My first visit to Paris was on the return coach journey from a weekend in Disneyland Paris. I remember very little of the park itself, but have distinct memories of watching the city’s icons through my window before the coach stopped in a carpark for us to buy armfuls of postcards and cheap Eiffel Tower keyrings from street vendors.
Years later, I’d consumed books and films on the City of Light but had not yet ventured back. A hopeless romantic, I’d assumed a future boyfriend would take the initiative to whisk me away for a weekend break. Alas, I was taken to Oxford, Edinburgh and Center Parcs but not to my beloved city.
So, instead, I joined my parents for my Mum’s 60th birthday celebrations – a short coach break to Paris with trips to Monet’s garden, the Palace of Versailles, and several beautiful chateaux included.
Our day in Paris was beautiful – the weather was warm, the city wasn’t too crowded, and we enjoyed savouring some of the many sights at a leisurely pace. There was even opportunity for me to practice my French when ordering lunch (croissants, baguettes and coffee, naturally).
That visit contributed to my ever-growing love of travel. It made me realise you don’t need to be in love with someone to visit an amazing location – the places themselves and the journey you take are their own love affairs, and I have fallen for many European marvels since then.
Regrettably, fate had other ideas. In 2015 I had several dizzy episodes and spent the following year visiting multiple doctors, having several blood tests, and being put on medication. The latter caused a different illness, and I ended up with IBS-like symptoms that caused extreme anxiety every time I ate. Understandably, this didn’t go down well with my travel plans. In 2016, I vowed never to travel again.
But Paris was still calling to me. I still watched the films, the documentaries, read books, made collages, changed my wardobe, cut my hair, attempted to learn French – anything to bring me closer to the city I loved. But there was nothing to be done – I had to visit again.
So in 2017, I boarded the Eurostar for the first time and spent five days in Paris on my own. While half my suitcase was filled with ‘safe’ food and my maps had more pointers for the nearest toilets than for actual places of interest, I still managed to have a good trip. There is something about the energy, the passion, the beauty of Paris that makes you feel loved.
Now, I hope to explore beyond the city to every corner of France. The more I learn about it, the more I am itching to discover its rivers and beaches, its cheeses and vineyards, its people and culture and history. Travel is a gift; one which I hope never to tire of receiving.