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By Professor Stephen Solosky—
My fondest memories of traveling to Paris are when I traveled solo. Paris is a city of discovery and when traveling alone, I felt free to look into every nook and cranny of the city to find new museums, galleries, boutiques and markets. Traveling solo gives me the freedom to walk wherever I want to walk and at my own pace.
There are times, however, where I do want to socialize and meet up with others. Here are a few suggestions for places to meet fellow travelers in Paris:
Meeting through Web sites
The Web sites www.traveldaddy.com, www.meetup.com and www.virtualtourist.com have listings of “meetings” where travelers can connect with each other. This usually involves having dinner or some type of similar activity with anywhere from 2-25 travelers.
I’ve been to several of these gatherings. For the most part, I have enjoyed them. I’ve made friends with people that I have kept in touch with over a long period of time. There are online listings for people interested in getting together on www.tripadvisor.com, www.craigslist.org, www.fusac.com and www.ricksteves.com.
Use common sense and normal precautions when meeting strangers. Always meet in a public place and never give out personal information until you feel absolutely confident about whom you have met.
I’ve also had success in attending organized functions like wine tastings or bike rides. For instance, last month I attended a wine and cheese lunch at O Chateau near the Louvre. About 20 people attended. The sommelier gave an excellent presentation on the wines of France. The lunch, while simple, was excellent. I enjoyed meeting people from Australia, Canada, and the U.S.
I find that attending performances like concerts or shows doesn’t offer the social opportunities I am looking for.
Taking a class
Many people are interested in taking a cooking class while in Paris. I have heard positive comments on L’Atelier des Chefs. Be sure to do it in the beginning of the trip so that if you do make friends, you will be able to enjoy each other’s company for the duration of your stay.
Finding other travelers
Another way to meet people is to go where other travelers congregate. For example, I have always been able to strike up a conversation at Starbucks. Some restaurants like Chartier have communal tables where I have met some interesting people. I have always felt welcome whenever I have attended religious services in Paris.
An American ex-pat, Jim Haynes hosts a dinner at his home for about 50-100 people on Sunday evenings. I attended one night and met quite a few English-speaking guests and made some new friends. Jim is very welcoming and makes guests feel right at home. For details, check his Web site.
Have you traveled alone in Paris? Do you have suggestions about interesting places where you can make new friends? Tell us about it in the comments section.
About the author: Professor Stephen Solosky is the author of “The Traveling Professor’s Guide to Paris”. He runs the Web site, http://www.travelingprofessor.com and organizes small group tours to Paris and Italy.