We're just finishing up a week in Paris, and I wanted to share two wonderful experiences that I'd encourage anyone coming to the city to take advantage of.
One is Meet the Parisians at Work
. We took the behind-the-scenes bakery tour, which was fascinating. This article
is a very good description of the tour we took, so I won't bother to take the time now to write any more about it now. (Be sure to check out the photo link with the article). It only cost 6 euro per person, and was more than worth it. Both the baker, Claude, and Laurence, the translator who runs the program, did a fabulous job of communicating their knowledge and enthusiasm.
The other program we took advantage of was Paris Greeters
. Fill out the email form on their web site, and a representative of the group will contact you (in our case it was about a week before we left home) with a suggested time and meeting place. The web site says that you can ask for a tour of specific places, or geared to certain interests. We didn't feel that we needed a tour, since we have spent a lot of time in Paris, but were really just more interested in meeting and talking with a local Parisian. The person we met was Nicolas, a young Frenchman who lives just off Boulevard St. Germain, not far from Notre Dame, where we met up. We decided to go out to dinner at a little local cafe, where we had a wonderful time talking with him. He is very interested in politics and shared a lot of his thoughts about Sarkozy and the French political scene in general. He was so interesting, personable, polite, well-spoken, and intelligent — really a wonderful representative for his country and his age group. We could have almost been his grandparents, but he didn't seem at all put off by spending the evening with the "older generation." We did pay for his dinner, although that would not have been necessary, because we felt he was so generous to share his time and knowledge with us.
I know a few people here are traveling to Paris soon with teenagers, and I can tell you that if you sign up for this program and are lucky enough to connect with Nicolas, any young woman would probably be very taken with him — he's not only smart and fun but very good looking!
This was the night before we went to Chantilly, and we were still a bit uncertain about the strike situation, so after a long and leisurely dinner, Nicolas took us up to his apartment so that he could check the latest news on his computer and reassure us that everything was okay. He and his roommate even looked up the train schedule for us and wrote down the train times.
So I recommend that anyone who is spending time in Paris soon check out these programs. Along with the great times we had getting together with a couple of other Slow Travelers in town, these experiences made our visit this week very special.