I visited the 'City of Love' solo – and found a different love I wasn't expecting

I visited the 'City of Love' solo – and found a different love I wasn't expecting
Taking Photos Of The EIffel Tower At Night Might Be Illegal

Renowned for exuding romance with tens of thousands of proposals happening at the Eiffel Tower each year, it's no wonder Paris is branded the City of Love.

The French capital first got its reputation in the 19th century, when artists and writers including Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac banded together for what we now know as the Romantic period. The movement rebelled against the formalities of neo-classicism, through a newfound interest in the expression of personal feeling.

It was a time when literary evenings were a big hit among the bourgeoisie, later introducing words to European vocabulary such as "rendez-vous" and "je t’aime".

Fast forward to now, and Paris' ties to romance are still going strong with its elegant buildings, charming streets, sultry bars and love for the arts.

Given the unwritten pressures of visiting with a special someone, Paris may not initially spring to mind as a solo travel destination. I've visited the famed city many times, but never alone. I too, initially felt the urge to string someone along so I didn't feel out of place.

Instead, I romanticised my solo life and headed to the city to explore through a different lens – and ironically, I fell in love, but not how you might expect.

Nestled in the 15th arrondissement resides Hôtel Beauregard, a six-storey Haussmann building home to 38 rooms. Designed by Chloé Nègre, an India Mahdavi alum and one of this year’s AD 100, the hotel marries classic and contemporary features with a seventies retro twist.

Complete with Eiffel Tower views and a Wes Anderson-esque restaurant, Hôtel Beauregard is the newest addition to hipster hotel company Touriste.

The chain is passionate about guests "stepping outside of their comfort zone" to discover other lives, and "being comfortable with occasionally finding yourself off-centre before reclaiming parts of yourself you sometimes didn’t think were there".

And, that's exactly what I did.

Hôtel Beauregard

The idea that Paris is exclusive to lovers is far from reality. It's quite the opposite: Parisians are experts at being by themselves.

I read in cafes, dined al fresco, drank wine, visited galleries, and smashed my step goal. This led me to an epiphany that consciously dating yourself is one of the most romantic gestures. Even with public displays of affection in every corner, there wasn't once a feeling of missing out.

While that may sound slightly self-absorbed, solitude has almost become a lost art.

We spend most of our 'free time' scheduling in social plans, fighting dating app fatigue and desperately trying to stay busy. But, when you cut all attachment to the things you think you need, you learn to love your own company, time and freedom. It almost becomes addictive.

Being alone also pushes you outside of your comfort zone. I found myself putting the world to rights with locals, discussing everything from French culture, politics, to their hate for Emily in Paris and exaggerated stereotypes – one of which being the French are rude. They're some of the friendliest people I've ever met.

Solo travel can be one of the most empowering experiences.

"We learn how to trust our instincts, and grow more confident in our decisions and embrace opportunities that may push personal boundaries towards growth," Jordan Dixon, psychosexual psychotherapist and sociologist from the Thoughthouse partnership, told Indy100.

"I feel like we can all learn something from solo folk about the importance of treating ourselves as an important relationship in our lives. Solo adventures can help us to feel loved, safe, prioritised, nurtured and move away from looking solely to romantic relationships to fulfil this."

Travelling solo defies "social conditioning to prioritise romantic relationships," and the idea that "romantic relationships are the ultimate success and goal in life."

Jordan believes such pressures and expectations can stem from sources such as "religion, which filters through to family, culture, government policies and then get reinforced in the media, films and music."

This can often hinder many of life's experiences as people feel like they need to do certain activities when settled in a healthy relationship.

Hôtel Beauregard

There's something poetic about being in the City of Love solo – especially as a woman, as it goes against traditional gender norms and "romance narratives".

Some friends, partners and family members come and go but you will always have yourself – which poses the question: Why do we struggle to value ourselves and cherish our time as much as we do with others?

French existentialist philosopher and feminist activist Simone De Beauvoir suggested that many women have been socialised to see themselves from the male gaze and are reinforced to look after others above themselves.

"Solo travelling can offer women freedom and help transcend unhelpful and constrictive ways of living their lives based on their gender," Jordan explains. "The world is ours to explore and we have many possibilities that sit outside romantic relationships."

While I didn't find love in another person, nor did I intend to, it brings me to believe that solo travel life epitomises self-love.

"Once our understanding of 'love' blossoms within ourselves then we can move away from 'attachment' to others," Jordan continues. "Accepting and understanding ourselves at deeper levels can allow us more freedom into being truly authentic."

She added: "As we learn to do that with ourselves, we can transform our relationships with others and we can begin to accept people as they are rather than project onto them what we need or we think they are or not. We can steer away from unfair expectations and attachment difficulties in our relationships with others."

"If we can shift our attention from finding out who we are in a partner's eyes first, it can really help us to know who we are so we can truly begin to see the person in front of us."

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