Travelling alone

Apr 15th, 2003, 02:23 AM
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Travelling alone

Does anyone have any hints on travelling alone in France (will be in Normandy, Paris and the south-west for two weeks)?

Any general tips, things to look out for etc. would be great - especially advice from people who've done it.

I HAVE travelled alone before - just not for the same length of time (usually just 3/4 day trips - Venice and Tokyo are my most recent).

violagirl is offline  
Apr 15th, 2003, 06:55 AM
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I have no personal experience to share but in planning for solo travel of my own, I found the Rough Guide books to be one of the best resources for finding the places where locals and other travelers congregate to hang out over coffee or cocktails. The Rough Guide tips on budget accomodations and travel methods (bus, hitching, hostels, camping etc) are not useful to me but they go into much greater depth than guides like Fodor's or Frommer's and often point out great little local spots that are of interest to the solo traveler.
Owen_ONeill is offline  
Apr 15th, 2003, 03:08 PM
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I looooove travelling solo. You can do as you please. Yes, there are times when a companion would be fun, but it's such an amazing experience to do it on your own. I often meet a lot more people when I'm solo.
Anyway, my advice would be to bring a journal or sketchbook so when you have some down time you can sit at a park or in a town square and capture your thoughts. It's a great way to soak in the culture and remember it all. I also like to bring a glue stick and small scissors with me so I can attach "found" objects like stamps or package labels to my journal. This is a great way to keep busy at the hotel at night after dinner. Hope this was helpful. And by the way I have travelled solo a few times before, all for a week or more. I have not been to France solo, so i apologize for no helpful hints there! Have fun.
icelandhereicome is offline  
Apr 15th, 2003, 03:37 PM
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i spent about four weeks in France on a solo trip. i like to stay at youth hostels so that i can meet people.

What specific questions do you have?
angeleno is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 02:05 AM
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I suppose I'm looking for general advice about eating alone, avoiding unwanted attention and that sort of thing, as well as any specific tips/experiences in France.

To be honest, hanging around bars to "meet other young people" (which is what a lot of guidebooks seem to think is what all solo travellers should do) doesn't hugely appeal to me. If I wanted to go into a bar, get chatted up by someone I would rather not talk to, and feel like a spare part - I could do that at home!!
violagirl is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 09:42 AM
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Have you given any thought to staying in one place for your first week eg Paris) and taking a language course? This is my preferred type of solo travel - because it gives some structure to the day (ie requires me to get out of bed in the morning), provides you with a set of companions (if you want them), social and cultural activities, sight-seeing, etc - and you come home with something (ie knowledge of the language and culture) more than an empty wallet and photos. The programmes can be quite inexpensive (particularly because they often give you the option of staying with a host family), and some are quite flexible in terms of the number of hours per day that you study (4 is standard, but you might be able to find one with 2-3 hours if you wanted more sightseeing time).
Kate_W is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 05:53 PM
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I spent a month (2 weeks by myself) in Paris and earlier 2 weeks in London alone. I love planning out my days so had lots of info on what I wanted to do/see. The only thing I particularly watched out for was pickpockets in the metro/tube (my sister nearly got pickpocketed in Paris metro). Otherwise, I just hopped on a transport and headed to wherever I wanted to go (or walked if close by). From Paris, I took a train for the day to Rouen (I had a walking tour from Steinbicker's travel book). With my sister and later a friend took the train to Versailles, Chartres, and Chantilly - all of which could have been comfortably done alone. In Paris I found it most comfortable to eat alone in sidewalk cafes with my travel notebook for something to do and people watching. Any questions, re Paris please feel free to e-mail me a [email protected]
nancy is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 06:04 PM
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Hi Viola,

First, get a few books by M F K Fisher. (A woman who enjoyably writes about food and life.)

Second, bring a book with you whenever you go out. You can always close it. (Suggestion from M F K Fisher)

Third, "No" in French is "Non".

("Yes" is "oui",pronounced "Wheeee") (%>)
ira is offline  
Apr 16th, 2003, 06:35 PM
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<<I suppose I'm looking for general advice about eating alone, avoiding unwanted attention and that sort of thing, as well as any specific tips/experiences in France.>>

I don't think you'll get any unwanted attention - I certainly don't get much (except for the gypsy who wanted me to take off my necklace and give it to her but that's another story).

I've seen lots of people dine alone in small restaurants, so i wouldn't worry about that either. You can use that time to write in your journal or read or plan the next day's activities. I tend to be a snacker more than a diner so i wander in and out of bakeries and grocery stores. Sidewalk sandwich stands in Paris are very convenient too. People tend to walk around eating their lunch.

Definitely get a Carte Musee for Paris - that way you can walk in and out of all the musuems you want without waiting in line (good for bathroom breaks too).

My favorite places in France were Nice, Carcassone and Tours. I didn't like Lyon or Marseille very much. Paris is wonderful for the art and architecture. I spent a week there and then returned for another week last year. Make sure you save a couple of days for side trips to Versailles, Chartres or whatever else you want to see.

Definitely pick up some walking tour maps at Thomas Cook or Barnes & Noble for Paris.

You don't mention your budget but I like Let's Go guidebooks for going cheap and there is information on moderate accommodations too. Plus I've found their reviews to be very honest and I've found the history and society overviews to be very helpful.

I don't speak any French, was never pickpocketed or bothered in any way (except that one gypsy).

you'll have a great time!
angeleno is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 07:08 AM
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Re: eating - France is a very easy country to eat out alone in. It's a common thing, which many locals do, so you won't get any funny attitude from waiters. Much more so than London, where people don't eat out alone, so you feel a lot more conspicuous.
maccy is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 11:42 AM
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Kate's earlier message suggesting a week or so at a language school in the area you visiting is very good. I generally travel solo for 3-4 weeks at a time. I enroll is any school I can find in a town of interest for a week or so. I have 1/2 days and evenings to travel that area. I immediatlely have a dozen or more friends [of all ages and all home countries]. I live with a local family provided by the school who teach me where and how to go, and I tune up [or sometimes get introduced] on the local language. The info you get from your host family, fellow students, and school staff about how to do the rest of the trip is invaluable. I have done this for the past 15 yrs or so and it works every time!
lweber is offline  
Apr 17th, 2003, 12:24 PM
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I enjoyed traveling with my ex- when married, but I enjoy traveling solo even more -- the total freedom of doing what I want, when I want is incredibly liberating.

Dinners are certainly the biggest issue, for me at least. In the States, it's no problem for me to find a nice restaurant where I can have dinner at the bar -- I find this is an especially good option when traveling by myself. In France, though, I've found far fewer places like this -- most restaurants are configured with tables only, and solo diners can feel very out-of-place.

But, in Paris, I have found some good solutions, at least that work for me!

My first choice is to find large, upscale, business hotels that have a high-end (formal) restaurant and a second, less-formal restaurant. It's the less-formal restaurant where I point my feet. Some examples include the Meridien Montparnasse (the 2nd-floor restaurant has an excellent dinner buffet), the Scribe, and the Cafe de la Paix at the Inter-Continental Grand Hotel. Because lots of people in business-oriented hotels are traveling by themselves, you're certain to have lots of other people dining by themselves, so you won't feel nearly so out-of-place as you would at the neighborhood restaurant that's got 10 tables with couple plus one table with you sitting by yourself.

Willi's Wine Bar, on the right bank not too far from the Louvre, does serve decent meals at its bar, and it's a good choice for dining alone.

In most neighborhoods, you'll also find lots of stores ("traiteurs") that sell foods to take out. Most of the customers are local residents who will serve the take-out for dinner, but the stuff that doesn't have to be re-heated is great for serve-yourself room service.
DonTopaz is offline  
Apr 18th, 2003, 03:27 AM
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I often travel solo and it has it's plusses and minuses.

For me, I love being able to change my plans on a whim...even if I decide that 5 minutes in the Louvre is enough (I didn't actually do that, but you see what I mean.)

The big minus for me is in the evenings. Like you, I am often not in the mood to go hang at a club or bar. In London, I go to the theatre alot, but my French isn't good enough for this in Paris. (I did see "Stomp!" in Paris once, it was the perfect solution.)

There are of course concerts etc. Also look for what nights the big musuems may be open late and plan an evening or two there.

The biggest suggestion I can make though, is don't feel that just because you're travelling you need to be out doing something touristy all the time. It took me years to realize that it is perfectly fine to decide some nights that I just want to stay at the hotel and read my book or watch tv or maybe just go to a movie that I could just as easily see in the States.

There's a certain stress involved in travelling and it's important to take a vacation from your vacation when you are travelling for a few weeks.

In fact, when I do these kinds of things, I often end up feeling that I'm getting a more true experience of the country than when I'm running from museum to attraction. If I pick up something to eat in my room and watch tv, I'm doing something that is much more like what most of the natives are doing that evening.

busterla is offline  
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