This Summer, Learn How to Become a Flâneur.
A recent New York Times story reminded me of this almost un-American concept, even though it's how most Americans experience Paris. Flâner is a verb meaning 'to stroll,' while a flâneur is a person of leisure who enjoys wandering the streets—soaking in the city and surroundings while appreciating its beauty.
The word carries a poetic sense of in-the-moment joy. A flâneur is the ultimate urban awe walker, meandering wherever their senses lead them. Baudelaire described this metropolitan character as a "passionate spectator."
As the article suggests, there's an art to living life this way, with no objective other than to follow the sound of church bells, drift across a leafy square, or catch the scent of hot bread in the air, which may ultimately lead one to a bakery. It's not only a beautiful vacation experience but also a magical approach to embracing life, particularly as we age and, hopefully, have more time affluence.
Whether you're going on vacation or not this summer, how might your senses lead you as an alternative means of awakening to all a city has to offer? I found the scents of San Francisco's Potrero Hill alluring as I was recovering from my recent surgery and more in a sauntering than a strolling mode. The Anchor Steam Brewery is a couple of blocks away, with the aroma of hops and grains emerging from smoke stacks beckoning me to join their tour and beer-tasting experience. There's a herb company on the corner of Jackson Park that makes me feel like I'm strolling through an East Indian market.
While this may appear aimless to some, learning to be a flâneur is an active process requiring presence, mindfulness, and the faith that serendipity has something to teach you if you allow it to guide your way.