In eighteenth century Paris, streets were filled with men who seemed to do nothing at all, spending hours in park benches and cafés. People took to calling them flaneurs—loafers, street scholars, men of leisure. While they may have spent much of their time at a standstill, the essence of flanerie lies in exploration. Not in the frantic, scurrying pace that travelers often follow, but in the carefree, introspective saunter that opens up the senses. Flaneurs aren't simply idlers whiling away the daylight. Theirs was a perceptive kind of slowness, the kind that allowed understanding to dawn on them, revealed only because they took their time. Sometimes the city speaks only when you take it in. When you get its air inside your lungs, its roads under your feet, one breath and one-step at a time.
Paolo Abrera in Tokyo
I love Japan. Over numerous trips, I've fallen in love with this country, its culture, and its people. My last trip allowed me to immerse myself a little more and peel away a few more layers of the complex Japanese culture by choosing to stay at an Airbnb in Asakusa, a district of Tokyo. My best discoveries are always on foot, when the city is just waking up, and hasn't yet put on the usual face it presents to tourists. I lace up my running shoes and indulge in what I like to call a "run-tour." Though Asakusa is a frequent tourist stop, it's maintained some of the feel of old Tokyo's shitamachi, the low-lying part of the city. Even if my "run-tour" takes me to the inescapable Tokyo Skytree, the 634-meter high TV tower, it's still a treat when you consider how its mirrored glass and polished steel contrast with the cherry blossoms that line the small branch of the Sumida River. Small parks and quiet corners are plentiful, and I usually stop for a quick set of pushups as locals walk their dogs or amble by with their toddlers in strollers.
I'll follow the river and cross over to the Senso-ji temple, still empty of crowds, then preview a few local goods at the Nakamise alleys, where shopkeepers are beginning to unfurl their shutters to welcome the day. Along the way, fantastic aromas will usually stop me in my tracks. If it's winter, I'll smell roasting chestnuts or grilled rice balls. Halfway through my loop, I'll stop for a quick pick-me-up at one of the many coffee shops. Summer or winter, I order the same thing every time—iced black coffee. For a tea-drinking nation, Japan does coffee so well and it's a taste I've come to associate with my morning shitamachi ritual. I'll do my morning "run-tour" for the duration of my stay in Tokyo, choosing a slightly different route each day so I can discover new spots. Eventually, however, all paths lead me back to my favorites—corners where the vibe, the sights, and the smells are all that I've fallen in love with in Japan.
Paolo Abrera is a TV show host.
Arnold Austria on Barcelona
I love walking in Barcelona around the La Rambla area. The friendly locals and the accessibility to the beach make it so special. I recall seeing Richard Meier's Barcelona museum accidentally while exploring Placa dels Angels, and its open spaces made me appreciate the concept of a plaza. Barcelona is about enhancing life through its properly scaled public realms. It's a city designed for walking. The small surprises that you stumble upon its many corners make exploration irresistible.
Austria is a principal architect at Jagnus Design Studio
Sonny Sunga on San Francisco
I enjoy going around San Francisco, particularly along Hayes Street, for its vibe. The combination of art, retail, and dining; the scale of the surrounding structures; and the "air-conditioned" weather give it a welcoming, small-town atmosphere. Architecturally, San Francisco is less visually stimulating than say Paris or New York but the city exudes a small neighborhood character and approachability. Perhaps it's the balance of its elements like the water, the hills, and its open spaces alongside the built environment.
Sunga is a principal architect at Jagnus Design Studio
For taking long walks, my favorite parts of any city are roads along coastal areas because I like looking at sunsets. In the Philippines, it's Roxas Boulevard. This is especially a treat when you walk along the Sofitel Hotel's breakwater to witness the famous Manila Bay sunset. Overseas, I enjoy taking strolls along the Pacific Coast Highway, particularly in L.A., where there is a drive you can take by the Promenade from Sta. Monica. I recommend coasting through this route. I'd stop in Malibu where, especially during spring, I find particular pleasure in looking at the great, wide view, where the sunsets have the transcendent power of making me feel God's work. I will stop and stare at sunsets no matter where they are in the world. One minute, the skies are orange, the next, they're purple. Observing this is a joy to me.
Pascual is a film actor and producer
My favorite country is Israel. I particularly enjoy walking around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, because of the local color. It's very inspiring to tread the same streets where Jesus once walked, and to see the stories I read in the Bible come to life.
Soriano is a film director and producer
The first places that come to mind are Rome and the Vatican. I visited recently with family and really enjoyed walking around, exploring on my own, armed with just a tourist map, my old-school GPS. Everyone knows about the history of these places, learned for the most part in school. Which was largely why I had a great appreciation for the sites, their culture and their history. It was during this particular trip where I appreciated everything I saw that I had previously read about and watched in movies. Walking the cobblestone streets up to the Castel Sant'Angelo or the Il Vittoriano, or through side streets where I ducked into a small café for a drink, made me feel like I was a part of a bygone era. I had the same experience in the Vatican. And the food! It seems you can't go wrong with any of the restaurants in these places. Then again, it could just be my love for Italian cuisine.
Sandejas is travel host and producer
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue No. 21 2015.