Part of our prize package for this trip to Paris was a guided tour with Urban Adventures. Far from an overcrowded, tired sounding bus tour we were treated to a wonderful walking tour of Paris featuring not only some major landmarks, but expert local knowledge from a wonderful tour guide.
Marie met us outside the Pantheon (you may remember I had been lunching outside the landmark in Paris: The First Ten Kilometres) and I was surprised to find out it would just be us five on the tour. This was in no way a problem. I hate being in large tour groups, it’s often hard to hear the tour guide, you miss parts, people are talking all the time, this was perfect, and it wasn’t just for us, this is exactly what they do.
We were lead through main streets and side streets, as Marie revealed little tid bits of information about the city that many Parisians wouldn’t know. For example, behind a locked gate we made our way into an unassuming (albeit very old) court yard. Expecting to hear that perhaps someone famous once lived here we soon found out that it was actually the location of where they tested the original guillotine, on sheep, not humans. (Courtyard pictured to the left.) Once complete it would be moved to the Place de la Concorde where it would become quite the public spectacle.
We found out what goes on in the bushes at the Luxemburg Garden, and also that we weren’t allowed to tread on the grass. We paid a visit to the Saint Germaine Church, one of the oldest in Paris, its ceiling and walls all painted stone. By the Seine we looked at the flood level markings on the side of the fire brigade building, and the canal boats that people live on that line the bank.
Then it was time for some charcuterie (pictured right) at Le Bar du Caveau, a gorgeous warm little bar. We tried various cured meats and cheeses with magnificent baguette. Seriously, just come to Paris for the bread, it lives up to the hype. And this little snack stop is included in the tour! While we ate we all got to know a little more about each other, which was really nice, as we’re all from various different places with vastly different experiences to each other, all pulled together by this one amazing event.
When we finished we headed out into the square for a game of Pétanque (which is basically the French version of Bocce, or Bolle and a lot of fun, even if we were all far from being pros at the game.) We also enjoyed an accompanying glass of red wine. Seriously, could you think of a better way to spend a tour?
Our tour rounded up outside of the Notre Dame (you may have heard of it) where Marie pointed out the centre of the city, where all roads lead from. In this place used to stand a statue of the Patron Saint of Travel, Saint Christopher, and people who had returned safely from a trip would come pay tribute to the statue. Now the place is marked by a well worn bronze marker. Why worn? It is said that if you touch the marker with your foot you will return to Paris some day.
You didn’t have to ask us twice.
What I think I liked most about the tour though was that it felt like we were being shown around Paris by a friend. Marie was bubbly, warm, and incredibly friendly, and the tour fun, informal, and very informative. You may not get to see all of Paris on this tour, but in a way I feel like you got to see more of the real Paris.