Paris, Like the First Time

No big deal...
Seeing Paris through a first-timer’s eyes is a precious experience. Just when I think that the Eiffel Tower is boring, that Notre Dame is dull, or that the Opera is just kind of blah, a tourist comes around with an audible, “Wow” as we take in the view from in front of the Sacre Coeur and I am revived.

This is the coolest part about being a tour guide. Having just wrapped up a few weeks of intense guiding with a few Paris newbees of all ages, I feel like Paris and I have hit the reset button for a moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am chomping at the bit to get out of the city for some vacation, but I feel like I’ve readjusted my appreciation of the city, tightening it up just ever so.

Tour guiding is one of those professions like journalist or barista that just anyone can do – and I have done them all – with the right training. You don’t need a degree in tourism and hospitality to share a city with visitors. You need a bit of passion and a sprinkling of knowledge and voila, you can do it. Of course it’s not in everyone’s comfort zone to get in front of a group and spout stories from the 1600s in Paris, but I made it work for me. It’s easy, however, to get jaded.
Just the Louvre...
Inevitably the job has its downsides. A big chunk of that falls between October and March when no one wants to go on a walking tour of the city, but that’s why it’s a part-time gig.

Then there are the tourists themselves. I start to forget who I told what to, and the stories about Henri II or Napoléon simply become rote.

While I think I’ve only ever had delightful people to guide around, there are still the occasional few questions that make me wonder how I got into this line of work.

Some tower...
“Why are there two buttons on the toilet to flush it?” was a question that doesn’t come up in the history books.

“I want to go to the neighborhood with all of the pastries,” wrote one tourist, who I imagine thought that Parisians sequester croissants and macarons into one neighborhood to keep from indulging.

“Wait, aren’t we in Italy?” asked one youngster who had yet to study much European geography.

I dutifully and respectfully respond to such questions, very much aware that a first trip to Paris is nothing short of bewildering. And not just because I am getting paid to do so.

I remember what it was like to see Paris for the first time, to wonder why there was a fountain with moving lips and what that giant arch with the lights on it was doing in the middle of the street. I remember wondering why Nutella was everywhere. I remember taking the metro for the first time and wondering why I had to open my own door.

What I wouldn’t give to have those questions again…