I hit the enter key for the dozenth time. “Nothing available on that date. Try again,” says Electronic Madame Ticket Agent. What’s really frustrating is that I already have a free ticket to Paris, non-stop no less, purchased three days earlier with frequent flier miles. And now, I’m attempting to reduce my stay in Paris from five days to three.
A few days in Paris before the main event of my trip, a cruise (defense of boat vacation to be subject of future post) was a given. Visiting France without Paris would be like taking the coffee without the cream. The lobster missing its drawn butter. The bagel without its schmear.
I actually have a recurring dream about this magical, beautiful, sensual, so-gorgeous-I-want-to-weep city, which I’ve visited four times. In the dream, I’m in Washington, DC, where there’s a secret portal that those in the know can enter to walk to Paris. Pretty cool, huh? I’m still trying to find it!
I carry around with me a mental list of activities for my next Paris adventure, even if a trip isn’t planned. I watch films that take place in Paris, getting all dreamy at the sight of the Place des Vosges, the Parc Monceau, the Marais. Favorite movies include To Catch a Thief (okay, that’s the South of France, but still,) and Charade. Hmmm, I haven’t watched Amelie in a while; I’ll add it to the playlist. I ramp up my personal French Film Festival when I know I’m actually going to Paris. I might even check out Season Two of Emily in Paris, though that might be a bridge too far.
And now, here I am, attempting to abbreviate my trip. Have I wandered into an alternate universe in which I don’t, gulp, like Paris? Is doing something counter to my desires an unknown Parkinson’s symptom?
I was forced into my travel schedule because I had enough points for a free ticket, which I was able to snag during a two-hour madhouse of repeating date,enter, date, enter, date, enter, enter, enter. I’d hoped to spend three days in Paris before the cruise. But with Electronic Madame Ticket Agent haranguing me to change my dates in order to qualify for a free ticket, I somehow wound up with five days in Paris instead of the desired three.
Several years ago, I went to Rome alone for eight days. By day six, I had entered a state of high anxiety, due to a loneliness that led to a few desperate, very expensive phone calls to close friends, just to hear familiar voices. One told me, “If you ever consider doing something like this again, call me so I can remind you of your Roman meltdown.
Will I be seized again by a profound loneliness, coupled with anxiety, that will ruin my time in Paris? Is this entire solo Paris visit a big mistake? I’m determined not to allow that to happen. Hence, the effort to cut short my stay. Which, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do.
My usual on-my-own big-city vacation MO involved walking. A ton. I once traversed Paris for almost twelve hours nonstop. Okay, I was in my forties then, but still. At seventy—one, I’m still an enthusiastic walker, who frequently logs ten or more miles a day. Scratch that. I was an avid walker until I hit seventy, when Parkinson’s came crashing down upon me. Now I can usually manage a good hour of brisk ambulation, sometimes even one and a half. Unless, as sometimes occurs, my legs feel tired and heavy after about fifteen minutes.
On a recent afternoon, I felt the need for a nap and I wondered: What if I give in to the craving for a snooze while I’m away? Will I be annoyed that I’m squandering precious Paris moments unconscious? Should I force myself to at least grab a book and linger in a café? After lots of rumination, I’ve decided IT’S OKAY. If I need to rest, I’ll rest.
My other new strategy that I will incorporate into my five-day Paris sojourn is “One or Two Activities Per Day,” three if I feel really energetic. Chez moi aux Etats Unis (here at home) that’s pretty much how I roll. If I take a long morning walk and go grocery shopping, dinner out may be, well, out. I have a manageable list of things I’d like to do in Paris, which includes my usual strolls (in my pre-Parkinson’s life, brisk strides) just soaking up that French atmosphere. Drool over the wares at that patisserie! Go window shopping on Rue du Cherche Midi, a treasured byway! I’ve been forced to slow down pretty much everything I do, and it’s okay. (For more on this subject, check out my recent blog post Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.)
In any case, since Electronic Madame Ticket Agent did not come through for me, I’m stuck with five days in Paris (I know, I know, I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me). I’m thinking about ways to stem the potential for loneliness. Take a cooking class! Make a reservation at a really cool restaurant for lunch (way less expensive than dinner)!
Here’s a new travel motto pour moi; Do less, live more.
French Film Recommendations
Diabolique.French! Suspense! Simone Signoret! French! Fantastique!
Charade. Not actually a French film but Audrey Hepburn ( in Givenchy- I need every outfit) and Cary Grant in Paris -ooh la la! Amazon Prime
The Four Hundred Blows. How could I not include something by the Master? Terrific intro to the great Francois Truffaut. Amazon Prime
Swimming Pool. In the tradition of Diabolique, a twisty mystery. Netflix
And Now My Love A sort-of love story across continents and generations. Breathtakingly beautiful. Amazon
13 thoughts on “Andi in Paris”
You forgot relaxing/catching some sun/people watching in the Luxembourg Garden, surely perfect for your slowed-down mode.
Andi – maybe join some Paris clubs such as American Women in Paris
they have great activities, excursions, cafe get- togethers, etc.
American Library in Paris
has great events as well!
I find them to be terrific
Andi, I think a cooking class sounds like a great idea!
A free trip to Paris? Quelle dommage.
I found your secret portal to other places, by the way, but it leaves from the airport in Austin, Texas, and goes to a lot of different places, such as Freedonia, and Narnia, and the Hundred Acre Wood.
Have you read Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc mysteries? A tour around the arondissements. FWIW, when we were in Rome in May we decided that we didn’t need to do much of anything. Tired the first afternoon, after an overnight flight from SF to Frankfurt and then on to Rome. The next day we rallied enough in the afternoon to walk a lot but not to see any particular sights.
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Not really French: How to Steal a Million with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.
I love Paris.
Enjoy your trip! Sometimes the best trips occur when you don’t make any advanced plans. Just go with the flow!
Yes I am trying to leave plenty of unscheduled time which is new thing for me. And I believe/hope a good one.
Andi — when are you going to be in Paris? I will be there 2nd week of September and would love to catch up!
That would be fun! I’m arriving in Paris on the 13th and leaving on the 18th. Does that work?
Take one day at a time & have a fabulous trip!!
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