When I visited Paris for the first time, I was approximately 9 or 10 years younger than I am now, and stayed inside the comfortable bubble of touristy areas, with my family. In mid October I finally had another opportunity to visit Paris. This time around my trip to Paris involved travelling with my trusty travel companion, and boyfriend, James. Prior to our trip I yearned to venture beyond the sheltered bubble, of France’s tourist accommodations and attractions, and experience Paris like a local.
The second our plane arrived in Paris we were instantaneously immersed in the crowded chaos of the city’s downtown core. Thanks to Airbnb James and I had a unique opportunity, to spend three days, in an apartment building that’s inhabited by Parisian locals, while making the same, everyday purchases as Paris’ residents, however it was impossible to overlook the fact that we were foreigners, far away from home.
Throughout our stay we faced the challenges of being Canadians, navigating a slightly different culture than our own, while trying to get by in a Francophone city, armed with nothing but basic, “survival” French. There were moments of victory, where we managed to order meals in restaurants, and purchase items, a hundred percent, “en Français”; unfortunately lacking fluency in a country’s language and culture can be challenging, especially once you add inevitable factors such as hunger and exhaustion.
On day two James and I met up with Melissa, a Paris based Lokafyer from Seattle. Melissa taught us crucial tidbits about French culture such as the fact that it’s considered rude to walk into a room in France, without introducing yourself, something that took me some time to get used to not only as a Toronto native, but also a habitual introvert. Melissa also gave us an honest overview of what relying on the Metro, on a daily basis, is really like, and answered our burning questions about the Parisian, Laissez Faire attitude towards driving, and crossing at traffic lights and major intersections. Despite cultural and language barriers we managed to find our way through Paris the exact same way as many of Paris’ locals (via the Metro and by foot), free of the sheltered environment, of the tour buses that repetitively passed us by.
A lot of the tours I’ve been on are like being in school again however our tour with Melissa was the opposite of that; it was about us, and making our Paris experience a lot more enjoyable, not only throughout our stay, but also, if for whatever reason, we found ourselves moving to Paris, in the future. For instance there was none of the typically tour guide-esque statements such as “here’s the Eiffel Tower, isn’t it beautiful,” it was a lot more genuine and personal than that. It was about providing us with an afternoon of cultural immersion, and bringing us to coffee shops, neighborhoods, and wine and cheese places, that she loves, and visits on a regular basis. Our tour successfully ensured that everyone, including Melissa, had fun, while connecting on a basic, human, emotional level.
When the tour was complete, and Melissa left, not only did we both feel as if we’d been on an enjoyable/informative tour, but we also felt something that’s equally important: a mutual feeling of genuinely getting to know someone that lives in the place we were visiting. Anyone that plans to travel to either Paris or Toronto should definitely consider booking a Lokafy tour, because it’s like being shown around an unfamiliar city, by your best friend, family member, or next-door neighbour.