Like all big cities, Paris comes with a number of different modes of transportation.
But, as Americans, if we don’t hail from equally large cities, we’re a little more predisposed to hop into a taxi or rent a car than we are to simply put feet to pavement. And, in Paris, if we succumb to that tendency, it’s important to know that we’ll likely miss a fair bit of what gives Paris its beautiful, storied soul.
So, please find our list of the things you might miss if you opt not to walk everywhere you can in this vibrant city:
When you’re driving around – or, at least, passengering around – you’ll probably see some street art. After all, big, stunning murals the size of a building are a little hard to miss.
But what about the small things? Like the RVA graffiti outside a Paris brasserie? Or Lego art leading to a nearby gallery? Or even the beautiful mural above – “The time of the smiles” – which so perfectly summed up our feelings on Paris? Those we never would have noticed had we done anything but hoof it.
This one’s kind of silly, but also twofold.
First off, if you’re mainly walking around Paris, you’re bound to get hungry. Cardio = need more food, right? And since a McDonald’s drive-thru is a damn near sacrilegious choice for pilgrims to a culinary mecca like Paris, you’re probably going to end up battling for parking spaces when you want to stop, no matter your choice of vehicle.
However, when you’re on foot, the interaction goes something like this: “Huh, my stomach is growling. Oh! Look! That cafe we’re passing has some super comfy chairs on the sidewalk. And I smell delicious bread.” *sits* *has leisurely, stress-free food*
Secondly, if you’re the kind of person who indulges occasionally but usually watches what they eat, you’ll appreciate being able to start every day with a pain au chocolat (or two), completely guilt-free. After all, during our 6 days in France, we walked a grand total of 60+ miles. We may not be health professionals, but we both felt pretty secure that we walked off literally anything we ate!
This one’s pretty akin to the point about street art, but here’s an anecdote for you. On our first day in Paris, we got settled into our flat and went for a walk towards Père Lachaise. Brilliantly, I stopped directly in the middle of the sidewalk and whipped out my phone for the above picture.
A) That photo would not have happened if we had biked or taken a taxi.
B) I probably wouldn’t have been able to look away from the road and up far enough to even see it to WANT to photograph it.
One of Paris’s biggest draws is its wonderfully preserved architecture, many aspects of which are tied into the city’s long, rich cultural heritage. Don’t miss out 🙂
General cultural immersion
Walking around New York City is fascinating. Walking around Paris is almost alien.
Think about it. When you walk around in a big city that generally speaks your language, you understand it when parents fuss at their children, when signs tell you which way to go, and when people notice you look lost and try to give you instructions.
In a foreign city, though, the urban hum takes on a totally different sound and feel. Even the buskers and street musicians are different!
For us, walking around Paris, my passable French was an advantage. But I still couldn’t just natively understand random people on the street without concentrating very hard.
The best part about it, though, was that, by day 4, different started to feel normal. And by the time we left, hearing English spoken everywhere at Dulles was what seemed strange.
Also published on Medium.