In August on our way to visit my family in Sweden, C and I decided to stop off for a few days in Paris. C had never been to Paris before, and the last time I was in the ‘City of Lights’ was when I was backpacking around Europe with two of my very best friends after high school. Let’s just say we had different interests and budget back then, which mainly involved drinking in various European Capitals and being chased by persistent Italian men! So Paris, has always been a place that I wanted to return to and explore as a ‘grown-up’.
We spent 4 wonderful days in Paris touring the city, visiting the must-see attractions, eating good food, drinking good wine, soaking up the atmosphere and of course nudging elbows with a thousand and one other tourists! Although we enjoyed ourselves during our trip, if I have one tip for anyone who is looking to visit Paris:
- Do NOT go in the summer!
If you do not enjoy queuing for hours, you don’t like your personal space being violated, and fighting off very determined Africans and gypsies who ‘just want to be your friend’ isn’t something you particularly like, Paris in the summer is not for you!
What IS for you however is Urban Adventures’ walking tours!
I was introduced to Urban Adventures from Eat, Live, Travel, Write, one of the many blogs that I follow. The author had gone on a walking tour with the company in Canada (When Pigs Fry…isn’t that an awesome name?) and seemed rather impressed with them. I just loved the idea of a walking tour that involved food (surprise, surprise) and I instinctively knew that this was my kind of excursion! After reading the post, I immediately visited their website, and was excited to see that they had a walking tour in Paris. Without thinking twice I signed us up for it there and then! It truly was one of the highlights of our time in the city.
According to their website, Urban Adventures is designed for people who want to get off the beaten track and connect with destinations on a local level, but may have limited time to do so. In 2009 Urban Adventures was born with this premise –“ day tours, with a local”. They now have teams in over 80 cities around the world, with various tours you can choose between that fits into your interest and your time frame.
We took the Secret Paris: Cheese, Art & Local Life Tour. The tour started at 9am at the Place de la Concorde and a group of 6 of us meandered around the streets of Paris until noon, where we were finally dropped off at the Museu Pompidou. Our guide, Marie-Stephane was absolutely stellar, a local Parisian with excellent English and an intricate knowledge of her home town. Marie guided us, and enthralled us with her historical anecdotes of Paris, and gave us a little peek into a Paris that C and I would never have seen otherwise.
We sampled macaroons at the famous and very trendy boutique Fauchon and marvelled at all their sweet and savoury creations, we were taken down little alleyways and shown forgotten passages, we admired the medieval and renaissance-era architecture in Le Marais, and were educated in the world of cheese in a Parisian fromagerie. It truly was a fantastic and informative morning, and a tour that I will not forget any time soon.
The dynamic of the group was very pleasant as well. That maximum number of people that Urban Adventures will allow on this tour is 12. This really enables you to get to know your guide, ask questions and engage with your fellow sight-seers. On the morning we went, we were joined by an older Australian couple and another younger couple from the U.S. I got the impression that all of us were on the same page, as we had all actively sought out a tour that was not your average run of the mill follow-the-leader type experience.
I was really impressed with Urban Adventures in Paris, and could not recommend them more highly if you plan to visit France. I will certainly be using them in the future if they have operations in the cities I am visiting. I have already had a sneaky peek at their website and see that they do in fact have a walking tour in both Rio and Buenos Aires (two places on my radar). Once I have bought those tickets, I will be singing myself up for sure!
Urban Adventures: http://www.UrbanAdventures.com
Secret Paris: Cheese, Art & Local Life Tour: US$ 54.06 (each)
Insiders tip: Bring a map, and ask you guide to draw on it the route you took. We went to so many wonderful little areas that morning, and I regret that I did not do this, as I was unable to remember where everything was afterwards!