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How does one explore Paris, the most visited city in the world? Paris is full of world-class monuments, historical sights and museums that could keep you occupied for days. Well actually, just about forever. There are organized tours of every sort and skip the line tricks that can give you a whirlwind taste of the City of Light.
Of course one needs to see the classics. They are non-negotiable. But then what?
Should you continue down your list of star attractions? Should you revisit your favourites?
finding authentic Paris,
observing how Parisians live,
slowing down and savouring the beauty of Parisian life?
Why not step into the designation of “urban explorer?” Are we not all explorers at heart?
The quintessential urban explorer, known as a flâneur in the 18th century, was a man (not a suitable designation for a woman back then) who strolled about town, frequented cafés and observed daily life. Perhaps this is the perfect way to explore Paris. Not a man? Not a problem. The modern-day female explorer can acquire the role of flâneuse, walking through the city. I prefer to do this while travelling solo in Paris.
On my first visit back to Paris in decades, I find myself slipping into the mode of modern-day “flâneuse” a word that a few years back was a new addition to my vocabulary. As I stroll along, I am surprised by her timeless familiarity. I feel strangely at home (“chez moi”) as though I belong there.
I seek out her iconic treasures, re-evaluating their ability to enthral. I have grave doubts the Eiffel Tower will impress me. But the Iron Lady, soaring above the slate rooftops and glittering in the evening, positively enchants me.
Notre-Dame’s rose windows, flying buttresses and chiming bells are impossible to snub. Upon entry, mass is in full swing. Parisians worship here while art class pupils quietly sketch the majestic interior and tourists pose for selfies amid a backdrop of soaring organ music, solemn hymns and smoky incense swirling around the pulpit. Time has not diminished Notre-Dame’s ability to captivate.
I utter the word “flâneuse” aloud. It languidly rolls off my tongue as I dawdle along, eyes darting to witness lived moments.
Any of these 19 streets in Paris would be a marvellous place to start exploring in flâneur/flâneuse mode. These 19 Stunning Paris Streets to Stroll are sure to please!
As I flâner through Paris, I am struck by the recent memory of my well-worn travel journal from my twenty-year-old self. Upon packing up to become a nomad, this dusty memoir had fallen open to its final page. The last line flies like an arrow, making direct contact with my heart.
“Remember Alison, anything is possible in Paris.”
Anything possible? How could I have forgotten this declaration?
I had come to explore Paris and fallen for her charm on several visits in 1980 but on return to my Canadian life, memories of Paris had burrowed deeply into the far recesses of my heart.
My own words from the past instantly ignite a lost passion.
I energetically step into my new designation of flâneuse realizing I am not so different from that twenty-year-old girl. I wander into hidden courtyards and down tiny, cobbled streets.
I want to savour the deep enjoyment that comes from finding something extraordinary all by myself.
Maybe it’s the way the light falls today,
or the clack of the pétanque balls in the parks
cascading harp notes drawing a crowd,
or the tiny Montmartre vineyard, still producing a limited amount of wine for auction.
In flâneuse mode, I stumble upon the early-morning arrival of ponies at the Jardin du Luxembourg,
Bouquinistes by the Seine delighting in a new discovery,
more melodies creating ambience,
and the banks of the Seine, filled with lovers and families sharing a bottle of wine and exquisite, yet simple, food.
Through this art of observing and walking, I develop a cherished relationship with Paris.
I ache to know her arrondissements intimately, find her hidden treasures and encounter every possibility. I yearn to inhale her village spirit and be enchanted by the unexpected. I think I am in love, ready for whatever the City of Light delivers.
Anything is possible – right?
Are you ready to explore Paris and flâner a little?
Tips On How To Explore Paris As A Flâneur/ Flâneuse
Explore Paris As A Flâneur/ Flâneuse:
This is all about being the best version of your dawdling self!
Best Location To Explore Paris:
To start, pick an arrondissement that you are drawn to. Maybe it’s Montmartre today and Canal Saint-Martin tomorrow. Perhaps it the off the beaten path village of La Butte aux Cailles or another hilltop village in the 19th arrondissement, La Butte Bergeyre. Pick a familiar area that you love or one that is completely unfamiliar to you and flâner.
Other great places to wander Paris are le Marais where you can see the most beautiful square in Paris. Here are some Marais insider tips are where to stop and sip a coffee.
Or nearby is Ile Saint-Louis, one of the oldest villages in Paris. You’re sure to love the street music and cobbled streets.
Try stationing yourself in a park. Observe what’s happening. You’re bound to see some of the following: socialising, a game of pétanque, rehearsal of a play, people reading, picnics being shared.
If you are looking for locals walking their dogs and working out and views of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, you might like Ile aux Cygnes.
Sit and sip a beverage at a café. Find a market to stroll.
Anywhere will do. Even the Métro.
Read all my insider tips on Paris…right here!
What To Wear As A Flaneur In Paris:
Wear comfortable walking shoes. That doesn’t necessarily mean unfashionable! You are going to be putting on a few miles. Maybe don a sassy hat, just to embrace the role of flâneur/flâneuse.
Best Time To Explore Paris:
And what is the best season to explore Paris? I think spring tops them all. Here are my thoughts of exploring Paris in the spring...think blossoms! Here is where to find all the best blossoms in Paris.
Try early in the morning. If you love photography this is a perfect time. It’s how I witnessed the arrival of the ponies in the Jardin du Luxembourg and how I stood alone (almost) on the most beautiful bridge spanning the Seine.
The evening is also a brilliant time. Flâner down to Jardin Tino-Rossi and watch dancers Tango by the Seine.
I love how you’ve represented Paris with these beautiful photos of day to day life! I have a French feeling going on now!
Alison Browne says
Merci! You better grab yourself a croissant! 😉
I am hoping to go to Paris during late spring next year, the city has been on my bucketlist fo soooo many years and I have finally gotten my partner to agree to go with me 🙂
Cheers from Stockholm, Sweden 🙂
Alison Browne says
Enjoy…. If you go in May, all the roses are blooming. To me, it is the perfect month to explore Paris!
Empty Nesters Hit The Road says
What a beautifully written piece! I don’t have plans to see Paris in the near future, but that may have to change after reading this. Thank you!
Alison Browne says
Thank you… wandering Paris is the best way to connect with its charm and grace.
L - Franglais27 says
Such a wonderful account of being that flâneuse whilst in Paris! I love strolling along the banks of the Seine whilst there!
Alison Browne says
Thank you! Being that flâneuse might be one of my greatest pleasures in life!