3 min read

my life as a flâneur (Paris blog)

One of my great joys in life is to walk around aimlessly. And now I know the French have a word for that. Flâneur.

I unknowingly transformed myself into a modern-day flâneur—or as a woman, a flâneuse—the nineteenth-century term for anyone who wanders around idly while observing people and their surroundings.

- Ajiri Aki

Paris is the perfect place to be a flâneur.

I was there last week and everywhere was picturesque.

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I was surprised by the number of people just idling. The Seine and Canal Saint Martin were lined with people chatting, reading, or just sitting:

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The cafés were brimming with Parisians sitting and drinking their coffee:

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We went to a park and while the kids were playing, the parents just... chilled. I swear, the mother next to us did nothing but fan herself for an hour.

zoom in to see the playground
What has struck me so far chiefly is the absolute laziness of everybody over here. When do these people work? Where do they work at? People here seem to have established an elaborate system of loafing. I don't understand it at all.

- Thomas Jefferson, 1889, on Paris

Don't get me wrong, Brooklyn has a lot of people idling too, especially in the parks on nice days. But Paris has even more people idling. People are on their phones a little bit less, and also Parisians seem more comfortable staring off into space alone. Of course it helps that they all smoke.

Parisians also dress quite nicely for their strolls. They look good! That's one change I want to make to my own evening strolls. There is a certain satisfaction in dressing for oneself.

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Anyway, this has instilled a renewed appreciation in me for the art of walking.

I can't imagine life not being a flâneur.

Go out for a walk. It doesn't have to be a romantic walk in the park, spring at its most spectacular moment, flowers and smells and outstanding poetical imagery smoothly transferring you into another world. It doesn't have to be a walk during which you'll have multiple life epiphanies and discover meanings no other brain ever managed to encounter. Do not be afraid of spending quality time by yourself. Find meaning or don't find meaning but "steal" some time and give it freely and exclusively to your own self. Opt for privacy and solitude. That doesn't make you antisocial or cause you to reject the rest of the world. But you need to breathe. And you need to be.

- Albert Camus, Notebooks, 1951-1959
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Sacré Coeur, my chewy baguette, and a Mickey Mouse man