Airbnb experiences

French Revolution Paris Historic Walk: An Airbnb Experience

I first met Thierry Collegia in 2020. I’d embarked on an online tour of Paris and decided to attend the virtual Airbnb experience French Revolution Interactive Journey. A lovely married couple joined the host and me. They’d been to Paris somewhat recently and shared their vivid memories. I hadn’t been there since 2014 and couldn’t recall rich details like they could. I knew I would visit the Revolution-related sites Thierry transported us to via Zoom; I just didn’t know when.

Two years and a few months later, I attended French Revolution Paris Historic Walk. I joined the group in front of a bookshop in the Ier arrondissement. Thierry was outfitted with a microphone, small speaker, iPad, and trusty backpack. We greeted each other like old friends. The other attendees were surprised that we’d already met. I like when things come full circle. Judging by the Airbnb reviews, it is common for tourists to take multiple Parisology tours.

Although the experiences are geared toward tourists interested in history, others will find them beneficial. Any excuse to go for a walk in Paris is a good one. I saw the arcades of the Palais-Royal and the black and white colonnes de Buren for the first time. Le café Corazza, a former Jacobins meeting place, was a Manolo Blahnik. Inside, a slender customer modeled sparkly shoes. The group—there were about 11 of us—took a walk on Rue Saint-Honoré passed a handful of noteworthy brands: Castañer (#264), Maison Goyard (#233), Christian Louboutin (#400), and Longchamp (#404). The townhouse, turned hotel, that was once owned by the family of Adrienne de La Fayette stands at #211. Maximilien Robespierre’s former residence is located at #398.

In the middle of his story, Thierry assessed our tolerance for gore. I was reminded that the tour was about war and not window shopping. I told him that I was all in, and the others seemed ok with the decision I made for the group. We advanced to Place de la Concorde where Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and Robespierre were executed. I was immediately taken by the shiny golden plaque at the foot of the obelisk that pays homage to the king and queen.

Our two hours together came to an end. After a few photographs with the storyteller, the attendees said their goodbyes and left one family at a time until Thierry and I remained. We took some selfies in front of the obelisk to commemorate our first in-person meeting. Thierry departed to meet his next tour. I went to buy a new Longchamp. I knew we’d meet again; I just didn’t know when.

Mingle at the Market—Taste Paris: An Airbnb Experience

My tour of le marché d’Aligre and le marché couvert Beauvau with Natasha B. began with the humble chouquette. The attendees, all American, gathered in a circle on the pavement and selected a choux pastry from a white paper bag. If you see someone eating whilst standing, they aren’t French. This didn’t seem to bother anyone even after they had been informed.

As we walked towards the markets, Natasha gave us a brief introduction to French food and culture, which are one and the same. The window of Au Fin Gourmet served as a teaching aid. We stared at award-winning terrines and rillettes made of various meats, cuts of pork, and wheels of cheese through the window. The French believe in quality, a foreign concept for les Américains.

On our walk through the outdoor marché d’Aligre, Natasha pointed out serval gems from around the country. Ail rose de Lautrec from Occitanie, oignon de Roscoff from Bretagne, lemon from Nice, leeks, and asparagus. We tasted wild garlic from a market stall, fruits de mer from la poissonnerie Paris Pêche, and charcuterie from a pig who had a girlfriend and liked listening to Elvis.

Then we made ourselves comfortable in a narrow space between two vendors in le marché couvert Beauvau. Butter, cheese, bread, charcuterie, jambon beurre, and wine started coming. Seconds and thirds were had by all, standing up, eating French food in the most un-French way possible.

On to Aux Merveilleux de Fred for my first meringue. I never liked the way meringues looked; they reminded me of marshmallows. But it is necessary to try toutes les choses when on a food tour in France. Needless to say, I now like meringues, or at least ones from Fred. I left the shop with a perfectly-pronounced bonne soirée instead of the more-appropriate bonne journée. I didn’t have a care in the world by this point.

We arrive at Le Baron Rouge, one of Natasha’s favorite places in Paris. Reasonably-priced wine in barrels. Handwritten menus on chalkboards over a long bar. We squeezed our chairs around a round table. Our gracious host retrieves glasses and wine to fill them. Pastries—they could have been eclairs—are circulated. Natasha opens the white box she acquired from an undisclosed vendor to reveal a photogenic raspberry tart. The conversation sets in, mainly about higher education. The youngest attendee is shopping for colleges stateside. I hope she studies abroad in France.

Explore, speakeasy and hidden bars with fun entrances: An Airbnb Experience

When I have an opportunity to go out on the town, I take it because they are few and far between. I blame age and the adult responsibility of sticking to a schedule. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a [wo]man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” (Benjamin Franklin). I’d intended to schedule all of my solo activities during the day so that I’d make it home by nightfall. But when I saw a Parisian speakeasy tour on Airbnb, I couldn’t resist. It began at 7:30 PM and lasted at least till 10:00, way past what my bedtime is supposed to be.

“Explore, speakeasy and hidden bars with fun entrances,” recently renamed “Explore greatest bars – speakeasy & hidden gems edition,” was an experience to remember. I didn’t mind that all of the guests hailed from my home country. The concept of a speakeasy is challenging for non-Americans to comprehend, but because everyone was familiar with the prohibition period of U.S. history, we dispensed with the lesson. After the introductions, we got right to it. A mother-father-daughter trio from Florida, a grandmom-grandson duo from California, our host Ines, and moi.

Mobster Bar was our first stop. Entrance to the establishment was granted after answering a question via the telephone outside. I got a good look at the art deco interior as we were led to a room in the back. I raised a pressing question before ordering. Would we be permitted to pay for our drinks individually? The bartender was happy to bill us for our own alcohol consumption on the way out the door. I don’t remember exactly what I ordered, but I kept all my drinks that night mainly in the lime/mezcal/mojito family—a green Caribbean oasis comes to mind.

The second stop of the night was La Mezcaleria, aka the Oaxaca of Paris (my own coining). Accessed through the kitchen of a restaurant in the boutique hotel 1K, the interior was colorful. The wall-to-wall streamers, tapestries, and prints of the pillows on the low-profile lounge seating gave the space a warm tone. I imagined how the cocktail bar would have looked during the daytime with natural light streaming through the windows in the ceiling.

In contrast, our third stop, Candelaria, was reminiscent of a wine cellar. Accessed through a discreet door at the back of a taqueria, the pulse of the bar was the most vibrant of all three. For this reason, it may have been my favorite. Our host left us here. The trio from Florida had departed after we left La Mezcaleria, so it was up to O., his grandmom, and I to rally to the end, which we did. Our conversation clicked, and we could have talked even longer had it not been for the time. They walked me to République. O. claimed the role of navigator; thank goodness! Line 3 was a straight shot, and I felt safe in transit. As comrades do, we made sure that both parties were home before going to bed. The night was most memorable, and I wish I could repeat it.

Taste Wines With a Certified Sommelier: An Airbnb Experience

My goal of signing up for as many wine tastings in Paris as possible is progressing. The French would say that only a drunk drinks wine without food. Well, pas de problème! There’s always at least a bit of bread present. Long before my travel arrangements to France had been finalized, I’d planned to attend an educational session at Wine Tasting in Paris in the 5th arrondissement.

I first met sommelier and founder Thierry Givone in November 2020 during his virtual Airbnb Experience, Taste French Wines with a Parisian Somm. During the in-person session, Taste Wines with a Certified Sommelier, I realized that both versions of the experience are similar in structure. In fact, the same presentation slides are used. I felt like a star student reviewing material rather than seeing it for the first time—many “aha” moments were had. The content covers French wines by region—le terroir est tout—and is accessible to beginners.

At the in-person session, each participant was given one Champagne, two white wines, and three red wines. Tasting each one in unison allowed members of the group to discuss the same wine at the same time. The varieties present at the virtual tasting differed across participants, which limited tasting-and-likability-related comments. (If you book a private virtual tasting, arrangements could be made ahead of time to make sure everyone in your party is tasting the same thing.)

The conviviality of the 12 in-person attendees was a sight to behold. Everyone, except for one, was American, and many people discovered that they shared mutual universities and geographical areas of significance. Although I didn’t share a hometown or university with anyone, my love of French wine and knowledge of the French language served me well as talking points.

The tasting room is located up a hill at 14 Rue des Boulangers. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes, Adidas Stan Smith perhaps. Don’t worry about your lack of French or knowledge of wine; just be open to having a good time. Even the woman who declared that she didn’t like wine found at least one that appealed to her.

Further Reading

Taste French Wines with a Parisian Somm: An Airbnb Online Experience

Wine Tour de France in a Cozy Private Wine Bar: An Airbnb Experience

I booked a wine tasting last minute in the 9th Arrondissement at a bar à vin/caviste called Archibon. Wine Tour de France in a cozy private wine bar was hosted by Henri, who opened the establishment in 2016. He’d previously worked in the business sector but later decided to pursue his passion for wine full-time.

The bar is intimate. Mirrors line the walls. Stacked crates are stocked with bottles of wine. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and found Rue Rougemont quite quiet. Archibon is located at number 13.

I was the first guest to arrive. Henri and I chatted about my acquisition of the French language while we waited. I also tried — successfully, I might add — to refrain from eating the baguette, cheese, and charcuterie that had been placed at my table. Class began promptly when the other two guests arrived. One of them had studied wine, which, as I suspected, made for robust conversation.

The Airbnb experience was unique. It struck the perfect balance between formal wine class and casual tasting. Henri is skilled at making complicated information on wine production accessible. As a memoirist, I enjoyed hearing Henri tell the story of how he started his business and maintained it through 2020 and beyond. I also had the opportunity to put my senses to the test; we discussed the tasting notes of each of our six wines in great depth.

Although I took a few notes, I fully embraced the casualness of the occasion. There was plenty of room for questions, thoughts, disagreements, and personal stories. I left having connected with another sommelier in one of my favorite cities. One can never know too many people in the French wine industry. Needless to say, I plan to return.

Airbnb Parisian Flea Market Experience

Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is the biggest and best flea market I’ve ever visited. It’s located to the north, just outside of Paris. I took metro line 4 and disembarked at Porte de Clignancourt, meeting my guide and the other four members of our group just above ground. Mariana Diamantino, host of Parisian Flea Market Experience, is an expert at uncovering vintage finds. Initially, I’d considered exploring the market on my own, but I later realized that would have been a mistake.

Although my French is good enough to garner compliments, being accompanied by a French speaker was essential in this instance. Mariana was able to negotiate prices on my behalf; I’m not skilled at doing this in English, so I don’t think I’d be successful at it in French.

I don’t usually strike gold on thrifting trips, but I did on this occasion. Our last stop was what Mariana fondly calls the “down and dirty.” This is where the best bargains are found. Acquiring them requires searching through piles of clothes and boxes of accessories. I uncovered a navy trench coat and two sweaters at a stall. Actually, Mariana may have spotted the trench coat.

The vendor asked for 35€ for all three items, but Mariana was able to negotiate the amount I was able to pay, which was about 32€. Like most vendors, he didn’t accept credit card. Not only was I glad to have Mariana by my side to negotiate but also as a friend when the conversation with the vendor turned a little inappropriate. Some things were said in reference to all Americans supposedly being rich. I learned afterward that it is common for vendors to hike their prices for US visitors.

I highly recommend Mariana’s experience. Other tips: bring cash and a lightweight, foldable tote, secure your belongings, let any negative comments roll off your shoulders, and don’t engage with the men selling cigarettes by the Porte de Clignancourt metro stop or AirPods under the Périph.