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I recently revisited Paris as a ‘tween. Most people may conjure up images of awkward young women of the ages 11-13 when referring to a ‘tween, but I am twenty seven years old. I am between mademoiselle and madame.
There are usually two groups of leisure travelers encountered on the cobblestone streets of Paris: the young college students seeing Europe for the first time with a backpack and a dog-eared copy of Frommers Budget Traveler, or the families with children in tow and sprinting from the Mona Lisa to the Eiffel Tower. I did not fit into either of these categories, yet was determined to see Paris on my own.
I had chosen a budget chic hotel in the sixth arrondisement, Hotel Mayet. I was a bit wary of it because my heart was set on staying at the old grand dame, the Lutetia. However, I decided that this was a trip for taking chances. My biggest fear came after reading a review of the Hotel Mayet on tripadvisor.com from an Australian visitor warning “The shower was VERY small, so you wouldn’t want to be fat.” As a typical American woman, this set off warning bells and I was convinced that I would not fit in the shower and be forced to walk the rues of Paris stinking of garlic and all of the smelly French cheeses I was determined to try.
None of my fears about the hotel materialized, and I ensconced myself happily into residence there. There was a boulangerie on the corner that I stopped at each morning to jumpstart my metabolism with a warm pain au chocolat. Then I would head out to explore the sights… Well, more so the shops.
I bent to pet the dogs of well-coiffed French women in the elegant Bon Marché department store, which I think many found alarming. I tried on shoes on the Rue Dragon, and bought with abandon. I sat at cafes, and avoided the stares of overbearing waiters, asking if I was waiting for a companion. But I stood firm, I was in the city of light and love, alone.
Even my carry-on luggage seemed to scream my ‘tween status. One oversize black Kate Spade messenger bag, and a Louis Vuitton purse. Kate Spades were cult status symbols for American college students, while Louis Vuitton screamed either chic French woman of a certain age, or wealthy Asian tourist. Again, I was neither. I took as many chances as I could, trying to eat mussels in a dainty French fashion, without having butter dripping down my chin, walking along the Seine in heels, à la Francaise, and even paid 50 euros for a “massage” guaranteed to trim my body of five pounds of water weight!
I discovered during this journey as a “tween” is that I am confident as myself, alone, in any city in the world. I was free to pop into a little store that caught my fancy, to go to the Sunday market in my sweats with a Vuitton sac, or to eat only a baguette slathered with Nutella for dinner. I had no one to answer to but myself. This voyage confirmed that being a ‘tween isn’t always terrible. No annoyed boyfriend sitting anxiously outside dressing rooms, and no one forcing me to visit the Louvre. It was a vacation of self-discovery: I am content in the city of love, alone.