A few weeks before our trip to Paris, I ran across a blog post about a program where volunteers give tourists a free private walking tour of the city. It sounded too good to be true. I immediately looked up Paris Greeters to get more information. Paris Greeters is an organization of volunteers who are passionate about sharing their city with visitors.
On their website, they have a spot to register for a walking tour. What really intrigued me is that we had no idea what part of Paris we’d be exploring. The volunteers live all over Paris and it’s surrounding areas. My husband and I are always looking for authentic experiences when traveling. This seemed like the perfect way to do it. I filled out the online form (and noted that we’d be with our baby and 3-year-old.) A few days later, Paris Greeters proposed a walking tour of Boulogne, a suburb of Paris. I had to Google it. This quiet neighborhood is known for 1930s Art Deco design. We excitedly confirmed the walking tour!
Paris Greeters Walking Tour
Our volunteer was Patrick Lucard, who we later learned was the President of Paris Boulogne Greeters, which is a “sister” or affiliated association of Pais Greeters. He was beyond fabulous! We met him at the Michel Ange Auteuil Metro stop and he suggested we grab coffee like true Parisians. We headed across the street to sip cappuccino at the bar. after getting to know each other a bit more, we found out that he had just returned from a trip to Seattle a few weeks prior, so it was nice to see what he thought of our city before we explored his!
Since we had our 3-year-old, he figured we might want to mosey toward a local park so he could run around a bit. We brought our stroller with us because our son had been done a lot of walking and we figured his little legs could use a break. Patrick offered to push our son around which made the walk even more enjoyable. I wore our baby in our Tula baby carrier and this freed my husband up to take photos along the walking tour.
One of the first things he showed us on our walk to the park was a vintage Art Nouveau “Metropolitan” sign by Hector Guimard. I’d seen this on a postcard but didn’t realize how rare it was to find. There are only 2 left in Paris. Then he started showing us the different styles of architecture. He explained how the second floor was the most desired floor and often featured a balcony. That’s the floor where the builder would live.
The park was a really wonderful experience. There were several nannies there with a handful of children. It was our first time in a park in Paris and our son was ecstatic to have the opportunity to run and play! Patrick and I sat on a bench and talked about life. He told me about how when he travels around Europe, it’s more about seeing great architecture, visiting historical sites and experiencing the culture. However, when he visits the United States, it’s like a dream vacation! I told him that when we visit Europe, we feel like it’s a dream because we get to see places we’ve only seen in books and movies and taste authentic food and hear other languages. We also talked a lot about the importance of learning other languages and exposing our children to other cultures through travel.
We decided to continue our walking tour and go “look at the fishies” and we headed to a nearby greenhouse. Patrick told us that this was a favorite spot to bring his daughters because it was never crowded. We only saw one person in the greenhouse and she was sketching in a notebook. It was really beautiful to see the different plants and to look at the little fish. They had just pruned so we didn’t get to see as many flowers as we had hoped. It was still very relaxing. We saw that it was raining outside, so we lingered a bit inside another greenhouse to stay warm and dry.
Coming from Seattle, we never let a little rain interrupt our plans. The Tennis Stadium was closed, so we just looked at it through the fence. But, Patrick was quick to think on his feet and he told us he had somewhere to show us.
He brought us to the Hotel Molitor Paris which was originally a swimming pool in the 1930s. They have kept the Art Deco vibe and the hotel is absolutely stunning. It’s the type of place where you could just relax at the hotel and soak in the cool vibes. Patrick took us inside to show us the original 1930s pool and it was breathtaking. He also was able to get us inside the spa area so we could get a look at the indoor pool. Not only was it a great way to warm up and stay dry, but it was definitely somewhere we never would have seen without our guide. He ended the walking tour by showing us Art Deco homes and the Rugby stadium.
This walking tour was a highlight of our entire trip to Europe. I recommend them to anyone traveling to Paris. Patrick immediately put us at ease and it truly felt like we were exploring Bolougne with a family friend. By the time our 3-hour-tour ended, we really felt like we were saying goodbye to a family member. It was so much more than just a tour of a city. My husband and I felt like we were in great hands. We cherished this opportunity to connect with a local Parisian.