One of the best things I’ve started doing while here in Paris is simply wandering. You honestly never know what you’re going to find!
It’s never really scary or dangerous since there are so many metro stops all around the city, evenly spread out, so there is always one somewhat close to you as long as you’re within the city limits… When we’re bored we walk. When we get tired of walking or have just picked up a crepe or panini from a stand on the street we find one of the many parks in the city and sit on a bench. Then we people watch, which is QUITE entertaining!
For my Paris by Site class, which is all about the history of Paris which is obviously involving the amazing art that was created both in and about the historic city, we were asked to both write and perform a “derive.” Basically write directions for another person to follow that will either get them intentionally lost in the city, or lead them to a specific place. The derive that I wrote for someone else to follow had steps such as:
1 – start at the stop Chatelet
2 – take your age, divide by the number of siblings you have, subtract 2 if you don’t like coffee or add 2 if you do… and so on… whatever line of the metro that is closest to your result is the metro you get on and ride until the first stop you can transfer
3 – follow the crowd to the next busiest train, ride that two stops and exit the station
4 – walk straight, but every time you see someone wearing yellow cross the street and take the next right, and every time you see a baby in pink you must turn around and take the next right
5 – walk until you find a bakery that sells green macarons… (there’s more to that step too but it’s kinda tedious)
6 – follow someone who looks interesting, mimicing his or her movements until they glance back or stop walking, then take the next possible left
… and on it goes. Apparently the group that got mine had some fun with it 🙂
The derive I got though was VERY specific. We had to start at Pont Alexander III and walk across then down to the road by the Seine. After that we had street names and specific stops to get on/off so it was a totally different experience. The ending though was particularly interesting though because it said that we were ending up in a park where we were supposed to sit on a bench and not leave until we see 20 people pass by, but we found out it was a cemetery instead! Not quite the park we’re used to relaxing in… It was a crazy cemetery though, with every grave packed in there, barely room to scoot by one to get to the one you might want to see. There were even “alter houses” built on top of some graves that even had a chair inside along with a cross and mini alter. These were obviously the wealthier families, and often buried their loved ones right on top of each other below these “houses.”
What we didn’t know at the time, since we hadn’t planned to go to that cemetery, was that it was the Pere Lachaise! It’s a well known cemetery where MANY well known people have been laid to rest. To name a few: Balzac, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Isadora Duncan, Jim Morrison, and plenty more. Honestly I probably wouldn’t have even thought to look up the prominent figures buried there had it not been for this project.
All my classes here are really encouraging exploration of the city, and it feels like it keeps getting smaller/less overwhelming every day. There’s just so much to see here! I can only hope to put a dent in the list of everything to do by the end of my 4 months here, but honestly even 4 years wouldn’t be enough.