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I Went to Paris! Why?

After almost 30 years of not being in Paris, I unexpectedly jetted off to Paris two weeks ago.

I didn’t share a ton about this unexpected trip until I was packing to go, so a lot of friends asked me the understandable question: “WTF? How and why are you going to Paris all the sudden?” I have tons of photos and details to share with you about my trip, but first, let’s just get the why out of the way.


Three decades ago, I spent my junior year of college studying in Paris. I was 19. It was a major growing up year for me, not at all the idyllic dream I’d imagined a year in France would be. But I learned so much, and I got to experience some wonderful things along with the hard ones. In recent times, I’ve been trying to write down my memories from that year, and I wished I could go back and walk the neighborhoods where I’d lived and gone to school, to help boost my memory. I’d gone back for a week in 1998, with Erik, but I really felt I needed to spend time there alone to bring it all back. Someday, I kept telling myself.

Then, on Sunday Feb. 5, I had a phone call with my college freshman daughter, known here as Nutmeg.

Nutmeg was scheduled to fly to London for her spring break, to hang out with some English friends. Break was coming up in just over a month, and she had a question for me: Where should I go on my trip besides London?

We talked about the usual potential train trips from London, like Stratford-Upon-Avon, Liverpool, etc. We’d already taken a family trip to Bath and Stonehenge and she didn’t feel like revisiting those just now.

“Or,” I said casually, “You could always take the chunnel to Paris.”

She was surprised when I informed her that it only took a couple hours to get to Paris from London — shorter than other potential journeys within the UK that she’d thought about, like Scotland.

Then something happened that parents of college students dream of. I didn’t even know that this was a real thing that could happen to someone, much less happen to me.

My daughter suggested I meet her in Paris.

After all, we’d been talking about going to France together ever since she started taking French in middle school.

I stammered. This was not something I’d contemplated, at all. I told her I’d have to check to see if my passport was still valid, and check my schedule, and look for affordable flights. We hung up, and I dove for the box where I keep my passport.

It had six months before it expired.

I checked my calendar.

I would miss a Girl Scout event or two, but I could delegate chaperoning those to other parent volunteers, hopefully. I didn’t have any work deadlines during the week we were looking at.

I told myself not to get too excited. There would probably be no flights available for miles at this late date, and I wasn’t about to shell out cash for a last-minute ticket.

But when I got online, I saw that there were some pretty reasonable award flights available on American Airlines. And I had enough miles for them.

I could actually do this.

I put two one-way flights on hold (to give myself more flexibility in case I changed my departure or return dates). Then I texted my daughter to give her an out. I told her she had five days (while my tickets were on hold) to decide whether she really wanted to spend part of her spring break with her old mom, or if maybe there were other things she wanted to add to her trip in England. I assured her I would understand.

She didn’t wait five days to assure me that she really, truly wanted to meet up with me in Paris!

Excited doesn’t begin to describe my feelings.

Of course, I told myself, lodging will be expensive. But I’d just check HomeExchange real quick to see if anyone could provide us with a free apartment sort of at the last minute. I send a dozen or fewer requests out on the HomeExchange site before bed one night, and woke up to about five “yes” responses. I literally had my pick of Paris apartments in different neighborhoods! This was unreal. I selected a studio apartment near Place d’Italie, a non-touristy neighborhood about a mile south of the Latin Quarter.

Here is how we planned the trip, together:

She would arrive in London the morning of Sunday, March 12. I would arrive in Paris on Tuesday, March 14. She’d take the Eurostar from London to Paris Wednesday morning, and we’d spend two partial days and one full day together. On the evening of Friday, March 17, she’d return to London so she could fly home the next morning. But I would stay a few more days to do that solo walk down memory lane I’d been yearning for. I booked my return flight for Tuesday, March 21.

How did it go? Wow. Probably some of the best mother-daughter time I have ever spent with my kid. We loved it. We walked until our feet and knees throbbed. We ate many croissants. We saw the protests over lowering the retirement age, up close.

And in my solo time, I feel like I accomplished what I went for. The places I returned to were surprisingly similar to how I remembered them 30 years earlier — except when they were different. A lot of the feeling from those days came flooding back when I stood in my own footsteps.

I’ll tell you all about it. A bientot!

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