I laid down to take a quick 30 minute cat nap, here on Day 1 of my adventure, and woke up an hour and a half later than anticipated. Apparently my body had other plans. Once I finally woke up, I felt rested and ready to walk and see and EAT. Above all…EAT!!
Interjection: I just sat down to my first dinner in Paris and I’m implementing a new rule…wine and dessert will be ordered at every meal! No exceptions!
My neighborhood is charming! I think I’ll be using that word a lot in Paris. There’s a lot to see. Plenty of hustle and bustle and I find it surprisingly easy to navigate, given the language barrier. As I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land in my Arrondissement, I passed my hotel 3 separate times without meaning to. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble finding my way around. It really does feel somehow like I’m back in New York, but maybe all big cities have this energy and I’ve just forgotten what it felt like.
Also…I feel like I’ve found a familiar part of myself, long forgotten and abandoned.