Have you ever taken a long walk through a big city? I mean a really long walk. A walk that is for the sake of the walk, for the route, not the destination. A walk that takes you from post card scene to post card scene via the sites that rarely get a mention. If you never have, then now is the time. Because, you can hop on and off the metro, seeing the things you’re supposed to see, but by taking some time above ground, at an amble or a stroll, you will discover a much loved city anew.
Waking up in a typical Parisian hotel (box sized, good Wifi, paper thin walls, clean bathroom) in Montparnasse, the city is your oyster. At 7 or so kilometres away, Montmartre doesn’t seem the ideal start line, but, on your one metro ride of the day, you can be over by La Butte and ready to start a day of discovery. Your only goal: to take as long as you can to get back to your hotel. This will be a day connecting the dots between the guide book’s targets. On your marks, get set, stroll…
With the view absorbed, along side a coffee, it’s time to begin the down hill meandering. You slip seamlessly from artists on the Place du Tertre, the delicatessen food vans on the peak of the hill, down through the romancing couples and Paris Je T’aime bag stores towards the sex shops and peep shows of Pigalle, before landing at the Moulin Rouge. Half an hour, two photo opportunities, and so much in between.
From here, it’d be so easy to pick a new spot, a new item from the Top 10 Things to do in Paris and jump back on that metro. But you’ve just seen it for yourself. Cities aren’t pins on a map connected by straight lines. They are not fenced off neighbourhoods to be treated one at a time. Cities are ebbing and flowing boroughs creeping in and out of each other’s territory. They are full of short cuts and long-ways-around. One area seeps into another with culture and history tying the parts together.
Wondering, wandering around, above ground, take a sneak peak at what goes on when, instead of going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood on purpose, you do it by accident.
From the tacky and mildly amusing can can corner, it’s surprising how quickly the crowds fade away. The streets become places where people live and work. Breath it in and soak it up. Feel like it feels to be here every day. See yourself in the pavements for which no guide book write up exists. Create your own memories, not ones superimposed by a postcard or a top 10 list.
The time taken for such walks, the pain in your back and the aching in your feet won’t go long unrewarded. Because this is Paris, and even when heading nowhere, it won’t be long before you find yourself somewhere. From Pigalle you can fall through the city to les Grands Boulevards and the Opera, where the quiet shaded streets suddenly become alive and bustling after one left turn. A right here, another left there, a sandwich and a coffee later, and glamorous shopping becomes cultural queuing. And since the 10 am metro across the city, your feet and your eyes have done all the exploring.
And on and on it goes, pausing more often as your feet get tired. 24 hours in Paris, from one end to the other, via sites and sounds, both famous and undiscovered. From classic views at dusk…
to quirky views from the hotel door…
…you’ve seen what we all come here to see and you’ve seen so much more. Thank your feet for their patience and their part in allowing you to discover what matters in a place. From one side of the river to the next, watch the people watching Notre Dame, or take a photo from a different angle.
And when your going back on the train, or sitting comfortably on your sofa, remember the places you saw and enjoy the photos you took. And remember how you got from one picture to the next, your day in Paris on foot, your dot-to-do picture that looks a little different to the norm and all the better for it.