In 2008, the second year of my tours, I received an email from Catherine Jones from High Point, North Carolina. She wanted to know if I would take her and her girl scout troop of seven girls aged 15-21 on a tour and also find out details on how I could I become their BFF in Paris. I didn’t know what a BFF was at the time, so Catherine told me it me it was shorthand for Best Friend Forever. With such an endearing request, I had to say yes. I told Catherine the first order of business to be my BFF was she had to bring me Girl Scout Cookies. She showed up with six boxes of cookies and I almost went into a sugar coma, downing almost all of them in one sitting. I did two tours with the girls and we had the best time. It was one of the most rewarding and fun tours I have ever done. (I wrote about them on my blog in 2008, here is the link to the story.)Needless to say, Catherine and I stayed in touch, as BFF’S do, and she has sent me many tour clients since then and came back to Paris with her husband and did a Marais tour.
Last year i was excited again when Catherine told me she was planning another trip with a new troop of Girl Scouts. I thought another Marais tour would be the most fun, since I did it the first time around and the girls loved it, and a special French pastry class with my cooking class partner Charlotte.
Before they arrived in Paris, the girls went to Girl Guide Camp- Our Chalet- in Adelboden Switzerland, the first Girl Scout camp ever, built in 1932. They spent a week hiking, orienteering, rock climbing, and rappelling, with trips to Interlaken and Thun. The girls also went on an overnight hike and slept in a barn on haylofts with the cows.
By the time the girls hit Paris, I believe they were ready to trade in the country air and grassy meadows for big city lights, sights, and sounds.
I met the girls at St. Paul metro at 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon. There were two troop leaders, Catherine and Audrey, their assistant troop leader Karrah, and 8 girls, aged 17 and 18: Jackie, Ariana, Sara, Kassandra, Cierra, Katie, Logan, and Tori. (Such pretty names!).
We did my usual Marais hotspots, the magnificent former 17th century limestone palace, Hotel de Beauvais, where I related the juicy story about the former owner who in her late 30’s seduced a soon to be king when he was only 16, Izrael the dazzling mid-east gourmet shop chock full of dried fruits and barrels of pickles and olives, the rue Pont Philippe with its unique fashion, accessory, and paper boutiques, the charming cobblestone plaza with the Gothic St. Gervais church and a chocolate tasting at Puryicard confectionary shop. We strolled down the rue des Rosiers, smelling the spicy aroma of the famous falafel shops and Jewish bakeries and gourmet shops.
There is always a mandatory stop on all my tours for a pastry, so I took them to the chic, shiny designer éclair shop, L’ Éclair de Génie, where the girls ogled the colorful éclairs with exotic flavors like milk chocolate with mango, banana, and lime, salted butter caramel, pistachio and orange, raspberry and cherry, rose with vanilla cream, pecan and vanilla, mocha with white chocolate. We strolled over to the Place des Vosges and found a few benches under the canopy of trees in the shade to park ourselves on, and the girls inhaled the irresistible éclairs in about 15 seconds flat. In between bites, I spoke with some of them about where they were going to college or where they were planning on going after graduating next year (the girls either just graduated earlier that month or were going to be high school seniors in September).
The three hours were over quicker than I could snap my fingers, and I bid the girls adieu and hugged my BFF Catherine goodbye. Again, it was such a rewarding experience giving the girls their first taste of Paris and showing off the Marais.
The girls had a blast with Charlotte the next day, preparing 55 éclairs, and eating every last one.
I wanted a little more background on the girls before writing this post, so I emailed Catherine. She sent me a list of the girl’s names and accomplishments, and I was blown away. I can’t believe the important things they are up to at such a young age. When I was 18 my big concern was which shiny new shirt and what color platform shoes was I going to wear to the disco that night. Also, many of the girls are Girl Scout Gold Award winners, which is the highest rank a Girl Scout can achieve and only approximately 2% of them earn this rare honor.
Here is what Catherine told me is required for the award:
Since 1980, the Gold Award has inspired girls to find the greatness inside themselves and share their ideas and passions with their communities. In order to earn this award the girls must complete leadership training, take on a leadership role for at least 50 hours at school, church or in the community, earn at least 12 merit badges, investigate career choices and build their resume, research the needs of their community and decide how they will impact their world by designing and carrying out a community service project. The scout must have a minimum of 80 personal hours of leadership during her project and it must be a project that will have continued impact after she has left it.
It was honor and a privilege plus loads of fun to have had the opportunity to show these marvelous and impressive girls my slice of Paris and below is the list of their names and accomplishments.
Jackie Poston-just graduated (valedictorian), heading to UNC Chapel Hill to study Global Health and become a doctor
Ariana Martin-Just graduated (very close to the top of her class) heading to UNC Chapel Hill to study biology and become a doctor
Sara Scott-also just graduated, heading to Greensboro College to study Music Education
Logan Greene-12th grade, currently doing her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. Logan is starting a food backpack program during the summer for kids who don't' have enough food at home to be able to get a backpack full of nutritious food each week to take home with them from the local neighborhood recreation center.
Kassandra Villanueva-12th grade at a performing arts high school-studying classical guitar-doing her Gold Award project at her school by putting together a "Real World" fair for the 12th graders showing them what it’s like out "there"-how to get a loan, how to do a checking account, how to budget, how much does a cell phone cost, etc.
Cierra Seawright-12th grade-also at the performing arts high school and studying dance, modern and jazz. Doing her Gold Award project at a local elementary school getting donations of clothes, socks, underwear, coats, shoes etc. for this poor neighborhood school. She is creating a closet with an inventory control system and getting these companies to continually donate throughout the school year!!
Katie Wear-12th grade, her Gold Award project is running a music camp for 3-5 graders at the local YMCA, getting them involved in learning about music. She is planning the curriculum and getting her high school friends to bring their instruments-including drums!!-To show the kids what it's all about
Tori Novotny-12th grade, she just spent the last two school years in an international school in Shanghai China-her dad was transferred there for a few years. She is moving back to the states to finish her last year of high school in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
Tours cost 210 euros for up to 3 people, and 70 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am happy to announce the sale of a new set of prints of my Eye Prefer Paris Photos. I am offering 20 of my most popular and iconic images for sale including my doors, architectural details, statues, and monuments. They will make great gifts for all your Francophile friends, relatives, and colleagues but don't forget to buy some for yourself.
Click here to see photos and for full details including sizes, prices, and shipping. Here is a sample of some of the photos.