Professor Michelle Rhoades – “Ah, Paris.” Is there any better city to walk? Not really. But there are several kinds of walking in Paris. First there’s the “oh my, I need to get across town in 15 minutes” kind of walking. That sort of walk will take pounds off you in weeks (or days). We won’t do too much of that. Then there’s the “I really don’t want to talk to anyone” kind of walking. Parisian women do this particular walk with an extraordinary amount of grace and guile. I’ve tried to replicate it and it is nearly impossible to do. We won’t do much of that either. Then there’s the “ah, Paris” type of walk. This is the walk that invites reflection, conversation, relaxation. What type will you do on this trip? When in Paris, we will do a little of needing to get there and a little to relax.
Let’s take the benefits of “getting across town” first. It’s helpful to have a sense of where you are going and trust me, I won’t let you get lost in Paris. It’s a big city but once you understand how it is laid out (and keep a map nearby for reference) it is very easy to navigate. If say, you want to spend the afternoon enjoying the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre, getting there is the first order of business. Picking a direct line on a map will ensure you don’t get lost or stuck in a crowd. This “fast walk” will ensure you have time to enjoy the gardens. We will do some of this to reach destinations
The most wonderful walking in Paris is the afternoon or evening stroll. I call this the “Ah, Paris” walk because though you may do a lot of it, every moment is a joy. There is new architecture to marvel at (Paris has hundreds of stone angels on its buildings), flowers to enjoy, and cafes to wander into.
Walking in Paris is both chore and delight. If you have traveled extensively, you probably have your own system for walking through cities. In any case, I offer these suggestions for Paris, in particular. First, use a comfortable day bag for carrying your camera, guidebook, map, and a bottle of water. I prefer a backpack-style purse because I find it more comfortable. Some prefer a small backpack, others a duffle-style travel bag. No matter your choice, don’t over-pack. You will be on your feet for most of the day and bags always get heavier as the day wears on. Second, bring at least two pairs of shoes you know are comfortable. Switching off every other day helps your feet to recover and relax.
Finally, when you want to slow down and stroll through the city in your time away from the group, be sure to really slow down. Stop into the first café that looks interesting and I do mean the FIRST café. I cannot tell you how frustrating it can be to look for the “perfect café” only to realize you’ve spent an extra 20 minutes walking around when you could have had a Perrier, a beer or tried a new glass of wine and had a few olives.
In short, walking through Paris should not be a chore. By the time we reach the city on this trip, I suspect you will be ready for it and eager to see the City of Lights.