A few years ago, I visited the beautiful capital city of Paris with some friends.
We did everything “the tourist-way”. We ventured up the Eiffel tower and strolled along la Seine. Predictably, we took many photographs at all the must-see locations, and tried a traditional Parisian dish, the garlic snails! Overall, we had a wonderful time. But I can’t say I fell in love with Paris then.
A few years later, with a lot more stamps in my passport and knowledge about travelling, I returned to Paris. Only this time, I got to experience it through the eyes of a local. Looking back at it now, I can see that I learned so much more about the city the second time around. With the help of my local guide, I experienced the true beauty of the city and its culture. I learned how to eat like a Parisian, how to drink like a Parisian, and even how to talk like a Parisian (just a little bit over quite a few glasses of wine)! The experience was amazing, from start to finish. I returned to the U.K. with lots of beautiful memories, excited to share my stories and knowledge with my friends and family.
The person who made my experience so memorable was our local guide, François-Xavier Marquaire.
He is a luxury, wine, and spirit marketing expert who is currently working as a freelance marketing consultant, specialising in branding and heritage. It was a pleasure to spend the day with such an accomplished and well-travelled person. His breadth of knowledge was incredible, and it was obvious from the way he talked that he was a genuinely passionate man. Our experience consisted of a 4-hour walking tour in the morning, during which François showed us his own version Paris, and a private wine tasting in the evening.
François’s Version Of Paris
“The Thinker” is one of French sculptor’s August Rodin most famous sculptures
The LocalBini team and I met François at 9:00am, outside the Musée Rodin. Before entering, we walked around the Musée de l’Armée, the national military museum of France, to admire the exquisite architecture. After taking in our awe-inspiring surroundings, we entered the rose garden of Musée Rodin, which was in full bloom. It was the perfect setting to be delving into the history of renowned French sculptor August Rodin. We spent almost an hour there, gazing at the impressive sculptures, among which was the worldwide famous, and my personal favourite, sculpture, “The Thinker”.
After we left, we walked around some of the lesser known streets of Paris, which were surprisingly quiet given that it was a Friday. This was ideal as the purpose of the walking tour was to see Paris under a different light. It was so refreshing not to be in the crowded boulevards, along with the all the other tourists. We had the freedom and space to stop, observe, and really take in the beauty of Paris. On our way, we saw the Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of the French Prime Minister, which is located in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris. While we were walking, François was told us all about the history of the city. His passion and knowledge of history was truly remarkable.
The Café de Flore is one of the oldest cafés in Paris and is known for its famous clientele
When we entered the bustling Boulevard of Saint-Germaine, we paused for a moment to take in all the archaic buildings surrounding the street. We then we strolled down the Boulevard, passing by the famous Café de Flore on our way, taking in the vibrant ambience of the street. That was when I suddenly realised: Paris is breathtaking!
The famous Shakespeare Café in Paris
Mateusz and François outside The Shakespeare Café
Our next stop was the Île de la Cité, one of the two remaining natural islands in the Seine. After that, we navigated through the magical streets to enter the colourful 5th Arrondissement. There, we went to the Shakespeare Café, where we had a fun time people-watching. We also made a short stop at the famous Notre Dame. Before heading off to lunch, we ventured underground to the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. The memorial commemorates the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy, France to the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The architecture was extraordinary, and it was fortunately not too busy that day. In fact, it was quite peaceful and so we were able to read some of the many dedication plaques and engulf ourselves in the history of it all.
People resting on the green of The Place des Vosges to enjoy the gorgeous weather
Our walking tour eventually led us to The Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris, where we visited François’s favourite local bakery. Upon entering the bakery, we were all in heaven! After all, France is famous worldwide for its delightful pastry concoctions and mouth-watering desserts. There were just so many to choose from! When we eventually settled on what we wanted for lunch, we headed over to the green to enjoy our goodies.
Having finished our lunch, and learned a lot more about Paris and its history, we said goodbye to François. Our tour had come to an end. We had all had an amazing time with him, and we would luckily be meeting him again that evening for an intimate wine tasting experience. After parting with François, we explored Paris on our own for a few hours, following François’s recommendations on what we should see. We then headed off to our hotel to freshen up and prepare for the evening.
Wine Tasting Experience
At 6:00pm, we met with François again. This time, our experience was all about wine. He had invited us to a small and sophisticated wine shop in the heart of Paris. We sat around the long table in the cosy “Carnotzet” waiting for our first drink, Champagne. Before starting the tasting, François told us about the history of wine and how it is produced in great detail. He then handed out a manual called the “systematic approach to wine tasting”. It gave us information on how to taste and evaluate the wine.
The incredible variety of cheeses to match one of the delicious red wines
Over the course of the evening, we tried five different wines in total. And with each glass of wine, came a different type of food. I initially thought that we would only be sipping the wine, but we were, in fact, finishing every glass before moving on to the next! We learned that before you drink the wine, you must first examine the colour. Once you have taken in the colour, you move onto the smell. You may then choose to circle the wine around the glass a few times. After that comes the tasting, and the description. We drank, we ate, we laughed, up until it was time for the shop to close. Getting to share François’s passion with him was incredible, and I got to learn so much from him. It was definitely an experience I will treasure forever.
François and the LocalBini team enjoying their wine tasting experience
Overall, I can say with confidence that it was an unforgettable experience. It was insightful, eye-opening, and above all memorable. I got to see a completely different version of Paris than when I last visited it. There was no walking around looking for wifi, or googling where to go next. There were no awkward language barriers or moments of confusion. I could just relax and let my guide show me his city while absorbing all the information and interesting stories he was telling me. Most importantly, I got to discover a new way of travelling. One where I saw the city, not through the eyes of a tourist, but the eyes of a local. Seeing Paris from this perspective, I fell madly in love with it. I would not have done it any other way.