I’ve just started reading the highly acclaimed book by author Elaine Sciolino, The Only Street In Paris. Life on the Rue des Martyrs. It’s far too early for me to write you a review. Given the way I’m struggling to find time to read right now, you can expect that in a few months – but the whole premise of the book has had me thinking.
I’ve been pondering Paris, and the history of its famous rues and boulevards. And how the past and appeal of those streets naturally converts them into attractions for visitors. Which in turn can see them being labelled as ‘touristy’.
As far as I can tell, it is a vicious cycle. In a city that inspires the imagination like Paris does, visitors will immediately make a beeline to see the most famous and interesting sights. This brings in tour groups, souvenir sellers and all the elements that purists tell you to avoid. As an aside, apparently this phenomenon isn’t restricted to Paris. Our teenage son has recently returned from New York, where he saw a similar situation with the ‘must see’ streets like 5th Avenue and Wall Street, at least in terms of the tourists shuffling around.
For the record, all of my favourite Parisian streets would be labelled as ‘touristic’. And to be perfectly honest, I’m ok with that.
I love wandering the rue de Rivoli, taking in the high end hotels and the trashy souvenir stores, while the Champs-Élysées provides some of the best people watching opportunities going around. The market streets of rue Cler and rue Montorgueil forever tempt me. I’ll happily visit the left bank classics of rue Jacob and rue de Grenelle every time I’m in Paris and we never miss rue des Francs-Bourgeois while we’re in the Marais. And I have always loved wandering the rue des Martyrs – the subject of the book I mentioned earlier.
Yes, there are fellow travellers everywhere, but that just makes you realise that you are experiencing something special. Something that countless others, from all around the world also wanted to take in. An opportunity that was shared from one traveller to the next. Because, at the very heart of it, we all want to share the very best experiences, so others will also experience joy.
Do you have a favourite street in Paris, one that captures the spirit of the city for you? If so please share it in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.