LEFT BANK PARIS

 The École des Beaux-Arts courtyard, Paris Left Bank

THE FLÂNEUR

You know, French people have three words for walking (actually, I may be wrong here, they probably have way more than that, sadly I only know three).

The first word, marcher, describes the kind of walking that will get you from point 'a' to point 'b'. To walk this way is to make long, purposeful strides towards a designated point.

The second word is promener. Where to marcher is to walk with a destination in mind, to promener is to walk for the sake of walking itself. It is to enjoy the walk, and to ramble a little - possibly get a wee bit lost. The final destination is not as important as the journey itself. 

On a completely different level is the flâneur....

The flâneur, he turns walking into an art form, (trust the French!). The flâneur is the person who observes the way the light falls; the paving of a crooked street; the smell of bread leaking from the nearby bakery. He walks, hands in pockets, watching the crisp air in front of his mouth form into clouds...

 

MY PHILOSOPHICAL ROAMINGS

I think the difference between a promener and a flâneur is their perception of time.... A person can go out for a walk in the park with the simple aim of walking in itself, yet their mind can be elsewhere: they may be thinking of what is for dinner, or maybe going over yesterday's events, or even worse - they could be recapping that movie they saw last month. This person is hardly going to notice that the first buds are growing on the trees, or that the puffy white clouds are reflected in the puddles at their feet! In contrast, the flâneur is living in the moment, every moment. He or she is really living the walk. 

 

 Cobbled street in the Left Bank, Paris

MEMORIES OF A FLÂNEUR

...ON THE LEFT BANK OF PARIS...

 

A crowd of eager faces around a busker and his piano accordion.
Three small dogs with red leashes vying to gain their owners attention.
Yellow tulips wrapped in paper.
The translucency of green grapes at a market, lit by the early morning sun.
The smell of bread still fresh from the boulangerie that morning.
A young woman feeding sparrows from the hollow of her palm.
The echo of my footsteps in the church of St Germain des Prés, and a moment of stillness as I contemplated the coloured shadows made by the stained glass. A feeling of being enveloped in silence. Shafts of light piercing the gloom in an unearthly manner, and revealing swirling dust motes.
Then a different kind of silence, and reverence, found while gazing at the Delacroix paintings in the church of St Sulpice.
The sweet perfection of a pastry creation from the nearby Pierre Hermé. A concoction of rum-soaked-cake and lemon cream, eaten on a freezing wooden bench.
Noticing that the bench was accumulating a small collection of stickers from the Pierre Hermé take home boxes. Feeling a sense of connection with the unseen strangers who had placed them there.
Walking in and out of small stone courtyards lined with topiaries, simply to see what was inside.
Enjoying the bleak winter sun in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and people watching. A circle of teenagers playing handball, and a man sitting in a green chair by the fountain.
Looking up at row upon row of fairy-lights, strung between close housing in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Watching the light fail from a seat in a cafe, where I mopped up the remains of a particularly rich boeuf de bourguignon with the table bread.

 

 Rue de l'Ancienne-Comedie, Paris
 Church architecture, gothic vaulting, Paris
 Flowers at a market, Paris
 Bread in a boulangerie, Paris
 Busker playing a piano accordion in Paris
 Bouquinistes - bookstalls on the quai of the Left Bank, Paris.
 Place Saint-Sulpice - a square outside the church in black and white photography
 Jakob wrestling the Angel by Delacroix, in the church of St Sulpice, Paris
 Shadows and stained glass reflections in Saint-Sulpice
 Colourful pastries at Pierre Hermé near Place St Sulpice
 The perfect paths of Luxembourg gardens Paris
 The Luxembourg Gardens of Paris