Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m the only native Parisian of Paris city blog. But I’m also the only one who lives outside Paris, in Colombes (only 10 km from Notre-Dame, but already in the suburbs…). After I travelled and lived abroad, I had many occasions to host friends, who were so happy to know someone in Paris who could host them and make them visit. And I must admit that I really appreciated that too, and it allowed me to learn so many things about my own city and country.
I’ve got a scientific and technological background (I studied engineering), and was not very interested in arts and history, not even languages, when I was at school. But things can change: I realised during my travels that I actually loved these disciplines, and really got more interest with classic culture. It also made me discover huge parts of my own country’s history and heritage, and I’m still discovering and learning everyday!!
Do you like being a Spotter?
Being a spotter is a great occasion to complete my knowledge of Paris and it is an alternative way to diffuse my passion to others. Even if I love guiding my friends or couch-surfers in Paris, I also love walking or cycling in its roads on my own, which offers obviously more liberty, and gives occasion to explore neighbourhoods that tourists for the first time in Paris don’t necessarily consider priorities.
It’s also a great occasion to take pictures, and I’m now used to have my camera whatever the weather, whatever the season, and not only to take pictures to illustrate my articles. Making pictures is a way to see how a same place can change according to different factors (mostly moment of the day, time of the year, weather), and it’s then possible to catch impressions or feelings sometimes better than just passing by.
Paris is my town, where I grew up. I didn’t even have to choose it! Paris is so famous, and sometimes so idealized all over the world that everyone coming here the first time has already some kind of idea of what he/she expects, with a list of “must do” attractions that it’s really difficult to make change! That’s why it’s always more interesting to guide people who are visiting Paris for the second or third time.
I would say that Eiffel tower and above all the Champs-Elysées are not at all “compulsory” to visit, since they are a bit isolated from the rest and it’s not so nice to walk in these areas… But at the same time I can understand the attraction that the so symbolic Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe – seen all over the world on postcards – can have on tourists. In that way, it’s really great to be a Parisian, there are so many sites you can just escape because they don’t have the same symbolic meaning for a new visitor and for a local…
What I would consider a “must do” would be, once again, having a rest, a break (even a picnic in spring/summer time) on a gorgeous square like Place Dauphine or Place des Vosges, enjoying a walk at sunset along the banks of the Seine or mixing with the crowd at the Pont des Arts… That’s a really Parisian thing!
Which prejudices about Paris are true? Which ones are not?
I don’t really like prejudices and try not even to listen to them. But I heard that Parisians were arrogant, not really friendly, and that they are unable to speak English. That’s probably partly true, even if I think that in this cliché, “Parisian” should be understood as the classic bourgeois Parisian, mostly from Western wealthy districts of the Right Bank, and who still has a certain complex of superiority… Or the provincial (most Parisians actually have background somewhere else in France) who was raised in a nostalgic regional culture or who never adapted to Paris: many Parisians actually love to hate Paris and idealizing their regional origin, that’s a typical French paradox.
It’s also partly true that French people don’t like speaking English. And historically justified, since French language has long been the dominant language in the world, and was considered as a language “of culture”, due to the many authors, philosophers, artists, who adopted this language. Now I guess that many French people are unconsciously frustrated to see French’s once leading position substituted by a language whose international success is mostly based on “under-culture” represented by world trade, advertisement, McDonald’s, Disneyland and Hollywood blockbusters… But actually, most French people appreciate foreigners who make an effort to speak few words of French and politely ask if their interlocutor speaks English… With such a good start, many French people will be happy to help and speak English if they can!
Finally, Paris is said to be very expensive, but it also has a great range of free – or very cheap – possibilities. The city bikes Velib, for example, are really widespread and can be a great option both to travel and to discover the city at a very low cost. Open air film festivals, along with the picnic culture – very popular in Paris! – also show it is possible to have a convivial moment at low cost. And lots of bars and restaurants – of course you have to know them, and that’s also why Spotted by Locals is here! – can be quite cheap too! But you often have to go off the beaten track: since Paris is the first touristic destination in the world, the owners of bars and restaurants in touristic areas know they will always attract people even if they practise abusive prices!
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
If the weather is fine, I would obviously privilege places outside. There are so nice gardens in Paris, with according to me a great balance between the green (trees, lawns…) and the décor (statues, fountains, old buildings, art exhibitions…). Palais Royal gardens are the best example to me. I love going there, resting on one of the recline chairs, having a nap or read a book, and observing people of course. Here people are relaxed, you never see them running (well, except joggers of course).
Even if I have to work on my computer, public gardens or parks are a great option, since most of them have free wi-fi access I would rather have a falafel or a crepe rather than a real meal at a restaurant, and enjoy it outside too, and then enjoy a walk or a bike ride.
If the weather is not fine, I’d rather visit an exhibition, see a film (in the Nouveau Latina for example, which also has a cool café to relax), and if I still want to watch people, I can go to eat or have a drink in the Passage Brady, a covered passage that looks like a popular street, but which is protected of the rain…
Check out the other interviews with our Spotters