This summer is my “Summer of a Million Visitors.” Ok, so I stopped counting when I reached 20+ in two months, but it’s still a lot. I’ve had a ton of fun with my out-of-towners, but I’ve also learned a thing or two about travel in the city I’ve made my home thanks to them.
1. There is more than one way to do any given activity in Paris. Day of week (closures or free days) or time of day (hello, late night openings) can totally make a difference. Anywhere you go, try to discover when these options to help make your visit a bit more special, and hopefully will avoid some crowds. That’s why locals are awesome – they can save you time, energy, and money.
2. Just because everyone says you have to go to X or see Y or eat Z it doesn’t mean you’re going to love it just because they did. Think about what you love, and the kind of things that make you happy, and make those your priority. For instance, I was hanging out with my friends’ three daughters one afternoon (while the parents were off). I knew they were big tennis fans, so I took them to Hotel de Ville where the Roland Garros [French Open] finals were on live – not something you see everyday. I mean, if you have a thing for taxidermy, I even have some great recs for that!
3. Don’t be afraid to do something just because it’s “touristy.” In all the time I’ve spent in Paris, I had never been to the top of the Arc de Triumph until I had friends in town. I was very pleasantly surprised, and it’s one of my favorite views of Paris now. Just goes to show that even a “local” has things they can learn from visitors, and some things are worth seeing.
4. When I had dear friends in town for three days there were so many things I wanted to show them in so little time. We did a lot – maybe too much, but remember it’s ok if you don’t accomplish everything you set out to. It’s always nice to have an excuse to travel again and go back!
5. As someone who seems to have a constant stream of visitors in Paris, the best possible words you can hear from your friends’ mouths are “All we want to do is walk, people watch and drink wine.” This is a true statement, and from a friend who had never been to Europe before. It’s funny, with the pressure off to show them everything, I gave one of my best “tours” ever. It’s also what inspired me with Vayable.
Part of the fun of giving tours on Vayable is meeting new people and having the excuse to experience new things. Seeing Paris the same way gets old for me, but every time I meet up with someone I learn something new or think about Paris in a new way. I have a couple more tours in the works, but I created Navigate Paris because each time I go to a new place I want to get a basic understanding of where I am to get my bearings. Sometimes the obvious – things like how to buy a metro ticket or where streets signs are located – are not always evident until someone points them out to you. My goal is to empower people with knowledge, so after the session is over they feel like an expert themselves. I always love adding a local perspective too as we may our way through the day. But most importantly, I listen to whoever I’m showing around. I want to be able to show them my city in a way that makes sense and appeals to them. It helps challenge me to dig deeper too, and of course keeps things interesting. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but 9 times out of 10 I can tell the person where to go for more.
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Anne S. Ditmeyer is a graphic designer / editor based in Paris, France. Her blog, Prêt à Voyager looks at the intersection of travel and design, with an emphasis on her life in France. Follow her adventures on Twitter, Instagram & Everplaces.