By Donna Manz
Often, people ask me why I return to Paris so frequently rather than trying a “different” place. I tell them “every time I go to Paris, it is a different place.”
Every trip I find something new. Usually, that is unplanned, too. I think it’s because I’m not timid about getting lost.
Trying to get to the Place de la Concorde — my landmark – from the Eiffel Tower, my daughter-in-law and I couldn’t find the turns we needed to get there. We did find unexpected sights, though, with a great vantage point … Hôtel des Invalides, the Centre Pompidou, and the awe-inspiring view of the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysées.
Next to finding my way around in an unfamiliar city, my favorite pastime is to get lost in an unfamiliar city. Finding my way suggests I have successfully made my way from origin to destination with no detours, no distractions. What’s the fun in that? It’s the places I didn’t know I wanted to see that make each trip unforgettable.
Fun is an unplanned detour that takes me into little patisseries that I think are my own finds until I later read about them in a guidebook. Or finding Sarkozy’s residence, the Palace Elysée, while looking for prominent gourmet shops on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
My sister and I were looking for centuries-old pubs when we started out at the Royal Courts of Justice on Fleet Street in London…Fleet Street of Sweeney Todd infamy. We found our pubs but we also found much more.
We turned off Fleet Street onto several little brick or cobblestone lanes, and at the end of each we found a courtyard of some kind. At the end of Inner Temple was a church, an old church still in use.
I stopped a gentleman carrying a briefcase and asked him if he knew anything about the church. “It’s quite famous, you know,” he told us. “It’s the church in ‘The Da Vinci Code.”
We wriggled our way down twisting lanes with signs at each corner to find Dr. Johnson’s house in Gough Square.
Wandering aimlessly or purposefully has the added benefit of working off calories. Walking around pedestrian-friendly cities and towns combines culture and exercise at the same time.
Packing in all the Christmas markets that Vienna offers took a lot of walking down streets and through neighborhoods most tourists typically don’t see. Looking for the market at Karlsplatz, my husband and I were intrigued by a year-round market marked by diverse ethnic shops, products and dining.
While not the biggest tourist attraction, the Naschmarkt is Vienna’s most popular market, in existence since the 18th century. It’s also Vienna’s largest inner-city market with great prices on grocery items and on authentic pashminas (less than 10 Euro each).
Next week, when I’m back in Vienna, I’ll seek out the Naschmarkt. I’ll buy pashminas for Christmas gifts and find a vendor for some delicious hot wurst.
If I can find the market again…
If you go:
Regardless of the city you’re exploring, get yourself lost once in a while, but be sure to use landmarks.
To explore Fleet Street, you’ll need to walk a few blocks. Many of London’s tube stations are undergoing renovation in time for the Olympics. Blackfriars station, which appears to be the closest to Fleet Street attractions, was closed last spring.
Vienna’s Naschmarkt, at the Wienzeile over the Wien River, is open from Monday to Saturday. If it has to do with food, you can buy it there.
In Paris, keep in mind that you can choose from either the Metro or the RER. Although frequently a line may be closer to your origin and destination, walking an extra couple of blocks might get you a direct connection, rather than a route requiring transfers.