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backstreets

Walking around a big city with a knowledgeable local friend is undoubtedly the best way to see it – but if you don’t have a handy buddy, here’s the very best next thing – a date with a Greeter!  Which is what we had yesterday in Paris and what fun it was.

We met Jean-Claude outside the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station and set off up the back streets of Montmartre.

Like most people, I’d previously slogged up the hill to admire the view, the Sacre Coeur, the painters in the square etc, but hadn’t really been around the area that was until recently a village.  There are some beautiful little cobbled streets full of pretty houses which used to be run-down dwellings; these are now gentrified and so sought-after that they never get as far the local estate agent’s window.  One of the benefits of being with Jean-Claude is that he could tell us how much these were selling for and which actor was tucked away in that particular house with the stunning roof-garden. Fascinating.

Without our Greeter, we wouldn't have known this was the shop in 'Amelie'

Without our Greeter, we wouldn’t have known this was the shop in ‘Amelie’

How Does it Work? You email a couple of weeks before you get there, with your language and telling them which day you want your tour.  They then reply with a suggested Greeter and neighbourhood. If it’s not one you wish to explore, you can ask for a second suggestion.  Their Greeters, between them, offer French, English, Spanish, Italian and Portugese tours of many Parisian locations. 

Who are they?  Generally people who have nothing to do with the tourist industry – our Jean-Claude works in finance – but who love the area they live in and want to share it with visitors.  It is entirely voluntary on their part – you can, if you wish, give a small online donation for admin. They are 50/50 M/F, some retired people, others young pre-family types.

Other places?  It’s a global organisation that started in NYC back in 1992 and in Paris in 2007.  France now has the biggest network with  20 associations…but there are others in China, Croatia, Australia and so on.  Our nearest is the Marseille Provence Greeters association.  Details on www.globalgreeternetwork.info

Thanks to our Paris Greeter

Thanks to our Paris Greeter

Our walk was a great success.  Jean-Claude suggested 3 hours but, with aching feet after 2 hours (those cobbles!!), we dragged him off to a café for coffee where he introduced us to some of his local friends.

What a fun way to spend a morning in Paris!

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