Table for one, please
The average college students Spring break is normally spent with dozens of their closest friends, traveling to a tropical place involving lots of sun, sleep, and partying- right? As the non traditional girl I am, I traveled to 50 degree weather – 18 degrees for the non North Americans- France with nothing but my laptop, camera, and tiny carry on suitcase. No travel buddies. No cell phone data. Nothing but me, myself, and I. Seems scary, right? WRONG.
My original plan was to meet my friend in London for the second half of my Spring Break, but I decided to take the off beaten path and leave early to do some exploring by myself. I was, in fact about to jump on a plane and travel to another English speaking country and I really just wanted a little time to myself- or an excuse to do something I had never done. I had never been to France, somewhere that has always called me to travel to, and I knew that even if I had the opportunity to travel to Paris in the future, the experience for seeing the country for the first time wouldn’t be the same if I saw it with friends. So, I booked a last minute connection from Rome-Paris and packed my bags for an adventure of a lifetime.
For context, I partially knew the French language- Thanks to my amazing high school French teacher, Madame Dykes (repos en paix, doux ange). Even with enough French to get by, I have never had the opportunity to speak it in a live situation, besides the few times I would translate simple words on makeup boxes for customers at Sephora (but believe me “eau de toilet” or “gel douche pour femme” doesn’t prepare you for social situations). It didn’t help that I would also confuse my newfound Italian knowledge when replying to waiters like, “si” instead of the obvious “oui”. No matter, I still mustered up the courage to order everything in the best American accented French that I could and it worked every time- expect the first few times when I would say “io… oops I mean je… uhhh scusi moi, je parle anglais”
So being in a city for a little over 24 hours wasn’t enough to immerse myself in its culture, but I wanted to try to gain as much French street knowledge as I could during my time so I booked an Airbnb Experience – a new creation on Airbnb’s websites that allows you to book tours, dinners, or excursions in the cities you’re traveling to. I decided to book an art gallery tour and dinner at Les Frigos, a famous art gallery from the 80’s and 90’s that still houses the studios and galleries of well renowned Parisian artists. I took a short tour of 4 amazing artist who answered all of my silly questions, like “what material is this made out of?” and even entertained me with stories behind some of their ongoing projects. I surprisingly was the only one on this tour- mainly because it was Thursday and it was Fashion Week, so I assume #priorities for locals and other tourist were elsewhere- but it made for a more intimate time with the artists which I appreciated. I even got to play with one of the artist’s dogs– a win in my book. One artist in particular was Italian and thought it would be fun to tell his part of the tour in Italian once he realized I was studying in Rome, which I somehow completely understood (I’m guessing Italian 102 really is retaining???) and even held a conversation with him- funny how small the world is sometimes.
I ended the night with a fantastic Parisian dinner, hosted by my new friend, Emilie of The Office, La Table d’Hotes. She owns her own dinner hosting service, where people are invited to share a classic 4 course French meal at her table that is housed inside her father’s old art studio on Les Frigos. We talked over wine, munching on real hors d’oeuvres and discussed everything from outrages American wedding proposals to French cuisine and culture and dined with two other guests who brought even more amazing conversation to the table.
I left Les Frigos feeling more cultured, very welcomed, and most of all like I accomplished something on my own that I never would have in the past. Never in my life would I have had the guts to book a plane ticket to Paris- let alone go there by myself. To travel on the tube navigating my way without data or Google Maps, more impotatntly. Walking into neighborhoods where I knew not one person. Seeing sights on my time. Exploring my new favorite place on Earth…until now. A Bientot, Paris.