If you’ve ever taken a cab in Paris, you know that the experience can be as adventurous as an off-road race, accompanied by a soundtrack of unintentionally hilarious French pop music. It can help you visually stitch together this huge city, but only if you manage to concentrate…or survive.
After taking a private tour of secret spots in Paris in a Citroen 2CV – arguably the most treasured car in France, driven by a local Parisian history buff — I’ve now found an ideal way to explore a huge swath of the city and discover a few gems along the way.
When my friend Christine and I were picked up at our rental flat in the Champs-Élysées by our tour guide, Martin (pronounced “mar-TAHN”), we were delighted from the start. A Citroen CV is a magical cartoon car, a bubble of mechanical wonder that turns heads and inspires smiles on even the most gruff of Gallic faces. When we paused at street lights, people would point in glee as though they’d seen Brad Pitt on wheels.
Martin, a 20-something history student who grew up in Paris, clearly loves his job. He introduced our Citroen as “Seraphine,” his favorite of the fleet, and launched right in to a several-arrondissement journey around the Marais, Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, Saint-Germain and across the Louvre Rivoli.
As both Christine and I had visited Paris before, we could have asked Martin to take us anywhere we’ve always wanted to go, but we opted to see Martin’s well-studied version of the city. In an hour and a half, he showed us a former tavern from the 13th century, the miniature backstreets of the Île Saint-Louis, an ancient Roman amphitheater, a secret garden at a château behind the Louvre, and much more, providing a bit of anecdotal history at each stop on the way.
Martin spoke beautiful English and asked us if, despite overcast skies, we wanted the cloth roof of the car rolled back; we said yes, and resisted the urge to clap our hands like excited little kids. (Okay, I lied: we didn’t resist this at all.) Going roof-free proved a brilliant decision, as it allowed us to catch ornate building details that we’d normally miss as pedestrians or taxi passengers. When it got a little chilly for us, we found two fleecy blankets in wicker baskets behind the back seat and covered our laps like two fancy ladies on a metropolitan safari.
I’d recommend this tour for any couple, regardless of whether or not they’ve been to Paris; it was a fun and exciting way to learn much more about a city I already love. And if you want a real treat, feel free to request Martin and Seraphine.
The Private Citroen 2CV Tour: Secret Paris
can be booked through Viator.com.
Tours can be scheduled at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 8pm and 10pm,
with pickup from either the Paris Opéra or your lodgings.
Tours last approximately 90 minutes, and the price is $234.34 US per couple.
On this tour, I was a guest of Viator, but all opinions/observations are my own.