There are worse ways to spend a grey Thursday afternoon than drinking champagne and being chauffeured around Paris in a vintage Citroën 2CV. Well, I can certainly think of a few. But for our delightful guide Cédric, this guided tour on four wheels is a routine pleasure and the perfect way to be introduced to the city.
“Traffic and weather are the main issues,” he explains cheerfully. “If it’s raining, we try to rearrange with the client – and of course, we avoid traffic wherever possible.”
As luck would have it, that is almost always possible. Cédric and his valiant crew of 2CV chauffeurs, Romain, Chris, and Amin, are all native Parisians who know the city like the backs of their hands. They can predict traffic like a weatherman predicts rain.
Cédric picks us up on Rue Saint-Dominique in his vivid, fire engine red 2CV and asks us where we’d like to go. He’s keen to drive us around an area that is off the beaten track and one we’ve not experienced previously; since we’re on the ‘Secret Tour’ he suggests heading up to Saint-Germain and over to the Marais.
And we’re off! Turning heads and attracting smiles from strangers as we rumble along famous Rue Cler. It’s surprisingly comfortable in the back seat of this little French car, whose name is Louise: we’re curled up with our complimentary blankets and bottle of champagne, while the famously soft suspension of the 2CV design prevents us from spilling a drop. The authentic interior is emblazoned with dozens of firefighter patches from around the world, in tribute to Cédric’s previous career.
“Any firefighter who takes a tour with us gets a 10% discount,” he explains, “and in return, we ask them to bring a patch from the station where they work. We’ve been surprised by how many we’ve collected so far.”
“I also have a second car which is pale grey and yellow and called Thelma. I love using that one for night tours – it’s very elegant – but on a grey day in Paris, this one is more cheerful. It puts a smile on people’s faces,” he jokes, “which in Paris, is sometimes hard to do!”
Winding through the narrow backstreets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Cédric draws our attention to irregularities in the architecture and the charming eccentricities of pre-Haussmann design. The tour is effortlessly engaging and conversation flows, as he regales us with a mix of historical insights and fun anecdotes about the city he grew up in. We pause regularly at iconic landmarks and obscure points of local interest, taking photos as our knowledgeable guide fills us in.
Cédric shows us his beloved Pantheon and talks passionately about the legend of Sainte Geneviève and the history of the Latin Quarter, all the while pointing out restaurant recommendations and location highlights from the magical Midnight in Paris and some of Hemingway’s favorite haunts. He shares his personal favorite view of Notre Dame (no spoilers) before shuttling us over to the Marais for a quick lesson on the royal history and adulterous secrets of Place des Vosges.
Reluctantly, as our journey comes to an end, we bundle out of Louise at Saint-Paul Métro and say goodbye to Cédric – although not before he manages to squeeze in a couple more interesting facts about the seventeenth-century church we’re parked beside. Forget Midnight in Paris: Cédric’s Paris is the dream tour of this enchanting city. So buckle up and bon voyage! And don’t forget, pick-up from the front door of your apartment is perfectly possible if requested in advance. You can also start the tour with a fantastic photo taken right in front of the Eiffel Tower – providing a superb souvenir from your trip.
Cédric and his colleagues are proud winners of the London based Travel & Hospitality Award 2018. Contact us for details about booking his guided tours and to reserve a uniquely fun way to explore the city. Available vehicles include four original 2CVs in various colors and a vintage Volkswagen Combi for larger groups of up to seven passengers. The guides all speak fluent English (and French!) as well as a little Spanish if required.