2013 Spring External Programs France Timothy Knapp

Aimless Wandering and Spontaneous Excursions

It’s that point in the study abroad semester where everyone is frantically trying to schedule as many weekend trips to other cities as possible. It’s difficult to coordinate and be sure as to whether you’re booking the flight/train/bus that’s the cheapest, and will give you the most time in each destination. Our program has a group trip to Normandy this weekend, and upon telling my host père, he made me clear my schedule for Friday morning to show me an important French film about Normandy. The weekend following, I’m flying to London! It’s all very exciting, specifically the prospect of being able to speak English to strangers. Although it was a very satisfying experience when, earlier in the week, a man attempted to converse with me in a grocery store and I convincingly faked my end of the conversation by smiling and saying “ça va” a few times. He had no idea I couldn’t understand him.

With classes taking up a huge chunk of time, it’s been harder to make big group plans to do the token touristy things the way we have been doing. Instead, I find myself wandering around the city after or between classes, with a couple people or by myself,  getting to the know the streets and making quick spontaneous visits to things I pass. I’ve found that Paris is the best city to aimlessly wander. The fact that there isn’t a grid with numbered streets was initially infuriating, but I can now appreciate the experience of getting lost in the twists and turns of streets jutting out here and there randomly, as well as the satisfaction of knowing exactly where you are without a numbered location. The individual street names also contribute to the city’s quaint character. My aimless wandering has resulted in a slightly more confident knowledge of Paris geography, as well as a couple more things crossed off my mental “important landmark” checklist.

After class last Friday, I went with a friend after class to look at the Eiffel Tower up close. It was the first time I gone. Rather than scheduling a visit, I think the mandatory experience for visitors of Paris is to specifically drop whatever you are doing and spontaneously take a walk to the Eiffel Tower. And that’s what we did. I also got a cheesy new Facebook profile picture out of the deal


In my lone wandering, I explored alternate ways to get from my house to where my classes are held, because it usually takes me at least forty-five minutes, with two metro transfers. I tried the bus on my way home the other day, but it was a relatively nice day out, so I got off as we passed through what looked like a nice area. I walked around and paid a visit to the beautiful Musée de l’Armée, the French military museum and the location of Napoléan’s tomb. It was a beautiful building and area and I didn’t regret my decision to get off the bus.


I also visited the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a small, beautiful cathedral in the 6th arrondissement. Parisian churches tend to be overshadowed by Notre Dame, but I think Saint-Germain-des-Prés can totally hold it’s own.


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