Day 33

florenceI visited Italy twice last year (they were working trips, I swear!) where I spent more than two weeks walking and studying art in Florence and Prato.  These Tuscan treasures are walking cities by necessity, and for 12 days we crossed the Arno via the Ponte Vecchio, climbed two bell towers — one at the Duomo in Florence, one at Santo Stefano in Prato — and for our grand finale climbed up to the  Piazzale Michelangelo for a stunning view of the sunset over the city.

 In fact, maybe I should say Florence is a climbing city.  Many an evening Laura and I and our cotillion of students and family would have been thrilled to find a bus or Metro to take us back to our rooms in the charming, frescoed San Frediano Mansion B&B.  But there’s no public transportation system to speak of in Florence — unless you count the leagues of motorized scooters buzzing along the cobbled streets.

Paris, on the other hand, has an amazing public transportation system — Metro, RERS, trains, and buses crisscross the city east and west, north and south, up and over the hills of Montmartre and under the Seine with ease — if you can read a map, and muddle along with servicable francaiseSAM_0014 (2)

The thing is, Paris is an incredible walking city — one of the best in Europe.  I’m happy to be proven wrong, of course, and would love to discover another walking city that rivals Paris. But until I hear from you and walk it for myself, I’ll stand by Paris.  Here are the first 5 of my 10 reasons why:

1. The Seine. Walking along the Seine, across its bridges, and around the Ile de la Cite is one of the most romantic and visually pleasing  riverwalks I have ever experienced, anywhere. The Parisians seem to think so, too.

2. Art. A lot of it. Indoors and out.  On our second day in Paris Frank and walked through the Tuileries gardens, the L’Orangerie,  and the Musée d’Orsay, all before stopping for lunch.  It was like walking from ancient Rome to Monet’s Giverny gardens   in a mere few hours.

3. Cafes. Everywhere. And not a bad glass of wine, loaf of  bread, or Cafe Creme to be found.

4. Boulangeries.  If the French women can eat their fill of  Pain au Chocolat and Tart Tatin without getting fat, it must be genetics.  Or caffeine. Or maybe it’s the walking!?

SAM_0043 (2)5. Parks and Gardens.  The gracious and romantic Luxembourg Gardens (named one of the greatest gardens in the world), the San Sulpice fountain square,  the panoramic view of Paris Eleanor and Leendert showed us from Parc de Belleville — the highest park in Paris —  the mazes of Greco-Roman statues and shrubbery in the Tuileries — the list goes on and on. In picturesque Montmartre, en route to the Sacré Coeur, Frank and I passed by the last working vineyard in Paris.

Come back tomorrow for the next top 5 reasons to walk Paris.   I have the list now…I’m just having trouble paring it down to a mere ten!

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