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Trip Report First Solo Trip: London and Paris, Year 2000

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I am writing this more than fifteen years after the fact, partly out of nostalgia, about my first solo trip to Europe, to London and Paris, back in September, 2000. Some of my recollections may be foggy. I have since taken nine more solo trips to Europe and have learned a lot. But in some ways, travel is less fun for me now than it used to be. I miss that initial excitement about those scary new experiences.

This was not my first trip overseas. My first two trips were a work trip to Israel for two weeks (which included a weekend of sightseeing) and then a week to visit a friend who was doing an internship in Stockholm. I had wanted to see mainland Europe for a while but as a single person, I hesitated to go alone. Finally, in 2000, after taking a leave from work for a few months, I had the time and decided to go by myself. I sensed I could plan it myself but it seemed intimidating.

I started by going to an AAA travel agent. I got brochures for Italy - that had always been at the top of my list - but I wanted to see London and Paris too. I hadn’t been anywhere in Europe but Sweden! (Wow, that was a long time ago.) Still, I hesitated. The cost, the idea of going alone, the language barrier...

Finally, in mid-September, United Airlines had a last-minute flash sale for a round trip flight from Portland to London (connect in Washington Dulles) for ten days. I decided to go for it - why not? At least in London I wouldn’t have a language issue And it would be only nine days. Plus, I could throw in a side trip to Paris if I liked - I had read about the Chunnel train.

I recently found the United e-ticket receipt: I traveled September 18 - 28, 2000 - Monday to Thursday - and paid $569.24. (adjusted for inflation, that would be $784.56 in 2015 dollars). According to my records, I booked it the evening of Thursday September 14 - four days before departure!!! I hadn’t remembered it being quite that rushed - good grief, that must have been stressful.

I grabbed a few travel books from the library. I did some web research. But where to say? London is huge, and on such short notice I didn’t have a lot of time to be picky. Online hotel reviews and reservations were around in 2000 but as I recall still in their infancy. I consulted a friend who had done some work over there recently and got a few recommendations for small places near Lancaster Gate - which my friend said was a nice area (see below). I called one of the hotels just to ask about pricing (in the era before Skype, I used a calling card from my landline); I couldn’t quite bring myself to book the place sight unseen over the phone, but somehow, just making the call to London made the trip finally real for me.

So - I flew to London for my first solo trip, four days after booking the plane ticket, without even a hotel reservation!

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