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Women Travelling Alone In France

Travelling alone in France (J. Chung)

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.    

                                                    Freya Stark (1893-1993)

The other day I remarked to someone about travelling alone to France. This was not the first time that someone (female) responded with astonishment that I could do this, that I had the guts to do this. A woman travelling alone? Yes! I sensed their fear had to do with one or many of the following:

  • loneliness
  • eating alone
  • safety

Travelling Alone In France:  Pros and Cons

I have travelled alone in France approximately eight or nine times and there are pros and cons just like there are pros and cons travelling with someone. The obvious reasons for “going-it-alone” are obvious:

  • you get to do what YOU want to do all the time
  • you can eat when you want and where you want
  • you can change your mind on a whim and only you are affected
  • the bathroom is all yours

I will share a few short experiences that were highlights for me.

1. Dinner Conversation

Jan travelling alone in France but meeting up with a couple in Lyon.

Dinner in Lyon France. Photo: J. Chung


While eating dinner at Brasserie Bofinger in Paris I wrote about the meal in my journal. With each course I had an engaging conversation with the waiter. Half way through the meal two women from California who were sitting at the table beside me, asked me if I was a restaurant critic because they saw me taking notes and speaking to the waiter. I had a chuckle and explained what I was doing. We had a wonderful conversation about the iconic restaurant we were in, the sites in Paris, and other traveller’s tips.


In Lyon, I was searching for a restaurant and met a couple from Scotland who were doing the same thing. We hooked up, found a restaurant and had dinner together. What a spontaneous way to have a great dinner conversation.

Moral of the story: you are never really alone even though you are travelling by yourself. If you choose to seek out people it can be as easy as talking to the person at the table beside you or people standing at the front of a restaurant scanning the menu. Your entire meal becomes more memorable and enjoyable.

2. Drinking Wine

Travelling solo in Chateauneuf du Pape, France.

Chateauneuf du Pape, France. Photo: J. Chung

Many years ago I was visiting a number of wineries in Provence—the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region to be specific. I dropped into one winery for a “degustation” (wine tasting) and was escorted to the back area where I met up with the owner. He opened a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine and we talked about the wine, the region, and the business. He was an old Frenchman, the type you would imagine seeing in the movies, a bit gruff but charming.

After a few glasses, he said I had to try another wine. This time a Gigondas, so he opened that bottle and I had another glass, followed by more conversation and finally, I said I needed to go. I said I would buy a couple of bottles of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and all of a sudden he said he was giving me a bottle of the Gigondas as a gift. How sweet. See, the French are friendly! Moral if the story: when travelling solo, get to know the locals. The ARE interesting!

3. Join A Class, Take A Course

Travelling alone and taking a french immersion course at Ecole des Trois Ponts, France.

Ecole des Trois Ponts, France. Photo: J. Chung

Some of my favourite “alone” experiences had me attending French language classes. One of the best was at Ecole des Trois Ponts in Riorges which is west of Lyon. I have been twice: one week just for French classes (and total immersion morning, noon, and night), and another time fir language classes in the morning and cooking classes (in French) in the afternoon.

I will likely go back again. We were in small classes(ie. 4 students, 1 teacher) and practising our French at mealtime really brought the group (about 15) together. You can’t help but bond when you are all struggling at times with improving one’s French. There was a lot of laughter and definite improvement in our facility to use the language.

Morale of the story

You are never too old to learn and taking a class or course can “kill two birds with one stone” as they say—meet people who have similar interests and learn at the same time!

You are never really alone when you travel. Even if you don’t speak French well or at all, there are so many experiences available, especially if you are travelling alone.

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  • Reply
    Michele Peterson ( A Taste for Travel)
    December 21, 2015 at 9:22 am

    An inspiring post! When I turned 50 my husband gave me a return ticket to France – alone. It seemed like a strange idea to go solo ( he had to work) but I had an incredible time. I went to Vimy Ridge to research my great-grandfather’s WW1 battle site, took several cooking classes, explored the Black Madonna near Saintes Marie de la Mer, shopped for linens in Arles and investigated many things he wouldn’t have been interested in. In all I spent a month exploring France and had a great time.

    • Reply
      December 21, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Thank you. Now THAT sounds like an amazing trip!

  • Reply
    Rachel Heller
    December 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    This post about traveling solo in France could certainly apply in most other places. I had a similar experience when I struck up a conversation with some Australians in Japan and had a lovely meal with them. And I took intensive Spanish classes in Guatemala many years ago and struck up a friendship with a very nice Israeli woman. The key, when you’re traveling alone, is how open you are to interaction with other people. If you really want to be alone, you don’t make eye contact, and you don’t strike up conversations. If you’d prefer company, show that you’re open to it.

    • Reply
      December 21, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      That’s the great thing about travelling solo: you can choose to be alone or with others, but it takes some initiative. I’m impressed that you took intensive Spanish. Well done!

  • Reply
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go
    December 22, 2015 at 2:26 am

    I had to laugh when I read your comment about not having to share the bathroom. And, even for those of us who travel as couples (24-7 isn’t always easy!) it’s great to be able to spend time alone exploring our own interests. Plus it gives us something new to talk about!

    • Reply
      December 22, 2015 at 9:32 am

      Totally forgot about that comment I wrote! So true. As an introvert I need some “alone” time, but also like to reconvene afterwards to talk!

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    December 22, 2015 at 11:28 am

    The irony is that being alone often attracts other people!
    Great post~

    • Reply
      December 22, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      So true!

  • Reply
    Kay Dougherty
    December 27, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    I’m so used to living alone that traveling with someone else is fun but a bit draining at the same time because I don’t have what I call me “old maid time”. So I definitely get the pleasure of going on your own. I like the idea of doing it and taking a language class although my mouth doesn’t “do” French!

    • Reply
      December 27, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Too funny! I agree it can be draining being with someone 24/7 and I have been very fortunate to travel with great friends who give me my “space”.

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