Discovering the secrets of Paris with a Paris Greeter


If you live in a small town in Ohio, how do you find out about the secret places in Paris? Well, if you're my friend Candy, you buy a copy of Parisian Chic: A Style Guide by Ines de la Fressange and highlight all of the interesting boutiques, art galleries and museums that you would like to visit. If you're me, you have stacks of dogeared books, including the aptly named Paris: Secrets de Parisians, scattered around your apartment to flip through whenever you have a spare moment. But if you're really clever, you sign up for a walk with you very own Paris Greeter.

As I've mentioned before, Paris Greeters are volunteers who want to share their favorite spots in Paris with you. And trust me, no matter how well you think that you know an area, the 2-3 hour walk will most probably include some surprises. At least that's what happened when Christiane offered to take us on a tour of the 5th and 6th arrondissements. After meeting outside the Odeon metro stop, Christiane, who received her Master's Degree from the University of Pittsburgh and taught English at the Sorbonne, guided us to one of the area's oldest cobblestone streets, the Cour du Commerce St. Andre. Pointing out Le Procope, an old literary haunt dating back to 1686 that was frequented by Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones and Thomas Jefferson, as well as some fairly important Frenchmen, Christian took us to the charming Cour de Rohan where the noise of the city disappeared as we stepped back in time.

Candy, Bob and Christiane exploring secret courtyards in Paris.



While strolling from Brasserie Lipp to the tranquil place de Furstenberg and from the Place de l'Odeon to the Luxembourg Gardens, Christian told us about Haussmann's renovation of Paris, answered questions about French politics and delighted us with her knowledge of the city and its citizens. If you haven't done a walk with a Paris Greeter yet, you're missing out on one of the best secrets of Paris!

Please visit the Paris Greeter website for additional information. If you would prefer to explore further afield, Greeters in Versailles will show you their favorite places in the city they love.

Temporary art installation at the place de Furstenberg or a prank? We came up with several ideas as to why plastic wrap adorns the lampost and trees in this charming square. After mentioning the place de Furstenberg on the TA Paris forum, Maddietravel told me that it's where the emotional conclusion of the movie Age of Innocence was filmed.

Comments

  1. John Paul Jones, not just a member of Led Zep huh? (Can you tell I'm not American?) Enjoyed reading about his adventures on the post you linked to, and Paris Greeters sounds great! How far in advance did you have to sign up?

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    1. John Paul Jones was a member of Led Zeppelin? Since I only had eyes for Robert Plant, I didn't even make that connection! The American JP Jones is largely forgotten in the USA, except at the Naval Academy where he's a hero.

      You're supposed to sign up at least two weeks in advance for one of the Paris Greeter walks but they very kindly organized a walk for us with only one week's notice. They're great! I plan to do some more walks with them and would also like to do one in Versailles.

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    2. Ah yes, I think we've discussed our shared admiration for Robert Plant before :)

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    3. We have...but it doesn't hurt to do it again! ;)

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  2. Certainly looks like art to me, guerilla art at its best. Reminds me of when, in college, I tied up the quadrangle with string in the middle of the night. To get across campus one had to walk the perimeter of the quad until the string was removed (and not by me, some industrious science student rolled it all back up into a ball).

    You've told me there are Chicago Greeters, I really need to check them out.

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    1. At first, I thought that the plastic wrap was holding the light post in position after it had been repaired but then Bob correctly said that it would have had to be anchored to trees on all four corners.

      I'm sure that your guerilla art must have delighted your fellow students, unless they were late for class and hoping to cut across the quad! In which case, they were probably thankful when the industrious science student removed your artistic creation.

      And please do check out the Chicago Greeters.

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  3. I have always wanted to try Paris Greeters, but never got there. Really need to book one for July when I will be in Paris for 11 days.

    One thing is, as a Brit I am a bit uncomfortable with the tipping thing. I couldn't let somebody give up their time for nothing, but feel patronising to tip the guide as they don't mention tipping.

    The Discovery walks guide was easy because they said, "tip what you want" do I gave what other companies charge.

    What is the best approach?

    Love Denise

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    1. I had a fun walk with a Greeter named Medy. He was very friendly and knowledgeable. About halfway through the walk we stopped for crepes and drinks at a cafe and I treated. You could try that, if you feel like having a break. It's a sociable way to say thank you, and much less awkward than trying to foist cash on someone.

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    2. Denise, Paris Greeters are volunteers so there's really no need to tip them. The organization asks for an online contribution to offset their costs when you sign up for your walk and I've donated 15 euros per person each of the times that I done one of their walks. Some people bring their Greeter a small souvenir from their country but I've always invited our Greeter to lunch. Both times they have agreed and it was a good way to spend additional time with them and ask questions about their lives. The Greeters are quite often, although not always, retired people who enjoy having contact with people from other countries. The Greeters who do tours on the weekends and in the evening may not be retired.

      I HIGHLY recommend the Paris Greeters walks. I'm also looking forward to doing one of the walks in Versailles.

      nycgirl, I remember seeing photos of your Paris Greeter walk on "Any Port in a Storm". Thanks for posting a comment and telling us about your experience with Medy!

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    3. Forgot to mention, your walk sounds really interesting! Love the shot of the secret courtyard. So romantic.

      The plastic wrap instantly made me think "Spiderman!" Guess I have a comic book mind. :)

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    4. Ha! Out of all the explanations that came to mind, I don't know why we didn't think of Spiderman! Thanks, nycgirl!

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  4. What fun! I remember you mentioning this before. They only do tours in French right? Or in English too? I'm sure it would be such a fun way to further explore my own neighborhood!

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    1. A Paris Greeter tour would be a fantastic way to explore your neighborhood. They'll probably show you some hidden spots that you don't know! Both of my tours have been in English.

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