Nuit Blanche – Republique Fog

Taken on Nuit Blanche in Paris.

Taken on Nuit Blanche in Paris. Nuit Blanche is an annual cultural event where galleries and studios open their doors, churches let the artists in, and installations are set up all over Paris. In this one, a giant fog machine pushes Place de la République into a cloud, with eerie shapes emerging from the opaque white. Walking through this felt incredible, a thin mist of water obscuring your vision, people appearing in front of you then disappearing again in a few more steps. Very weird. Very cool.

Paris Essentials

There are some things that you just can’t leave behind when you move anywhere. The following three things are, in my opinion, absolutely essential for a successful stay in Paris.

  • An umbrella. Life doesn’t stop for rain here. The tourists will still be queuing for bell towers, people will steal be eating outside restaurants (albeit with a transparent marquee that seems to appear from nowhere around their tables) and Parisians will still be walking. It’s time to embrace umbrella chic. I favour a big transparent bubble umbrella, but as long as you didn’t buy it from a kiosque for €5 (sounds like a great idea now, but it WILL break in the next ten minutes) almost anything goes – after all, everyone else is staring at the floor, hoping the weather won’t ruin their Louboutins!
  • A stern resting face. When I moved to Paris, I discovered a terrible habit I never even knew I had: making eye contact with almost every person I pass on the street. Aside from making you look a bit weird, this can also attract unwanted attention, and in Paris, that must be avoided beyond all cost. Adopt a stern resting face à la Tavi Gevinson and if anyone still tries to approach you, just intensify it.
  • Shoes that won’t give you blisters. I do a lot of walking in Paris, and after a week here, my feet were torn to goodness. Spend a little bit of money on some good-quality, well-fitting shoes, and make sure you wear them in. Then, nothing can stop you from indulging in some flânerie!

What’s made it onto your Parisian essentials list? Let me know!

The Struggling Flaneuse

“To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.”

― Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

The flâneur is a shameless wanderer. A person who is comfortable passing through a cityscape at their own pace, with no need to hurry in accordance with the wills of others. To explore without purpose. Paris is a city built on flânerie, on chance encounters and unexpected moments. With so many treasures in such a compact space, you can’t help but be pulled into the folds of the city’s streets.

When I first heard of the flâneur, I thought (in that special way only teenagers can think): “Finally! A word that describes me!” And that was the case for a very long time. Trips to London, Cambridge, my move to Canterbury, were all full of aimless wandering, happening upon hidden treasures and new favourites by chance.

However, since moving to Paris, the home of the flâneur, I find myself less and less able to wander in that same way. Maybe I’m intimidated by the huge, tall buildings, begging you to discover their secrets, the plaques and clues to the history within. This is the city where the flâneur was born, and I can’t quite live up to that legacy.

Another factor is the fear. Or, if I was being supremely existential, the Fear. I have a place to live in Paris (thank God) but I don’t have a home. Not yet. I don’t know these streets, and if I suddenly had to break flâneuse character to escape a difficult situation, I wouldn’t know how to.

I’ve found the key to successful wandering for me is a structure. To know the places where I should ‘check in’: a shop, a statue, a restaurant. Then the spaces in between are open for flânerie!

Maybe some day I will be able to be a true flâneuse, wandering freely with no need to stop and check the street name every few metres. But I doubt I will ever go without my trusty map book (you know, just in case).

What’s your favourite way to explore Paris? Do you plan it all out, or just go where the city takes you? Let me know in the comments!

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