Paris Greeters - a unique way to experience Paris

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

What better way to see a place than with a local guide? I have always tried to visit places where I have friends or have friends of friends. But that doesn't always pan out, no matter how hard I try.

I've been to some of the world's major metropolitan areas and felt a little bit lost in the shuffle. Sometimes I've been too dazed by the opportunities present in larger cities - Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong - to really get to know the place.

Recently, I learned of an incredible organization in one of my favorite cities, Paris. This organization, Paris Greeter, aims to help solve that too-common dilemma of many travelers of being stuck in a new city and learning about only the tourist attractions, and pairs visitors up with local volunteers for an afternoon.

 

I recently had the good fortune to sit down and interview the President of Paris Greeters, Dominique Cotto. Learning about Paris Greeters from him made me move the trip to Paris up to the top of our travel priorities list! You can find Paris Greeters at http://www.parisiendunjour.fr/index.php?lang=en

 

JV: Dominique, please tell us a little bit about your organization.

DC: Our association was created last July by Martine Debieuvre, who was recently elected Deputy mayor of Paris. She is still on the board as the founder of the association and she asked me to take over the presidency. We are very happy with our development. We have today 100 volunteers between 30 and 70 years old with many different backgrounds, speaking 10 different languages.


Around 300 visits have been organised since last July, quickly increasing these days with around 80 visits a month recently. 600 visitors have enjoyed our visits.

Parisien d'un jour is a proud member of the Global Greeter Network:
Argentina: Cicerones de Buenos Aires; Australia: Adelaide Greeter,
Melbourne Greeter Service; Canada: Tap into TO! (Toronto); France: Paris Greeter (Parisien d'un jour Parisien toujours), Les Greeters des Nantes; UK: Thanet Greeters; United States: Chicago Greeter, Golden Heart Greeter (Fairbanks, Alaska), Houston Greeters, Big Apple Greeter (New York City).

Parisien d'un jour is like the other Greeter associations - a non-profit
organisation that matches visitors with friendly and enthusiastic Parisians who are happy to share their knowledge on the city they love. Volunteers help travelers feel welcome and more confortable being and traveling in Paris. They will help them discover the district where they live, its history but also the little bars, the good restaurants and the hidden spots, that visitors would have no chance to discover by themselves. It is an unique occasion for them to be, for three to four hours, a true Parisian. Our volunteers can also show them how to use the public transportation or how to use our famous Velib system (bikes you can rent in the street and leave at your destination - the first 20 minutes are free).

 


During the visit, the volunteer and the visitors will exchange stories and views on their life, their culture, their vision of the world. The stroll generally ends around a glass in a bar, where the discussion can last few hours. The connection between volunteers and visitors can last longer; some visitors offering to the volunteer to reciprocate the visit in his/her country. Some visitors bring gifts from their country or can make donations to our association. Our volunteers cannot accept money for themselves.

Our volunteers are living in most of the 20th district of Paris. Our objective is to show Paris differently to our visitors, which means that we will not show them the big monuments like the Eiffel Tower or l'Arc de Triomphe, which they can easily visit by themselves, but more intimate parts of Paris like the back of Montmartre, la Goutte d'or, the Faubourg Saint Antoine, the latin quarter, the Marais, the village of Passy, the grands boulevards, the new district of the grande bibliothèque,....

Visitors can of course express a wish, but the visits will be organised depending of the availabilty of our volunteers. Most of the time visitors leave the choice open to us and they are quite happy of this opportunity of discovering a part of Paris they had no idea before.

Groups are limited to maximum 6 persons and are often composed of two to four, which makes exchanges reacher.

To summarize, our main goals is to use the human capital of our volunteers, to put some flesh, heat and heart around the history, the monuments and the iced-cold beauty of Paris.

JV: Dominique, can children come on these tours?

DC: Children are welcome on our tours.

JV: How far in advance should we contact Paris Greeters to set up a date?

DC: It is best to give us one or two weeks to prepare for your visit with a volunteer.

JV: Dominique, thank you SO much for this incredible information! I can't wait to get to Paris and visit with your organization. I will never view Paris the same way again!  Dominique, thank you for your time, and for your volunteers time. This is a fantastic concept, come to life with the love of place from real Parisians. Magnifique!

 

Paris Greeters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Paris Greeter

 

 

 

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