Flâner has always been one of my favorite French verbs. The dictionary definition reads “se promener sans but précis” (to walk without a precise goal). Since aimless wandering is basically my raison d’etre in Paris, I appreciate that the French have a word dedicated to the act.
But here’s the kicker: they don’t have just one word for it. My thesaurus indicates that flâner has twelve synonyms. TWELVE synonyms, all of which convey the idea of slowly walking for the sake of walking. I’m the first to admit that walking rules—in fact, I do it quite often—but twelve synonyms? Surely the French have crossed the line into excess.
But no, my friends, no! Spend some time in Paris and you will quickly understand how many different types of strolling there are—I would argue that twelve is, in fact, a vast understatement. In addition to flâner, we have déambuler (to stroll), errer (to march here and there, at random), se promener (to walk oneself… as if you were your own French bulldog), vagabonder… you get the idea.
And in addition to the twelve official ways of walking, I’ve developed a few of my own “walks” that don’t yet seem to have formal labels:
The backwards walk. This comes in handy when I need to head east, but the Eiffel Tower is doing its sparkling thing, so rather than turn my back on it, I just walk backwards until it’s done, trying my best not to stumble off a bridge.
The “I’m not lost” walk. Naturally, I do this one when I’m lost. The key is to walk really slowly so you appear to be flâner–ing (just taking it all in… nothing to see here), but really you are retracing your steps, or turning in circles, or wondering if that’s the same Franprix you passed twenty minutes ago. It’s ok; wherever you’re going, you’ll get there eventually, and in the meantime, you’re lost in Paris. How romantic!
The walk of NO shame. The sun is up, and yet, having hopped from bar to bar, I have not yet gone home for the night, and my outfit now seems highly inappropriate. Rather than running for cover, I simply stroll through whatever open-air market I come to, eying the produce like the savvy early-morning shopper I am pretending to be. (Then I buy a baguette and eat it in bed before I fall asleep for the rest of the morning).
The post-dinner walk. It’s sloowwww. It’s happy. It sometimes stumbles off the curb a little bit. It leads you to your bed, where you may or may not collapse without taking your shoes off. Oh well.
But no matter how I’m walking, or where I’m going, there’s no other city I’d rather be doing it in. What about you, readers? How do you walk in Paris?
Written by Tory Hoen for the HiP Paris Blog.
11 comments on “Strolling in Paris: Let Me Count the Ways…”
How do I walk in Paris? FOREVER, every time I visit Paris I walk everywhere, even though I buy the unlimited card for the metro. I’m a New Yorker so I also walk TOO fast! In Paris my boyfriend and I were the tourists and we passing out everyone. It’s hard to really slow down when your a NY-er, but we finally were able to after a few miles of walking. I love to walk in Paris and I try to re-enact it in New York, by just going for a walk that has not destination. It’s my favorite. I guess from now on I’ll have to say, Je vais aller sur flaner? Is that correct? Btw, I love this post! It made so happy.
Love this! I love just walking along the seaside and port in Nice–perfect way to flaner!
Wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading all of the different long walks. Looks so relaxing! Ashley, Travel Onion
I walk the same way in Buenos Aires and I have walked the same way, many times, in Paris.
Although I don’t remember the walk of no shame, which might be a shame right there !
There is nothing like Paris for walking, any sort of walk.
I remember many a cold windy damp days walk that was still wonderful and savored, regardless of cold and damp.
I need to go back to Paris soon .. I can only pretend so much in BA 🙂
Fabulous post and even more fabulous pictures! Gorgeous!
My favorite thing to do in Paris is to walk. Walk with absolutely no plan. Arrive places I hadn’t intended to. Wandering aimlessly. Absorbing the city, the beauty, the people. I just spent two weeks there doing just that…
… happiest two weeks ever.
Paris is an amazing city to walk. I have been here 18 years and I still see new things every day! Enjoy!
I’ve been here a year and I still walk around with no sense of grace or elegance even when I know where I’m going. It’s because I still walk around with my mouth agape, unable to believe how much beauty there is in this city.
This made me smile. I can’t wait to be flaner-ing in Paris later this summer! I’ll be walking with my hubby on a sort of “promenade romantique” if you will…
In New York, I used to call some of my long, long walks “urban hikes” – obviously too harsh for Paris’ divine ways. But I might add to the list the “American Walk” – walking, at any pace, in any neighborhood, with that big dorky, happy grin on my face. Paris, je t’aime!