Driving my daughter to one of her few outside activities these days, I started thinking about my job. I create custom itineraries for Americans traveling to Paris. In a sentence, that is what I do. But in truth, it’s how we put the pieces of a puzzle together – unique and extraordinary experiences that enhance and enrich their time exploring one of the most unique and extraordinary cities in the world. It’s everything I love.
We are a small boutique firm
I thought about that word: “boutique” -and how fitting that word is to the custom Itineraries we present to every one of our travelers. Not only is it a French word, but just like entering a boutique tucked away on a narrow street in the Marais, “walking” through those doors, or our doors, clients are delighted. Each new client is an opportunity for us to show them the unique gems we have curated. It’s such a treat for us to telephonically greet each client, knowing what we’re about to do will excite them.
It’s so easy.
Every time I speak to a client, I am transported to the city I love more than any other. As I describe to them what it feels like to walk down a cobblestone street in Montmartre and see the old haunts of famous Artists like Picasso and Renoir, I am right there. The colors of the setting sun on the buildings; the sounds of shop owners chatting; the carefully placed bistro chairs all in a row; the scent of bakery treats carried on a cool breeze… I see and feel it all as we speak. A satin bow tied around a fishnet ankle; the years of careful vintage in a sip of red; the single white peony tucked into the backpack of the man walking into an apartment building, through a door big enough for a horse and carriage to pull through. It is all there… in our little shop ready to be shared.
One of the reasons I chose to do this job is simply because my initial visit to Paris in 2018 changed my life forever. Traveling solo, for the first time since marriage and children, I stepped past a personal boundary and unearthed something wonderful inside of me. I went to Paris because I just had to. I knew this first step towards having my life expand was vital. Paris did not disappoint. She opened her arms as wide as could be, and then with a long sinuous finger beneath a velvet, elbow-length glove, she motioned me closer.
So much history, so much creativity, so many dreams. The streets were buzzing with an energy that I had never felt anywhere else in the world. There were those moments that I will always remember. Moments that I felt sheer happiness.
I had one of those moments when I visited the Musée d’Orsay for the first time. I stopped in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night on the Rhone. While looking at the painting, unexpectedly, tears began flowing from my eyes, my heart was filled, and I just stood there, locking my eyes in what felt like a mutual gaze between me and the painting.
On a different day, I went for a walk in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont park in the 19th Arr. The sun was bright, and the park was (of course) filled with Parisians. I walked across the bridge that spans the lake and in that moment, all I could think of was how I am living a dream come true.
But undoubtedly, my most special moment was a late-night walk around the corner from my hotel. Armed with nothing more than my cellphone and a hardcover book from my library back home, I headed to Boulevard des Italiens to have a glass of cognac (I’d never had one before). I sat outside at the café, people-watching while sipping my very first tastes of cognac. Without the inspiration to do so, I would not have gone out late at night by myself and I would not have felt the pure freedom to be who I really am. That night I promised myself never to forget what Paris as my backdrop showed me.
As I flew home, I felt like a different person from the one who boarded the plane a week before. I knew I would need to continue my journey. I also knew that I wanted nothing more than to share the enchantment of this city with others.
Each time I work with a client to help them plan their time in Paris, I am truly as excited as they are because I know the unexpected moments that are awaiting them. The delightful experience of delivering Paris to my clients begins with our very first conversation and, I hope, carries through for them across the Atlantic and into the boutiques of Paris as magically as it did for me.
Written by our Sr. Travel Designer, Leslie Kavanaugh
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