Paris maps & More
Below are a series of custom Google Maps that I've created to accompany readers--of my novel, or other books--around Paris. They're by no means 'official' maps, more one author-fan-father's idiosyncratic take. (If you're interested in an authoritative Paris literary map, there are many to choose from; one such, John McMurtrie's Left Bank Literary Map, aggregates information from a variety of sources in a fun and useful way.) For a few final practical, technical tips and pieces of advice, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Mapping The REd Balloon
Young Pascal, the protagonist of The Red Balloon, spends most of his time in Ménilmontant, well off the tourist path. This map plots a number of locations from the film, but not all -- quite a few were plowed under during a slum-clearing exercise in the 1960s which resulted in the Parc de Belleville. The view of Paris from the top of the park is one of Paris' best, and unlike the far busier (and more pickpocket-prone) heights of Montmartre to the northwest, you get a clear view of the Eiffel Tower. Then again, if you've climbed up here, you're probably after Paris' more rare sights. The Métro isn't especially convenient up here, but the same bus route that Pascal takes in the film--the 96--still exists, and it's a great way to access the area.
This map tracks Madeline and her charges around Paris over the course of the first book in the series, Madeline. Needless to say, this is too much of a walk to do in one day for a Madeline-age reader (or even her or his parents); in Bemelmans's defense, the ever-shifting weather in his illustrations suggest that he's portraying a year in Paris, not a single afternoon.
The Paris of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret
I don't reference Hugo Cabret in my novel, but it's a beautiful book and my daughters loved it. The map below plots a number of locations from his book.
A few practical, technical tips
If you'd like to use these maps in Paris and want to avoid roaming charges, Google has that figured out for you. My own family has had a lot of luck using the "offline map" feature.
Even if you have data roaming turned off, as long as you leave your cellular service (the service you use to make phone calls) turned on, most phones, such as the iPhone, will be able to track your movements on the map. And as long as you don't make (or receive) any calls, you'll be able to do this for free. Keep your wi-fi turned on, too. Even if you don't connect to any networks, your phone can more precisely map your location knowing what networks are nearby.
Try to memorize a few key landmarks in advance so that you can keep your eyes up as you navigate. Another wonderful trick I've discovered is to have the Google Maps app route you to your destination. When you're ready (and make sure you choose the walking, not driving or mass transit route), press "start," toggle the audio to "un-muted", put in your earbuds, tuck your phone away, and start walking -- the app will talk you through to your destination and you'll never look lost.
Please note: Ménilmontant, where most of the scenes from The Red Balloon were shot, is a slightly grittier part of Paris than, say, the Champs-Élysées, but that does not necessarily make it less (or more) safe. The Paris Préfecture de police has a very helpful website (in English) with advice on how to stay safe in the city and what to do if you need help. Make note of their contact information before you need it.
As when walking in any city, stay aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.