I walked 340km in 20 days to see all 20 arrondissements in Paris

One of my favourite things with The Earful Tower is hearing when listeners and readers get creative with recommendations from the show. So imagine my surprise to see the following notification pop up on Instagram.

“Inspired by The Earful Tower to check out the best things each arrondissement has to offer,” wrote Colby Fox from New Orleans. He added the hashtag #arrondissementaday 

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Hang on… was this guy actually gonna check out all the highlights from each arrondissement listed on this very website?

Yes, apparently he was. And he did it. All on foot, too.

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Colby walked 340 kilometres (or 211 miles, as he puts it) and very thoroughly explored each of the arrondissements.

After he was done, I checked in to find his highlights, lowlights, and recommendations. And of course his photos.

Here’s what he said, followed by some top pics from his trip. He also made an appearance on the podcast – listen below (subscribe now).

What was the surprise hit?

“The Saint-Sulpice church in the sixth arrondissement. It’s amazing. The windows set in the expansive alcoves cast the statues in such a stark contrast that you are forced to stop and look at them more thoughtfully.”

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“The frescoes and the cupolas are so wide that you have to do the same kind of thing. You can’t just dash through the church and fire off a few pictures to get the full experience.

“If I had to make a list of things I want to experience again at some point in my life, the feeling of how surprised I was at how much I liked Sulpice would probably be on that list.”

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Which was your favourite arrondissement?

“It would have to be the 18th. If you want to see the whole city, you can hike up to the top of Sacre Coeur and see just about one corner to the other. If you want to to sit at a cafe and people watch, there are plenty of places to do that too. If you want to stroll around and get lost there are wide, tree-lined boulevards, there are tall narrow passages, and there are romantic lamplit stairways.

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“If you love art, you’re in the cradle of one of the most influential movements in history. Even if you don’t love art, walking through the squares and seeing artists at work has a kind of romantic fascination.

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“And in Montmartre, by an old tree near Picasso’s studio, I found an acorn kind of nut thing (I’m no botanist), but I tucked it away to give to my Mom (who is quite a horticulturalist) to plant in her yard in hopes that it will grow. If it flourishes, I can always go home and look at that tree and know that it is the descendant of one that Picasso (or who knows who else) probably sat under or walked by each day, or maybe contemplated while looking out his window. It will be nice to think of having that kind of a piece of Montmartre.

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Which was the ‘worst’ arrondissement?

“I’m hesitant to say I thought of any arrondissement as ‘the worst’, but that said, the 15th was not my favourite. It could be that I had to walk farther to get to that one than any other.

“I visited the Parc de George Brassens as well as the Parc de Andre Citreon but was underwhelmed by them. Even Pont Mirabeau seemed like it was a little too far away from everything I was interested in to even take good pictures there.

“Again though, were I to meet someone who loves the 15th, I’m sure they could show me where I went off the beam or where the things are that really make it a worthwhile arrondissement. I didn’t find it this time though.

What did I learn?

“I think it helped to approach each day as an opportunity to go out and look for something I wasn’t expecting to see. The last time I was in Paris I was looking for what I had thought I would see here, and all those preconceptions came from books I read or movies I had seen.

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“When you come to Paris expecting it to be like A Moveable Feast or Midnight in Paris, you’re bound to walk away disappointed, and I was last time. This time I wanted to go find for myself the the part of Paris that was going to inspire me. What does Paris have for me that it had for George Sand, or Renoir, or Hugo, or countless others?

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“Did I find it? I’m not totally sure yet. I may still be too close to the experience to know what it is. What I can say for sure is that I didn’t leave any stone unturned. In the month I’ve been here I’ve seen a lot more of Paris than most tourists see, and I know that I didn’t even scratch the surface. Maybe ‘it’ is something I’ll only fully realise after I get back home and think about it for awhile. Maybe I’ll have to come back later and look for it again. What I think I learned this trip is how to approach why this city is important to me and that whatever ‘it’ is is something I’m going to have to put some work into fully grasping.

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Twenty more of Colby’s pictures.

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2 thoughts on “I walked 340km in 20 days to see all 20 arrondissements in Paris

  1. I do hope Colby heard the organ in Saint Sulpice. It is huge and the sound is extraordinary. I think it is usually played at the 10:30 Sunday Mass. We were there for the Easter service which was outstanding.

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