Mathilde, my local friend
Think back to that moment when you first landed in a foreign city and disorientation set in like a thick, heavy fog. If you were a girl or boy scout, maybe you could tell north from south, but buildings, perspectives, businesses and squares of sky blended together to form an impenetrable net of All Things Foreign. Armed with your map and your pocket translator you bravely approached passersby with questions ranging from the unavoidably inane (“Where can I buy a loaf of bread”) to the philosophically complex (“Where can I buy a good loaf of bread”). Animated discussions ensued, followed by an exchange of friendly smiles and you were left feeling more desperate than before because not only were you lost and hungry, you failed at survival challenge #2: communication.
Fear not! The Hip Paris team has just stumbled upon the aptly named “Rent a Local Friend”, an alternative tour service that sets you up with a friendly native to help you get over those first few moments of feeling like the city is an impenetrable mass of tourist traps and indistinguishable side streets.
I recently met with the lovely Mathilde, one of the Local Parisian Friends, for a little stroll through the Marais. Although I am familiar with the area, she knew to take me to Le Loir dans la Théière, an adorable tea parlor whose lemon tart sports an impressive 3-inch cloud of meringue. As we walked and chatted, she pointed out various boutiques to me based on what I had told her my interests to be, all of which I loved and made notes of for future reference. Although Mathilde grew up in Nice, her dislike of the metro and vow to cover the entire city on rollerblades helped her develop an intimate understanding of Paris’ quirks and hidden secrets. Depending on your personal inclinations, she might map out an itinerary for a weekend à deux, including romantic restaurants, picturesque walks and a conveniently situated florist; take you on a personalized tour of Montmartre’s non-touristy gems; or just help you pick out the perfect vintage bauble from her favorite outdoor craft markets.
In addition to tours, Rent a Local Friend also offers the option of creating custom itinerary booklets, thoroughly researched and neatly packaged for the modest sum of €25. Though you’ll miss out on the company of an actual native, we can’t really think of cheaper or more efficient way to really get what you want out of a foreign city, no matter what quirky or off-the-wall interests you may have. A fan of obscure heavy metal? Not a problem. If Mathilde can’t personally advise you on grungy punk nightclubs, she has her own set of local friends who can, and will, accompany you on your nocturnal treks.
Rent a Local Friend. Paris Tours: ½ day: €80, full day: €110. Booklets: €25.
Written by Geneviève Sandifer for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.