August 5, 2009

Walking the Spirit of Paris.

An interview with traveler Kim Jones from Silver Spring, MD.

Kevin and Brett at the Louvre.

Please tell us about your trip to Paris. How long was your stay? Was this your first visit to this travel location? Do you speak the local language?

In 2000 and again in 2007 I took a Family & Friends tour of Paris, France. The program was 9 days long and for some it was the first time visiting Paris. While only one person on each trip spoke French, we all got along fine in the city and on day excursions to the countryside with limited French or language guidebooks.

The group was traveling to explore Black Paris. We put together notebooks with facts about Black history around Paris, cafe/restaurant listings, we had a gospel brunch or moroccan dinners and met with local Black business people. We found little community based groups and also had a soiree with locals hosted by an African American woman living in Paris. We planned the basic part of the trip with a travel agent and then added our own itinerary. The 2000 program had 8 participants and the 2007 program had 14 participants.

Over all, how would you rate your experience in Paris? How would you describe the treatment you received as a Black American or as an American in general? Would you visit again? Would you recommend Paris as a travel destination to another Black traveler?
Paris is a must see location and a great time was had by all. We were well received and there were no conflicts, problems or difficulties due to the general diversity of Parisians. In my experience over the years, there are always isolated situations but they are minor and I've never felt they were directed globally at Blacks. As in much of Europe, conflict derives more from class than race but conflict can always arise from racial and ethnic differences.

What was your favorite "Must See" location or activity that you would definitely recommend to other Black travelers?

Everyone should try to book a walking or mini-bus tour with Walking the Spirit Tours. In both instances, I was able to contract with my friend Julia Browne who runs the company. The tours are scheduled as the Intellectuals or the Entertainers segment of Black Paris history. Getting a chance to walk and ride through the various districts, hear the extent of Black history in Paris, see the sites where such luminaries as Richard Wright, Josephine Baker and many others lived and worked was the highlight for everyone. (http://www.walkthespirit.moonfruit.com/)

What was the biggest cultural difference you experienced during your trip? Did you have any instances of "culture shock"?

The biggest cultural difference was watching the French eat mayonnaise on their french fries.

How would you describe the treatment/service you received in your hotel, area restaurants, and stores? Were there any places where you were treated especially well?Were there any areas, cities, neighborhoods in which you felt un-safe or threatened?

Treatment, service and safety were not problem areas. If any of us decided to venture out at night to small neighborhoods, rather than larger urban areas we went as a group. For some poorer districts on the outskirts of the city we also traveled during the day or in groups. We treated safety as we would in any major city worldwide.

What suggestions or advice about this country would you give to other Black travelers? What do you wish you had known about this country before your visit?

Get out to the neighborhoods, get off the beaten path, live like the locals and use an organization like Walking the Spirit to give you the history you need to explore further.


Anonymous said...

This is a very informative article. Furthermore, I think it's important to explore Europe (as a black male) as opposed to always choosing a "sand and surf" destination.

Paris Hotels said...

Because a lot of the Parisians are also black, it's more comfortable visiting paris than other places, i really suggest everybody visit there, the most beautiful city in the world, try to book your trip asap before you'll forget about it :)