During summer, I spent a beautiful long weekend in Barcelona with my girlfriends. I made a pact with myself a year ago not to fly within Europe, so I decided to take the train to Spain. By the time I came to book, the prices had rocketed, so the Megabus it is! I figured I might as well spend a day in Paris, since I was passing through. International Megabus tickets are incredibly cheap – my journey from London to Paris cost only £13 and they’re sold for as low as £1 if you book in advance. I hopped on the bus at Victoria Coach Station and was in Paris the next morning. To be honest, it is not the most comfortable journey, but it’s totally manageable, especially since you get a couple of hours to walk around the ferry as you cross the channel. I arrived exhausted, and in a pretty grotty area of Paris. I’ve travelled by myself as a teenager, but I was always on my way to some sort of organised activity. The idea of spending a length of time entertaining myself in a foreign country was terrifying to me, but something I was excited to conquer. I always experience a lot of street harassment in Paris, and being alone didn’t help. I think it might be because the French style of dress is more conservative, so I stand out. This might sound silly, but because I don’t speak French and couldn’t understand what people were saying, it didn’t bother me so much – I pretended people were showering me with thoughtful compliments instead.
The coach arrived so early there was little open, so I took a long walk to the Notre Dame. I was stuck for vegan breakfast ideas and settled for mango juice and sorbet at 7am. No wonder people were giving me funny looks! I actually spent a lot of time in the Notre Dame. I’m no stranger to spending holidays looking at churches – my parents are not really sit-by-the-pool kinda people – so I worry I’ve been spoilt, that I’ve become immune to their grandeur and beauty. Walking inside Notre Dame, I was really hit by the atmosphere; the great expanse of the ceilings, the tiny details in the stonework, the theatre of it all. I lit a candle for my Grandma Dorothy, a ritual my Dad shared with my brother and I whilst she was unwell. It’s interesting viewing a city by yourself, killing time. There’s no chatter to distract yourself with, nowhere to rush to, just things to observe and conversations to listen into.
I had a wonderful lunch at one of Paris’ few vegan cafes – Burger – and spent the afternoon browsing vintage in Le Marais and art in Le Centre Pompidou. The arty films in the Pompidou Centre were a mistake – I fell asleep instantly in the dark, warm room. By the afternoon, I was pretty tired and opted to read my book in the Jardins des Tuileries, just outside the Louvre. When James and I visited Paris together, years ago, we went to this fancy vegan restaurant called the Gentle Gourmet Cafe. I wanted to return, but I’ve never really been for dinner by myself before. I was freaking out at first, using the wifi to message people on my phone, but I soon calmed down and got my book out until the food arrived. I’m proud of myself – I managed to push aside all those fears that people would think I was weird, wonder why I was alone, think I looked awkward. I would do it again! That evening I boarded the bus to Spain – see you in Barcelona!