MALMO CITY GUIDE - 11 THINGS TO DO ON A DAY TRIP TO MALMO, SWEDEN

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Malmo ! Such a delightful surprise. I knew nothing about Sweden’s third largest city until I started making plans for my trip to Copenhagen in October. Malmo is an hour by train from Copenhagen center and cost less than 20 pounds for a round trip train ticket. Malmo kept popping up as an option for a day trip and after doing my research - I knew there was no way I could pass up a visit Malmo.

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I spent a very cold rainy Saturday in Malmo so these are the recommendation based on my own experience and research I did when I was planning my trip. It was a glimpse into Sweden and I cannot wait to plan my next trip to Sweden. Malmo was a great introduction. I try to explore on foot as much as possible and Malmo was perfect for that; a few things were outside the center that may require using the public transport (if you are not up for the trek), but for the most part you can walk to the recommendations in this post. Most of these are within a half hour walk from the central train station.

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  1. Stortorget: This is the main square in Malmo. It was surprisingly quiet with just a handful of tourist taking in their first sights of Malmo. I guess the rain and cold weather kept most people indoors. Just off the main square is Lilla Torg aka small square and has a very old time vibe to it. I did not stop here because the rain was coming down at this point and without an umbrella, I wanted to get to shelter very quickly. The square is flanked by the city hall building; house of Jorgen Kock the famous Swedish designer and the famed Kramer hotel. In the center of the square is the statue of King Karl Gustav X - the XI king of Sweden.

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2. Shop along Sodergatan Street: Just off Strotoget is a shopping street with several chains and local shops. My favorite shop along this street was Granit, the Swedish design and stationery store. I initially ducked in to get away from the rain but ended up spending an hour in the store. I would have spent half my rent in the store. Thankfully, I had traveled with just a carry on and was saved from damaging my bank account. I found out the brand ships to the U.K so I will be placing a somewhat bank account detrimental order shortly.

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3. Enjoy Impressive architecture. Malmo is home to some impressive architecture. While it might not be possible to see all of them on a day trip, there are two I will recommend to add to your itinerary. The first is the turning torso which holds the title of the tallest building in Sweden and twists 90 degrees from bottom to top. It is located in the Western labor which has also got a skateboarding and climbing park. You can get a really great view of the turning torso from the Malmo castle if you don’t want to make the trek that way. Because the building is residential, access to the interior rooftop is limited to only five weeks in the summer. The second is the Emporia shopping center. I have got major FOMO about this one since I could not make the trek to it but if pictures are anything to go by, then I think it deserves a spot on your itinerary if you love architecture.

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4. Malmo Castle. This is not a traditional castle as it was a key fortress in the war between Denmark and Sweden. The structure has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and now currently house the tropicanium aquarium and museum of natural history and museum of art. The castle and its museums give an incredible glimpse into the history of Sweden and Malmo’s role. At one point it housed Swedish prisoners and at another time it was home to the city’s poor. A lot of history on the grounds and if I was spending more time in Sweden, a place I will have loved to explore even further. The entry cost is about $4.

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5. Visit the parks:The City is home to numerous parks - I visited Kungsparken and Slottparken and loved both. Kungsparken is a public park and within walking distance from Malmo Castle. There is a a section of the park dedicated to private garden and the windmill in the middle of the park is a reminder you are in the Nordic land. Slottparken is located around the Casino which is a yellow building located in the park and flanked by tall tree and seats on the lake. Without knowing it is the casino, it looks something out of a fairy tale. You also get an incredible view of the Malmo City library from the park (and vice versa).

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6. Malmo city library. Ah ! a book and architecture lovers dream. I docked in here to escape the rain and ended up spending a few hours on the second floor in a spot overlooking Slottparken and reading a book. It spurred my love for libraries again. I used to love going to the library for the quiet and I could get lost in a book for hours, but that love was soured by years spent in the library working on getting my CPA certification. I have not been back to a library since I passed the exam (bad memories), but spending time in the Malmo City library was the much-needed jolt to return (maybe ? ).

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7. St. Peter Church. While doing my research for the trip, I found out this was closed for some weeks for renovation, so while I could not see the interior, I still wanted to see the structure as it is the oldest building in the city. The red brick structure was designed in the Gothic style and dates back to the 14th century. If it happens to be open when you visit, I hear the interior has a votive ship memorial for fallen soldiers of world war II and medieval wall painting.

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8. Modern Art Museum Malmo. Malmo has got a lot of museums and if you are doing a day trip; seeing all of them will is realistically not feasible.The design museum was highly recommended so was Malmö Konsthall. My favorite one to visit was the Modern Art Museum. Loved everything about it and if you only have time for one museum - make sure it is this one.

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9. Keep an eye out for street art and sculptures. There are several in the city and I recommend researching a few before your trip. You cannot see all of them, so picking a few favorite to see on the trip will be my recommendation. A few I recommend - the non-violence sculpture; the optimistic musical group on Sodergatan Street; Way to go Bronze shoe sculptures along the Davidshallsbron which pays homage to the city’s famous artist and performers. Finally, there is the sound sculpture (at least that is what I am calling it) - It is located just a short walk from the train station. If you stand in the circle and whisper - it echoes. You also get a great view and pictorial framing of the lighthouse from this spot.

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10. Enjoy Swedish baked treats. You cannot leave Malmo without trying some sweet treats and baked goods. Noir had a really good pear tart; but there were a few bakeries that locals recommended - Gateau; Lilla Kafferosteiet and Pronto. I tried the offerings from Gateau and it was relish !

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11. Dine at one of Malmo’s cafes like Noir and Atrium Kaffe Bar. After exploring the area I can imagine that on a spring or summer day the patio of Noir will be packed with patrons but due to the rain and cold it was empty when I arrived and I was not sure I made the right decision. Thankfully, I walked in. The indoor seating is small and cozy. The breakfast menu is minimal but the coffee and dessert is good stuff. I had the pear tart and decaf cappuccino. It was excellent.

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ZURICH IN 24 HOURS // SWITZERLAND

Zurich
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Zurich

Let me start by saying - I am not one to advocate a rush trip; I don’t think a rush trip gives a great sense of a city; but every now and again an opportunity presents itself that cannot be passed up. I was in Basel recently (more on that later) and realized I was only an hour from Zurich. I just had to go visit even if it was for a day. A few tips for you - be careful when planning a trip to Zurich on a Sunday as a lot of the stores (and restaurants) were closed. I gather this is something that is common in European cities. Another tip, if you are traveling from another part of Switzerland (Basel, Bern , Lucerne etc) - get your train ticket in advance online or via app. I paid about 25 swiss francs more than the prices online by buying my ticket at the train station and the day of my trip. That is the other thing to note, while Switzerland is part of the EU, it retains its own currency (Swiss Franc) so plan accordingly if you are heading to Zurich.

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The central train station is Zurich HB and will likely be your stop if you are traveling from another part of Switzerland. Zurich HB is located at the end of the famous Bahnhofstrasse. The easiest way I can describe Bahnofstrasse is the Zurich version of Av. des Champs-Eysees but significantly more expensive. It was once ranked the most expensive street for retail in Europe. It is lined with high end and high street retail shops; hotels and restaurants including the Hiltl Dachterrasse - a great vegetarian and vegan restaurant with an incredible selection of cocktails; coffees and teas. It is one of the oldest vegan restaurants in the world. You can find this rooftop terrace above PKZ women store. Other great food options for Zurich - Bubbles and Rolli Steakhouse - the later was highly recommended and one of the motivations for going to Zurich, but they are closed on Sundays (insert heartbreak emoji). Bubbles is a great brunch spot run by an incredibly sweet lady who makes out of this world desserts.

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Before you start down Bahnofstrasse, just around the corner from the train station is the Swiss National museum. It cost ten francs to get in and the museum is housed in an architecture space that is incredibly modern on one end and looks like a castle on another end. Somehow it works.

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Don’t miss old town, you can get to Old town by taking one of the side roads from Bahnofstrasse. There is quite a bit to see this way. On the day I visited, there was a motor cycle event happening. There must have been over 500 motorcycles lining the street. It was pretty cool. While in Old town, keep an eye for some of the historic church buildings some of which have existed since the 1700; each one with its unique architectural style. The four main ones to keep an eye out for - GrossMunster ; St. Peter’s ; Fraumunster and Predigerkirche. GrossMunster is impressive - the 12th century cathedral is in the Romansque style. You can climb up to the steeple for amazing views. Again, if you are visiting on Sunday - you may not be able to visit the interiors of these churches.

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Make sure to hike through old town to get to Lindenhof hill and the public square offers a stunning view of the city. It also used to be the site of the imperial palace. Explore the areas around the hill and the churches - a lovely wander around Altstadt (Old town) never hurt anyone.

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Football fans - do not miss the FIFA world football museum. The stairs light up with some historic football moments so keep an eye out for that beaut. Finally Lake Zurich - if possible, pack yourself a little picnic and relax and feast to your heart’s content. There were two things I really wanted to do but did not have the time - Felsenegg and Uetliberg. Uetliberg is a moutain just half hour by train from Zurich HB and supposedly offers a panoramic view of the city and Lake Zurich. Felsenegg is another mountain summit with access to hiking trails; a restaurant with views of Sihl valley and Lake Zurich. It is also less than a 100 feet from Pluto’s mound.

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Getting around - I bought a day pass for the tram which came in quite handy as the best brunch spots seemed to be away from city center and when you have just a few hours, it helps not to log miles on foot. If you considering a trip, I think a weekend is perfect to have a Zurich getaway that is not rushed and you get to see all the main attractions. If you have any Zurich recommendations, please share in the comments.

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TEN HOURS IN CORDOBA - A DAY TRIP FROM SEVILLE , SPAIN

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When we planned our trip to the South of Spain, there were a few things we absolutely wanted to see - the Alhambra in Granada; the Royal Alcazar in Seville and the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. On our third day in the region, it was time to visit the Mosque-Cathedral. We took the train from Seville central to Cordoba. The train ride was just under an hour.

Cordoba has a very unique history (similar to other cities in the Andalusia region). It has both Roman and Islamic (Moorish) influences. One of the main sites in Cordoba - the mosque-cathedral was initially constructed as a mosque and later became a cathedral. More on the mosque-cathedral later.

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From the Cordoba train station, we got a taxi to the mosque-cathedral to get our time in the city started. Although our main draw to the city was the mosque-cathedral, we were pleasantly surprised by how much more the city had to offer. If you are already in Seville, then you should make an effort to get to Cordoba - you will not be dissapointed. One tip for you, if you are interested in visiting the mosque-cathedral (and why wouldn’t you; it is an architectural masterpiece and a UNESCO world heritage site), I recommend not visiting on Sunday. Mass is held at various times of the day which means access is limited and you will get kicked out. I have also heard you can access the cathedral for free between 8:30 and 9:30 while preparations for mass are underway. This is a must see in Cordoba; the interior and ceiling work is one of the most spectacular and intricate designs I have ever seen. Just take a look. Keep an eye out for the master organ - it takes up an entire wall.

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As we made our exit from the mosque-cathedral, we met locals heading in for mass. They were dressed in regal overcoats; the men with top hats and canes - it was great to see this authentic part of life in Cordoba.

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After our time in the mosque-cathedral, we explored the area around the structure which is lined with souvenir shops; restaurants; spice and tea shops and wine shops carrying a variety of local wine. Next, we stopped by Guadalquivir - the Roman bridge; although it is known today for its appearance in season 5 of game of thrones (I am told); the bridge dates back to the 1st century. A walk across it comes highly recommended when planning a Cordoba itinerary - it offers a panoramic view of the city from old town to the mosque-cathedral. I hear it is absolutely stunning at sunset - unfortunately we could not stay in the city that late.

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We spent some time in Old town - Cordoba has one of the oldest old towns in Europe which has earned the old town a UNESCO designation. Although similar to many European old towns in a lot of ways; it is different in many others - you have the twisting alleys you will find in most European cities; but buildings in Cordoba (especially in old town) are known for having patios and interior courtyard that are spectacularly decorated. We were lucky to find a few courtyards open to quickly peek in to see rows of orange trees and elaborate floral arrangements. We were visiting in early November so a lot of the flowers were not in bloom. I imagine visiting and seeing these courtyards in Spring time will be absolutely stunning.

We spent some time in the La Ribera area. If we were staying overnight - this would have been the destination for coffee; meals and entertainment. If you are keen, I hear some of the clubs in this part of town open till 6 am.

We still had some time left before our train back to Seville and on the recommendation of locals we met at a wine shop by the mosque-cathedral, we walked towards the Jewish quarter and Sinagoga de Cordoba. This part of town is known as the sophisticated part of town and home to the last remaining synagogues in the region and the Calleja de las flores (aka little street of flower). The synagoue is open to the public and a spot I will recommend you visit in Cordoba.

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Because there were three of us - we got around the different part of town via taxis. Split three way, it was about the same price as public transportation. We made a stop in city centre for the Sunday market. This is a stop that can be missed, there was not much happening here (at least when we visited). Our final stop before heading back to Seville was in the Santa Maria district to visit the Palacio de Viana - the palace museum built in the 14th century is best known for its beautiful garden courtyard (sense a theme here ?). I think there are twelve in total. The facade of the palace is exquisite and telling of what lies within the palace.

One stop that came highly recommended but we could not fit into our time in the city - the Alcazar de los reyes christanos.

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PORTLAND FOOD GUIDE - WHAT & WHERE TO EAT IN PORTLAND // PORTLAND , OR

Lardo Portland

One thing you may not know about Portland - it is a foodie town. I had the opportunity to visit a while ago and although I was short on time and not able to do any of the tourist things, I had enough time for three (sometimes two) meals a day. Before my trip, I reached out to the blogging community (read: stalked multiple instagram pages - ooops) for recommendations of where to eat and had a list of ten options.  As great as those were, nothing beats recommendations by local. In between meetings and interacting with hotel staff, I added a few more options to the list. All I was missing were strecthy pants and time.  The Portland food scene is legit and there is not one spot that was lacking, we had one great meal after another. I was tempted to stay put in Portland - but that constant rain business is not for me.  

Harlow Portland

Harlow.  I wanted something healthy and I needed space to do some work before my morning meetings kicked off at 9:30 a.m. Harlow delivered with early opening; work friendly space and ah-mazing healthy options. The mixed berry chai bowl topped with bananas, toasted walnut and coconut (gawd !). If all healthy food tasted that good, I will be ten pounds lighter. The menu also had gluten-free, vegeterian and vegan options. Plus, the staff is super friendly and service is quick. I was there right when they opened, it was quiet and I got a ton of work done over breakfast. 

Sweedeedee
Sweedeedee

Sweedeedee. The cutest restaurant, ever! Located in the Alberta neighborhood. It has this southern flare that is inviting and made me feel like I was dining in the home of an old friend. It was a difficult choice between the pie options and the corn cakes plate. In the end, I went with the Corn cakes served with swiss chard and perfectly crisped bacon. The place was packed so it took a little bit to get my food but it was worth the wait.  [open for breakfast and lunch].

Tasty n Adler
Tasty n Adler
Tasty n Adler

Tasty n Alder. Located in the downtown area (on SW 12th). Oh my gosh - One of the best meals ever. I sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and saw them churn out orders of the chocolate potato donut so naturally I had to order some (for research purposes). If that is all I had, I will have been fully satisfied, but then the korean fried chicken caught my attention (so good !). The family style set up lets you try a few things on the menu, but the portion size is not so huge that a party of one like myself will feel overwhelmed. Show up early because they don't take reservations and there is a line to get in for brunch. [open daily for Brunch and lunch]

Blue star donut
Blue Star Donut

Blue Star Donut. Their slogan is "donuts for adults" - Could not agree more. I found a location just a block from Tasty n Alder (there are several locations in the Portland area including one just before the security check at PDX). This was another spot with a line. I got the Cointreau Creme Brulee and the PB&J donut and life was good. It was so good, I stopped by the location at PDX for extras before heading home. 

Poque, no
Por Que no ?
Por que no ?

Porque , no. Don't leave Portland without getting a meal here. As a ex-Texas dweller, I am always skeptical to try Mexican outside of Texas. If they make 'em as good as Por que, no - apprehension nipped in the bud. I had Bryan's bowl - a combo of guac, crema, bean, rice, protein of choice, salsa. Life Changed !

Papa Haydn
Papa Haydn

Papa Haydn. This was a recommendation from the hotel concierge. He said "I don't care where you go for dinner, but finish up with dessert at Papa Haydn." On my last night in Portland, I decided to head there for dinner and dessert. The dessert menu is three time longer than the dinner menu and everything sounded great.  Because I wanted to have room for dessert, I ordered the nicoise salad with trout and picked eggs (oh ! my ! Salad !). Then it was time for dessert. I ordered the Boccone Dolce which I am told is a Papa Haydn's classic. It was sooooo good. Even typing this up, I am having a moment. I completely understand why ]a trip to Papa Haydn was recommended.

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Lardo's. The guy that took my order told me they had over 100 sandwiches on reserve and they switch them out often. Hopefully, these recommedations are on the menu when you visit.  The Lardo egg sandwich will change the way you sandwich. My friends ordered the Pork meatball Banh Mi and Korean pork shoulder and had great feedback on those as well. 

Salt and Straw
Salt and Straw

Salt and Straw. I found one on my way to the airport and decided to stop in.  Best decision made on the trip. Their scoops are huge - you have been warned. I am grateful they can do a split flavor for each scoop. I got one split scoop with foie gras oatmeal raisin cream pie and Almond brittle with salted ganache. I don't know if there is Ice cream as delish as the foie gras oatmeal raisin cream pie. It was excellent ice cream. Sadly, it is currently a January new year's indulgence and might not make return to the menu. The staff let you get a taste of all the flavors before you decide. Two flavors from the classic menu that I loved - the almond brittle with salted ganache and the honey lavender.

Coava

For Caffeine Fix. Portland has no shortage of coffee shops. There are so many good local coffee shops with personality and incredible menu- I am surprised starbucks even has a presence. The ones I tried (and loved) were Stumptown coffee ; Taste coffee and Coava coffee

Stumptown

A few other plaaces that were recommended, but I did not get to try - Tasty n Sons / VooDoo donuts / Ruby Jewel scoops / Cool Moon Ice cream / Milk glass market / Luc Lac Vietnamese kitchen.

Now over to you, have you visited Portland ? Any additional recommendations ?

                                                                               

THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR - ON BECOMING A SOLO TRAVELLER

Paris

I will love to say I have always enjoyed traveling solo and it came naturally to me, but the truth is that in the Fall of 2012, I found myself in the situation that demanded I step off the edge of the proverbial cliff to discover I could fly. I started planning a trip to Paris in the summer of 2012. I had spent the previous ten years in school or working to build a career, I never had a chance to consider travel. Things were starting to settle down that summer and I decided it was time to explore the world.

Paris

I reached out to a few friends in May and by the end of July, there were six of us scheduled to go on this incredible one week Europe adventure with four days in Paris and three days in London. It was going to be epic, six twenty-somethings with zero care in the world taking on Europe. We planned the trip for late October. Flights and hotels were cheaper and the crowds would have dissipated.   We were going to pull our funds and lodge in a hotel within walking distance of the Eiffel tower. I dusted off my passport, got the necessary travel documents, booked flights and made the hotel reservation. Now the wait, we had a countdown and weekly conference calls to plan the itinerary. We were doing fine until September, and then with each call, one more person has doubts they were going to make the trip. Eventually, by the first week of October --- It was down to just me and another friend living in the UK. I was distraught but at least I still had one travel buddy. A week before I was scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom - Birmingham by way of London;  the last remaining travel buddy had to drop out. I was the last person standing. What to do?

Paris

London and Birmingham - I could manage on my own, but Paris? I did not know anyone there and I did not speak the language. Five days before I was scheduled to depart - I was lamenting to my brother the woes of having to cancel the trip and how much money I was going to be losing on the flight and hotel when he said the words that forever changed me - " Why not go by yourself? " If he could see my face at that moment. I was terrified!

Paris

Without thinking, I started spilling out all the reasons I could not take a trip on my own - from the valid to the vain - I don't want to get lost, I don't speak the language, Is it safe, Who will take my pictures, etc." add to that 101 other excuses I belted out. My brother, full of wisdom, let me go through all my fears and then suggested I reach out to some friends of his who had recently returned from Paris. They will be great resources on where to stay and how to get around.

Paris

I scheduled the call and after a thirty-minute conversation, I thought "maybe I can do this". Now the research, I spent the next four days intensely researching what to do in Paris, typing up frequently used phrases on my notes app and creating a detailed (hour by hour) itinerary of my time in Paris. I flew into Birmingham via London to spend the weekend with my brother. Early Sunday morning, I boarded the Air France flight from Birmingham to Paris. Several times before the flight boarded, I thought about heading back to my brothers' apartment (but knowing him, he might have kicked me out just to make sure I took the trip). When my flight was called, I took the leap and boarded the flight to Paris.

Paris

Arriving in France early morning, I got through customs ok, I meticulously followed the step by step train directions I had written out before leaving Dallas. I made it to my hotel just fine. I started to think, I can do this. I was too early for check in, so the bellman held my luggage while I headed out to catch the tour ride to Versailles. Again, I found my way to the Eiffel tower train station ok. From there, I was supposed to walk about two miles to get to my pick up spot. Somewhere in the excitement of being in Paris and figuring out everything on my own, I did not pay attention to the turns and found myself lost with no GPS to map out my way (insert panic). I walked down every street using the Eiffel tower as a guide and twenty minutes later it I was further away from my destination. I could still see the Eiffel tower but I was nowhere close to where I needed to be. The panic attack started to set in and I broke down crying. With mascara running down my face - the thought hit me - I am in Paris. I have dreamt of this for years and I was not going to let a little setback like not having GPS get in the way. I retraced my steps to get back to the Eiffel tower. All the while looking out for a taxi - I could not find one till I got back to the Eiffel tower. I felt the tears starting to well up again and just then I saw a cab dropping off a family and immediately hailed the cab. 

Paris

Just my luck, he was out of service. But he must have seen my bewilderment because he decided to help me out.  He got me to the pickup spot and refused to take a fare for the ride (who said humanity was lost?). Thankfully, two other members of the party were late so I was not holding up the group.   We made it to Versailles ok and then my Versailles tour guide did not show and did not bother to inform me. Forty-five minutes of waiting, I called the guide who informed me he had mixed up the dates and will not be showing up. After what it took to get there, his little mix up was not going to ruin my trip. I decided to explore on my own and it was an incredible afternoon. 

Paris

I went on to spend four days in Paris on my own, I started out my days early and explored the city till late in the day. Once or twice I cried (ugly tears), I got lost a few times and figured it out by cobbling together my limited French vocabulary to ask locals for direction. I found courage to ask strangers to help with pictures. Those four days in Paris were the defining moments of my time as a solo traveler. It was in Paris I discovered I could travel alone and have an incredible time doing it. That was six years ago and I have not stopped solo traveling - It is still one of my favorite things to do. I discovered something about myself when I stepped past this particular fear. 

What lies on the other of your fear ?

Paris