Far Afield

Far Afield

Streetwise Map-Paris
Now, I have a secret. Unfortunately for me, I just may be the most directionally challenged person you will ever meet. I could hope I'm just tied for worst place but that's stretching it! I'm guessing you are way ahead of me on this one and I am open to you teaching me a thing or two. But I plead with you to not start out with the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west because, as best as I know, that assumes, already, that I know what's east and west in the sky where I happen to be standing when I'm being told this 'trick'.  

As a substantial contrast to me, my former husband must have been an Olympic Gold tracker in a previous life. Before we would set out on a new destination, he used to briefly study a map, close it up, and off we would go...half a dozen or more turns later--freeways, highways, surface streets, address memorized....done. He all but had noted a specific parking space for us to pull into once we arrived at our never-before destination. So, for decades, I considered myself fortunate to have married a compass/map reader and, once we went our separate ways, I was also fortunate I was able to replace him with a variety of GPS tools!

Just as some of my more positive traits didn't rub off on him, nor did his specialties rub off on me. I confess...I still don't get it when someone suggests, 'Meet me on the southeast corner' or, even simply, 'Oh, just head west and you will see it.' HA! 

I have been known to get on a bus in Paris with one particular friend of mine and discover 'too many to count' stops later that we are way far afield, in the opposite direction of our destination. This can end up being rather frustrating when there is a schedule to meet, especially an appointment.  

Along with this, there were many more, actually, in fact, let me clarify the 'many more'...there were  countless times, when we would walk out of a museum or other place of interest fully engaged in yakking away about the experience we had just had and discover we were--yep--you bet--once again,far afield. I finally did get in the habit of closing up my mouth, at least temporarily, then stopping us in our tracks so we could make certain we were headed in the direction needed to get to our next destination.

One Paris evening we went to her friend's apartment for dinner which was in an area neither of us were the least bit familiar with at the time. It was a grand evening with that ubiquitous yakking away again coinciding with the ever present wine bottle on the table.

We finally found ourselves saying it was time for us to leave, which turned out to be the wee hours of the morn. No Streetwise Paris map in hand, one of the few excellent tools available in that age of no cell phones, no Uber, no GPS. As we were about to walk out of her friend's apartment, I reminded my equally directionless friend that it is, in fact, the 'wee hours'!! and calling a taxi might be best. But she assured me she would get us to the metro. And, we did make it back to the metro, and we were even headed in the right direction to our various hotels!

But, after a few stops, we heard an announcement, in French, of course, although neither of us are fluent in French....ahem! But we got the picture, once we saw all the other sleepy riders bailing out of the metro. We soon discovered it was 'after hours', even for the metro! 

And, once we stepped out into those already mentioned 'wee hours', yep--we were ever so far afield!
And, I will add, with not a clue as to where we were in Paris which means not even a hint of a street name that sounded familiar, nor a landmark in sight..in other words, we were 'lost'. Do we start walking left, right, south, east? And, being women, there was the safety factor creeping in on us with the rest of the metro bailers having dispersed themselves in the known direction of their homes.

What did come in handy, eventually, is my talent to belt out a whistle--you know the kind some people add a few fingers in their mouths to make it happen. Well, way back even further in time, I practiced for a full year--to and from the school bus stop-until I heard the first signs of a whistle sound come blasting out (no need for the use of my fingers in my mouth either to make it happen) and, to this day, I have to admit, my whistle has come in handy in an abundance of situations.

So I was able to put my whistle into play when, eventually, a taxi came out of the mysteriously slumberous dark and before the daylight dawn of the morn from who knows where. Fortunately, my whistle was loud enough to catch the cab driver's attention and he slowed to a stop to pick us up.

These are just a few of my Paris collection of directionally challenged episodes with camping in Tahoe putting a claim on more....yet they prove I was always savvy enough to recover from them..with all of them eventually added to my laughable memories.

But that was then and this is now...These'far afield' situations happened, oh, let's just say, suns and moons ago. From that last situation mentioned, I never left my hotel room or apartment without a Streetwise Paris map...eventually adding in knowing when the metro shuts down....as well as the difference between the day and night bus schedule.

I know my 6th arrondissement neighborhood so when going to the grocery store a few blocks away, I can say, "I've got that one"....and there are even a few other arrondissements I consider not 'know by heart', yet enough to find my way easily with just a wrong turn or two before I get back on track. But when venturing out further afield, I know to claim as many tools to assist me as there are out there to own.

I get that wandering aimlessly has its benefits. I stroll around all the time. When I stay in Nice, I usually stay in a different apartment every time so I can explore. With my last stay, I made it a point to go down at least one street every day I had never been down before.

But back to what I wanted to cover in this post. I do like having the freedom for exploration, and walking is still my number one choice for transportation. But I have learned to appreciate certain tools that help me enjoy my carefree aimless wandering spirit I embrace at times, with the security of knowing I have fall backs, if need be. After hearing how directionally challenged I am, I say to you, if I can do it, you can do it! 

Here are my tools. Please do tell if you have any foolproof tools you always travel with when out on the sidewalks of Paris or other cities?

(1) First, I do not own stock in Streetwise maps. There are other maps you can pick up in Paris at a kiosk or bookstore and they can be fine too. Even the free map a hotel gives you can often suffice. But the reason why I like Streetwise Maps so much is that it has EVERY street in central Paris on it and, I can attest, there are some teensy streets that may come in handy to know about. It is also the more user-friendly of maps I have come across. I still even buy them for other cities I visit as it helps me to visualize the layout of the city. 

(2) The tool I have added though is the 'google map' app. The only thing I run into (when I get off the bus or metro) is orienting myself and then knowing which direction to head out but that gets solved by looking at the map app and seeing if I am headed away from my destination and, if so, then I just reverse myself. 

(3) Add in the Uber app.

(4) OK, so I also have the fall back of the G7 taxi phone number in Paris. They speak English. You can get the number from the hotel desk staff or your vacation rental owner or owner's manual. 

(5) And, don't forget this one: Sometimes ASKING a passerby works or even a stop in a shop to see if the shopkeeper will assist you in looking up your destination on 'google maps' on their computer. My last time in Paris I was headed to a new location for my once a week meet-up gathering using my 'google map' app when my cell ran out of charge. Oooppp..ss...As it turns out, the passerby I asked sent me in the wrong direction and even the retail shop person kindly helped me but sent me on the wrong trail. So what should have taken me 7 minutes to get there, took me about 30 minutes. 

I am not saying my system is foolproof but...when my cell is charged and is available for use in a foreign country, and my implements in hand, I'm a 'GO'...on my own or with this mutual directionally challenged friend. Yes, we still arrange to overlap our travel to Paris. And, yes, we still find ourselves engrossed in conversation and a bit off track at times, but we have the necessary tools mentioned to not get ourselves too far afield!


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