Before I continue telling you about my Paris walks, it occurred to me that I should say something about the geographic layout of Paris for those not familiar with the city. Paris is a roughly circular city with the Seine flowing through it from lower right up to the middle and then down again to lower left. It is divided into 20 administrative units called arrondissements, arranged in a spiral. The first arrondissement includes the Louvre and such in the middle of the city and then the other 19 continue in a spiral that turns right to left, each one growing a little bit larger. The second, third, and fourth are laid out to the east of the first on the north side of the river, which is called the right bank because the water flows from East to West toward the ocean. The fifth, sixth, and seventh, each of which is slightly larger than the preceding, are arranged right to left on the left bank. Then the spiral crosses over again to the right bank and the eighth through twelfth go left to right until once again they come to the river. Back over to the left bank for the thirteenth through fifteenth and then the last five continue on the right bank across the northern flank of Paris. The lower the number the more interesting the city is and generally speaking the higher the prices for apartments. The Paris slums are called banlieus and lie outside the city itself around the northern flank. My walks took me to the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh arrondissements. My tiny apartment – 330 ft.² – is in the fifth, you will recall.
My second and third walks are just variations of the first. On several occasions what I have done after setting out is to walk over to the right bank past Notre Dame, turn left and walk all the way to the Place de la Concorde bridge on the right bank in front of the Louvre. Then I would cross over to the left bank and walk home. The other variation, which is really quite interesting, is to walk home along Boulevard St. Germain, rather than along the quays. After some time in the seventh (always looking unsuccessfully for Serena Williams, who has an apartment there) I would come to the two cafés made famous by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, the café Flores and the café Deux Magots, on the north side of the Boulevard across the street from Brasserie Lipp. I have never actually had so much as a coffee at either of those cafés but my heart beats a little bit faster when I see them. Then it is on to Place de L’Odéon, with no fewer than three movie complexes. This part of the walk also takes me past the Cluny – Museum of the Middle Ages. For a long time there was a small musical group at Cluny that gave mid – day concerts of medieval music, which Susie and I attended as often as we could. The Cluny also has a bookshop where we bought a little reproduction of part of a famous medieval tapestry which for years has served as the tablecloth on our small dining table in our apartment. Then it is back to Place Maubert and home.
This is probably a good time to mention a change that took place in the streets of this part of Paris half a century ago. During the French version of the student uprisings of 1968, protesting students tore up the cobblestones of the old streets and used them to make barricades. The Paris administration responded by paving over all the cobblestones, which made the streets more amenable to scooters and bicycles but deprived them of much of their charm. Real old timers can still recall the cobblestone streets in the fifth and sixth.
These first walks are pretty tame but tomorrow I will talk about some of the more adventurous walks I have taken around old Paris early in the morning.