Several weeks ago, I wrote a story about my solo trip to Paris and received many wonderful responses from Next Avenue readers about their own travel experiences, solo and otherwise. Many professed their fondness for the sights and sounds of the towns and cities they visited, or in one case, the challenge of even reaching their destination.
Here are a sampling of their stories (three about France, one about England) — perhaps they will offer encouragement for you when contemplating your next journey.
Experiencing the Sights of Provence
Clark Lemaux of Moraga, Calif.: It has been my pleasure to travel to France solo in the recent past. One advantage I had was that my son lived in Marseille for four years, working at a local scientific institute. I really do not like traveling completely by myself, but it was very pleasant to visit a family member who lived in the area I was exploring.
We had a great time experiencing the sights of Provence. The sea, the light, the small villages, the artists’ venues, the people — all very different from Paris, which is a world unto itself.
The citizens of Provence all assumed that because I have a quasi-French name I spoke the language, which I do not. However, my son is quite fluent after living there for so long, so the language barrier was non-existent while I was traveling with him. The rest of the time: not so much. But life is different in Provence (read “laid back”), so the first phrase in a conversation is always Bonjour and most people are patient enough to wait while you attempt to make yourself understood.
Destination: London; Passport: Expired
Bea Lewis of Boynton Beach, Fla.: The first trip I went on after my husband passed away was an Elderhostel-sponsored theater trip to London. I wasn’t brave enough to go solo — I planned the trip with a good friend.
The first seven days of the trip were to be on the Queen Mary, with group leaders who would teach us about the theater, from Shakespeare to modern-day musicals. Then for the next seven days, we were going to go to lots of shows in London. It was to be a dream come true.
Here’s the bad news: My husband had been the kind of guy who did the research, planning, even the packing. So I thought I was doing everything right, including getting an up-to-date passport. I placed the old passport with the new one in my drawer and when I left, I accidentally took the outdated one. I didn’t realize what I had done until I got to the ship and was told I couldn’t leave. Talk about moments of sheer panic.
Long story short, my friend went on the ship (at my insistence) and the following week, I flew to London to catch up with the group and see the shows.
There’s a funny addition to this story. When someone on the trip asked my friend why I wasn’t on the ship with her, she said my passport had expired. This woman was hard of hearing and thought my friend said that I had expired!
When I met the group in London and walked into the hotel dining room, the woman nearly fainted when she saw me, alive and well!
Inspired by the People and Places in France
Ed Green of New York City: My story is quite entertaining, as I took my first trip to France this summer with my best friend whose family were influential inhabitants of Cap Fréhel in Brittany. He drove us all over the northern part of France, which was a dream.
And as we are both lovers of golf, my friend took us to play at the oldest golf course in France, in Dinard. He introduced me to the gentleman who has run the club for more than 45 years; the older man remembered my friend as a boy when he used to visit Brittany with his parents.
After nine days in Brittany, I flew to Marseille to see two of my best friends of more than 40 years. They both used to get on my case to come to France and it seemed that the invisible hand of fate had always kept me from going. Not this time!
I brought my high school French language skills with me and ironically found that I could not only speak well, but could read and still write the language.
From there, I stayed with my friend in Provence and she took me to some of the most amazing places — places that no tourist would ever really see. On the whole, northern France reminded me of California’s rugged northern coast and it was so gorgeous.
The south of France was experiencing a heat wave, but it didn’t faze me. I didn’t get to Paris, but I will be going back and Paris is on my ‘to do’ list as is Burgundy and other regions.
What truly amazed me in the places I stayed and visited was the politeness of the people. No cell phones crossing the street or in restaurants, no horn honking, amazingly clean streets and the feeling that I was back in California in the late 1960s. One of the most important observations I made was that the people of France, and probably Europe in general, enjoy socializing!
French Class Still Makes an Impression
Wendy Sue Knecht of Los Angeles: As much as I love traveling with my husband, sometimes there is just nothing like being alone to do whatever you feel like doing! Paris is a walk through history and taking it all in at your own pace makes the experience a true adventure.
After all these years, I can still recall the first paragraph of my French lesson: “Tien, voici mon frère qui arrive, c’est notre ami, Marc.” There must be something compelling about that very first French lesson. By the way, I met my best friend to this day, Julie, in that class.
[Knecht, a former flight attendant for Pan Am, added that she still has some places on her bucket list]. I was sorry to read that your trip to Versaille was canceled due to a strike. That’s on my list for a future trip, too.
You’ve really given me the Paris “bug” again. The article was a huge inspiration to get traveling, solo or not!
Your Feedback is Always Welcome
We are grateful to Next Avenue readers who take the opportunity to share their own stories with us. We value your opinions and welcome feedback. I can always be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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