How many of you have heard a gleeful friend, when you tell them of your travels, say that you absolutely MUST take a walking tour? I know, a lot. But the problem I run into is that most walking tours are kind of… bland. You can either go on your own with headphones stuck in your ears listening to some voice droning on about the area you’re in, or you can get in a group of 20 people, straining to hear the guide, who’s inevitably holding a big silly stuffed animal high up on a stick so you know where he is and all the locals know to watch out for the major group of tourists.
And that’s no fun.
That’s where Urban Adventures comes in. I recently spent a day in Paris (I know, ONLY a day?!) and wanted to get more of a local flavor than what I could find on my map. I didn’t need anyone to show me the major sights – I had planned to do that on my own because I like to experience that stuff alone – but what I DID need was someone who knew where we were and what other people wouldn’t notice. Urban Adventures supplied me with a perfectly hilarious and engaging guide, Arthur, to lead the Experience Bohemian Paris tour.
A few things stood out to me on the tour: It was a small size (the group was Arthur, me, and a delightful Australian woman), Arthur was ACTUALLY a local and not just someone transplanted there to give tours (he even showed us the college he attended!), and we got to see some of the less-frequented things in Paris.
In addition to exploring the standards of Saint-Germain, the Notre Dame, Saint-Michel, the Pantheon, City Lights Bookstore, and the Luxembourg Gardens, we also got to stop into a cafe, Le Salle a Manger, to indulge in a charcuterie plate and some wine. Arthur showed us some beloved street graffiti (Space Invaders and Monsieur Chat – see the featured photo for this story!) and regaled us with stories of a park with a sultry background where lovers in an affair would go to… enjoy the scenery… We were luckily in Paris on the same day as the Chinese president, so we got to see a parade and take photos with the Republican National Guard.
The four-hour tour took us through some medieval shortcuts where we encountered a contraption women would use to haul themselves up into horse-drawn carriages, indulged in delicious macarons, and even saw one of France’s most famous celebrities. Vincent Cassel, do you know him? He was in Black Swan and the Oceans 11 movies. And he was riding a Segway, which we all had a good laugh about. My favorite bit of the tour was seeing the flood levels from the Seine painted on the side of a building along the river, with dates marking the event.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to play the bocce ball game included in the itinerary (we may have spent just a bit too much time lounging in the cafe), but the conversation and fun of the day more than made up for the loss.
Head to www.urbanadventures.com to sign up for your own tour – the Bohemian Paris tour is only EUR39 and well worth the money. I’ll definitely be booking more on future trips.