The three blondes and I started here because Stella Marie had heard that this was the first pedestrian sidewalk in Paris. It was loud out so I explained what I knew about Pont Neuf. I don’t get thick into the details. I front-load just enough. An introduction that starts millions of years back and ends at present day takes anywhere from five minutes to as long as I see your mind start to close. It’s really too much in one layer so we make this walk many-layered.
If you let other people speak, you find out what they know and sometimes what they don’t know. I was not sure that Stella Marie's Ace, the rock climber, knew anything about the history of France. The third blonde was along after having saved Ace from a younger man’s machinations the night before. She came on day 21 of a month-long solo European adventure and I could sense that maybe she hadn’t been taken on a tour before but was open to learning.
I don’t give tours. You engage me to show you the city. The history is part of the city.
After reflecting on the topography and the reasons why any human settlement becomes major we start on this figure eight route. We go right to the Parisii, Romans, and Franks (Merovingians, Carolingians, and Capetians), through the Middle Ages and I signal that while we walk we will come to understand the growth of the city and its districts. In a couple of hours we’ll have established that history is wonderful but walking the history leads to better discovery.
When we walk, I reinforce that in dynamic cities you can plan a walk, but the joy is in the acting and reacting to the dynamic. The city is the playing field and the name of the game is to play. Coming around to the Romans, finally we see a bit of their road and I describe what still exists for all to see. Seeing a place is different than hearing about it. We pass into the Latin Quarter from behind Notre Dame and take rue Bievre, which is above a river that was once a life force of the city’s industrious workers. There are ways to force feed the history and ways to let it come to you. You have to be careful not to be too clever.