Day Zero Flaneury

I jetted into Paris earlier today (a skyroad begun in Detroit and continued after a brief layover in NYC) for the Writing Research Across Borders Conference at Paris Ouest La Défense. Time changes meant six hours evaporated as I arrived in Paris at 1 p.m. local time, what felt like 7 a.m. EST. Factoring in that it was a red-eye spent in Air France coach, my body’s “felt like” time was even earlier and later: WTF Standard Time. And now it is both 6:30 p.m. local time and 12:30 p.m. back home. Time for supperlunch (no, I won’t be asking for supperlunch at a restaurant, unless, maybe that’s a Fr. word?)

The conference is fully underway, but I didn’t make it to the hotel until 2 p.m., and by then it was clear I would arrive late to the conference’s afternoon sessions even if I hoofed (or subwayed…still figuring out how that works) directly to Paris Ouest. Instead I followed what I could on Twitter, unpacked, and figured out the few streets I wanted to follow to go looking for bearings. Fitbit doesn’t know we’re in Paris, France, so we attempted to walk off some of the jet lag along the 8.4 km mapped here.

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Here are a few of the things I walked past.

L'église de la Madeleine

Alexandre Dumas Monument

And noticed: so much dog shit on the sidewalks; newsstands selling paper publications; two kids playing on top of plastic garbage bins near the park, one stopping to “pay the water bill” publicly; two different passers-by who politely asked me in French for help or directions or if I was having a good day or, truthfully, I have no idea. I tried to say something like, “Pardon, no francais,” but neither of them waited the ten minutes it would have taken me to figure out such an elaborate response.

Above all, the brief tour on foot reassured me with an orienting sense that I almost always lack when landing in conference city I haven’t been to before. Now that I am clearer about space and direction, I suspect the next several hours will be devoted to re-harmonizing with time.