Solo in Chicago: a visa & viennoiseries
I just wrapped up my midweek mini adventure in Chicago. The main purpose of the trip: my long stay visa appointment for France which is now essentially ONE MONTH away! My two nights in the windy city were my first out of town by myself. With a pretty major solo trip on the horizon, having this experience felt important. I learned a few things about myself and solo travel, and bien sûr I found ways to sprinkle in a bit of the French flair that I’m always craving.
Serendipitous experiences fill me with hope and joy. The woman who did my visa interview: her name was Lauren Elizabeth, too! If that’s not good vibes, I don’t know what is. My appointment went smoothly - I was in and out in under an hour and off to enjoy the city! I love to visit indie bookstores wherever I go. I chose after-words bookstore which had a mix of new and used all shelved together. I decided to look for a copy of Birdsong, a novel set in Amiens (my future city). It took me but a minute to spot it’s bright red spine on a cart in between the shelves. Meant to be!
If I start to feel alone, I’m more than capable of finding good company. If I’m driving, showering, working out, or doing my hair/makeup, I’m almost always listening to a podcast. Just before I left, a friend recommended Forever35. It’s so much fun to listen to Kate and Doree talk about their self-care routines and this made the train and hotel time feel far less lonely. They inspired me to go pick up a Korean sheet mask which I found at Riley Rose. The easy application and scent of lavender were a great way to unwind after day of exploring. And my quiet dinner alone? Not too quiet at all. I decided to grab some Chicago style deep dish pizza. I sat at the bar and ordered a glass of wine. Before I knew it, I was dining with a man from Florida whose wife was also an elementary teacher and a man from Switzerland who gave me an opportunity to practice my French (his father is French). We had a lot of fun chatting, so much so that they encouraged me to stay a little longer. They even treated me to another glass of wine! It was really nice, and a good reminder that I have the confidence to get to know the people I meet along the way.
Mornings are my favorite time to be out and about solo. I had an early visa appointment and an early train ride out, so I was up before 7am both mornings of my stay. It was lovely to step out onto quiet streets as the sun was still rising higher into the sky. Before all the hustle and bustle the city feels more like it’s your own. Mornings also mean petit déjeuner, my favorite. The first morning I hit La Fournette, an authentic French bakery that happened to be a simple 10 minute walk from my hotel. I usually go for the sweet, but I had skipped dinner the night before due to the arrival time of my train (I was just ready to get to the hotel). I opted for Tony’s favorite, the savory croissant au jambon et fromage. Another bonus: I got to speak French with the man behind the counter. Soon I won’t have to look for these opportunities as I will be living my life en français! The only real plan I made outside of my appointment was a breakfast reservation before heading home. The spot: Margeaux Brasserie in the Waldorf Astoria. As I don’t frequent five star hotels (ever), it was so much fun just to see the beautiful interior and be treated to impeccable service. I felt well cared for but never bothered as I enjoyed La Viennoiserie (croissant, pain au chocolat, scone) with a grapefruit brûlée. I was grateful to have made the decision to treat myself to something so special, and think this will become one of my solo travel traditions.
With the visa process complete, it feels very real. I’m really going to France! The pre-departure administrative tasks are almost complete. Over the course of the next month I look forward to spending time with the people I love, enjoying my favorite things in St. Louis, and beginning to faire mes valises.
Merci for being here and following this journey. It truly means a lot to me.
Warm wishes from me to you!