We followed her up to the top floor, this friendly French girl who I had never seen before in my life but knew I could trust. I had contacted her through an international travelers’ network called Hospitality Club, and we had emailed back and forth for a couple of months. She had agreed to have my husband and I stay at her flat while we were visiting Paris.
Little did we know that not only were we going to receive comfortable lodging, but also a juicy slice of typical Parisian life, and a tour of the city through a local’s eyes. And the most incredible part–this was all absolutely free. You read this right… free lodging in Paris
Elise lived in a mezzanine flat. As she opened the door and graciously showed us in, I was hit by the strong scent of goat cheese and the warmth of something freshly baked. Elise had just prepared a goat cheese, mushroom and leek pie in honor of our arrival. It was a perfect welcome, especially in such damp weather. As we dug into the rich pastry, adjusting to each others’ accents, sharing little details about our trip and hearing about her work day, I felt we were experiencing the true meaning of Hospitality Club.
From the windows of her flat in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, we watched the laser light show of the Eiffel Tower glowing through the fog of distance like a lighthouse in the city. I admitted that I was entranced by it, and was quickly informed that this laser light feature was not all that popular with Parisians.
The next day, Elise made sure to take us through the usual touristy spots, like Notre Dame, which was ridiculously overcrowded and because of that became quickly unappealing. The line to enter Notre Dame was very long. We walked past the Louvre and the National Opera House and the Sorbonne. We ended up in Montmartre at Sacre Coeur; a beautiful spot that offered views over all of Paris. So, not only did we get free lodging in Paris, we got a personal tour of the city, thanks to our wonderful hostess, Elise.
(Half a year later, we would be host, in Prague, to a couple of French Hospitality Club members from near Montpelier, France. They brought us, none other than, goat cheese as a present – along with an excellent white wine from their region.)