For a while now I’ve wanted to experience solo travel – sure, I’ve had tastes it over the years when I’ve flown/travelled alone but always been meeting people at the other end.
I’d say I’m quite an independent person; more than happy going to a museum or for coffee on my own. Living in London, those are actually some of my favourite things to do (especially seeing as most museums are free).
However I’ve never actually been on an entire trip alone. I’m not scared of travelling by myself or having to figure things out on my own, my bigger issue I suppose is boredom. Driving/flying for long distances with only myself to think about in some ways sounds magical but also, what do you actually do during these times?
As a way to ease myself into this, as I do still think it’s something I would like to get into doing, I booked myself a day trip to Paris via the Eurostar. My main aim with this day trip was to do some vintage shopping – I’ve done a fair amount here and there on previous visits but when there with friends/family, I’ve always rushed through it as I’m aware that vintage clothing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and if they hadn’t been to Paris before, there are obviously a lot of other things they would rather be doing!
I did consider also booking a hotel room and making a weekend of it, but at that point it makes it so much more expensive (seeing as it would be just me paying for it, which I’m not used to). Plus, the Eurostar had some great deals at the time – £29 each way from London, so it felt like an affordable way to dip my toe into the solo scene (aka if I hated it, I wouldn’t be too upset that I had spent that much money afterwards).
I tend to keep track of my days away via my Instagram stories, to see my ‘France’ highlights, click here.
I got an early Eurostar, which worked out perfectly for me – on weekends in London the tube runs 24/7, so I was able to get the tube straight to Kings Cross and still have time for a coffee once through security.
I love getting the Eurostar and I think a big part of it is the ease – you can bring any sized liquids/food (if you have a hot beverage they’ll just put it in a tray and pop it through the scanner) and also, you only have to be there one hour before, so it doesn’t disrupt your day in the same way that the effort of getting a flight does. Of course, it’s not as easy as getting on a normal train but that’s understandable seeing as you have to go through passport control etc.
The train itself doesn’t take too long and I had plenty of ways to entertain myself (a book/TV shows on my phone, looking up things to do in Paris, reading the news and lots of snacks, to be specific), so in terms of solo travel, that part was definitely a win.
I’ve been to Paris quite a few times (I think around 8, potentially) and so have found favourite places/parts of the city; Le Marais is my preferred district and so as soon as I arrived in the city mid morning, I headed straight there.
In Paris, the easiest thing to do is to buy individual tickets for the metro; a single ticket costs 1.90 and a book of 10 costs 16 euros. I picked these up as soon as I arrived and followed the signs to the metro I needed. One thing I will say, is that in this area within the Gare Du Nord, I did notice that a lot of people were trying to talk to me/sell me things – I had a big pair of headphones on and had no wish to speak to anyone (especially as I was worried they might rob me), so I just ignored them.
In terms of knowing which metro line to get, I’ve found Google Maps indispensable when travelling and taking metros/tubes around the world; makes something which could be quite complicated, very easy (I actually remember having a lesson on the Parisian Metro in French, at school, for some reason).
Shopping in Le Marais
Once in Le Marais, I was immediately reminded of how much I love it there – beautiful architecture, busy but not overwhelming streets; all of the sights and smells of Paris I remember so vividly, coming to life in front of me. It was nice to not be in a rush to get anywhere, just to wander the streets not really on my way to a specific place at any one time.
I did have shops and sights on my mental checklist that I wanted to get to but it was lovely not to have to get there asap. I walked past Hotel De Ville and the Pompidou, where I stopped to admire them for a bit and people watch before continuing on to the shops.
My first stop off was beauty shop Sephora – it wasn’t a huge one and so didn’t have all the brands I was hoping for but it did of course have their own brand, so I picked up a few face masks etc (Sephora is a big thing worldwide but we don’t have any here in the UK, so it always feels a bit special getting your hands on their own brand goods).
Next up, were a few vintage shops – Free P Star and Vintage Desir are my favourites for value (my favourite ever Levis embroidered jacket was bought from there for I think 20 euros), but the district as a whole is full of a variety of vintage shops that are still worth popping into.
I love taking the time to go through all the rails in vintage stores but have to admit that (like anyone) I get frustrated when a shop is too busy – generally I find Vintage Desir is never too busy, which is odd as it’s so cheap. It may be because the owner is a bit of a loose canon and likes to randomly shout things/ask questions to those in there. I did my best speaking French with him, which he seemed to like and then he kept putting the Beatles on the speakers, then pointing at me as they’re “British, like me!”
That aside, I love the shop and always find some gems. This time I struck gold with an incredible aviator jacket and three jumpers for the bargain price of 50 euros.
I brought two tote bags with me, which I kept in my almost empty backpack alongside my phone battery pack and my snacks, leaving a lot of room for all the clothes etc that I was planning on (and did end up) buying.
All the vintage shopping and walking gave me an appetite, so I then started on an endeavour to figure out where on earth I wanted to eat. I knew I didn’t want a proper sit down meal, just because I didn’t really have time but then I wasn’t sure if a cafe meal would be enough food for me.
This is when I just happened to walk past a place called ‘Jak Healthy’, which is a healthy fast food place and exactly what I wanted. I didn’t really understand the system to order, but luckily the staff were very helpful and guided me through!
My French isn’t terrible but it’s definitely a bit rusty, so I used the iPad to order (just to make sure I did actually order the right thing). I got a charcoal burger with fries and an iced tea (all so good), which came to 15.50 euros in total.
This was the first point in the day where I felt a bit alone – it’s a bit odd being surrounded by people and not having anyone to talk to. I whatsapped my friends and flicked through my Instagram/Twitter feeds but it definitely doesn’t replace having someone else there to chat with.
Time was getting on by this point and so with only a few hours until I needed to be back at the Eurostar terminal, I finished my meal and headed back outside.
My next stop was ‘Fleux’, which is basically a street full of small shops under that name selling a mix of clothing, homeware, furniture and toiletries. In short, all of my favourite things.
They had some brands that I recognised such as HK Living and Skandinavisk but also some that I hadn’t seen before, which I always love to stumble across. I bought a few things from here – a vase and a candle holder with real dried flowers in. To be honest, I could have happily bought A LOT more but my bank account wasn’t in agreement, so instead I took a few pictures of things to remember for the future.
My last shop of the day was a supermarket where I picked up some salami for my boyfriend, a nice bar of chocolate for us to share and then (of course) more snacks for myself. There’s something so enticing about a foreign supermarket, it’s impossible to go abroad and not go into one really.
Finally, I decided to go and see the Notre Dame. I hadn’t been sure if I wanted to look or not, as I knew it would be sad seeing it half falling down but at the same time, I wasn’t too far from it and thought I might regret it if I didn’t take a peek.
I was right – it was definitely disheartening seeing a great building like that in tatters but at the same time, I’m glad I went to look. It’s a part of history now and shouldn’t just be ignored.
After this, I got back on the metro and returned to the Eurostar station, where I finally gave my feet a bit of a rest.
My day was really enjoyable; I definitely left wanting more – to go inside the Pompidou and the Musee de L’Orangerie though in truth, I do enjoy doing all this with someone else.
I’m not saying that I wouldn’t do something like this again but if I could choose to, I would rather not do it alone. It’s nice to have company while travelling and sharing an experience really improves it, in my opinion. I miss the fact I can’t talk to someone else about a day we shared together, it was just my day and no one else really, truly knows what it was like as they weren’t there.
In contrast to that though, I did selfishly get to do all the things I’d wanted to do for a while and I’m pleased that I took it upon myself to do it.
Not that it’s something I think I’ll be doing again soon (unless no one else wants to come with me!)