Embracing the Life of a Flâneuse

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Today I learned
a new word - flâneuse. I was laying out a new blog for an upcoming book review and in the author bio she stated she was one.  Instantly drawn to the word, I had to look it up in a Google search.  Myriam Webster was my go to online, but it took 2 definitions, with the first leading to the 2nd.
  • flâneuse: a woman who is or who behaves like a flâneur.
  • flâneur: an idle man-about-town.
Well that didn't really enlighten me did it? No worries there were other sources for information such as Wiki that said a flâneur is a noun referring to a person, but specifically a stroller, a lounger, etc. And it goes on to state that the verb Flânerie refers to the act of strolling.

I was intrigued. When I travel on my own, I tend to pick destinations that are stroll-worthy. My favourite? New York City of course. There I can be alone if I chose or with people if I chose. As long as I stay near the subway, I travel with people and buskers all day. Some talk, some don't. I even did a 5 stop, guerilla style interview on the subway once with a man who worked on elevators. It was amazing. 

When I travel solo, I check out local walking maps and sign up for walking tours.  I put miles on every day.  And I try to walk slowly, really being aware of my surroundings. One favourite story is from my last trip to NYC.  I was heading from the subway to The High Line,  a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, greenway and rail trail created on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. Along the way I was snapping pictures of artwork, graffiti and interesting architecture. 

Photo by Albany Capture on Unsplash

Then out of the blue, there it was.  A tiny park created on a small lot between buildings dedicated to a woman I have never heard of. The value of that lot in downtown NYC had to be incredible, and yet there it was. Someone made it happen and refused all pressure to develop it. That was also the moment I noticed the people rushing by me to The High Line. They were so focused on their destination, they were missing all the truly interesting things to be seen along the way. 

Photo by Polina Kocheva on Unsplash
I am fortunate where I live
to have one friend who is a city explorer as well - a true flâneuse. No way would she sit in her apartment all day. Every day is an exploration - parks, different parts of the city, the library, the art gallery, small businesses offering local wares, temporary exhibitions, street art.  Every time we get together I see something in my own city I haven't seen before. It's fabulous. Why do we always explore new places, but don't make time to explore where we live?

When I travel with my husband, we try to do as much as possible on foot. When not possible, we do our best to take local transit - subways, buses, trains, trams, etc.  It puts us close to the locals and helps us get a feel for their daily lives.  It's the rare time we rent a car or take a cab.  Walking and transiting are our go-to's along with trying to stay in AirBnb's in less ritzy areas where more locals live. 

For all of you who love to explore the world on foot, it's time to embrace a new personal description - flâneur for men and flâneuse for women. I don't think they have an adjective for those who identify as they yet, so pick the one that you just plain like the best. Or even better create a new one based on the verb and get it in the dictionary!

I'm going to close with an excerpt from The Guardian on this topic. You can read the full article titled, "A tribute to female flâneurs: the women who reclaimed our city streets" - HERE!. It's a great read. 

Photo by Thewonderalice on Unsplash

"For a woman to be a flâneuse, first and foremost, she’s got to be a walker – someone who gets to know the city by wandering its streets, investigating its dark corners, peering behind façades, penetrating into secret courtyards. Virginia Woolf called it 'street haunting' in an essay by that name: sailing out into a winter evening, surrounded by the 'champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets', we leave the things that define us at home, and become 'part of that vast republican army of anonymous trampers.'"


  1. As a born and bred New Yorker I can say that all New Yorkers have gone to the Flaneuse School of Business.. or Flaneuse-ity.


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