Walk This Way: The Best Way to Tour Paris

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Jackie Kennedy in Paris, 1961

Jackie Kennedy in Paris, 1961.

What makes a good Paris walking tour? I have tried both do-it-yourself and conducted tours, and in the end, I think I am attracted by two things: an interesting theme, and the sense that I am following a route I might not otherwise think to follow and entering places I might not otherwise enter.

These, I hope, are the features of the two walking tours I have created for Girls’ Guide to Paris. One follows the steps of Jackie Kennedy in the 16th Arrondissement. The other, which crosses the 1st and 8th Arrondissements, uses the theme of Audrey Hepburn in Paris.

I was interested in Jackie Kennedy because we have three things in common. We both attended the French language program at the Sorbonne (she was there in 1949–50; I came along later). We both lived in the 16th when we were students (she stayed with an impoverished aristocratic widow; and I was an au pair to a family with five children). And later in life, we both worked as editors for Doubleday (she was in New York; I was at Doubleday Canada in Toronto).

I started the walk at her 1949 apartment block in Paris on the avenue Mozart—I found the address in a book that included some of her correspondence from that year. I wanted to end the walk at the Palais de Chaillot, where in 1961, on the presidential state visit, John F. Kennedy described himself as “the man who brought Jackie Kennedy to Paris.”

Jackie Kennedy in Paris

Now all I had to do was to make the route in between interesting and a bit unusual, while fitting in with the theme. The shopping part was easy—the designer boutiques on the rue de Passy had to be included. But I wanted to express some other aspects of Jackie’s life, so I included a cooking school (she employed a French chef at the White House) and some literary connections (after all, she studied French literature and was a friend and admirer of the French writer and politician André Malraux).

I explored my old stomping grounds on foot to find the most attractive streets and the most interesting ways to get from A to B—crossing gardens and following footpaths instead of just walking along streets. The 16th offers some good opportunities to get off the beaten track.

The Audrey Hepburn walk was inspired by two of my all-time favorite films—Charade (1963) and How to Steal a Million (1966). In the first, she starred with Cary Grant, and the film contains a line I love. When Cary Grant tries to introduce himself, she says, “I already know an awful lot of people, and until one of them dies, I couldn’t possibly meet anyone else.” Next time someone I barely know tries to “friend” me on Facebook, I shall repeat that line.

I must have seen How to Steal a Million, in which Audrey stars with Peter O’Toole, about a dozen times, and I never tire of it. Unlike so many films from the 1960s, it has not dated. The plot concerns art forgery, which is a fascinating field in itself, and the film inspired me to read several further books on the subject.

Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade

Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade.

In all, Audrey Hepburn made five films that used Paris locations; the three others were Funny Face (1957), Love in the Afternoon (1957), and Paris When It Sizzles (1964). I plotted known locations from all five films on a map (and included other sites, such as the Givenchy headquarters), and was delighted to find that about a dozen locations followed a clear path from the avenue George V in the 8th to the Palais Royal in the 1st.

Once again, when I walked the route, I tried to add interest by cutting through courtyards and arcades instead of following the streets. This area is rich in these little byways, and I enjoyed exploring a few corners I had never noticed before.

Along the way, I even spotted some china adorned with Audrey’s image—the shot of her from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with the long cigarette holder and the ultimate Little Black Dress by Givenchy. I even included in the route a visit to a boutique run by someone who put together an entire book on the subject of the LBD.

I had great fun creating the tours, and I am hoping to create some more. If anyone has suggestions for themes, just let me know!

Philippa Campsie writes for the blog Parisian Fields, which covers everything from contemporary street art to Paris history. Her most recent article for GG2P is “Paris Itineraries: Madame X and History’s First ‘Wardrobe Malfunction.’”

Editor’s note: Philippa’s well-done walking tours featuring the history and world of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn are available on our site, along with our 10 other downloadable tours. Watch the video of one.

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