Whether you're longing for an exotic vacation in Thailand, Costa Rica or Tunisia or curious to know more about destinations in France, the International Tourism Show will have you dreaming of a holiday...even if you're still jet lagged from your last one in Boston! With themed sections devoted to unusual destinations, responsible tourism, thalassotherapy and well-being, gay and lesbian travelers, bed and breakfasts and France, I tried to stay focused on what would be of most interest.
Nope - not young men in Speedos or Thai massage! I was referring to companies that offer services to people who either live in or are planning to visit Paris. Here's what I found:
Creative Paris.info - Sponsored by the mayor of Paris, this company invites you to be inspired by the wide range of creative activities and courses, such as singing, African dance, Italian cuisine, sculpture, French etiquette, wine tasting and photography, that abound in Paris. As their website says, "Make your holiday unforgettable: Let your creativity shine through in the City of Lights." Be sure to click on "offering details" for course descriptions and to see if it's suitable for English speakers.
Visites-Spectacles - A unique concept that isn't a tour or a theatre show but rather a guided visit brought to life by actors. Starting in July 2012, English speaking visitors will be able to participate in walks through Montmartre that promise to bring history alive through an interactive experience. The company currently offers four different tours in French and has received rave reviews by the French media. Producer Bertrand Penninckx's enthusiasm convinced me to try one of their walks in the very near future. I'll let you know how it goes!
Paris Greeters - As I have wonderful memories of the morning that I spent with Laurence, my Paris Greeter, I was particularly pleased to see their stand at the show. "Greeters" are volunteers who take groups of no more than six people on a two to three hour walk geared towards the visitors' interests. My visit with Laurence was the best possible introduction to Paris because she readily answered all of my questions about daily life in France as we visited her favorite spots in the 15th arrondissement . I plan to do another walk with Paris Greeters with friends who are visiting at the end of March and will write a post about it. In the meantime, click here to read about my visit with Laurence.
Happy Homesitting - Even though the website is only in French, I'm including it because it's such an exciting concept. Here's the idea - in exchange for caring for someone's home, their plants and possibly their pets, home-sitters vacation for free in a different part of France. Registration costs 30€ and home-sitters are required to have a special insurance that costs 50€ per year. After a home-sitter is matched with an owner, they spend a brief orientation period together at the owner's house so that the sitter understands the owner's requirements.
More cool companies that caught my eye:
T3 - adventure rallys and tours around the world using BMW motocycles, classic cars and minis
NaturaBox - gift boxes for responsible tourism
Le Velo Voyageur - One day cycling trips from Paris and other locations in France. In addition to guided tours, they offer a self-guided bike rally that looks like a fun activity for a family or a group of friends.
Other companies sponsored by the mayor of Paris are Ça se visite, a company that offers walking tours in the less frequently visited arrondissements on the eastern side of Paris, and Tourist Services, the first travel agency for people who are physically challenged, visually impaired or deaf/hard of hearing.
International Tourism Show
Convention Center at the Porte de Versailles
Best of all was meeting Anne (left), who coordinated my Paris Greeter walk with Laurence last year and with whom I've exchanged several emails. Please tell Anne "hello" from me if you book a walk with this excellent non-profit organization that's affiliated with the Global Greeter Network.