Across the acre directly in front of us, we spot children laughing, playing and having fun like their lives depended on it. Perhaps they did. Joy, wonder, and innocence creating an aura above their heads. A sight that instantly made me fall in love with this city.
We are waiting, waiting to be shown the secrets of Paris. As we wait we find ourselves mimicking the same movements as the children playing, jumping and hopping from pillar to pillar through this outside art structure. Black and white striped pillars erected from the floor in various sizes. Some large, some small, some that were too high to reach.
“The floor is LAVA” screams, Danielle.
This caused us both to jump to the nearest pillar in order to escape this new found “lava”. We both head for the same one, pushing and shoving, both with one foot safely planted on a pillar, then both feet, then back to one. Bodies clashing and shoving. There will be one winner, and that winner is me. With all my force, I hip bump her off the small island and into the lavas territory.
Where are you?
Upon celebrating my victory, I receive a message from our tour guide telling us where to meet. Realisation kicks in, and all of a sudden, I am beyond excited for what’s to come. I slide the message up and type my reply. Within a matter of minutes, we are in the spot he requested us to meet. This spot is littered with people, making it hard to spot someone we’ve never met, or seen.
I quickly pull out my phone and pull up the display picture of our tour guide. This will be the image I compare these people in front of me to. Walking around the square I look down at the photo and back up and every person that passes me by, nothing. I almost surrender efforts when a man strolls past me baring the same exact features of this profile picture, the only difference is this guy has facial hair. I turn to Danielle and ask what I should do. She suggests I go for it. Off I go, chasing after some random French man who may or may not be the guy I am looking for.
“Pardon” I shout in my best French accent. Hoping they wouldn’t turn around and laugh in my face.
As he turns to face me, his eyebrows rise and a smile forms on his face. This is the guy, obviously recognizing me from my own profile picture.
We found him.
Meeting New People
Sometime passes and we are well on our way into starting our tour. Lucien has introduced himself and made both Danielle and I feel really comfortable already. We bombard him with questions about his life and the area, extracting as much information as possible, truly fascinated by another way of living. We learn so much about his life, realising we have so much in common which is perfect. As all this chatting took place we ventured into an area known as ‘King’s Palace’ unaware of our movement, lost in conversation.
It’s here the tour officially started.
Lucien told us about its origin, the history over the years, its use, the type of people it attracted, how it has changed over the years and all with pictures from his IPad as visual aids. It was both impressive and incredible. Impressive that he was so prepared and spoke with such fluency and passion, incredible as the stories he spoke of and the events that took place in this square were just that.
We walked past the art installation, through a mesmerising middle section which has some dense background to it and into an open park area. Something that looked displaced in such a compact area of Paris. Lucien explained that once this park belonged to the king, privately owned and hidden from the people. That was back then, now this place is open to all that know of it, so vibrant, giving them peace and tranquillity in a hectic and non-stop city.
I snap some shots.
We continue to walk down one of the sides of the squares. Lucien pointing out shop entrances and their prior heritage. Allowing our minds to run manic and frantic around our heads with imagination and visions of what this place once was.
Out with The Old, In With The New
We exit the palace square and head out into the street. The once covered sun now beating down on our bodies. Lucien leads the way. We head down multiple streets, all with some story of interest. We pass building after building, all offering different characteristics. Some were old and aged, some new and modern, some tall, some small, some that offered a whole palette of colour and some that were as plain as the A4 paper in a printer. We walk past, opened mouth, amazed at the variety.
Suddenly, Lucien stops, looking up at an archway carved midway down this street. Stuck between two regular looking buildings. He explains that this is one of many secret passages located throughout the city. Places that offer all sorts of culture and heritage, shops, and restaurants, stories, and experiences. Explaining that sadly there are only around 20 or so left dotted around the city, compared to the original number of 200. This blows my mind. How has it come to the upsetting number of 20, a feature of the city that provides so much attraction and mystery, to be reduced to such a number.
In To The Unknown
We move on. In through the gaping mouth, dark and seductive. The sound of laughter, music and cheers pricking my ears. This place is magical. Imagine a Harry Potter/ Nanny Mchphy vibe. Old school shop windows illuminating homemade food and hand-crafted items, giving off an indoor market feel. The walkway in front is flooded with people, all hurrying about their day. Trying to see everything this city has to offer.
Above our heads, I notice natural light gliding down the walls. No artificial light even though we are now inside. Instead, the whole place is tinted with a yellow hue from the old stained windows acting as a roof. Adding to the rustic and aged vibe of this passage.
It’s Like a Different World
Lucien continues his talk, expressing his passion for the history of these areas. Displaying such emotion and engagement, he really does submerge us into the old ways of Paris. We walk through, exiting and entering various passages rearing off left and right. Taking us down contrasting walkways, some wide some slim, modern as well as old. Each new place we stride through my senses explode. The air containing different scents of freshly cooked food, my eyes adjusting to the different moods of light, my ears absorbing different sounds of restaurants working, people socialising and tourists conversing. It’s like we enter a different world every 20 minutes. Some passages flaunting themes; rustic French, hearty Italian or exotic Chinese. I’m in both amazement and wonder. These places are incredible, secretly hidden from the outside world.
As we slowly lure towards yet another exit I realise our time with Lucien is up. The tour is over. The past two hours we have allowed me to soak up so much information and so much knowledge that I no longer feel like a tourist. We break the darkness of the passage and enter into the light of the street, the light of Paris. It’s from here we make our own adventure and our own way through the city.
Turning to say goodbye to Lucien I shake his hand and thank him for both his time and company. Such a well-spoken, polite and passionate individual.
It was a pleasure to get to know him.
Onwards to our next adventure.
“I just want to say a massive thank you to both Lucien and the co-founder of Local Guddy Emre for showing me and Danielle such an amazing time and such great hospitality. The “Hidden Passages” Tour was mind-bogglingly interesting and Lucien himself is an asset to the team.
The company Local Guddy and their concept is something I feel strongly about as it allows residents of destinations to show tourists around safely and comfortably. Through their site, you can book meal experiences, attraction tours, night and day tours and a wide range of other services. It really does give you the chance to see and hear about allocation through the eyes and experiences of its locals.
I feel privileged to have worked with them to create this post and could not recommend them enough.
Go check them out for yourself by clicking the links below, they cover a huge range of locations, not just Paris.”
The tour details: