Walking is ESSENTIAL in Paris. If there is one thing I do here more than eat baguettes, it is walk. Je promène. The verb actually translates closer to meaning “to wander” or “to stroll,” giving it a more carefree connotation. It is used a lot in the French language because Parisians are much more apt to spend time people-watching at a café or lounging on a sunny park bench instead of running from one place to the next like us work-obsessed Americans.
So, I promène a lot here in Paris. I purposefully get myself lost because I’ve learned that it is the best way to discover new things. One of my favorite places to wander is Le Marais. It is an area in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (neighborhoods) that is home to lots of art galleries, restaurants and cafes, shops and boutiques, and, on the edge, the Seine. Le Marais is prime ground for people-watching and window shopping. The apartment buildings are some of the most beautiful (and expensive) in the city, and there is everything from expensive restaurants and boutiques to cheap boulangeries and vintage shops.
Although promener-ing is fun to do with a friend or two, I like the freedom of being able to choose my own path, looking down a side street to decide if I should let my feet float that way. Thursday afternoon, after a trip to the Vincennes Castle with my Paris Collage class, I decided to take the metro to Bastille instead of heading home. From there, I headed off down a side-street and began my solo adventure.
The weather has been unusually warm for early October; around 75 degrees at the peak of the day. First, I stopped in a boulangerie, bought a baguette, and ate it as I strolled around the little alleyways, looking into shop windows and stopping into a couple of them. I browsed some vintage stores then kept walking until I happened upon Place des Vosges, a park that I had been to before on a different walk.
Place des Vosges is one of my favorite parks that I’ve been to in Paris. It’s pretty small as parks go (especially compared to Philly’s Fairmount!), but it is extremely charming and not super-crowded like the Jardin du Luxembourg or Tuileries. There were groups of teenagers playing cards on the grass and Parisian children playing in the sandboxes at the head of the park. I decided to sit down on the grass for a bit and enjoy the last glows of sunlight. After a while, I got up and continued to amble. For the remainder of the night, I happened upon another small park, an art gallery opening, and a gorgeous apartment building with layers of ivy sprouting up the walls.
Nothing particularly exciting happened, but that’s the magic of taking time to linger over the hidden wonder of the city. The faint light of dusk tinges everything with grace and delicacy, romanticizing the buildings and people of Paris even more than usual… Not all those who wander are lost.
“Paris… is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.”