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Down And Out; Taking Paris By Foot
Many French buildings were built before elevators were used for transporting humans. Although many of the old buildings have been retrofitted with tiny elevators, it is more often the case, as in New York City, that the very old residential buildings are walk-ups. The old spiral staircases are usually very impressive and are a beautiful mix of fine wood and decorative wrought iron. That being said, they are much prettier on the way down than when, at the end of a long day, you have to climb back to your apartment. It puts a new spin on the old saying that what goes up must come down. In this case, he who comes down must often sulk his way back up. I would gladly own an apartment in Paris, even if it meant climbing stairs to the tenth floor. I quickly learned that you don't leave the apartment unless you have everything you need, and you don't plan to be back for quite a while. You certainly don't go out for trivial reasons. On the other hand, after a few months you should have legs and buns of steel. Luckily, as a visitor or expat in France, you are probably more aware of all the beauty and abundance around you as you walk through the city. What the locals take for granted, we are impressed by and can't get enough of it. I haven't been a wide-eyed tourist for decades, but I have lost none of my love and amazement of Paris. It's no longer information overload. I am able to hit the streets with focus on where I am going and what I wish to do, but I still look at everything and notice all the nuance.
Although the city is swarming with cars and motorcycles, it's also very much a pedestrian city. The Paris Metro and hoardes of city buses are constantly shuttling from one arrondissement to another. Sometimes I head into neighborhoods and streets where I've never been, but it's more often that I go to favorite landmarks or museums to see an exhibition or revisit the permanent collections.
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a very patient shopper or tour guide. I easily tolerate taking friends to see sights which I've seen many times.
Shopping on Rue Cler
It helps that Paris is as hip and new as is it ancient and formal. There are shops and stores galore. If chic new clothes or cutting edge decorative items are your interest, then you will never want for a place to shop in Paris. I love visiting the weekly markets as they spring-up around the city. There are also plenty of brocante sales (neighborhood yard sales) scheduled throught the year. Walking around in Paris is the way to absorb the culture, see the wares and join the action. I'm certain that I walk a hundred miles for every mile I ride on the metro. If it's not raining, I walk. I use the metro to get me to the area I want to see, and I take to the streets.
Bread stores may join-in on market days
The long walk to reach your apartment at the top of the stairs may not be fun, but with so much to do around Paris, and with the excercise you get while walking around, it doesn't take long to learn to grit your teeth, climb the stairs and remember that tomorrow you get to go back down and find something you missed today. I think it's a pretty good trade-off.