Saturday, September 4, 2010

Solo Travel in Paris

Posted on September 1, 2010 - by solotraveler
Solo Travel in Paris – Great tips from a Francophile

Welcome to guest blogger Priscilla Pilon, author of the blog Weekend In Paris. Priscilla is a Francophile, Freelance writer and marketer who is passionate about all travel, with an emphasis on Paris. All photos courtesy of Priscilla Pilon

Solo Travel in Paris poses no problems for me, nor should it for you. Pre-planning mixed with a hint of spontaneity will combine to set the stage for a fantastic trip for one to Paris!

For Starters
A must, in my opinion, is to book a hotel with breakfast included. This ensures that you will start off your day with a fabulous cup of coffee while getting mentally prepared to speak a foreign language. Practice French with the morning desk clerk, plan your routes, and seek advice from fellow map wielding travelers in the lobby who will hopefully offer insider tips for your day ahead.

Stay Busy
Organized activities focus your day and help break the ice meeting others, making solo travel something to be embraced, not dreaded! Sign up for a session learning the history of chocolate making (tasting included) at La Maison du Chocolat, book a wine and cheese tasting at O Chateau, or head for a concert at la Cité de la musique. These experiences are great alternatives that give you the opportunity to mingle with locals and tourists alike while experiencing something nouveau.

Solo in a Group
Craving dinner companionship at the end of the day? I have never been, but hear from a very reliable friend, Stuart, that dinner at Jim Hayne’s house is quite an adventure. Strangers from all over the world show up solo or in groups and engage in repartee while dining on fabulous home-cooked food. Jim seeks a donation only to defray the cost of the meal. Anything extra reportedly gets passed along to various artistic charities. The suggested donation is 25 Euros and there is no need to bring a thing – wine included! Reservations can be made at What better venue for solo travelers to not feel alone in a foreign city!

Incognito and Introspective?
More traditional ways for parties of one to tour Paris incognito or to meet other people include museums and cafés. Museums are an obvious choice because you have the option to take a guided tour to be with others or purchase headphones and go on your own if you are feeling especially introspective. Cafés and Brasseries are the preferred places to eat when solo in Paris – you will see many a Parisian dining alone outside (no matter the weather) facing the street where it’s the best people-watching in the world!

Whether traveling alone for business or choice, Paris is one of the easiest places to amuse oneself. The Joie de Vivre is infectious – go for it!

My note:  This is so absolutely cool:   I vow to do this the next time I am in Paris!  I wish every city had something like this!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tall Ships in Chicago

The Tall Ships have arrived at Navy Pier.  Here they are, right outside my window!

(Click photos to enlarge)

Opening Day parade of the tall ships on Lake Michigan

Close up of one of the tall ships

Shooting off the cannon

Circling past Navy Pier and out onto the lake again...

...past the lighthouse.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flowers in the City

Some people have this impression that the city is all concrete.  Maybe many cities are, but Chicago is known for its lakefront beaches and biking/jogging path (some 20 miles of it north to south) completely dedicated to the recreation of its citizens (no shipping, commercial industry), its parks, and its FLOWERS!  Mayor Daley has done a great job of beautifying the city and at one point (not sure if it is still true) Chicago was leading the pack in "green cities."  He started the green movement in Chicago by constructing a roof garden on city hall, encouraging other buildings to follow suit.

These are a sampling some of the flowering planters and landscaped areas around the city....

(Click photos to enlarge)

And these are just examples of planters around Streeterville, my neighborhood.  All along Michigan Avenue are center planters filled with seasonal foliage;  window boxes and planters hang from many buildings on many streets in the city;  the developing River Walk (a subject for a future post) displays gardens and plantings;  and rooftop gardens abound in our city.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Women Traveling Alone, Pt. III -- 7 Reasons to Go

Reposted from Solo Traveler
August 18, 2010 by Janice

A twitter friend, @ DSXmac, told me that she heard a woman say that all women should travel alone before they get married.

Interesting comment. While I don’t like the “should” word – it’s quite judgmental in my mind — going solo is a good idea for women (and men) at just about any stage of life. Whether you’ve never been married, are married with kids, divorced, widowed, partnered with an empty nest… here are some great reasons to travel solo.

7 Reasons to Go

1.  Discover yourself as you discover the world – before you get tied down, learn self-reliance, decision-making and how to organize your time.

2.  Do what you want to do when you want to do it.

3.  Have a last hurrah before you have children.

4.  Discover who you are when you’re not responsible for children or a partner

5.  Take a break from endless daily responsibilities and come back refreshed.

6.  Build confidence after a divorce or loss.

7.  Eat dessert first – do anything you want to do without being judged.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Little Secret

If you, like me, aren't a bent-like-a-pretzel-over-the-handlebars, ride-as-fast-as-you-can cyclist and like to leisurely bike, looking at people and places, I'll share with you a little secret place of mine to bike:  Grant Park.  During the week, not the weekend.

Usually during the week, it's fairly empty and clear for biking back and forth and around and around.  I ride along the lakefront path (which can be actually dangerous with all the joggers and other bikers) past the yacht club and boats and cross over into Grant Park.  The city has newly paved around Buckingham Fountain, so it's nice to do a few rounds feeling the spray on your face, then if it's hot, stick to the heavily shaded paths.  I clocked 15 miles the other day just biking back and forth around the park and the strip of bike path between Museum Campus and Monroe Avenue!

Unfortunately, on this particular day, the city was setting up all over the park for the annual free Lollapalooza (free bands playing F-S-S and vendor tents galore) so in some parts I had to dodge workers and fencing and tent frames going up.  Ugh.  I hate Lollapalooza.  In my early years, I'm sure I would've been one of the teens or 20-somethings going to hear the music, drink and look for the opposite sex, but nowadays, I see it as just a huge crowd of noisy, drunken kids.  I'm officially o-l-d, I guess.

(Click photos to enlarge)
Clear and free paths around the park during the week (usually without the ugly event fencing, set up now for Lollapalooza)

Signage for Lollapalooza

With giant four-sided schedules of bands playing for the event

But still lots of open paths for biking

Just the occasional group of segway renters (and not the tent framing being put up that you see in this photo)

Buckingham Fountain with the landmark Hilton Hotel in the background

With the 200' center spray, a new tourist feature...

And "new" Chicago on the south side of the park

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rainy Day in the City

No biking the Pier this morning.

(Click to enlarge)

Monday, August 2, 2010

7AM Biking on the Pier

My city condo faces Navy Pier and Lake Michigan.  I never tire of the view.  Peaceful waters, sailboats, dinner cruise ships, motorboats.  The Ferris Wheel and amusement park rides.  Crowds on the Pier, Bubba Gump's, Harry Carrey's, the Beer Garden and the Shakespeare Theater.

And in the early morning, nothing but a few walkers, joggers, cyclists and delivery trucks.  Oh, and fishermen.

(Click photos to enlarge)
Backside of Pier, John Hancock building in background

Early fishermen

Planters all along the backside of Pier

The city as seen from the back of Navy Pier

Early walkers, joggers, cyclists on the Pier

Another view of the city from the Pier

Front side of Pier, my building in the distant middle

Shakespeare Theater, dinner cruise boats, my building in the distance

Further down the Pier, restaurants, Ferris Wheel, rides, bike rentals

City from the Pier, hot air balloon in center

Early morning on the lake

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Back in the [City] Again

You older Baby Boomers, will recognize that spin on the old Western cowboy song, "I'm Back in the Saddle Again."

Oi.  I have not much to blog about this morning, so I'll just share some photos of "being back" in my city place for the weekend.

(Click photos to enlarge)
Full moon over the lake

"Computer Corner" from where I'm blogging right now

"Reading Corner"

"Writing Corner"

"Bike Corner"
(typical storage in a city condo, when you don't want to use the bike room)

"Cooking Corner"

"Sleeping Corner"

My condo in the city is so tiny, I just have "corners" as designated areas.  But its sufficient for me.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Platinum Bike Town

I just found this doing a Google search for bike-friendly towns.  I'm getting more and more interested in the idea of living somewhere that promotes everyday biking, instead of using cars.  Since I can't figure out how to copy and embed the short video showing how bike-friendly Davis, California is, I've included the link to click to see it.

Now I have to go Googlemap Davis and see where it is.  Being in CA, I doubt that I could afford real estate there.  But the search begins.

One of the Pleasures of Biking

Saw this photo on one of my favorite blogs, Ride a Bike, Change Your Life.  Had to repost it here, because the same thing happened to me a few years ago with my bike and the friendly Grant Park (Chicago) squirrels!  (And I thought my experience was unique.  Ha!)

17 Years of Silence

Travel Solo in Silence… at least some of the time.
Posted on October 15, 2009 - by Janice
From Solo Traveler

Imagine choosing not to speak for a day and the experience lasting 17 years. John Francis did this. He decided to try a day and found the experience so valuable that he carried on for a week, and then a year, thinking that he would talk on the anniversary. That didn’t happen. He continued his silence for 17 years while earning a BA, MA and Ph.d — even while teaching college students he didn’t speak. Why did he do this? Because one learns more by listening and observing than by speaking.

Watching this video (which I hope you will do as it has more to offer than just thoughts on silence) got me thinking about solo travel because traveling solo imposes silence… at least some of the time.  If you’re not talking you can listen.

John Francis says that on the first day that he stopped talking, he began listening. Watch this TED Talk and hear what he has to say; his participation in a conversation actually limited communication. It limited learning.

I think that solo travel, more than any other form of travel, provides a similar opportunity to listen and learn.

When we travel solo, we naturally spend more time with our thoughts, listening to ourselves, because we don’t have someone else with whom to speak. When we are alone, we spend more time observing, taking in the local culture, customs, the environment, fashion, people working, playing… living. This experience of listening and observing is amplified if one doesn’t speak the local language. When speaking is not really possible, we spend even more time listening, observing and learning.

Traveling alone and not speaking the local language may present its challenges from a practical point of view but a naturally imposed silence that causes one to pause, listen, observe and learn has overriding benefits.

And finally, a quote by Mark Twain which I have referred to before on this blog: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” I would like to suggest that taking the time to travel solo and travel in silence… at least some of the time, will do even more to help us learn about and appreciate each other.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Just because....

Going Eco-friendly

My second day of biking my errands one day the other week.

(Click photos to enlarge.)
I started with breakfast at a local restaurant.

Egg white/feta cheese omelet, rye toast and tomatoes for the body, crossword for the brain.

Back to the library to pick up a book.

Passing houses in town riding from the library to the shops.

I've always loved big, old-fashioned front porches.

Brink Street Market place downtown

Old movie theater-turned-cultural center (Bill Cosby opened for it!)

Sidewalk Sale days

Pops Corn Crib at the downtown train depot

Leaving town, riding along the bike path to Ace to get extra keys made.

Back to town, past my old high school.

Ye olde Alma Mater.

Where I spent my Saturday afternoons, cheering on the track at football games.

And after a few hours of biking my errands, lunch at Vickie's Place on the Fox River (which I did not bike to, as it is in the neighboring town.)