As I was strolling around Place Monge with my new friend Thomas, I asked, “Comment dit-on ‘to wander’ en français ?”
He replied, “Aller flâner: to wander without a specific purpose.”
“Errer est humain, flâner est parisien.”
-Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
It is the Parisian way of life. It is also my new favorite phrase.
If you observe people walking in a busy American city, you’ll notice heads are down; fingers are typing furiously; feet are shuffling quickly. They have places to go and never enough time to get there. But if you watch people in Paris, you’ll notice, for example, a Parisian choose to take a detour through a beautiful garden even if it means adding time to his morning commute.
America is about rushing to the destination. Paris is about enjoying the journey.
In exchange for adding “aller flâner” to my vocabulary, I shared with Thomas my favorite word in English. “Petrichor: the pleasant smell of new rain hitting the ground.” I suppose this is the kind of thing that happens when two people of different cultures meet. A few moments later, we stumbled across a building with a sign that read, “La Maison de René Descartes”, and I felt even more in awe of what a beautiful city this is.