Every year I promise myself that I won’t get all sappy and sentimental at the end of the year, and every year without fail I break that promise. I can’t help it. There’s something about the end of a calendar year that makes me want to reflect on the past 12 months and remember all that happened. Both the good and the bad. This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past season I’ve had as a tour guide. Like any job, it has had its ups and downs, but at the end of the day I truly love being a tour guide. Thankfully, I have hundreds of memories from this past year to remind me just exactly why I love it so much.
I have the good fortune of leading tours all over France, but this year was the year where one stood out among the rest. Mont St. Michel (pictured above). I visited this magnificent site over 60 times this year, and the sight never failed to take my breath away. Mont St. Michel is a 13th century church and abbey sitting on top of a hunk of granite in the middle of a bay, and simply put it is spectacular. There’s a reason why it’s the most visited site in all of France outside of the greater Paris region. In fact, I often ask people why they choose to make the long trek out to Mont St. Michel from Paris, and more often than not the answer is that they just had to. To see Mont St. Michel is a bucket list item for them, and I love being a part of checking that item off of their list.
One of the things that I love the most about my job is that it allows me to constantly learn new things. French history is vast and complex and absolutely fascinating, and even if I do manage to learn it all, there’s the rest of Europe to dive into once I’m done with France. That’s why I never stop learning and adding new information to my tours. Or creating completely new ones! At the beginning of this year I decided that I wanted to learn more about the intricacies of the French Revolution, and as a result of my research, I ended up creating an entire tour around that period in history. While the prospect of tackling such a huge topic was daunting at first, it’s now become one of my favourite tours to give.
As anyone who works in customer service will tell you, sometimes the people you get on tour are interesting to say the least. However, I’ve been fortunate that after all my years working in this industry, I can still count the truly bad experiences on one hand. That’s because the people on my tours are consistently some of the most lovely and wonderful people with whom you could hope to spend the day. People dream their whole life of coming to Paris, and I get to be a part of making their dreams come true. When someone’s eyes light up when they see the Eiffel Tower or Mont St. Michel or Chateau de Chambord for the first time, I’m filled with the awe and wonder these sites inspire all over again. It really can be a magical moment.
While this past year was filled with so many memorable interactions, there is one that I believe will stand as a highlight of my career. It happened last spring when I took a mother and daughter to see the original Chanel store on Rue de Cambon in Paris. When I pointed out the iconic mirrored staircase, the mother, to use the technical term, completely lost her mind. Upon seeing her reaction, one of the store employees allowed her to have her picture taken on the staircase. Needless to say, happy tears were shed, and the picture we got was amazing. It was a moment of such pure, unadulterated joy, I feel privileged to have simply witnessed it. I certainly know I will never forget it.
Looking to the year ahead
I launched Story of a City in September because I love Paris and the stories that make this city so special. More importantly, I want to share these stories with others. The response so far has been overwhelming, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their kind words and support. I’m going to be taking a break over the holidays, but I will be back in the new year with lots more stories, features, and tours. I have big plans for Story of a City, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.