We first met the lovely Kari Geltemeyer when she stayed in Haven in Paris’ Livingstone flat and have been hooked on her witty writing and great photography ever since. Here are some musings and images from her latest trip to Paris this May… -Geneviève

Hi. My name is Kari, and I am a tourist. A lot of people don’t like to admit this, or feel guilty about it, and those people refer to themselves as “travelers.” That’s fine; we become what we wish to be, etc. But I’ve decided to embrace the “tourist” label wholeheartedly, unabashedly, with gusto—mostly because it takes too much energy not to.

According to Merriam-Webster, a tourist is “one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture” (no mention of fanny packs). I enjoy the culture, yes, but I go to Paris for the pleasure. I waited 40 years before I saw this city and now I love it the way I first loved New York, cinematically, as a hopelessly romantic construct no reality can touch.

Must be something in the air. I stumble around, staring up at the rooftops—those rooftops!—and the nonverbal part of my brain just takes over, the part that processes beauty and joy and awe, the part that wouldn’t be able to translate the emotion into language even if I spoke the language. (I do not. I flail and I fumble and I manage, but I deeply, fundamentally do not.)

Where’s the language that would explain what I’m seeing when I cross over the Pont Louis Philippe in the morning, when the day is new and the light shines on the streets just like that, or when I sit on the Quai de Bourbon at sunset and watch the sky fall away while the city rises?

What words could tell you, “This is the calm I feel in the garden at the Musée Rodin,” or “This is the way my heart beats every time Notre Dame comes into view”? There are none. A fool in love can’t say how or why, only “More, please.”

And it’s because of this—the simple inexpressible translation of pleasure—that I don’t have the time to pretend I’m anything other than a tourist. Struggling to conceal it made me timid, and timidity is the one thing you can’t afford when you travel. Really, it’s just an enormous waste of time.

That’s not to say that as a tourist I mock the locals or spend all my time at McDonald’s and the Gap. I behave the same way I would as a guest in anyone’s home: I do my best to understand the culture, I say please and thank you, and I keep my feet off the furniture.

But as a tourist I carry my enormous camera everywhere and photograph everything. I take the train out to Giverny to see Monet’s gardens on a Sunday.

I eat croissants for breakfast at sidewalk cafés. I pack a bottle of wine and a baguette and picnic on the Seine at sunset. I sit for hours in the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Tuileries and sign up for a river cruise I’ve taken once before, and at the end of my trip I ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, just for the view. Just for the pleasure.

Related Links:

  • Kari’s website,  blog and flickr account
  • Kari’s appeared twice on the HiP Paris blog before, here and here.
  • HiP friend Linda Donahue from Parisien Salon reports on her first experiences of Paris here and here.

Written by Kari Geltemeyer for the HiP Paris Blog. All images also by Kari Geltemeyer. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


Kari Geltemeyer

Kari Geltemeyer is a midwestern New Yorker. She is a full-time interactive project manager, occasional copywriter, crackerjack copyeditor & proofreader. She loves foreign films, hot dogs, travel, polka dots, modern technology, old-fashioned manners, books in any format, the word “gubernatorial,” and the mighty, mighty exclamation mark!


  1. Two weeks and I will be back in Paris as a tourist. I was getting worried again about looking like a tourist – so glad you reminded me to just enjoy. Love the sneakers!

  2. To use a cliche, it’s a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that no words can describe. Yet yours definitely brought back that lung-filling, all-consuming feeling of sheer delight and mystique that is only in Paris. It’s an indescribable rush of emotions – joy, amazement, inherent energy – from the moment you take those first steps out of the metro and into the Parisian air. Thank you for sharing … It makes me even more giddy about my next trip – just four more weeks!

  3. I love that you are proud to be a tourist! As a military wife, my family is constantly moving and traveling to new countries. We certainly make sure to respect the local laws and customs, and try not to stand out in an annoying way — for example — with fanny packs and booming voices. But we proudly carry our cameras and soak in the delights that each place has to offer.

  4. A pleasant experience .. There are several types of tourist , some like culture, food, and tourist attractions .. Hopefully someday I can visit to Paris .. It will definitely give an amazing experience ..

  5. This is gorgeously written. It captures, flawlessly, exactly what I felt in Paris, what I feel in New York, in the middle of wine country a few weeks ago, and what I hope to feel in Italy next year.

    More than that, your words and your photos make me long to be back in Paris again, staring at those rooftops, tearing at a baguette, and being in absolute awe of the city that took my breath away and captured my heart.

  6. being a tourist is ok isn’t it? carry the camera, stand in line at angelina. photograph the cobbles. nothing wrong with it at all.

  7. That’s sweet, Lynn, thank you. The experience is indeed very close to indescribable. (& thanks, Lindsey!)

  8. Thank you for putting into words the difficulty of putting into words the effect Paris can have on you 🙂 My friends ask me, and I end up stumbling — now I’ll just send them this blog post.

  9. I’m glad that came across! On my first trip I was so worried about trying to blend in with the locals (an impossible goal regardless) that I realized I was missing everything. Everyone travels differently, but I’m no longer embarrassed to be seen with my trusty Penguin Mapguide.

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