“Flâneur” comes from the French masculine noun flâneur—which has the basic meanings of “stroller”, “lounger”, “saunterer”.
Les joies de la flâneuse – The joys of the stroller.
We decide to just walk and take everything in the next day. It’s hard to explain the depth and enormity of the feelings I have as I slowly settle into the realisation of being in Paris. There is a hunger in me that I suddenly realise I have pushed aside for years. A hunger for beauty, culture, art. A hunger for knowledge, for creativity, for seeing the world beyond my own back yard.
We start early and walk through the colourful, hip Marais again, hoping to find a croque monsieur. We get as far as the Bastille when we find a quirky little cafe that looks like it has been open all night and may still have the odd wobbly patron finishing their previous evening out. It is so early that there are not a lot of options, so when we see the croque on the menu we agree this is it for breakfast. We choose the sidewalk tables that are enclosed with clear plastic patio blinds to protect us from the cool spring morning. We order our meal and watch the city starting to wake up around us as we wait. Our croques (my first) arrive toasty, golden, warm, dripping in bechamel and melted cheese and a little salad on the side.
My love has finished his and I still have a bit to go when the morning street sweeper machine comes along, high pressure hosing the sidewalks. Our cafe host rushes out, waving arms and making a fuss as the machine gets closer. There is a highly animated exchange, obviously in French, between him and the street sweeper guy. We translated the body language into Australian and we think it went something like “Dude what the fuck? I got customers here man!” “I’m just doin my job bro and I gotta sweep the street” “No brother, not here you don’t. you get your machine away from my fucking shop or I’ll smack ya!” “ Sorry bro I’m coming through, so get the fuck out of my way.” Next thing we know the street sweeper has plowed ahead and blasted the sidewalk in front of us and leaves and dirt are sprayed up under the plastic blind all over us. Hair, jumpers, trousers, but more distressingly the last of my breakfast are covered in shrapnel. Our poor host is furious and mortified, we look at each other and go to pieces in laughter. Our host is flapping about offering to make another breakfast for me and apologising profusely, but I don’t need any more food. He dances a hilarious dance frantically flicking at me with a tea towel trying to remove leaves from everywhere, we assure him that it is all ok and I think he is quite shocked at our good grace. We settle our account and tip our poor embarrassed host and continue on our walk still laughing. Welcome to Paris!
We head back through the Marais, past the Pompidou Centre with a promise to come back and go inside one day. We walk along the Seine, the sidewalk lined with book sellers and other souvenir stalls and the waterway lined with boats. We walk past a magnificent building that seems to go on for miles. “What is that place my darling? It’s beautiful!” I ask innocently. “Love….that’s the Louvre!” he says looking over at me with that furrowed browed have you been living under a rock look! We laugh out loud and privately I think “Yes my love, yes I have, under a very big ugly old boulder, but now I’m here with you!”
We walk on and then there I am, on the Champs Elysee! Glamorous shop windows, Guerlain, Hugo Boss, Cartier, Lacoste, an Abercrombie and Finches store that resembles a country estate with big black gates opening to a long green hedged pebble drive that sweeps around to the beautiful mirrored rear entrance to the building.
Finally we find ourselves at the Arc de Triomphe. Arching above us in the centre of a big roundabout it is breathtaking. Delicate intricate sculptural decorations carved into the side of it in honour of those who have fought for France including in the Napoleonic wars. The history of Paris is fascinating it reminds me that by comparison Australia is but a babe.
We make a left hand turn and keep walking, my energy high with the excitement of this place. Down through the 16th Arrondissement it isn’t long before we find ourselves near the Seine again. From the Trocadero we look down along the beautiful fountains to the Eiffel Tower. It is another catch my breath moment where I am feeling complete amazement and awe that I am really in Paris.
We cross the bridge over the Seine all the time I am feeling the shadow of the Tower drawing me closer. Soon, we are below the tower and looking up through the centre of it’s incredibly beautiful and detailed composition. My love is shooting incredible photo’s. I turn slowly looking upward, the heavy but elegant metal structure above me is incredible. My mind is spinning faster than my body is spinning and it feels rhythmic and seductive. Finally I break my trance and with light headed dizziness continue on.
Down again at the edge of the Seine, this time on the left bank, we see fascinating house boats, restaurant boats and tourist cruise boats tethered along the river. After a lovely walk along the waterside we turn right to explore St Germain. We wander through and I immediately know I want to spend more time here. The cafes look wonderful, there are fascinating shops and the architecture is glorious.
Heading back again toward the Seine we cross at pont Neuf at the tip of Ile de la Cite back in the general direction of the Marais. We walk along Rue de Rivoli making mental notes of things like an amazing looking boulangerie/ patisserie. We are back in the Marais and I am still filled with energy and excitement. We stop at a small Marche and pick up a few essentials like wine and cheese, oh and Milk and bread . We turn into our little lane, find our big courtyard door and it is only when faced with the up and down and up again narrow staircase that we realise how tired we are. The door key is applied with the required wrist, shoulder and hip contortions and boom we are in! Our bits and pieces are popped in the fridge, my love liberates corks from wine bottle necks and we flop into the big old sofa and look out our window at the Parisian evening sky. It is only then we realise we have been walking for more than 10 hours and we have walked from one end of Paris to the other and back again.
My mind is so alive with possibility, my thoughts are flitting from one bit of inspiration from the day to the next. Creative vitality is bubbling within me as I try to reconcile the stark contrast of where I have been in my life, with the where I am now. I am emotional, I am breathless.
My body on the other hand is completely shattered. But what a beautiful glorious exhaustion. The day has been full and passionate with complete and intense emotional connection. Ahhh I am so alive!