Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris opens with the exhilarating proposition of becoming your willing companion on thrilling, as yet undefined Parisian adventures, whether your flights have been booked or not.
Vanessa Grall a.k.a. MessyNessyChic, left her London home seven years ago with the intention of making Paris permanent. The city became her muse, her mentor and remains an open source of nostalgia for eras she has never lived through.
Don’t Be A Tourist In Paris speaks without arrogance, or any presumption that everyone can afford or even covet a hollow ideal of luxury. It’s more subtle – offering a well-rounded guide for curious travellers eager to be swept up in the magic of a city with fascinating history, oddments, architecture, laneways and secret gardens. Curiosity, after all, is free. And a wandering spirit cannot be bought.
‘Don’t Be A Tourist In Paris’ speaks without arrogance, or any presumption that everyone can afford, or even covet a hollow ideal of luxury. It’s more subtle – offering a well-rounded guide for curious travellers.
There are endless cheese and wine opportunities throughout, as well as tales describing American novelist Ernest Hemingway (or “Hem” as Grall affectionately calls him) and his various haunts as a resident during the 1920s. This ‘moveable feast‘ gives readers every opportunity to discover a face of Paris that has somehow remained hidden from view. A sultry bohemian world of artists, musicians and markets, even shared work spaces in old barns and former slaughterhouses, provides endless inspiration for writers.
A series of Museums are highlighted, giving the Louvre a run for its money, and based mainly on the quality of the experience (Grall asks, have you SEEN how small the Mona Lisa actually is?). You are led away from the masses in their queues and double decker buses, towards more independent museums, some which consist of heritage spaces that have not been renovated, ever. Some musées are former private homes of bygone Parisian socialites and are devoted to specific subjects like Edith Piaf and the sciences.
Of course an entire section of the guide is devoted to films set in Paris, and exploring the places where they are filmed. Before reaching this chapter, I had started thinking of Richard Linklater‘s version of the city in Before Sunset starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, as opposed to say… Amélie. And then, like a mystical collision of our worlds, Grall references Before Sunset as one of the most realistic depictions of Paris to ever come out of Hollywood. We are obviously crossing some sort of higher spiritual communication planes here.
Paris Syndrome is the official name for the transient, mental disorder people experience when they are overcome with shock at Paris not living up to expectations. To me, the mere mention of such a syndrome elicits visions of heavy queues, long waiting times and tourist-littered high streets – not the Paris you imagine when watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. ‘Don’t Be a Tourist…’ encourages travellers to find their own memorable places, and not dine out on clichés. Sometimes it’s referred to as the most romantic city in the world, however on romance, visitors needn’t worry about arriving as a single entity. Grall’s Paris is a wonderful place to wander freely and celebrate your independence, get lost in the days, visit secondhand bookshops, write, people watch and indulge in late night conversations with strangers. She wonders if, in a way, it’s better to experience Paris without the daily compromises having a companion brings.
‘Don’t Be a Tourist…’ encourages travellers to find their own memorable places, and not dine out on clichés.
Throughout the journey, the guide switches from would-be travel companion (giving ‘real time’ directions and hints), to emergency fantasy escape button – you can feel the buzz without having imminent plans to re-locate or take a vacation. By reading this book, you will feel like you’ve briefly escaped the routine and responsibility of daily life. Paris will suddenly feel like some place you will visit not someday, but one day soon.
Seen at top: 22 rue Delambre. All images courtesy ROADS.co
Edited by Tania Ogier @cheapsh0es