Everyone dreams of coming to Paris. But Christine Polini understands that every dream is unique to the dreamer. Some dream of taking a romantic boat cruise on the Seine. Others want to sit in an endless string of cafes and eat pastries. Still others dream of museums and losing themselves in the work of Master artists. What does your dream of Paris look like?
Whether you are planning your first trip to Paris, or you’re returning for the hundredth time, our resident Paris expert, Christine of Be Smart in Paris is dedicated to making people’s Paris dreams come true. Here she shares her insights as a native Parisian and professional tour guide in the City of Light.
Explore Paris Like a Parisian
“I’ve been living all my life in Paris. My ancestors discovered a plot of land in the Latin Quarter and they were allowed to buy it. They were poor chimney cleaners, but they built a little building and planted a beautiful garden, and many years later I was lucky to be born here. I’ve been strolling Parisian streets all of my life, seeing the gardens, going to school, sitting in the cafes with friends while watching the beautiful light change.”
In her former position as a director of communications, Christine often had the pleasure of arranging tours and activities for groups of lawyers visiting Paris. “I was not too impressed,” she says of the run-of-the-mill activities and tours available.“I worked with experts, but they didn’t realize that the visiting lawyers were just human beings who were falling in love with the city. The Eiffel Tower is impressive, but when you travel you want to discover, and you want to go back into the past. I wanted to tell stories and share anecdotes, I wanted them to have fun!”
So she left her communications position and began arranging her own tours, not just of the main Paris attractions, but also of the more hidden and intimate spaces in the city. “I adapt my tours to the people. Some people already know a lot about the city, so I can share with them more details. Others want just a feeling of Paris so I’ll give them some cultural anecdotes and history as we stroll through Paris and discover the city.”
Designing unusual tours for visitors was a particular delight. Christine’s Literary Tour takes guests along the Left Bank, around Odéon and Saint Germain des Prés where you can see the places where Gertrude Stein met with artists such as Picasso, Matisse, T. S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway. Bring a journal and spend some time writing or researching stories yourself in the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore.
The popular Gourmet Tour samples gastronomic favorites such as fluffy pastries, rich coffee, and delicious desserts. Visit Latin Quarter houses, century-old cafés and organic markets. Learn how bakers make melt-in-your mouth croissants, or purchase gourmet chocolates to send to friends back home. This tour is filled with the creative arts of the best cooks and food artisans in the world.
Where stay in Paris
A Boutique Shopping Tour is tailored to your personal style. Let Christine interview you to discover your favorite fashions and fabrics, and then be prepared for the best shopping experience of your life. As a personal shopping guide, Christine will take you to the boutiques that best suit your style and tastes. You’ll discover treasured jewels, step inside hidden ribbon houses, and be charmed by hat makers. The shops themselves have maintained historical integrity through the generations, so you will love the ornate facades and spectacular displays, even if you’re just window shopping!
These and other tours are available to guests of Luxury Retreats, but Christine says, “It’s much more fun to mix the tours together. It’s very interactive, and enriching to create a personalized agenda. For example, Discovering Paris is a walking tour. We’ll spend four hours walking and taking pictures, tasting ice cream or enjoying a beautiful pastry. We’ll sit at a cafe and sip cocktails, watching the people of Paris pass by. Then we’ll visit the Luxembourg Gardens and go for a carousel ride. It’s an experience people always remember.”
Christine seems to know everything about Paris culture, history, and the little gems the city has to offer. “Yet even now,” she says, “I’m still learning new stories about Paris – so many stories. We all like to be surprised with new little things just around the corner.” It seems that Hemingway himself would agree. He once said: “There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other.”
Be Smart in Paris also conducts personalized tours of the Palace of Versailles, Monet’s garden in Giverny, and the D-Day Beaches of Normandy. From finding the perfect boutique shops for your shopping spree, to leading a discussion on Hemingway’s influence on the city, Christine’s personalized approach will make your ideal Paris dreams come true. To organize a tour with Christine, speak to your concierge.
Where stay in Paris
Images: MarinaDa; CCParis; / Shutterstock.com