Today, after a little housekeeping here at the flat, I had a tour of the Latin Quarter with a Paris Greeter by the name of Mehmet.
I read about the Paris Greeter program when I was doing research for my trip, and it sounded wonderful. It is entirely staffed with volunteers, and its purpose is to allow Parisians to share a little part of the city (and their love for it) with people who come here to visit. It is more "someone showing you around their neighborhood" than it is a formal tour. Which sounded great to me!
You sign up on their website, and let them know (preferably at least two weeks in advance) which days you might like to take a tour, which language you'd like the tour given in, and if you have any special needs (like perhaps someone in the group who doesn't do well with a lot of stairs). They pair you up with a greeter, who e-mails you, offers a tour in a specific area at a specific date and time, and asks if you would like to take that walk.
I received an e-mail from Mehmet, who asked if I would like to tour the Latin Quarter -- historically the student section of the city, just north of the "iles." I said that sounded fantastic! We agreed to meet late this afternoon at Saint Sulplice Metro Station.
I got a little bit turned around, and was a few minutes late, but thankfully Mehmet waited for me. Then he proceeded to take me on a lovely tour of the Latin Quarter -- during which we had a lovely conversation. I think that's the best thing about the program. I can look up facts in my guidebook -- but having a chat with someone who lives in the city and love the city is something else entirely! As we visited Saint Sulplice and Saint Germaine churches, strolled past the Sorbonne and other major universities, spotted Les Deux Maggots (famous hangout of Sartre and Beauvoir and Hemingway), and stopped by the Pantheon, we chatted about everything from philosophy and religion to education and the cool time-telling gizmo in St. Germaine.
Mehmet was born in Turkey, but has lived in Paris for more than twenty years. He's an engineer, who works for a local engineering firm. He is fairly new to being a greeter, and said that he started doing it because he's traveled to several other cities, and really appreciated having guides. So he thought he might try it!
|The Saint Sulpice organ.|
|The gnomon. Taking this picture, the window through which the light comes is behind me. You can see that the line runs all the way up the far wall. It was completed in 1743, and is a really impressive sundial doohickey.|
|Les Deux Magots. Must go back and have a drink there.|
|My Paris Greeter guide, Mehmet, in front of Saint Germaine church.|
|A little street in the Latin Quarter. That is the oldest restaurant in Paris!|
|Ellen at the Pantheon! "Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante." (To the great men, the grateful homeland.) Great men (and a few women) of France are interred here. Must come back and see inside (and upstairs!).|
After my tour, I met Eliza for dinner and more conversation. She goes to Princeton, but is here doing research for her dissertation on things medieval and french. It was lovely to see a familiar face! We had a very nice talk, catching up a bit over a wonderful dinner of crepes and cider. (Apparently cider -- hard and slightly dry -- is just the thing to have with your crepes). I started with a crepe filled with blue cheese, bacon, creme freshe and lardons, and then we both had dessert crepes with caramel sauce, almonds and vanilla ice cream. Oh, the decadence!!
|Eliza, with fantastic dessert crepes!|
|French sweets. The shop smelled like some sort of chocolate heaven.|