As cities grow, the boundary between the great outdoors and urban environments becomes blurry. At the same time, the urge to find peace in nature grows stronger. While we might all want to escape to wide open spaces, there’s simply no getting away from the fact that so much of today’s society is city-based. For many of us, the city is where we work. It’s where our family and friends are. It’s where the majority of our lives take place. In fact, the UN has predicted 68% of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050.
So what should we do? Wait patiently for weekend escapes and simply survive city life during the working week? Our friends at adventure publication Les Others have other ideas. A team passionate about outdoor and adventure and travel yet based in the relentless pace of central Paris, we asked them for answers. Equipped with the new Cloud Hi, they set out to show us how you can find adventure anywhere, and what Paris has to offer when you embrace your instinct for adventure and explore the city on foot.
Meet the Les Others team
The Les Others Guide to Urban Adventure in Paris
This guide first appeared on LesOthers.com.
Urban adventure: perhaps a surprising subject for an article from a publication that advocates switching off and adventure in the great outdoors. At Les Others, we are constantly motivated by a desire to leave behind the tumult of the city and seek out the serenity of nature, whether it’s a few kilometers from Paris or in a faraway country.
But nature is not just somewhere we go to enjoy our favorite activities: it is also a key element in the way Les Others works. It helps us empty our minds, give our brains a rest and recharge our batteries. Essential for any creative spirit. Without nature, we lack inspiration and without inspiration there would be no magazine, no podcast, and no fresh ideas to help you escape.
Unfortunately, the demands of daily life often prevent us from taking time out to get back to nature before beginning a project. Like a lot of city dwellers who want to reconcile outdoor and urban life, we give ourselves as many breaks as possible from our busy agendas.
So yes, clipping in the last point of a climb in a Parisian gym is not the same as belaying at the summit of a route in the Verdon and 10 km by bike on the banks of the Seine will not give you the same thrill as it does on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. But, after all, when we can be happy with little and adopt the right state of mind, the benefits of urban adventures can quickly be felt. It’s all in the head, as they say.
Here are our suggestions for activities to give you some time to switch off and experience the city as a place of nature and adventure.
1. Reach new heights at MurMur Pantin
Climbing is surely one of the most complete sports, good for both the body and the soul. Even if the trend today is for bouldering (more accessible and fun for beginners), we recommend roping up and taking on a route: you will find yourself better prepared for the continuity of cliff lengths and cord maneuvers, while the height and spacing between anchor points will help you improve commitment, concentration and courage.
The good news? Climbing centers and gyms are becoming more common, there may already be one in your neighborhood. For us, it is easiest to go to MurMur in Pantin; we love the number and diversity of its routes. From technical slabs to overhangs with big containers, all styles are catered for.
MurMur Pantin, 55 rue Cartier Bresson, 93500 Pantin.
2. Get green fingers at Plein Air
Wild spaces, shared gardens, common vegetable plots – these preserved bubbles of greenery are increasing within cities. If you’ve had enough of the smell of Parisian exhaust fumes, come and breathe in the air at Plein Air, a flower farm that extends over 1,200 m², nestled beside the Belleville reservoir. Pesticide- insecticide- and chemical-fertilizer-free, the methods used here combine biodynamics and the use of efficient micro-organisms in environmentally friendly floriculture. You can meet Masami, an agri-designer, who will be happy to show you around her little piece of paradise, full of perfumes and colors, and share her passion for flowers.
Plein Air Paris, 40 rue du Télégraphe, 75020 Paris.
3. Change up a gear on new cycle routes
Packed underground stations, traffic jams... The morning commute is often synonymous with noise and oppression in Paris. Why not travel by bike; good for the planet and good for your health, it lets you (re)discover Paris from a different perspective. There’s good news here as well: with its big cycling plan, the city is investing in offering more safe, two-way cycle routes from North to South and East to West. When you avoid the main routes and find your own path, the daily commute can be a pleasurable experience.
4. Develop mindfulness, day after day
This time, no exploring the city and its surroundings. We propose an inner adventure. Through yoga or meditation, we can learn to listen to our bodies and minds. These “otherworldly” moments have benefits in terms of stress and sleep quality and also help you develop a creative spirit. Faced with a problem, the principle of non-judgement within mindfulness multiplies the realms of possibility. Being aware of the present helps you to see all the little things that usually go unnoticed but nourish our creativity. It is scientifically proven! So, whether it’s before your morning coffee, when the sun sets or the middle of the day, take the time to stop and breathe.
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You all use nature to reset. How do you maintain a sense of adventure and calm when you’re back in the city?
Solène: It’s for sure not always easy, especially in a city like Paris that doesn’t have so many green spaces. I spend all the time I can outside. I try not to take the underground, I work outside the office when I can, I sit on a bench in the park or under a tree. Sometimes I do a yoga session outside. I try to do as many things as possible with the sky above my head.
Damien: Ideally I don’t stay in the city for too long, and I head into the nature quite often. But sometimes life means that’s not possible so I run – I run a lot. For me it’s a tonic that improves both mental and physical health.
Nicolas: Working for Les Others, in an environment that is directly connected to outdoor topics and people who love nature helps a lot to retain the adventurer spirit. It’s also about maintaining a routine, trying to run and get out there as much as I can.
How do you balance a busy work schedule with urban adventure?
Thomas: Being a dad, a partner, and having a busy job pushes me to be more creative when it comes to finding adventure in the city. Recently I started changing my route every day when I cycle to work. Sometimes I lose five minutes but I can rediscover parts of the city and I break the routine of my morning commute.
Baptiste: I run late at night – in summer it’s cooler and there’s less traffic and pollution. Running for me is like meditation in motion. Trying to have this meditative approach to running is also creating a double benefit: it refreshes both body and mind.
You guys describe urban adventure as“taking a breath”. What are the benefits of taking the time to find space in a busy environment?
Martin: I’m a really dynamic person, I’m always in a rush. Taking a breath (like a quick bouldering session in the middle of the day) helps me to feel calm, to clear my mind. When I’m back I feel more efficient. I also meet climbers who share the same passions and interests, so useful conversations happen at the gym – I actually get insights that improve my work.
Nicolas: Some people gets hit by ideas when in the shower, I quite often get that eureka moment when running.
When I take the time to get out there I let go. That’s when I develop fresh ideas.
What makes Paris a special place for urban adventure?
Baptiste: It’s hilly! Damien, Baptiste and I live in a neighborhood called Montmartre. When we meet for a run, we are not only running on flat ground but can also do some elevation – handy if we’re preparing for mountain runs. You can easily do 300–400 meters of elevation in one run, either with a lot of stairs or on steep roads. The only downside of Montmartre is that you need to zigzag between the tourists.
Thomas: We are getting more and more large cycle lanes, which show that we are going in the right direction. When I say Paris, I’m also thinking about what we call the ‘Grand Paris’, a big project that will include the Paris suburbs and not only the city center. We need to see beyond the ring road to places where you can find canals, parks, and new possibilities. Paris is really good for cycling and urban adventuring.
What’s your recommendation for someone who is looking to find more adventure in the urban jungle?
Martin: Try to find activities you can do on your own. For me, that’s bouldering. It’s easier to find those quick moments to “take a breath” if you don’t have to rely on anyone else.
Damien: Set your alarm clock one hour earlier. That way you’ll discover the city when everybody is still asleep: an empty playground for great urban adventures.