Two months ago I posted about a decision to travel solo to Paris for Blogshop. I felt crazy and scared and excited. Mostly crazy. I mean, who does that?
Upon arriving in Paris last Friday morning, after a 10 hour flight where I had 2 seats all to myself, I felt lucky and exhilarated and still a little crazy. I was in Paris, a place I've always felt weirdly at home.
I met my car driver (definitely splurge and hire a car when arriving in Paris via plane, those taxi lines are horrendous) and got to my hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by the hotel. I booked this hotel near the Republique on a bit of a whim just so I'd quit obsessing over where I would stay back in August. The reviews weren't great, but I realized immediately upon arriving that it was probably mostly because most of the bad reviewers were more used to a Hampton Inn than a Parisian hotel room. It suited me perfectly.
It was perfectly pleasant, with a room larger than most Parisian hotel rooms, and even an unexpected elevator that kept me from carrying all my luggage up 5 flights of stairs. The room had a beautiful view (above), a balcony, was less than 50 feet from a metro station, and about 20 feet from a fabulous café. More on that later.
I cleaned up in the hotel and went for a walk, picking up a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and chocolate beignet across the street from the hotel. I caught the metro to the Eiffel Tower - of course - where I spent the next few hours lounging on the Champs de Mars, strolling down the Seine and snapping more photos than is probably sane.
I hopped on a river boat from Bateaux Mouches around 6:30 and spent the next hour and a half seeing the city from the river. It was so cold, but so beautiful. Sunset on the Seine was fantastic.
Strolling around Paris that evening, I was so overwhelmed: culture shock, being away from home, being alone. I'm not going to lie and say that I was completely comfortable. I maybe have an hour a week when I'm actually completely alone, if that. The prospect of being alone for the next 5 days felt daunting, and the fact that I was 5,000 miles from home wasn't helping a lot.
I went to the hotel before dark without stopping for dinner. I had an early morning the next day and I kind of just wanted to go to bed. I hoped the next day would find me more comfortable.
After a day of questioning my decision to travel 5000 miles alone, I woke up on Saturday morning feeling much better. A good night's sleep had helped me overcome the craziness I felt, and I was ready to enjoy my time in Paris.
The hotel I stayed in offered a stupidly expensive buffet-style breakfast, but I never even tried it. Parisians don't do buffet breakfasts, and neither would I. I had noticed the day before that the café across the street offered a fixed petit déjeuner (breakfast) of croissant, hot drink and orange juice, so that's where I headed. The server new I was American immediately - apparently I even butcher "bonjour" - and was so excited to help me out in english. I ordered the meal with a hot chocolate, and found that I would go there every morning for the rest of my stay. One does not say no to freshly pressed orange juice and fresh croissants. Ever.
After breakfast, I hopped the metro to Bastille, the area of the Blogshop studio, and found my way to Studio Vermes, which was just as adorable as I anticipated. We were met with more croissants, and mimosas soon followed, followed by hours of Photoshop.
From here, I'm sad to say my photo-taking all but stopped, at least for the next 2 days. I have no fun Blogshop shots, but I do have food shots, of course.
After class on the first day, my Photoshop buddy and new pal Sarah (American living in Amsterdam, can we talk about my jealousy?, activist, adorable, has a boyfriend with the most awesome name ever) and I decided to head out for a minute of shopping and dinner down the street. We headed into a clothing store around the block from the studio (Comptoir des Cotonniers may be one of my new favorite brands) where we browsed, Sarah bought a killer coat and we hooked up with Anna (American living in Spain - more jealousy, funny as poo, freakin' adorable hair - omg), another fab face from class.
Together we stroll down the street and landed at Le Préau, where we had food and wine, talked and laughed, and had a good ol' Parisian time. After dinner, we headed to a super-touristy crêpe stand for a dose of Nutella, then we parted and said good-bye.
I was falling in love with Paris all over again.
I woke up at 8:50 on Sunday morning. That's exactly 10 minutes before Blogshop was going to start. I was late. Really late.
I jumped out of bed, dressed quickly, swiped on eye liner and ran out the door, tearing into the café across the street to grab a couple of bottles of water and ran down to the metro. I came up from the metro at Bastille and scurried to the studio, to which I arrived within 25 minutes of waking up, and class had not started yet. Hello, again, high school.
Day 2 of Blogshop was just as fantastic as day 1. I will definitely be doing more of a review of Blogshop next week over at Piccola, but the workshop really was fantastic. We sat all day learning all kinds of goodies, and day 2 focused a lot on photo retouching. Too bad I can't make those eye bags disappear so easily in real life.
During lunch, Sarah and I ran down the street for hot chocolate, and wandered into a jewelry store where my shopping began. I picked up a couple of pieces, and we ran down to finish up our last day of class.
After class, Anna, Liz and I headed down the street for a pre-dinner drink. We chatted about kids and dogs, and how kids are like dogs, and enjoyed our beverages. It was a perfect way to end a day of staring at a computer screen.
We parted ways and I returned to my little section of Paris, where I decided to keep a low dinner profile by snagging goodies from a patisserie close to my hotel. The case was so inviting, I almost bought everything. Instead, I settled for the best tomato pizza of my life, half a dozen macarons (pistachio and lemon are my official favorites) and an almond meringue that was bigger than my hand.
I took them back to my room, where I sat on the 5th floor balcony staring out at the city and stuffing my face, completely happy with myself and where I was. (Walking up 5 flights of stairs multiple times a day is how I justified eating the way I did, just so you know.)
After my pieced together dinner, I headed down to the café across the street, where I enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine to wind down from the day. The magic of Paris can really be overwhelming. That's why they drink so much wine.
Images of me by Angela Kohler
Monday morning - the morning of my 4th day, and the first day that was all about doing whatever I wanted - I woke up, got ready and began my day with my usual breakfast across the street. This day would be the day that I spent the whole day walking Paris. Sightseeing, shopping, sitting on a park bench. Whatever I wanted.
This was the first day that was all about doing whatever I wanted in almost 4 years. I was going to grab it by the horns.
My original plan was to spend that morning at the Louvre, but last minute lunch plans with Anna rearranged my day. Instead of the Louvre I would walk. Just walk. As far as I could.
I started at my hotel, just northwest of la République, and just went. There is a shopping area around my hotel, so I strolled it, just window shopping as nothing was open yet. I headed to la République, and went past it, walking through La Bastille and on to Isle St. Louis. I picked up some adorable French books for Lily, some postcards, and then found the shopping region of Isle St. Louis that almost did me in. I stumbled across Diwali, an Indian accessory shop with Bollywood-inspired jewelrly and magnificent silk scarves. It's my new favorite obsession. I stopped in Cacao et Chocolat for edible souvenirs. I strolled and looked.
While walking down the tree-lined streets surrounding Isle St. Louis a thought struck me: this had been one of the best mornings of my life.
I strolled back up to La Bastille to meet Anna and we headed towards La Marais for our lunch and shopping date. We stopped at a crêperie for lunch in the sun. We spent the next 2 hours or so heading toward the Pompidou, shopping (we even went to Mariage Frères - a tea house founded in 1854 - the green tea with almond and rose petals that I got from there is exquisite), stopping for the best lemon sorbet of my life, and finishing with a glass of wine and beer. Around 4 we split ways, and I continued walking.
I walked southwest to the Rue de Rivoli and walked/shopped all the way down. I stopped for a breather in front of the Louvre, walked around the Tuileries and stopped for a while at the Place de la Concorde. I continued east all the way up the Champs Élysee. Here I stopped at Kusmi for a hideous amount of tea shopping. Then I strolled on up to the Arc de Triomphe for a photo op.
I headed back down the Champs Élysee and stopped for a much-earned drink. I sat down outside, had an immature giggle at the bar's name - Unisex, and ordered the most expensive drink of my life: a cucumber gin collins, which easily lived up to it's price tag. I'm sure that the fact that I'd been walking all day with more than my fair share of shopping bags may have contributed.
I walked back east to Place de la Concorde where I finally gave in and hopped on a metro. It was getting dark and the bags were really getting to me. I had almost literally shopped 'til I dropped.
When I got back to my hotel I decided to do an easy dinner, not having the energy to stroll around searching for a chic restaurant. I headed to my usual café where Ari took care of me, making me my favorite French sandwich: a croque monsieur. We sat and chatted for a very long while, with a couple of glasses of wine helping my sore arms and feet.
How in the world was I supposed to leave Paris after a day like that?
I woke up on Tuesday morning sad that it was my last day in Paris, and unwilling to let a single moment of it go to waste. I got up and ready, had my usual breakfast at the café, and hopped on the metro heading for the Marché Raspail.
The food market on Raspail is supposedly the most expensive street food markets in Paris, and a favorite of the one and only Ina Garten. When planning my trip I knew I had to include this market on my list of things to do, as I had never bothered with going to a food market on either of my two previous trips. I wanted to see this.
And I was far from disappointed. There were the most fabulous fruits and vegetables I'd ever seen, fish, chickens (plucked, but with their claws still on, which weirded me out), cheese, seafood, jarred goods. I wanted to buy everything! And at that moment I wanted, more than anything, a tiny Parisian flat with a tiny Parisian kitchen to take a bag of fresh produce home to and dig in.
I strolled the market for a while, snapping lots of photos, and then headed out for some sightseeing on foot.
I strolled up to l'Église Saint-Sulpice on a whim, the same one made famous in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It was so gorgeous. Much prettier than expected.
The area surrounding ended up also being a great shopping region, which is where I found a small Ladurée (where the invented macarons, I got a half dozen including rose petal and green apple, omg) and an Agatha store, where I continued to satisfy my jewelry obsession.
I walked on toward the center of Paris where my lunch-time plans waited.
I booked a cooking class with La Cuisine on a whim a few weeks before the trip, and it easily ended up being one of my favorite experiences during my trip. For a little over 2 hours we mingled and cooked, and then sipped wine and ate. Class had about 12 folks from around the US, except for a girl from Hong Kong who spoke better english than I do (I have to get Lily a foreign education, gees).
The menu included french onion soup, stuffed zucchini and tomatoes and madeleines. I can hardly think of three better French yummies to make. And the location was perfection. It was a small venue right on the Seine near l'île de la Cité. The "classroom" was a kitchen with a long counter that we worked around, with a perfect dining room setup with a view of the Seine. Per-fection.
After class I walked over for a quick sight-see of the Notre Dame Cathedral, where I got hit by an insane downpour (don't let those blue skies deceive you) which sent me immediately back to the hotel via metro to pour the water out of my boots.
After drying off and changing I headed out on foot again, but this time I headed northwest to the Sacré Cœur for a view of the city that I had fallen in love with all over again. When it started to get dark, I strolled down and hopped on the metro once more to the Eiffel Tower. I had to say goodbye.
It was the best way I could think of to spend my last night in Paris: sitting under the Eiffel Tower thinking about how the trip had exceeded my expectations. How I had exceeded my own expectations.
I met awesome people (I didn't even tell you about the motorcycle guy on one of my flights, the sweet lady at a jewelry store, or the friend I made at a bakery near my hotel), I had learned lots about Photoshop and met crazy-talented ladies at Blogshop, I had a "breakfast place" in Paris and made friends with it's owner. I traveled 5,000 miles from home all alone without throwing up from missing Cute Kid. I was on a business trip - a business that I own and run - in Paris.
Dude, I'm a grown up. (Well, except for the fact that I ate so many macarons that I gave myself a stomache, like a kid, and I totally overuse the word "dude.") What an odd thing to realize.