May 182010

Throughout my first day in Paris, I constantly found myself stopping to think, “Paris really is an f’ing gorgeous city.” Every single road I turned down I literally wanted to pull out my phone and write about it – but it would’ve just been the same line over and over: “So-and-so road is amazing, if you’re ever in Paris, make sure not to miss it!”

What a city.

Unfortunately, after the walking tour ended I found my mood turning a bit south. Getting lost earlier that morning turned out not to be an isolated incident, as for some reason I was REALLY having a hard time finding my way around.

Maybe it shouldn’t matter since a metro ticket costs the same no matter how far you go, and the extra time it would’ve taken to just do things in a haphazard order, traversing the city each time, would’ve been quicker than spending so long staring blankly at the map. But I really do prefer to walk places rather than taking subways. It requires some more careful planning, but provides the opportunity to see more of the city and encounter more of the locals along the way.

With the exception of the walking tour, I honestly don’t think I made it *anywhere* without wasting at least some time wandering aimlessly in the wrong direction.

Because the walking tour ended just down the road from Arc de Triomphe, this is where I continued my tourism for the day; although I’d already had a glimpse at it from the distance, I certainly didn’t intend to leave Paris without giving it a more personal visit, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at its base. Once finished, I sat leaning against one of its walls, pulled out my map and Lonely Planet, and spent way too long deliberating on what to do next.

The weather had turned from beautiful blue to freezing gray, so eventually I settled on the Catacombs – something where gloomy weather would have no effect. I took the metro across town and spent so long trying to find the entrance that by the time I did, it was closed. So I went across the street to Mc. D’s in hopes of doing a bit of blogging (European fast food restaurants all seem to have free WiFi). No go. I’d forgotten my power adapter at the hotel.


I’d finished the tour at 2:30 and by 6pm and had accomplished almost nothing. What a frustrating afternoon.

I headed all the way back across town again to Montmatre, the location of my hostel, and luckily this time when I emerged from the dark subway network the weather had cleared up – it was nearly 7pm but the skies were once again glistening blue. So I went for a stroll through Butte de Montmatre, a picturesque mountaintop community of windy cobbled roads, vine-covered gates, and panoramas of Paris. The stroll ended on the far side of the hill in the heart of the Red Light district, just as the sun was setting and the neons had fired up, so I took a few shots of the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret club before finally headed home.

Lesson for the day: before heading out in Paris, pre-mark everything on the map so you can tell at a glance exactly what you want to see and where it is. No more flipping through Lonely Planet pages trying to figure out where everything is; in a city with this kind of a layout, the small LP maps I usually use just aren’t detailed enough.

Day one in Paris may not’ve been a total success. But there’s always tomorrow. Tomorrow will be perfect 🙂

  10 Responses to “Trouble Navigating”

  1. Ugh, getting lost sucks. I would know, because I’d get lost going to work regularly. 😛
    That’s not an excuse…I was seriously too absorbed in reading whatever was on my iphone, so I’d miss a transfer and then have to wait another 20 min for the next train.

    “so I took a few shots of the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret club before finally headING IN.”
    Fixed that for you. 😉

  2. Haha I wish! Tickets were ludicrous, like more than 150 euros for the cheapest seats. Sigh 😛

  3. Ha ha, yeah, probably not worth it.

    Funny, I found navigating in Paris a breeze. No matter where you were you always came across a boulevard you remembered the name of or the Seine, and then you’d be able to reposition yourself mentally.

  4. …But you speak French! 😛

    The issues problems for me were the fact that the roads intersect at every imaginable angle, that maps weren’t sufficiently detailed, that GPS didn’t work, and that the names of roads would often change on either side of a roundabout or intersection – so even just walking in a straight line you’d end up on roads of 3 different names. This wasn’t true for the major boulevards of course, but pretty regularly for anything smaller.

  5. Maybe, but I can’t remember if I used the names of streets for navigation that much. Basically I have a gut feeling and that often turns out to be correct. Since there are so many solid landmarks there, getting from A to B normally poses no problems.

    The worst place I’ve navigated myself around must be Canberra. The whole city was designed by a single architect and he decided to use a pentagonal layout. So our mental model of “turn four corners to get back where you started” suddenly doesn’t work anymore. That was confusing.

  6. Well we both know you have a better sense of direction than I 😛

    (The rule of “four corners to get back where you started” definitely doesn’t work most of the time in Paris, though…)

  7. GPS on a phone is so crucial!

  8. …GPS on a phone that works, you mean! 😉

  9. I have an iphone…..I don’t have to worry about the phone not working ever 🙂 Move away from Windows Mobile AS FAST AS YOU CAN!

  10. I will! You know what I’m waiting for 🙂

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