Yesterday I mentioned something about not minding my lack of a portable, Internet-connected device while exploring Paris this time around. “Give me a decent paper map,” blah blah blah. So after realizing that the free tourist map the hotels give you was not a decent map, I bought a decent map.

Case in point: at the southeast corner of Parc Montsouris (mouse mountain!) is a street called Rue de la Cité Universitaire. But the free map says it’s Rue Gazan. Because the name changes two blocks from the southern end of the street. (Parisian streets change names as often as possible, presumably to keep occupying out-of-towners utterly confused.) The free map also fails to mention that Rue Gazan is one-way southbound. Ah well. I eventually got back to the hotel as desired, and Place d’Italie was quite the little adventure. (Unlike Place Charles de Gaulle (around l’Arc de Triomphe), Place d’Italie has some traffic controls in the middle of it. Whether those make it feel any safer is up for debate.)

Balloon ride

The biggest surprise today was the Ballon Air de Paris, which is essentially a balloon ride crossed with a little air pollution measuring station attached to the top of it. For ten euros, you get about ten minutes aloft, which is plenty when it’s cold and a bit hazy. The balloon is tethered to the west corner of Parc André Citroën, in the west corner of the 15th Arrondissement (basically the southwest corner of Paris proper, next to the constant traffic jam known as la Périphérique). The surprise part for me was simply that it was there at all.

The end of the day was a visit to Shakespeare and Company, a small, very cramped, very wonderful bookstore within throwing range of Notre Dame. It’s mostly books in English, some new, some used, including a library upstairs, notes from past visitors, the tiniest little writing room (with mechanical typewriter), and thousands of little surprises. And a no photography rule, which means if you want to see it, you’ll just have to visit. The hours scream wonderful: They’re open until 11pm every day of the week, but they open one whole hour late on Sundays.

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