Bouger à Paris:
Moving in Paris
Whether it's through the Metro, RER, Vélib, bus or winding roads full of pedestrians, Paris is a city that moves in more ways than one. Thousands of Parisians travel around the city everyday, mingling with the throngs of students, visitors and "étrangers" (foreigners) passing through. From our hotel in the Marais, St. Paul (and Ligne 1) quickly became our departure point for most of our Metro journeys. Like the native Parisians, we also walked a lot! Though the wind and rain occasionally intruded on our explorations, we really got to know the city by the end of the trip, aided immensely by our trusty Paris Pratique map (seriously- it really is "indispensable").
Movement however, is not just limited to physical transportation from one place to another, and this trip was truly an exposition of the humanistic side of a city that continues to evolve. Mingling amongst the people who were eating, working, playing and of course moving through Paris, we gained perspective that cannot be found in the pages of a textbook or the walls of a classroom.
So what did ‘Bouger à Paris’ mean to us?
Paris is not just a city that moves, but a city that makes you move as well- sweeping you into the conversations, quartiers and rhythms of life. Despite the iconic associations that most people conjure up, Paris is a city that defies definition – a series of juxtapositions between antiquity and modernity, solidarity and dispute , work and ‘play’, tradition and innovation.
I walked back to the hotel after the visit to Musée d’Orsay. It was raining, and very quiet, and very peaceful. One thing I really like about Paris is that if you are in a hurry, there is the metro to get you just about anywhere without much hassle. If, however, you have a little bit of time, the city is easy and pleasant to navigate on foot. It’s not unmanageably large, and you can’t beat the views.
Paris is able to preserve all its history and culture, but it is still at the top of the world in terms of advancement. The city moves in time; it keeps its past but still adapts to the future.
On our last Wednesday in Paris, we were to meet Emily (one of our guides) for a cooking session. I decided to leave a bit early and get off on the Champs-Elysees at the Arc de Triomphe. The meeting point wasn't supposed to be far from there. I believed I was getting off at the right station, but when I emerged from the metro station I wasn't impressed to find out I was almost all the way on the wrong end of the Champs Elysées. It was raining and gray -- melancholic! I walked up towards the Arc de Triomphe, slowly but surely soaking in the rain. I was not impressed, it must have been one of those moments when I put on my other face. I finally got to the meeting spot and found everyone else waiting. Certainly not one of my better experiences walking in Paris.
Moral of the story: Get off at the right stop.
Bouger at Paris is just the way in which the city is constantly changing and evolving without forgetting its past. I was amazed at how Paris managed to be both a highly technological 21st century city and a old historical city. One can be in La Défense or the 12th or 13th arrondissements and feel like one is a futuristic world like in Back to the Future. Ten minutes late, one can be walking through the Louvre or through Notre Dame and almost feel like one is in the Mediaval Ages/Renaissance. It is as if the city moves through time: walking through Paris is like walking through a timeline of its history.
The theme “Bouger a Paris” framed our entire experience in the city. We perceived constant movement: bustling through rue de Rivoli, crowding over important works of art and running to the metro. Paris is a city that has evolved to accommodate this constant movement with an amazing web of public transportation. Amidst all of the chaos however, we witnessed Parisian moments of pause and silence: sitting quietly for an espresso, practicing the art of people watching from a café or standing outside for an afternoon smoke. “Paris qui bouge” inspired me to wake up early and go on long walks, stride alongside kids headed for school, watch cafes open and adults rush to buy their daily baguette.
When I first though of our theme I thought less about actual movement but about how Paris has changed through time. Some things were really obvious such as the old and new architecture being right next to each other as well as tiny cobble-stoned streets near large main streets. There were other signs of cultural movement that were harder to find. When we went to Versailles I learned that in the 1500s boys younger than four years old wore gowns. This is definitely different than the current (and extremely trendy) style of Parisian men. We walked over the site of the assassination of Henry IV, and while our guide talked about it people looked at us like we were crazy for standing in the middle of the street. People were just totally oblivious of a huge part of their history staring at them in the face!
What does ‘Bouger à Paris’ mean to you?