A 36-year-old Australian has spent two and a half weeks walking every street of Paris’ 20th arrondissement, where he lives, in a bid to get to know the neighbourhood better.
Robert Kos, a mental health counsellor and English teacher, went walk-about from July 9 to July 27.
He thought it would take a weekend to visit all the streets but instead it took weeks to explore the whole district, which is split into 16 smaller areas, the Boulevard de Ménilmontant serving as the western boundary, the Boulevard de Belleville the northern and the Périphérique as the more obvious eastern border.
Paris’ Mayor Anne Hidalgo congratulated him on Twitter for the feat.
Merci Robert Kos Paris: L'improbable défi d'un Australien décidé à marcher dans toutes les rues du 20e arrondissement https://t.co/ofKOwKAX88— Anne Hidalgo (@Anne_Hidalgo) July 31, 2022
“France has thousands of different subcultures. I thought this would be a way to see some of that variety,” said Mr Kos, who moved to Paris with his wife from Singapore a year or so ago. “The 20th arrondissement is like the cross-section of all of Paris,” he added.
Walking in the 20th arrondissement helped Mr Kos to dismiss the stereotypical Parisian image of croissants, wine and the Eiffel Tower, he said.
“You realise how really different the people are,” he said.
Mr Kos says he learned the hard way how many streets are in the 20th district, one of the largest and most dense of Paris, carrying out walking trips of several hours for several weeks instead of the “fun trip done over the weekend.”
The expedition showed Mr Kos an ever-growing gentrification in several areas, where social housing is being replaced by architectural design buildings.
While the most western side of the 20th arrondissement is the most prone to that phenomenon, the further east Mr Kos went, the more he witnessed differences in culture.
He said that cultural contrasts are most visible on Rue des Maraîchers. “The bobos are coming,” he said, ironically.
He now plans other walking trips of discovery around Paris and said he would be pleased to be joined by other people wanting to walk with him as he “felt a little bit lonely at times.”
“It would be an honour to have walked every one of Paris’ streets,” he said.