After almost two years of sheltering in place due to the pandemic, getting vaccinated and traveling solo during these past few months has been life-changing. Journeying through Paris solo during the holidays gave me the perfect opportunity to rest, relax, and start the New Year with a fresh perspective. Here are ten reasons Paris is perfect for spending the holidays traveling solo.
- Mild weather. In December, the weather in Paris is crisp. Daytime temperatures typically reside in the mid-40s F (6 to 8 C), late nights and early mornings tend to be in the mid to upper 30s F (1 to 3 C), colder mornings tend to dip down into the mid-20s F (-4 to -3 C). The risk for rain and snow is low in December.
- Walkable. Paris is much smaller than New York City. The entire length of the Champs-Élysées is 1.2 miles, and you can walk from Notre Dame to the Louvre in about 15 minutes. Paris is more walkable than most visitors think if you don’t have mobility issues. Travel light and be aware of pickpockets.
- Parisian café culture. The French café is the perfect spot for the solo traveler to drink in the city’s culture. Most cafés are open until past midnight. Guests are encouraged to order a café au lait and spend as much time as they want people watching, reading a novel, or striking up a conversation with new friends. Most of the cafés I found encouraged patrons to take their time and relax. I brought my sketch pad and journal and spent many afternoons watching people, drawing, and sketching. Allowing myself not to have to be anywhere or do anything was lovely. I could experience the luxury of being present.
- Many French people speak English. If you don’t speak French, don’t let that keep you from visiting France. A large percentage of younger Parisians can speak conversational English. It’s always best to learn as much French as you can, but English is the global language in Europe, so you can still make your way around the city if you aren’t a fluent French speaker.
- Holiday lights. Paris is the city of lights, and during the holidays, the beauty of Paris at night is magnificent. Take evening strolls to the Montmartre district, Bercy Village, and the avenue des Champs-Élysées and behold the elegance of Christmas.
- Strict COVID-19 protocols. France has some of the most rigorous COVID-19 protocols on the planet. As I write this article, everyone must wear a mask on all public transport. Folks who are two weeks into their second dose and booster vaccinations of Pfizer, AstraZenica, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson can attend events and go to restaurants and museums with a vaccine health passport app without COVID-19 PCR or antigen tests. With new variants appearing, be sure to check the vaccination, testing, and travel requirements before you book your trip and be financially prepared for any unexpected changes.
- Fantastic tour guides. Travel provides unexpected moments of joy that live in the memory for a lifetime. While waiting for an Uber to pick me up in front of the Gare de l’Est train station, I saw a guy sitting on this substantial two-person moped. I struck up a conversation with him and learned he took people on moped rides through Paris. I booked a session with him for later in the week. The feeling of joy I felt taking in the entire city from the back of a moped was the highlight of my trip.
- A welcoming Black community. Paris is a cosmopolitan city with a beautiful multi-racial community. The African diaspora in France accounts for about half of the African diaspora in Europe. As a Black woman traveling in more rural parts of France, I felt more vulnerable on my own and had some negative experiences, but in Paris, I was as comfortable as I am in New York City. On my first day in Paris, I realized I didn’t bring my loc sponge and was able to find a Black hair supply shop that was a 10-minute walk from my hotel. Along the way, I discovered every kind of African and even West Indian restaurants along with Indian and Asian cuisine. Some ladies at the hair-braiding salon recommended some laid-back bars in the area, and later in the week, I went to hear live music and made new friends.
- Bumble dates. Okay, single folks, the Bumble app works in France. I had a great time meeting and going on fun dates with some nice guys. The Parisians I met love their home as much as I love New York City, but the difference is that they know their city’s history. The men I met on Bumble could have been tour guides — really hot tour guides.
- Shopping, museums, spas and food. Leave room in your suitcase because Paris is a shopper’s delight, it’s the birthplace of the restaurant and spa culture, and there are 130 museums within the city limits. I spent several days, mystified, exploring the largest museum in the world, the Louvre. Every day after my explorations, I walked back to my hotel and discovered a different café. Every single meal I ate in France was divine.
Spending time solo during the holidays allows particularly single folks the freedom to shake off the grime of not fitting into perceived societal “norms,” to wander without the pressure of another person’s wants or needs. Why not take a trip to Paris solo this holiday season if you’re able? You may just recognize that part of your liberated best self you’ve always dreamed of being.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.