samedi, juillet 01, 2006

Paris à Pied

Now that I'n back, I've resumed walking. Paris is a city for walking. And the people here, residents and tourists alike, walk, walk, walk. So each evening and on the weekends I too am out there walk, walk, walking.

Like parts of Chicago, New York and San Francisco that come to mind, Paris is a city of neighborhoods, each with its distinctive character. Whether the fashionable, residential 16th arrondissement, the burgeoning Le Marais, or the honky-tonk, twisted streets of Montmartre, or any of the many different neighborhoods, it’s fun to stroll their streets and take in the special charms each has to offer.

It’s a compact city. You can easily walk large stretches of the city within the Périphérique, the beltway surrounding Paris, in the course of a morning or afternoon.

And it is dense. Densely built and densely populated. While there are many parks and squares to relieve the building and provide space for relaxing and just getting a sense of where you are, every block is packed with buildings in which people live.

Except for La Défense, the office park on the outskirts of town where I work, I have seen no commercial preserves barren of dwellings and places for people to mingle and refresh themselves. (In fact, it appears that even at La Défense, there has been an effort at mixed-use planning.) Diversity and small scale are the rule.

Just about every street is packed with storefronts, above and behind which are apartment buildings. Six stories, here and there one or two more or less, would be the norm. I have seen just a very few modern or international style apartments and very rarely an office tower, and I understand there are some remaining parts of town retaining the character of the pre-Haussmann planning, but most buildings seem to be 19th Century stone and stucco.

I’ll describe some of my walks in future postings.