It seems almost impossible to study in Paris without encountering the idea of Le Flâneur or La Flâneuse. They are the wanderers, loungers, strollers. They are those people who observe and comment on urban life, who walk to reflect and see the world around them. A friend of mine who studied here her freshman year even has a tattoo of the word Flâneuse, well earned because she is able to hear my desire for a good Chinese restaurant or coffee shop and point me in the right direction.
I would like to adopt the personality of La Flâneuse. It’s tough to balance everything while studying because I always feel like I’m not doing enough (leftover anxiety from New York, I’m sure, mixed in with the knowledge that living in Paris won’t last forever and I have to fit everything into this one short year abroad!). Plus, who has the money to study at cafes all day? They are perfect spots for observation, as my last posts will surely convince you, but even in Paris where one can sip a single cafe creme for hours without being shooed away by the waiter/waitress for taking up a seat, I can’t spend the almost five euros a day on being out and about. Sometimes I have to stay in the library or my room to do work, and the windows to the outside tempt me to leave.
So when I can, I walk.
Each arrondissement in Paris has its own personality with its own group of people. Some of them are known for their exceptional crepes (the 14th around Montparnasse) and others for the cute coffee shops (in the 10th, Australian cafes serve flat whites like no one else). I like that I am slowly acquiring this knowledge on my walking tours of the city, but I am still filled with the anxiety of not doing enough, exploring enough.
Outside of Paris, there is the wider continent of Europe that is available to me, but how could I possibly squeeze it all in?
So for now, my walks around the city, through its winding streets, in and out of its cafes, are enough to keep me satiated. I obviously would like to do more, but it’s impossible to hold myself to the standard of a middle-class man from the 19th century, when the term was originally coined. I don’t have a hat or a cane to take with me on long walks with my notebook as I observe the city and class divisions and everything that makes Paris spectacular and different (though I would give everything to have even a day to explore this life!). No, I am simply a college student with many deadlines and assignments and not enough time for everything.
La Flâneuse in me is itching to get out, but until I have a break to satiate her desire for an hours-long walk along the Seine, she will have to do with twenty minutes here and there, in between classes, to go a little out of the way to try a new grocery store or clothing outlet. They are little things, but they need to be done, so I may as well try to see as much as I can while I do them.