“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” —Saint Augustine
Reading and learning about France is one thing. Visiting the country is something entirely different. Exploring distant lands and experiencing cultures firsthand is undoubtedly one of life’s most rewarding experiences. You may have a fear of flying or you may never have had the funds to take an international trip. Fear not! Thanks to technology vous pouvez voyager sans quitter votre domicile (you can travel without leaving home)!
Imagine for a moment walking through the streets of Paris. Imagine standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and looking up as if you were literally standing in front of it. Or imagine walking up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. All of this is made possible with Google Earth, a computer application that lets you can cross the pond to take a virtual walk sur les boulevards de Paris (on the boulevards of Paris). You don’t have to deal with traffic, nor do you have to ask for directions if you get lost. It’s one thing to view the city from above but the real fun begins when you enter Street View. With a simple click of the mouse in any direction, you can experience what it would be like walking up and down practically any street in the city. And best of all, c’est absolument gratuit (it’s absolutely free)! If you want to visit a museum or enter any building, of course you’ll have to travel to Paris. But Google Earth is quite possibly the next best thing to being there in the flesh et c’est bien moins cher (and it’s much less expensive).
Not interested in Paris? Why not visit London, Rome, Berlin or any other city for that matter? Thankfully, Google Earth isn’t limited to major cities. In fact, I took some time recently to visit les petites villes (the little towns) where I spent my childhood in southern France. I was overcome by a strong sense of nostalgie (nostalgia) as I stood in front of les maisons de mon enfance (my childhood homes) and retraced my daily walk to school and back. I was surprised that Google had taken the time to travel the streets of these small towns but I’m grateful for their efforts.
So how do you access Google Earth? Visit this link and download the free application to your hard drive. Le logiciel (the software) is available for both Mac or PC and there are versions of the app for your mobile devices on iOS and Android as well. Quand vous voulez voyager (When you want to travel), launch the application, type in a city name or specific address in the search bar at the top left corner of your écran (screen) and watch as Google pinpoints your destination with remarkable accuracy. Zoom in with the controls on the right side of your screen and then enter Street View by clicking the icon.
If you own a Mac and have updated to the latest free version of OS X (Yosemite), there is a new feature in the built-in Maps application that gives you a 3D flyover tours of major cities. Type “Paris, France” into the search bar, click on 3D Flyover Tour and sit back to enjoy the show!