At least once whenever I visit a new city, I like to put away my map and just wander. Depending on the city, I can wander for hours full of intrigue and discovery.
In Paris, after a trip up the Tour d’Eiffel and lunch near Champ du Mars with Mark (a North Carolinian whom I’d met in the line to get into the Tour d’Eiffel that morning), I wandered up to and along the Siene River, to the Palais du Luxembourg, around the Jardins du Luxembourg, through St-Germaine and back to Champ du Mars.
Several hours after Mark and I had parted ways at lunch, I found myself standing, once again, beneath the Tour d’Eiffel. I concluded my day in the Jardins du Trocadéro, where Mark and I had, as planned, reunited, with a well-deserved Nutella and banana crêpe in hand – just as the sun began to set.
My loop through several of Paris’ central arrondissements had taken several hours, as I lacked a map – I just found myself in these places because Paris was generally a pedestrian-friendly city. And usually, I can go wandering like this without issue. I tend to get a feel for the location of a city’s key landmarks quite quickly and, like in Paris, I can often find my way back without even needing to pull out my map again.
However, doing this in Italy proved to be much more of a challenge. In Venezia, this was mainly due to narrow, winding Venetian alleyways, the canals that seemed to outnumber the streets themselves, and the fact that the majority of Venezia’s more notorious landmarks were clustered in one spot on the Grand Canal in Piazza San Marco (leaving one with not much else with which to establish a feel for their relative location among things).
In the rest of Italy, this was mainly do to the countless number of piazzas scattered throughout the city and the not-so-obvious way in which streets are named. A piazza is a city square from which a number of streets branch that, time and time again as I wandered the streets of Firenze and Roma, threw a monkey wrench into my otherwise strong navigational abilities.
But, aside from the incessant Italian heat and teeming tourist crowds, finding my way around these obstacles and through these foreign cities was all part of the adventure. Not knowing where you are keeps you on your toes, and, in a strange kind of way, it’s invigorating and refreshing.
And what makes getting lost in a foreign city even more fun is when you can pull out your map again, figure out where you are and then try to navigate your way back. To succeed in doing comes with an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
View of Parisian streets from the Butte Montmartre
Random street in Firenze, Italia.