Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Walking through the Place de la Concorde this afternoon, I was struck by the number of people standing on street corners examining their maps. Paris isn't built on a grid so a map is truly indispensable and as I mentioned a few posts ago, everyone here carries one. But the one thing that distinguishes the tourists from the locals (even if they're only locals temporarily) is that tourists are carrying the free maps with the Galleries Lafayette ads and the locals are invariably carrying a copy of Paris Par Arrondissement. This little book comes in a variety of colors and bindings but all provide a definitive map of every little street in town plus the all-important index. It can be maddening to use at first because you really need to have internalized the snail shell pattern of Paris's 20 arrondissements to make any sense of it. But once you've got that down, flipping through the pages becomes second nature, particularly when you're out of familiar terrority or further afield than the plan de quartier posted in every subway station. The only drawback I can find is that I often seem to be headed to destinations that are in the crack between pages. Ah well....I suppose that pretty soon we'll all be carrying a GPS and map reading skills will go the way of the dodo. Until then, I'm sticking by the book.