The Girls have decided they are going to walk everywhere. They are not interested in using the trains, no matter how I wax lyrical about the RER. They say they have heard how walkable Paris is. I explain that yes, anything is walkable if you have enough time and the right footwear. They don’t appreciate my joke. The girls have decided they are okay with only seeing a small part of Paris, the neighborhoods around our Left Bank apartment. They want to discover Paris, to see it as a local. Okay, so you want to commute, remember to put the bins out, pay the heating bills? Another joke but no laughter.

I’m just happy to be in Paris again. The planned trip with my dear friend *Anne didn’t really eventuate the way I’d hoped once she began inviting other women to join us. No dramas, the more the merrier, I thought.

Paris is a great city to visit with friends. Plenty to see and do, enough to keep even the most finicky of travellers happy. We have our lists of must-see sights. Mine, I thought would be quite short after visiting so many times, but no, still plenty to see. Anne has visited once before, but is quite happy to waft about taking photos wit her new camera. *Miranda had just a day in Paris while on a tour a few years ago so, her appetite whet, she’s frothing to see everything. *Paula is seeing Paris for the first time. She’s a little nervous but is happy to go along with the flow as long as the flow is walking pace.

I made sure I brought comfortable walking shoes, both for day time and night. I urged the Girls to do the same. Miranda has her trusty joggers, nothing for night-time wear. In the end we don’t see her for dust the whole 10 days. She has an agenda and by God, she sticks to it, each morning checking items off her list. She’d be a great travel buddy if the pace you wanted to set was relentless with a side of manic.

Google Maps and Youtube are truly the travellers friend and using these we easily navigate our way from the airport to the RER and on to St. Michel station in the centre of Ile St Louis. We drag our wheely bags up the little flight of escalators (which I believe were invented in Paris…1863? someone check on Google, quick…) I knew the Girls would love walking this way, past Notre Dame cathedral, to our Left Bank apartment. We round the corner and there she is, in all her early morning glory, hardly a tourist in sight.

Google Maps and YouTube are truly the travellers friend and using these we easily navigate our way from the airport to the RER and on to St. Michel station in the centre of Ile St Louis. We drag our wheelie bags up the little flight of escalators (which I believe were invented in Paris…1863? someone check on Google, quick…) I knew the Girls would love walking this way, past Notre Dame cathedral, to our Left Bank apartment. We round the corner and there she is, in all her early morning glory, hardly a tourist in sight. Notre Dame was being cleaned last time I was here and now she’s shiny and bright, ready to welcome her flock and the hordes of tourists that visit each day. The girls are thrilled with the cathedral and most appreciative of my knowledge of the city that finds us standing outside the big blue carriage door to our apartment.

The host welcomes us and gives us the tour. I am immediately in love with the house. Anyone who has read my novel Hotel Déjà vu will recognise my description of the stunning 17th Century townhouse. The idea for the novel is born right here in this moment. Flights of smooth stone stairs separate the floors devoted to family, guests and the private gym and pool in the basement. Unlike my setting in Hotel Déjà vu there is no time portal. After we ooh and aah over the terrace with the view to the towers of Notre Dame, we devour the delicious breakfast of homemade pastries and preserves, fruit salads and good strong coffee to counteract the jet-lag. She then directs us towards the local tabac for phone cards and we’re excited to be out on the streets of Paris.

We have just one key between us so we need to coordinate. We really don’t want to be bothering our host even though she lives in the building. They say you learn a lot about people when you travel with them and within minutes Miranda and I are finished in the tabac and waiting for Anne and Paula. Half an hour goes by and they are nowhere to be seen. They both have a phone; we are both keen to be in contact with our children at home. We need to go back to the apartment to get help with accessing our phones, and of course, they have the key. I am fuming 40 minutes later when they emerge from a shop scratching their heads as to why we are annoyed. Not off to a great start.

The host’s son organises our phones and all is well with the world. Miranda and I chat with our kids; it’s night at home and they are not really missing us yet so they are distracted and want to get back to playing Minecraft or whatever. This makes me feel a little silly for getting upset and I say so, not realising that information will be stored for later use.

Finally, by around ten, we are out on the street. The Tuileries, I suggest. The Eiffel Tower they squeal. That’s a Metro ride, I warn, and then we can walk back along the river… If we can walk back then surely we can walk there… fair point, I say, it’s about five kilometres, and look at their shoes. Miranda is well shod for the walk, I have my sneakers, but Paula and Anne are wearing dress shoes. I take one look at their raised eye-brows and stop talking. They don’t want me to comment on their shoes but I don’t have to tell you that we don’t make it past Les Invalides. It’s only a kilometre away but they’ve got blisters. I have Band-Aids, I tell them.

It’s not just the blisters; we’re all flagging. We wander back along the river, browsing the bouquanistes. Miranda wants to buy a painting and wants me to help her. I tell her I’ll take her to the gallery in the Marais that specialises in local emerging artists; she buys some gaudy scenes, almost certainly painted in China. Dinner is pizza in my favourite place overlooking Notre Dame and the bells ring in time for us to take that first bite. It’s my idea of heaven.

Anne and Paula want to hit the sack. We let them into the apartment and Miranda and I go for a drink. We’ve got a second wind; must be the sensible shoes. Miranda tells them to stay up to beat the jet-lag. Paula says she wants to go to bed early. She wants to stay on Australian time as she’s only here for nine days.

This could be a long nine days, I think.

This post is taken from the diary written in Paris in 2012, when I visited the city with a friend and two acquaintances. By the end of the ten days I was glad I still had another 10 days solo in the city.

*Names have been changed to protect those involved, even those who deserve to be mocked.

Anne Lamott. What she said…

Solo travel and me aren’t a great fit. I’ll travel alone if I must, but I prefer company. I’ll rephrase that to be perfectly clear. My own company is preferable to traveling with people who don’t play well with others, complain a lot but don’t really know ‘what they want to do’, want to sleep in until midday, or don’t want to eat any ‘foreign muck’.

even toilet sounds lovely in French…

I am a rare thing, an extroverted writer. I enjoy my alone time but I get my energy from talking and listening to people, spending time with people. Unfortunately, like many writers, I suffer from social anxiety fearing unconditional rejection. That’s the kind of rejection that comes in the form of ‘I don’t know you but I don’t want to know you.’ For whatever reason, I’ve always been a bit on the odd side, and in the past others have found me a little…intense.

I acknowledge that I was taken aback by some of the behaviour of my unexpected travelling companion and I probably shouldn’t have bitched like a banshee to anyone who would listen. Not my proudest moment. I used to live by the phrase made famous by Mean girls; ‘can’t say anything nice? Come sit by me…’ I’m not proud of that.

I’m not the person I was then {thank heavens!} I’d like to think I am softening with age {and a lot of meditation} but I can still be intense. I crave intelligent conversation interspersed with good jokes. I’ll even take bad jokes as long as they’re not racist, sexist or stupid. I no longer want to discuss people, unless it’s to talk about what they are writing, or other great, big, essential ideas. I want to talk about sex, politics, religion and the nature of the universe, the little things…

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