(This is a diary about exploring parallels between two very different places. A clear debt to Situationism (the notion of navigating Paris with a map of London), but here asymmetrically determined. Paris is clearly a major city, inflected with history and myth, whereas Woonona is a minor suburb on the northern fringes of the (formerly) working class town of Wollongong (NSW, Australia). The text is followed by a series of photographs that document a specific walk I made in Paris. The walk corresponds – in very approximate terms – to an evening walk I made in Woonona. The diary comes first, then the photographs.)
September 26, 2013
I am in Paris for 11 days.
It is Thursday today. I only arrived yesterday evening.
No map initially, only a set of detailed Metro instructions from Charles De Gaulle airport to 22 Rue Reaumur (in the Marais district). So I invent north, east, south and west, but it turns out I have all my directions wrong. Now I struggle to reboot my initial, mistaken, understanding of where I am with an accurate and completely reversed, map-based understanding.
My first aim was to orient myself. I wandered right to the Rue de Beauborg and then down left in the direction of the Pompidou Centre, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine. I stopped in at a laundromat along the way and failed to make sense of the complex washing instructions.
I continued down Rue de Beauborg, past the Hotel de Ville, to Notre Dame cathedral. There were long queues so I didn’t bother going in, but turned left and followed a series of gardens to the end of the Ile de la Cite. Found a free wifi node, checked my email and took a photograph.
I also took a photograph of the Seine.
September 26, 2013
I headed out the door again a bit after 4pm, back towards Rue de Beauborg. Walked more directly this time, straight down to Hotel de la Ville and then left until Rue Saint-Paul…
Why all this walking? I cannot properly explain.
I live in the northern suburbs of Wollongong, just south of Sydney (New South Wales, Australia). For some months before I came to Paris, I had been going for long walks each evening.
I used to wander down Hospital Road to the old Princes Highway. I saw the lights of cargo ships on the horizon. If the moon was up I could also see the sea itself – a kilometre or so in the distance.
I’d cross the highway at the Bulli Workers Club – sometimes empty, never crowded – and continue down Farrell Road to cross Memorial Drive via the pedestrian overpass. The southern side of Farrell road is lined with fine old weatherboards homes, now too close to Memorial Drive to be very desirable. They do their best to turn a blind eye to the high concrete walls that serve as sound barriers for the northern distributor.
Up the overpass, across a turning circle and a railway bridge and then straight down the continuation of Farrell’s Road to Bulli Beach. The eastern side of the tracks. Turn right at the beachside caravan park and follow the bike trail south to Woonona. I never, or only rarely, make it to the beach as such. Stay just above it with the joggers, cyclists and other walkers. Sometimes, as I say, there is a moon, although I can’t recall anything much of its consequences.
Pass across a park and between some impressive two-storey homes. Cross the road and walk past Woonona Surf Lifesaving Club, then diagonally across Nicholson Park to Park Road. The latter leads straight up to Woonona railway station and an assortment of small takeaway shops. Just about halfway between the railway line and Memorial Drive there is a house with a neon number in its front window. The number is 54, my age.
Turn right from the overpass over Memorial Drive, go down a short way and turn left at Gray Street. I have bought a house on this street and will be moving in soon. That’s one of the reasons I like to go on this walk. Gray Street is full of old homes that run back up to the Princes Highway and the Windmill Hotel. Turn right at the highway and proceed down past the old School of Arts and the RSL club to the Woonona shops. A Hogsbreath Cafe, several small Chinese and Thai restaurants, three pizza places, a McDonalds and a take-away kebab caravan next to the petrol station. Continue past all these, up a small hill and then back down to a left turn at lights to Hospital Road. Back up the hill to my current home.
Why describe this walk in Paris?
Without explaining, I am searching for Parisian parallels to the prospects, roads, overpasses and parks of my domestic evening walk. I will navigate Paris in terms of my memories of Bulli and Woonona.
September 27, 2013
I have described a single version of my evening walk, but there are variants. Sometimes I add distance by walking down through Bulli proper to Sandon Point and then south to Woonona. On other occasions I shorten the walk by remaining on the western side of Memorial Drive, following the concrete walls along to Park Road. The walk takes different specific forms as the mood suits me – as I become inspired, curious, tired, etc.
In Paris, I recall moments on this walk: descending down from the dark escarpment with the sense of the sea not far off in the distance; balancing around a power pole at the bottom of the steep section of Hospital Road; hurrying past the hospital; taking a shortcut across the Bulli Workers Club car park; looking out at the lights on Memorial Drive from the pedestrian overpass; seeing the densely packed houses on the eastern portion of Farrell Road, dropping down once again to the sea; then the view of Woonona point from the beachside cycle way; the darkness of Nicholson Park; rushing to get across the train line before a train comes; disbelief that such an old-fashioned fish and chips shop can still exist; turning to walk up Gray St and walking past my new home; the brightness of the Princes Highway; the nearly deserted Woonona shops; walking up the steep hill to Alanson Avenue; continuing to climb and then descending briefly to where I am staying; the darkness of the night; the quiet of suburban streets; the sound of soft waves on an invisible shore.
I have no photographs of this walk, but it remains vivid for me.
September 28, 2013
Scanning through my phone, I realise that I do have photographs from my evening walks with me.
The first is from the eastern end of Gray Street, with Memorial Drive running off into the distance. The faint line of lights suspended in night at left is from the Visitors Centre at the top of the escarpment. As soon as I turn left and head up Gray Street everything becomes much darker and quieter – and the suburbs become visible again.
The second image is of the Woonona headland baths. I can recall walking blindly across a dark and flooded rock shelf to this bit of sand. Just beyond the concrete wall at right is the ocean.
It is not only then as memories that these places exist for me. However, it is only as memories that they obtain their specific meaning for me – that they resonate with a sense of uncertainty and loss. How to say anything of this? Where to start? I won’t try. The walk will have to discover its own lucidity.
I wandered to the Champs Élysées and back along the Seine, past innumerable grand buildings and innumerable fashionable and unfashionable people. No sign of rain. The day grew warmer and warmer. I was walking at first briskly, then more slowly. I have only just now – mid-afternoon – stopped.
Early in the day, still bright and fresh, I walked past the Louvre.
It is now mid-evening Saturday night. I have walked past bars full of couples confidently chatting. I have walked past groups of people heading out for the night. Other people are speaking on mobile phones or standing by themselves in dark side streets. I hurry by them all. I scarcely ever catch their eyes. I have nowhere to go particularly, but I move with rapid, apparently purposeful intent. I must accept that I cannot be included in any of this. I am separate from it. I walk through Paris as though it were a dream – as though I were a phantom.
September 29, 2013
However much I walk around, the Paris of monuments and street life maintains, somehow, a sense of unreality. What is most real for me is when I turn my back on the city, when I retreat to my small, rented apartment at 22 Rue Reaumur.
Today, on Sunday morning, as I hear a single church bell toll, I consider the flat interior and its limited window views. My flat is on the fourth floor. It looks out over a central courtyard, although there is no courtyard to speak of – just a view of walls, windows, gutters, chimneys, rooftops and sky.
Mainly I don’t see this view because I keep the curtain closed. This morning, however, I have the window open to let in air. Very hot the last few days. Last night I slept with a single inner sheet on top of the bed covers.
The flat is tiny, but has three rooms – a very cramped bathroom, a serviceable kitchen and a combined bedroom, dining room and living room. An electric switch raises the bed up to the ceiling when more space is required. I have tended to leave the bed at floor level, somewhat disturbed at the thought of having a bed suspended above me.
I take a general photograph of the flat from the entrance. The bathroom is at the left, then the kitchen and finally, through a doorway, the bedroom/living area.
I take another photograph of the bedroom/living area – with my mess (dirty and drying clothes) lying about.
I am indeed in Paris. I am not a phantom at all – at least until I step outside. There are things that are private. There are things that must be left unsaid.
I went to the cinema in the early evening.
I came out on to the Rue Saint Jacques shortly after 9pm. I looked back towards the busy tourist centre of the Latin Quarter. I would have to walk once again through those busy streets, across the Ile de Cite and back up Rue de Beauborg to my flat.
I took a photograph of the street ahead.
It is now late at night back at my flat, but I am thinking of the view towards the ocean from Bulli heights. I am thinking of the strange sense that the world has tilted and that another, more bright day exists uncertainly off in the distance. To gaze down from a shadowy realm of trees to a realm of light. To wonder if I can bring my motorbike to a stop at the first, disorienting corner, where the world falls away to the right, where the world discovers that it is split from itself, where the ocean seems a mirage, an impossible field, a space apart.
September 30, 2013
Decided to begin my search for Paris places that correspond to portions of my evening Bulli/Woonona walk. I was less interested in very exact features of resemblance than in more abstract, almost geometrical, points of association.
I caught the Metro to the flea markets at Porte de Clignancourt, hoping to find shoes or something, but the place was quiet on Monday. Over half the stalls were closed so I decided to go to Montmartre in search of a high view of Paris – anything that might roughly correspond to a view of the sea from Bulli heights. Initially I planned to catch the Metro again, but then I realised it was only a couple of stops to Montmartre. Decided to walk instead. No map and no view of any hill, but I headed down the major avenue into Paris and kept looking hopefully to the right.
It wasn’t long before I recognised Sacre Coeur a kilometre or so off in the distance. I found my way to the base of the steep Montmartre hill and ascended a long set of stairs to the top. This landed me quickly back among the tourists. Many had either caught the funicular up to the top or a little tractor train. I took a photo on the steps beneath Sacre Coeur looking south towards the city. I realised that the city itself resembled the ocean. There was no exterior horizon. Paris itself represented its own natural limit.
I decided to somehow descend into that ocean and find my way on foot back to my flat. I made it home early afternoon, chuffed to have navigated all the way from the edge of Paris to near the centre of the city without a map.
I spend the rest of the day in the flat. I don’t go out again. Why would I go out again? What is there particularly that I need to see? Or do I just need to rigorously persist with walking – both morning and afternoon? What if I let the day fade away? Couldn’t I walk up to Le Republique or perhaps a bit further to Montparnasse? What about a train trip to Chartres? How can I possibly have failed to buy new shoes yet?
Ok, I have found one point of correspondence. My view of the ocean from Bulli heights can be approximately evoked by the view of Paris from Sacre Coeur. That is a key associative relation, although clearly the two horizons are thoroughly different. The ocean represents the limits of Wollongong, while Paris represents the limit of any thinking of limits; it shapes an intimate, awful, recursive infinity.
But there are many other emblematic scenes on my evening walk that demand some kind of Parisian equivalent. How, for instance, is the pedestrian overpass of Memorial Drive to be conceived? Paris is a city that takes shape in terms of walking, but the pedestrian is constantly on the defensive. They are the lowest priority. They must scurry across roads. They must constantly pay heed to cars, motorbikes and bikes. They are at the bottom of the hierarchy of mobile things, but this lowliness at least lends them freedom. They can cross as they please, as long as they don’t get hit. But where in Paris is there anything resembling an overpass? Where can a pedestrian ever look down on a car? Where can they ever walk safe and unconcerned? This will require some thought.
Then there are other key spatial instances to consider:
- The quiet eastern end of Farrell Road, with its dark, closely packed houses
- The sweep around to the right across the car park to join the coastal bike track
- The narrow bike track beside the ocean – the sound of waves
- The passage between two luxurious beach side homes
- The walk across the treeless Nicholson Park
- The train tracks
- The take-away shops
- The road overpass across Memorial Drive
- The soft, glittering lights of Gray Street
- The Woonona shops
- The Princes Highway towards Bulli
How can I find satisfactory approximations for all of these?
October 1, 2013
I walked back down Rue Turbigo, across the back of Chatelet les Halles, turned left at Rue de Louvre, down to the Seine and then followed the river west to the Musee d’Orsay.
On the final portion of the walk I observed two ring scammers. They walked separately and didn’t interact but were plainly working together. I saw her drop a ring at a couple’s feet, immediately pick it up and show it to them, but they swiftly brushed her off. It seemed like hard and frustrating work. I considered approaching the woman to buy one of her fake rings, but thought better of it. Didn’t imagine that either she or her vigilant partner would be amused by my flippant take on their scam.
Arrived at the Musee d’Orsay to encounter a long queue of people waiting to get through the security check and buy tickets. With the Louvre closed today, the Musee d’Orsay was very busy. I joined the queue and waited.
Eventually made it through security, purchased a ticket and entered the main hall. I took a number of photographs straight away.
Then I noticed all the signs forbidding photography and did my best to stop.
Innumerable smaller rooms ran off the major hall, each focusing on a different artist or artistic movement. I didn’t make any effort to be systematic or thorough. I just wandered about the place, pausing here and there. I paused a bit longer in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone.
I discovered a cafeteria area on the 5th floor that provided access to a balcony with a beautiful view north across the Seine.
I left the museum and headed back across the Seine to the Tuileries Jardin. I came across a place that roughly resembled the eastern end of Gray Street. A descending lane linked the city to the park in the same way that Gray Street connects Memorial Drive to the quiet and dark suburbs.
October 2, 2013
There is a small high window between the bathroom and the kitchen. As I shower each morning, I look up at a plastic tulip on a high kitchen shelf. This single flower echoes the wallpaper, which is composed of isolated, single poppies.
I am going on another long walk today to visit gardens. Once again, I have no map, so I have consulted Google Maps in my flat and written rough instructions into a notepad application on my phone. I carry my phone everywhere.
Rue dauphine (straight)
Rue de Conde (left – slight)
far right side – Rue Vavin
left at raspail
Montparnasse cemetery on right – rue Emile Richard – just before Raspail metro
from same corner up a bit on Raspail and turn left on rue boissonade
right on Port Royal
left on St Michel
right at bottom of Luxembourg gardens on Rue Soufflot
right on Rue St jacques and the left on Rue des Fosse St jacques, which becomes rue de l’Entrapade, which becomes Rue Lacrosse until hit Jardin des Plantes
down to Seine, back left to Point de Sully, etc.
Much longer walk than I expected. A number of wrong turns added to the distance. Took a little over four hours, all the time the day growing hotter.
Visited two parks, Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Plantes, and a cemetery, Montparnasse, in the hope that I would come across some scenes that reminded me of my evening walk at home. But, in truth, very little gelled. I was becoming more immersed in Paris, less able to stand back and see it anything other than its own terms. This was partly because my route was complex. I was constantly at the point of becoming lost, meaning that I needed to remain focused on the nature of the particular place that I was in order to retain my navigational equilibrium.
I must also confess that I was starting to have my doubts that I could compel Paris and Wollongong to become spatially comparable, and more specifically to force the much larger and famous space, Paris, to be interpreted in terms of the much smaller and provincial space of Wollongong. It would require an effort of will that I was not sure that I could muster. I feared that the relationship would always remain tenuous and obscure.
This is no doubt linked to the impossibility of my attaining a convincing identity here and across the divide that separates these two places.
On the way down Rue Tiquetonne I saw one of those pieces of pixelated graffiti that are common throughout Paris. Soon after I came across a building encased in a permeable metal shell. It shone in the sun like an alien object.
I walked across the Ponte Neuf and up to the Jardin Luxembourg. It was full of joggers, groups of students studying in the sun, homeless people resting on benches, tourists like myself and people just going for their ordinary morning walk. The leaves on the trees were turning autumnal, but the flowers were still vibrant. Shortly after entering the garden, I came across a grand, shaded water feature.
There wsere metal chairs scattered throughout the park. People could place them as they liked. The chairs could be adapted for isolation or intimacy, singularity or communality.
I thought for a moment that I recognised a view similar to where the Woonona bike track runs beside the sea and then between two impressive two story houses. I thought this could perhaps be related to my view along the wall of a large pond, with the split prospect of the Luxembourg Palace in the distance. But this is clearly far-fetched and risible.
I walked further south to the Cimiterie Montparnasse. I thought that I’d remembered that Jim Morrison was buried here, but I discover now that he is actually buried at the other major Parisian cemetery, Pere Lachaise. A map of famous names led me to the graves of Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre. The last time I had been in Montparnasse, in 1981, Sartre had only been dead for a year and de Beauvoir was famously grieving. Then in 1986, when she died, she was buried alongside him in the same grave. They had spent their whole lives maintaining their independence, but came together in death.
I headed off to the Jardin des Plantes. By now I was tired and only stayed briefly. The park is full of botanical displays – greenhouses, small museums and a zoo – but I missed all of these. Instead, I wandering along the avenues of rustically arrayed flowers. I was especially taken by the dahlias.
I could manage no more. I walked back along the Seine, through the Marais and home.
I have only a few days left and I am plainly drifting. It seems that each of my efforts to structure my time dissolves into an absurd ordeal. But then again, I have walked all across Paris, from north to south. I have found my way from one complex constellation of rues and boulevards to another without getting completely lost. There is no way, through walking, that I can master the city entirely – that I can force it to correspond to an isolated, highly subjective schema – but I have not entirely failed. I am still here. I retain the capacity to walk.
Closely related to this, of course, is the path this piece of writing must forge. Does it expect to find a way out of this city? Does it expect to leave it on its own terms, or will it collapse into an unconscious bundle and be transported blindly away?
Walk less, think more.
Although it occurs to me that walking to the point of collapse is the best way of prompting thought. When I got back this afternoon, I intended to write about the walk straight away, but instead was so tired that I answered a few emails and fell asleep. Only late afternoon did I wake up sufficiently to describe the walk – not really the whole walk precisely, but fragmentary observations. In this I could see an overall formal-aesthetic strategy taking shape. I would give up trying to make holistic sense of things and instead permit a sequence of mundane – occasionally poetic, occasionally evocative – fragments.
However, in this instance I would prefer something different. I would prefer a struggle towards clarity. I cannot give into the hoary old conceit of collapse. I have to find some means of drawing things together, of somehow concluding. I have three days left, but better to make an effort now rather than to leave things to some unlikely moment of clarity on the final day.
Perhaps I should stop taking so many photographs? There is no way that I can discover convincing images that establish an analogous relationship between evening walks in Wollongong and my experience of Paris. While the view from Sacre Coeur establishes that Paris itself is an ocean, this perception is better pursued conceptually rather than visually. It leads me to recognise that unlike living in Wollongong, where the ocean forms an external horizon and an immediate border, the Parisian ocean is engulfing. To live in Paris is to live in the ocean, not at the edge of it. The four and five story buildings that line every small and large street are like masses of water – fossilised waves – occluding all distant views. There are long, straight views along boulevards, but always bordered by, or leading towards, buildings, monuments, or the overall sea of Paris itself.
There is no way that I can convincingly align these buildings with the suburban streets and shopping malls of Wollongong. Hence I cannot find any equivalent to Gray Street proper or to the Woonona shops. It would only diminish the latter, through bathos, to liken them to urban Parisian space.
But it is possible to see how the Seine acts like the northern distributor (Memorial Drive). It too separates the city, north from south, left from right. It too has numerous overpasses that connect the two sides together – somewhat more than Wollongong has, it must be acknowledged. These overpasses provide the only analogue with the Bulli pedestrian overpass, yet in Paris one looks down on boats and other pedestrians, never cars.
What is missing most of all in Paris is that other limit, the escarpment. The various parks are far too circumscribed and formal to shape anything like a compelling natural limit. Wollongong is pressed between escarpment and sea. Paris on the other hand is a suspended ocean, falling away on no side, reinventing nature in its own vast image and in little picturesque tropes within its interior.
My aim is not only to establish an imaginary, ultimately unsatisfactory bridge between two far removed places, it is also to unsettle the obvious gap between them. I am doing my best to both subvert the gap and to acknowledge its reality and intimate dilemmas.
October 3, 2013
I set off around 11:30am down the Rue Turbigo, across the Pont Neuf bridge to St Germain des Pres.
Very tired. Slipping in and out of sleep – and it is only mid-afternoon.
I thought of catching a train for the day to Chartres, just to get outside Paris, but I realise that it would be a mistake to do this. I need to remain in this ocean the whole time I am here. I have walked from the notional limits of Paris to the city’s very centre, but at no time have I felt that I could actually leave Paris – that there has been any genuine horizon of escape. I am in Paris and that’s all there is to it. I can honestly imagine never leaving, or, more accurately, I can understand how it is possible that people never leave. Why leave when everything is here, when the city itself is the image of its own alterity?
Some signs of its infinite horizon:
- The numerous broad and straight boulevards manifest at one level absolute linear spatial projections. At another level, once they do inevitably conclude – in a square, monument, park, cemetery or some such – it is always to project further boulevards in every direction.
- Walking persistently through this space is to encounter endless repetitive waves and eddies, endless sets of neighbourhood nodes, all with their supermarkets, banks, boulangeries, boucheries, etc. There is no sense of diminishing scale, of increasing separation, there is just a multiplicity of instances.
- The narrow rues, always slightly curved, never permit a distant view. They weave between the neighbourhood nodes and boulevards like veins.
- The vast open spaces at the centre of the city represent a recursive infinity – an infinity within Paris. The opulence of space at the centre of Paris manifests the void in which Paris is suspended. But this suspension is not an exterior feature, rather it is contained within the city itself.
- All the world is somehow referenced in Paris. There are parks that preserve in miniature botanical specimens from every region on earth and the most exotic climes. There are shops representing every possible ethnicity and culture. The Louvre and all the city’s museums are a vast encyclopedia of the world’s diversity. Hence it is entirely superfluous to leave Paris, because the whole world is already here in its purist, most desirable and distilled, form.
This afternoon, without really intending to, I found my way to Pere Lachaise cemetery. I had just meant to wander over to Oberkampf in search of street art, but I saw a sign to the cemetery and decided to follow it. I walked up Avenue de la Republique for a fair way until I ran into the trees and high stonewalls of Pere Lachaise. I was confident at every moment that I could find my way back, if I got lost. I had only to enter the nearest metro station and catch a train to Arts et Metiers.
I got to the cemetery just as it was closing. The guard allowed me ten minutes to look around. I took a photograph of graves and the setting sun. Then I went into one of the cremation crypts, hoping to find the plaque commemorating the life of Georges Perec, but there was no time to look properly. I gave up, left the cemetery and walked back to my flat.
Along the way I found another place that reminded me my walk at home. There were the cemetery grounds on the left (representing the ocean), a long pedestrian path and a busy road on the right. There is no busy road on the right in Woonona, but there is the sense of nearby suburbs. It is all a matter of approximations – partial, very abstract points of correspondence.
October 4, 2013
A big thunderstorm in the early hours last night. Prior to this there has only been the civility of sunshine, overcast conditions and light rain – nothing elemental, nothing that punctures the sense of a self-contained universe. But the bright flashes of lightning and low concussions of thunder reminded me that there is indeed something beyond Paris – that there exist external forces that can occasionally intervene.
For the first time in more hours than I can remember I had to speak. I could scarcely recognise my voice. Only a single word, “bonsoir” (I was buying something at the grocery shop) – faint and unconvincing.
I walked to Notre Dame for something to do and then the touristy portion of the Latin Quarter. People everywhere. I stopped in the courtyard of the Cluny museum for a few minutes to rest and kill time. I walked back to Notre Dame and up the temporary wooden viewing platform (celebrating the cathedral’s 850th anniversary). I looked down on the long queue of people waiting to get in and the groups of people sitting in the bleachers below. I wandered back across the Seine. I bought a falafel along the Rue St Martin. I headed back to my flat.
I walk down the short, steep set of unlit wooden steps. The bins are on my left. My motorbike is parked just at the edge of the road. Up a slight hill and then right on Hospital Road. Down across lawns and driveways, past tall sets of trees and telephone poles to Bulli Hospital. I can see the lights of anchored tankers off in the distance. Continue towards the bright intersection of the Princes Highway and Memorial Drive.
I could describe the whole walk again. It has returned to me. It has never left.
Actually, thinking carefully and now knowing Paris better, I can map my entire evening walk to the streets of Paris.
I walk down the four flights of wooden steps to the street. I turn left on Rue Reamur (Alanson Avenue) then turn right on Rue des Archives (Hospital Road), walk straight to Rue de Rivoli (the Princes Highway) and turn right again. Turn left at the Hotel de Ville (Bulli Workers Club) and cross the Seine at the Pont D’Arcole (Memorial Drive pedestrian crossing) to the Ile de Cite (Bulli East). Shortly afterwards cross the Seine again at the Pont au Double (Farrell Road railway bridge) to Rue Dante (Farrell Road itself). Continue up to Boulevard Saint-Germain des Pres (actually down to Bulli beach and the coastal bike track). Turn right and pass all sorts of notable buildings on the left (which will have to stand in for the Pacific Ocean) – the Museum of the Middle Ages and the University of Paris, Faculty of Medicine. Then turn right at Rue Mazarine (Nicholson Park) and right again at Rue Dauphine (Park Road). Continue back to cross the Seine at the Pont Neuf (Woonona railway crossing). A short stroll across the narrow western tip of the Ile de Cite (Woonona takeaway shops) and then across the other portion of the Pont Neuf (Park Road Memorial Drive overpass). Turn right at the Quai de la Megisserie (Thompson Street) and left at the small Rue des Bourdonnais (Gray Street). Straight up the latter until it meets Rue de Rivoli (the Princes Highway). Turn right and walk past all manner of shops (the Woonona shopping centre) until turning left on the Rue des Archives (Hospital Road) and retracing my steps home.
October 5, 2013
It’s Saturday, my last full day in Paris.
I am in no mood for walking anywhere, but know that I must.
Slow start this morning. I realised that this is my last long walk in Paris and there is really no hurry to get going. I cleaned up the kitchen and did a bit of packing. Finally headed out the door around 11:20am. Walked straight down Rue Beauborg to Notre Dame. Beautiful, complex, multi-layered sound of the cathedral bells ringing. Crossed to the Latin Quarter and then walked west along the Seine. All the little green riverside book stalls were open, with lots of people browsing. Passed the Musee d’Orsay and then the Pont Alexandre III, with its extraordinary golden sculptures. It was still very busy all the way to the Eiffel Tower, where it became busier again. I had never visited the Eiffel Tower before, but only spent a few moments beneath it. Far too many people. There were also groups of young girls seeking names on dubious petitions.
I walked out the far side of the tower to a large park and sat down on a bench. I wondered what to do next. I decided to start heading back. I walked beneath a shady line of trees rather the river path that I had followed earlier. I crossed back to the northern side of the Seine at Pont Alexandre III and walked up to the gardens connecting Le Champs Élysées to the Jardin Tuileries. Once again, I sat down on a park bench, but as one of the slats was broken I quickly got moving again. I noticed autumn leaves on the ground – yet it still felt so strongly like summer.
Then I turned up towards the city, but too soon. I encountered all kinds of famous monuments that I had never seen before, such as the Madeleine, but not wanting to risk wandering too far off track, headed back towards the river and east along some narrow lanes until I recognised the Louvre. Skirted around Les Halles and through a makeshift second-hand street market to Rue Turbigo and then back to the flat with a baguette, arriving around 2:30pm.
I think of my evening walks.
I think of walking through daylight Paris as though it were night.
This is my last day and still nothing coincides.
It is too far to walk to the airport. The outer suburbs of Paris are flat and unlit. I have never visited them.