That Day I Was in Paris

I’ve been to the Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport four times, but I’ve never stepped out of it to actually be in Paris. Until that one day when I did.

That one day when I was alone in Paris.

It all started on my way to Madrid. Or I should say, I first had a glimpse of my Paris experience on my way to Madrid. There was a delay with Air France, which resulted in me missing my connecting flight to Spain and having to stay a few extra hours at my stopover, the CDG airport. It was no big deal, even if I I was a little bitter that I was being robbed of a day in Madrid. But I just started my vacation so I was still cool, still laid-back.

I was in high spirits, walking around the airport. I haughtily tweeted that I was stuck at the Paris airport and what else can I do but shop for French macaroons at Laduree and chocolates at La Maison du Chocolat?

I even FaceTimed with my dad while enjoying a little snack. I was cool, calm, collected, in spite of missed flight connections.

But that was the first delay. And that was when I only had to stay for a few hours at the airport. But the second time, the second delay? That happened on my way back from Spain, en route home to Boston. I was no longer cool and collected. Nuh-uh, I was far from that. I was hung-over (let’s face it, I wanted to enjoy my last night in Madrid) and exhausted and really looking forward to an uninterrupted 7 hours of sleep on the plane. I felt helpless, frustrated, sweaty.

This second time, after I missed my connecting flight again (thanks, Air France!), I didn’t just have to stay at the airport for a few hours. I had to stay in Paris overnight. This time I had to leave the airport and actually… see Paris. At least some of it.

I got to my hotel by 9 pm. Did I say I was exhausted? I asked the concierge how can I get to the Eiffel Tower, because I don’t know when I will be in Paris again so I wanted to check it out already. But he said, in very charming, French-accented English, that I just stay in zee ‘otel because I am a “very pretty young lady” who does not speak Francois and the Eiffel Tower is about an hour away, one way, and that I would have an early wake-up time tomorrow morning, and that I should just rest.


Maybe the odds were against me. I packed a change of clothes, but they were not Eiffel-tower appropriate, in my opinion. See, many years ago I was stranded in Korea overnight and I failed to pack any change of clothes in my carry-on luggage. Since then, I always pack a full set of underwear, sleepwear, and some change of clothes with me whenever I travel internationally.

But this time, in my carry-on luggage, I only had 1) a underwear and sleepwear, 2) workout gear (don’t ask), and 3) a new pair of sky high heels (I stuffed them in there because didn’t fit in my checked-in bag anymore). Sure, the heels were something I would’ve loved to wear outside in Paris. But not with my now-sweat-soaked traveling clothes from Spain. I’m not going out there in my nightgown. And definitely not in my Lululemon stuff.

Maybe some of you won’t get discouraged to see the Eiffel tower by the concierge and lack of appropriate clothes, but I gave up. I decided I can enjoy my night in some other way.

So I went up to my room, freshened up, then proceeded to walk to a restaurant to have dinner by myself. In Paris. The most romantic city in the whole world.

I started with a salad. Lightly dressed greens with a silky vinaigrette, two slender slices of roast beef, and shreds of sharp, nutty cheese. I had a glass of Côtes du Rhône. I picked a mini baguette from the bread basket and three small pieces of cheese: a round of soft, creamy brie, a triangle of sharp, pungent blue, and a square of grainy, caramely gruyere. I took some butter, slathered my baguette with it, and ate it with my cheese. I didn’t care about the fat content or calories! I was in Paris!

For my main entree, I went with pasta Alfredo. I know that’s not very French. Why didn’t I pick escargot or boeuf bourguignon? Because in the middle of this grandeur and adventure, I just wanted comfort. So pasta it was. And it was a plate of comfort. Thick, creamy, Alfredo sauce coating perfectly al dente fettuccine – that wasn’t whole wheat. Pure indulgence. It felt like a warm, fuzzy, hug in the middle of cold Paris.

Dessert? I continued to indulge. Two mini cannelles. Two shortbread cookies. Two pieces of chocolate. Two of each, for one of me.

I didn’t have the urge to whip out my giant DSLR. I didn’t want to Instagram every moment. I didn’t want to tweet anything. I just wanted to be. It was the most peaceful meal of my vacation. I had a big smile when I left the restaurant.

The next day, I woke up bright and early. Bounced up from my hotel bed, flung open the curtains, and looked out at the… highway and construction work. This was certainly not the Paris I imagined. But I had a spring in my step and I arrived at the airport a couple of hours early (didn’t want to risk anything).

I felt like myself again. I walked around Terminal 2. Took pictures of the bathroom (very Prada-ish).

Took pictures of the soda bottles dressed in Jean-Paul Gaultier.

I felt rejuvenated. Alive.

I was alone in Paris, but I wasn’t lonely. In fact, I realized I was really happy.

So just you wait, Eiffel Tower. I’ll be back someday. And by then, I’ll be ready.


19 Responses to “That Day I Was in Paris”

  1. #
    Simply Life posted September 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    wow- what an experience! I love the shoes and those soda bottles are great!

  2. #
    Daisy posted September 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    note to self: don’t fly air france ;) No seriously, I think you made the right choice. The Eiffel Tower is stunning but it sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed that meal and your time at CDG.

  3. #
    Lauren at Keep It Sweet posted September 9, 2012 at 7:30 am

    I LOVE that you took advantage of that short time in Paris, it is such an amazing place. Now you have me dying to go even for just a few hours:-)

  4. #
    Alaina posted September 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Paris is such an amazing city. When I went, I just perused around the base of the Eiffel Tower; too much $$ to get to the top. I think that the best views are from the Sacre Coeur anyway. :-)

  5. #
    grace posted September 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    what a blast! frankly, i could and would eat pasta alfredo anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the ethnic cuisine offered–nothing wrong with that! :)

  6. #
    Meghan posted September 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    What a beautiful post! I spent a couple of days by myself in Nice once, and for dinner one night, feeling a little lonely and out of it (The people there were not very nice to me!), I also enjoyed a comforting bowl of pasta. It’s universally delicious. :)

  7. #
    Mich Cardin posted September 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I love this piece B. I think it could be the
    first chapter of your novel….one that starts
    with adventure and food but ends up being
    about so much more. ;)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Thanks Mich for the vote of confidence and the idea for my first chapter! :)

  8. #
    Elizabeth posted September 9, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    That’s an awesome day. I was on my own in Paris for several days and absolutely loved it, though definitely had moments where I would have loved a companion. I didn’t go to Laduree when I was there (though I could just go to the NY location now…), I went to Pierre Hermes and it was amazing.

  9. #
    Mary posted September 10, 2012 at 12:54 am

    What a fantastic day! I love the pictures.

  10. #
    Joanne posted September 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I LOVE this post and your go get em attitude. You WILL see the Eiffel Tower one day! ANd until then…you’ll always have your night in paris.

  11. #
    Sues posted September 10, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Aw, I love this post! Sounds like such a nice evening, even if you were a little stressed out about your flight. It’s definitely one you’ll never forget!!

  12. #
    Ashley posted September 10, 2012 at 10:58 am

    What an amazing attitude to have! I bet you’ll go back to Paris and have plenty of Eiffel Tower time. And some boeuf bourguinon. And some more delectable Parisian baked goods!!!

  13. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted September 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Good for you for doing it up in Paris alone! I had a day in Paris also coming back from India — it was so cool to see the city in person, even if just for a few hours!

  14. #
    Megan posted September 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Sounds like you spent your time perfectly in Paris. I wish I could have the opportunity to enjoy that meal you did. We do have a layover there on our way back from Italy… maybe we’ll have a delay. :)

  15. #
    Jenny @ BAKE posted September 11, 2012 at 8:31 am

    I love this little tale of your one night in Paris! I think you did the right thing going for food you can see the Eiffel Tower in a picture until you get back you can’t taste all that Parisian deliciousness!

  16. #
    Katerina posted September 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I’ve been to Paris for 4 days and I didn’t go to Eiffel Tower. There was such a big line that it was simply not worth it! I have too some stories regarding airports and delayed flights. Not fun, not fun at all!

  17. #
    Liz posted September 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    This was beautifully written, Bianca! I’ve never been to Paris – I would have done the same thing with an unexpected extra night.

    I was never very comfortable eating and exploring alone until I spent a semester in Edinburgh. I had some friends, but there were many days when I set off on my own to see what was out there – it’s liberating!

  18. #
    Colleen @ Culinary Colleen posted September 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Sounds like you were maybe a little lucky to get stuck in Paris for a night :) That meal sounds worth it!

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