Sunday, July 3, 2011

TSS - 7.2.11

Three weeks from today I will be landing in Paris and seeing "my" apartment for the first time.  I am very excited, of course, but also a bit anxious.  I was rather spontaneous when I booked the apartment, partly because I really didn't think that the trip would happen.  When I booked the plane tickets it became more real, but it was still over a month away.  Now I feel that there is no turning back.

I am nervous for several reasons.  First of all, the Charles de Gaulle airport.  I think I can make it through customs on my own, but there is finding the baggage claim area - lugging my suitcase off the carousel - and then trying to find the shuttle service to take me to the apartment.  Once I get over that hurdle, I can breathe a sigh of relief.

But I am also anxious because I want to make this the best trip it can be.  I don't want to come home and regret that I should have done more.  Adventure is not normally a word in my vocabulary, but I want to try to embrace it this trip.

So I have spent this past week preparing myself.  I have worked out every day in the hopes that I will be in shape to walk around the city without getting out of breath.  Of course, I am not looking forward to this steep climb to the top of Montmartre, but I am hoping that it will become easier each day.

I have also persevered and completed the first two lessons of Rosetta Stone.  I plan to complete Lesson 3 this week, and that will give me  about ten days or so to learn as much of lessons four and five as possible.  I have also downloaded all the audio CDs to my iPod and hope to listen to the "conversation" tracks on the plane ride over.  Even if I doze a bit, I am hoping that subliminal learning will take place.

I have read numerous books on this fabulous city and spent countless hours surfing the internet.  I have developed an account on Trip Advisor, which is a fantastic site for travel reviews as well as vacation planning.  I have always enjoyed planning for trips - in fact, I nearly like the anticipation better than the trip itself.  Some say I am organized, others say I am obsessed.  But the more I visualize the trip, the more I am able to appreciate it once I am there.

So this weekend  I developed a "loose" itinerary.  While I have read numerous books, these three are my absolute favorite and I plan to take them with me on the trip.  Knopf mapguides for Paris is fabulous!  I happened to pick this up on a lark when our local Borders bookstore was going out of business.  It is one of the best buys I have made in a long time.  The book is small enough to fit in any purse, and the fold out maps are magnified enough that I can read the street names with no problem.  While the publishers included many of the typical tourist sites on the map, there is plenty of room for me to indicate other, lesser known sites in the area.  I combined all the information that I learned from my research and made my own handnotes on each of the maps.  This is an indispensable help to me - and will provide a terrific souvenir once the trip is complete.

City Walks Paris is another delightful travel companion.  The city has been segmented into 50 one-to-two hour walks and again, the maps are magnified to make it easy to follow the path.  I plan to pull out those cards which match the Knopf map of the area that I plan to visit each day.  Between these two resources, I should be able to stay on the well-traveled path.

Rick Steves' Paris was another spontaneous purchase at Half Price Books.  True, it is a year old, but how much could change in a year's time?  The city has been there hundreds of years, right?  I really enjoyed this guide because it is an easy read - not dry or boring in the least - and there are hand drawn maps of several areas.  While these maps aren't drawn to scale, they do give the reader a nice overview.  I hope to scan these and print them off so that I don't have to carry the entire book, just the map of the places I plan to visit that day.

I then created a table in a Microsoft Word document that lists the Map number from the Knopf book, the number(s) of the corresponding city walks  notecards, the key sites that I wish to visit in that area, and restaurant/cafe recommendations for that location.  I am hoping that this will make it easy to decide where to go the night before - gather supplies together - and set off on a daily adventure without worry.  That is the plan anyway.....

One real concern I have is about eating out by myself.  I absolutely HATE it.  I feel that everyone is staring at me and thinking what a poor pathetic soul I must be.  BUT...I must learn to get over this.  I do not want to sit in the apartment and miss the wonderful experience of Parisian outdoor cafes.  So this week I plan to work on overcoming that fear.  I want to go to local coffee houses here in town and sit and write.  I absolutely loved Dave Fox's Globejotting and I want to do one of the exercises he prescribes:  pre-travel writing.  I have done the research, now I need to journal my anticipations and expectations of each location.  I can try to hone my sensory writing while at the same time getting over my fear of dining alone.  I am  hoping that sharing these goals for the "world" to see will be the motivation I need to follow through.

This week will be spent maintaining the new habits for a successful trip:  brushing up on French, walking on the treadmill, writing in the coffee shop, and experimenting with my camera settings.  If there is time left over, I hope to continue reading The Greater Journey or if I need something a little less ambitious, Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik or My Life in France by Julia Child.  I already have Emile Zola and Victor Hugo downloaded on my Kindle to read while traveling.

I wish all of my American readers a safe and festive Fourth of July - and I hope everyone can enjoy a literary vacation this week.


  1. I just finished one of the great Paris setting novels of all time-The Hunchback of Notre Dame-I will eagerly await your updates from Paris and hope you have a great trip

  2. Sounds like you've got a great plan in place, Molly. Big airports make me nervous too. Have a fantastic time!

  3. When you get to the airport, just follow the crowd and you'll be fine. Eating out alone can be uncomfortable. I usually take a book with me when I do that. I hope you have the time of your life on your trip.

  4. Molly, I am so excited for you! What a fabulous adventure. Don't forget to try some of that favorite French food. :)

  5. You seem like a planner, so i am sure everything will go smoothly for you. Enjoy this opportunity of a lifetime.

  6. Amazing!! SO excited for you:)

  7. It sounds like you are very well prepared. I don't mind eating on my own in restaurants. I normally just read a book.

  8. I loved My Life in France and have Paris to the Moon in my stack of 'possible' books this month. You're so organized, Molly... I just know you'll have a fantastic trip!

  9. I so envy you your upcoming trip to Paris and admire your sense of adventure. You will be well prepared, Molly, just go and enjoy.

    If I am off on my own I always have a book or pen and paper with me. Good friends to have on hand in life, don't you think? It seems like if I am meeting up with my husband or friends, I am usually there long before anyone else and my books keep me company. When I take the time to look up, however, it never seems as if folks are looking at me. They are always engrossed in whatever and whomever they are with. Still, I know how you feel, Molly.

    Hope you fourth was good and look forward to hearing about Paris.

  10. Your trip sounds fabulous! I can't wait to hear back about all of the fun adventures you have.

  11. You sound like you have the perfect balance of preparedness and openness to adventure. We seriously need to meet up in KC later this summer/fall so I can hear all about it in person. Is there a good French restaurant where we could meet so you could order for us?

    Have a marvelous time, write tons, and take a few chances.

  12. Oh Molly, you are going to have the best time ever. I can tell by all the superb planning you have done. Please take pictures of the food for me. Even if it's toast, I'll be impressed. When I traveled for business I had to eat by myself so I got over the uncomfortable feeling. I always took a book with me as the perfect companion. Who cares what other people think - was my attitude. I'll never see them again. I'm sure you will do just fine and gain confidence in the bargain.

  13. Molly, I can understand your nervousness. May I just say a few words?
    All the airports in Europe are bi-lingual, i.e. one of the languages is always English, even in France. So you will find your way around there.
    I like all the small maps you already have - your plans sound wonderful. Make sure to get one big overview map of Paris so that you have an idea WHERE in Paris the areas of the small maps are.
    Don't be afraid of eating out alone. France is the country of the emancipated women - many women go out on their own. And believe me, everybody, no matter where, is way too occupied with themselves than to stare at you.
    I think you will have a wonderful trip. I'm always nervours before a trip - we have a German word for that feeling, it's Reisefieber (travel fever). Once you're on your way you will be fine. Oh, and drink a lot of water during the flight, it honestly helps you with the jetlag. We experience that every time we fly home and back.

  14. Molly, I can understand why you're nervous - I would be too! You'll be fine in the airport though. I have been to Charles de Gaulle on my own with no knowledge of French and found everything just fine. And yes, there are lots of women on their own in Paris! There are far more than in the US, so you'll be fine eating on your own.

    It sounds like you're just at the right level of prepared - you know what you're doing, but there is some time left for spontaneity. I think you will have an amazing time.

  15. I've been a lurker for quite awhile buthave your blog on my igoogle page. Having been on vacation for a month I had missed my blogs, but I'm thrilled to hear about your trip. And a bit envious - well, make that a lot envious! I used to be very uncomfortable eating alone but got over that by reading. I can read in a McD's with kids running around having the time of their lives and me many miles away (mentally) in a book. Also, I enjoy watching the other folks and sometimes catching bits of conversation. (Good habits for a writer, right?) Have a great time and we look forwarding to hearing about it.

  16. People have given you such great advice and encouragement. I wish I were going too! I've never been, but will, one day. You will have a wonderful time; I'm sure of it.

  17. Paris is a lovely city and there is so much to do and see - you will be spoiled for choice. The Eiffel tower at night is spectacular.

  18. I am wishing you the trip of your dreams. You have done all of the research and work on boning up on your French. Now you can just sit back and enjoy the adventure. I know what you mean about eating by yourself. I used to be the same way but had to get over it when I started traveling a lot for business and didn't always have a colleague with me when meal time rolled around. You will do great!


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