Paris: Wandering as an art form

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Planning a 36-hour trip to Paris should be easy–one can only see so much art and eat so much croissant–but I found it difficult to rein in my tendencies to itinerize every hour. I took a hard look at my Paris map and limited myself to places that were within walking distance or a couple of Metro stops. I made a list of three sights and a dinner reservation for Saturday. C’est tout!

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Because when you are so focused on running from one museum to the next or getting that Eiffel Tower selfie…you miss the beauty of Paris.


There is a word in French, flâneur, which means the “wanderer,” “idler” or “saunterer.” The idea that one can actually be a scholar of the wandering, Parisian lifestyle evolved in the 20th century–seducing American writers and artists to move there. This is more or less the premise of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast

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I love how one of my favorite bloggers sums up vacation dilemmas: “The hardest decision you should have to make is deciding when to switch from coffee to beer”…or wine in my case.


On Saturday we came upon a classic corner cafe on the left bank–basically a post card. As we were served our afternoon aperitifs, the rain clouds cleared and the sun shone down on us.

The French women next to us gossiped and fed their dogs pieces of lardon-soaked bread. A man in front of us worked his way through a newspaper, a bottle of Bordeaux and a cigar. The sidewalk served as a veritable fashion runway for us to select our favorite hats, scarves and even dog breeds. For long stretches of time, we said nothing.

I thought “Now, this is the essence of vacation.”

IMG_1834Feeling energized on Sunday, we squeezed in a stop at Musée D’Orsay to see some favorites.

Paris Musee D'Orsay Claude Monet 1891 Haystacks End Of Summer Morning


When we looked at our watches and deduced we had just three hours left, we knew there was only one place to go: back to our cafe. Instead of trying to visit more museums or even finish the one we were in, we chose to go to the museum of Parisian lifestyle. Another round of rosé, two croques monsieurs and some sunshine was the perfect way to cap off the weekend.

IMG_1816My favorite Parisian wandering spots:

You may not be in Paris today (at least, I’m not), but you can always incorporate a little flâneur into your life. It does wonders for one’s soul.


9 thoughts on “Paris: Wandering as an art form

  1. This was a great read for me .. I’m going to Paris in just a few days and will also be there for a really short time. Sometimes it’s hard to try and squeeze everything in, but the reality of it is you should really take in the place and enjoy it more than driving yourself crazy trying to see everything possible! Thanks for reminding me of that!!

  2. I’m having my own flaneur time today by sauntering in the new snow in Washington, D.C. Like being in my own snow globe. Thanks for the lovely idea

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