Living in Paris means that everyday you walk near historical monuments and wonderful buildings you get to ignore just because it’s the routine. A city has more to tell you than you expect, and that’s why I decided to visit Paris with a Greeter.
A Greeter is a person who perfectly knows the city and offers you a walking tour for free.
I had already heard about voluntary guides when I was in Sweden and I wanted to visit the Scandinavian cities, but this was the first time I tried.
I found the Greeter on THIS website where I subscribed. He wrote me back deciding which neighborhood we will be visiting. And the choice was: the 16ème (16th) arrondissement, not far from where I’m working.
We met at Trocadéro. He is a retired American form Philadelphia but knows a lot more than I would have expected about French history and culture. He also gave me some useful little tips to survive the city (for instance, did you know that you can drink without worries from green fountains but you have to avoid grey ones? And did you know that the best free toilets without queue are those of the cemeteries and museums?).
And then the visit began. We went to the “Cimetière de Passy” in front of the Trocadéro, where many famous people rest, among them, a ukranian princess. She rests in the biggest chapel of the cemetery. The inside of the chapel looks like an artist atelier because she was a painter. The greeter told us that there is a huge space problem in Paris cemeteries. Once in a while, if the family doesn’t show up, tombstone are removed. To keep their place, beautiful statues are built over tombstone or the corpse shares the chapel or tombstone with a more famous or prestigious family. I didn’t know so much about cemeteries and how hard it is to keep the memory alive.
But the visit was not just a walk along forgotten tombstones, we also saw beautiful buildings where famous people such as Edith Piaf and Maria Callas lived. We also stopped in front of the most famous butchery of the city, the house of Balzac and the hidden passage behind it (Balzac had many debts to pay and he used to runaway by the little passage, large enough for a carriage to pass!), an ancient monastery where monks used to store wine, Benjamin Franklin’s house and an ancient train station which was transformed in a restaurant.
I was rather surprised to discover that common buildings and streets hide mysterious stories and I would advise anybody to walk and discover even their own city with a greeter.