A flâneur deliberately practices idle and appreciative strolling; the term is often associated with the work of social critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940.) In previous centuries, the flâneur was at either end of the socio-economic scale: rich or poor enough neither be working or concerned with errands that require an efficient route. But modern flâneurs may be laid-back travelers, retirees, or persons who choose part-time employment. It's not really who you are, it's how you treat the unfolding aspects of the city.
The flâneur is a city species; I suppose the country equivalent is the rambler.
Issue #3 features Rue Bernard, in Montréal, not far from where I live, and so, on a mild late-summer evening, we sat in the treasured independent bookstore Drawn and Quarterly on Rue Bernard, to hear Fabian Saul, the magazine's co-editor-in-chief, discuss how he and his colleagues choose the streets, and tell stories of the people he's met while assembling each issue.
The magazine uses stunning and costly effects, a throwback to the time when print was king. "We don't say 'This is Rue Bernard' he commented, "We say, 'This could be the street called Rue Bernard'—streets are always evolving." He used the verb "flaneuring", which may be his invention.
I am often on Rue Bernard, sharing the sidewalk with tourists checking out Montréal must-sees, members of the original ethnic groups who settled in the neighbourhood (Hasidic Jews, Greeks), musicians carrying instruments, daycare workers herding unsteady toddlers. There is always much to see in shop windows (virtually none of it mass-branded), and then time for exceptionally good espresso, chocolate babka or a buttery croissant. The flâneur is not a clipped-pace fitness walker.
Is there a street you love where you live? Maybe not the prettiest or glossiest, but one that draws you, time and again, to linger and bask in the essence of that particular place?
If your street unfolds in layers, shifts with the seasons, hints at endless secrets and stories, you wear your sturdiest, friendliest shoes, because you cannot stop walking and observing. Your coat has pockets to hold gloves or a cap; looking a la mode is not your primary goal: you are there to see, not be seen.
Shoulder strap umbrella, Umbrella Heaven
Cross-body nylon bag, Highway
Blundstone boots, (Blundstone, from Zappos)
"Torrentshell" city coat, Patagonia