I’m a walker. I dance. I do cardio. I’m in pretty good shape. On some vacations I get accused by my lagger companions of doing a forced march. I expected to walk equally strong on this two week trip to France, striding with purpose and vigor, like those chirpy leaders of tour groups stabbing their umbrellas in the air and urging all their chickens to keep up.
But this time my body was forced to do more strolling and stopping. My feet hurt. I grew blisters. I should have packed my trusty tennies, as I was reminded by my husband, the man who covered France in hiking boots. But who wants to take on Paris in tennies?
The stylish French sported complicated gladiator sandals and tall boots to go with flirty tunics over skinny pants and tights. Their legs looked good. Their feet seemed to work fine. They clicked along sidewalks and galloped up and down Metro stairs without wincing.
I wore Moleskin and Dora the Explorer bandaids from my granddaughter’s stash that I found in my purse.
Before the trip I shopped at a healthy shoe store in California for the ideal walking shoes. I asked for something that would be good for walking cobblestones as well as city streets and the clerk said “you mean our go-to-Europe shoes” and produced a pair of dusky green Mary Janes (Clark’s) that were in the dorky-but-hip category. I wore them for a week before I left, in order to break them in.
But by the second day on vacation they were not my friend. Yet I pushed on. We walked up Montmartre and back down. We walked through cheese markets and art stalls, through museums and churches. In Notre Dame I gratefully collapsed in a seat where I could prop my tootsies on one of the giant stone chiseled pillars.
French women use their feet and ride bicycles. I watched a Parisian peer in stylish dress and no helmet point her bicycle into the chaotic traffic of the Bastille round-about. And she did it in high heels.
I came home recognizing two things. I have a body that still works, albeit one that better keep going to dance exercise, yoga and lifting weights. Also, if I want to keep seeing the world I have to put up with some discomfort. No pain, no Seine.
But I ask my sister travelers, what do you put on your feet to trek the world. And still look fairly chic when it’s time for an aperitif?