I walked through the French Revolution…
… by taking a walking tour by Localers.
I first came across this run-by-locals tour company on my first trip to Paris. I wanted an insider's walkthrough at the Louvre and was able to book a private tour with these folks. I really valued the experience because of the skip the line access and art expert info that I probably would have glossed over if I had just gotten the audio guide at the museum (I still remember really specific details about my tour!).
I was sure I wanted to book another tour with them upon my return and ended up doing the French Revolution walking tour. I was joined by an Australian mom and her 14-year old daughter, and we were led by Agathe, whose knowledge of history had me flabbergasted.
The three-hour tour was centered around the St. Germain des Prés area at Saint Sulpice. If you're not so much into history but are into pop culture, then you'll remember this church from The da Vinci Code. One of its remarkable facets is the brass strip indicating the meridian line… (which I didn't even get to take a photo of because I was too busy listening to Agathe, sorry ✌)
Saint Sulpice was privy to a lot of the goings-on during the French Revolution, where the power of the church was highly contested. For a time, anything remotely religious was removed from the structure as the people began to rise and fight for autonomy.
Agathe pointed out how certain texts were erased from this podium.
We discussed all the factors that came together to spark the revolution… like an "explosive cocktail," Versailles, the climate at that point in history, taxes, the rise of philosophers and one other thing that I can't remember all resulted in this huge shift which went on for years until it officially ended with Napoleon Bonaparte.
Le Procope was one of the super memorable pit stops on the walking tour. The oldest restaurant in Paris (established 1686 WHAT), it houses a couple of historical treasures that I honestly could not believe were just there in plain sight, in the middle of the city—not roped in or behind glass doors.
We looked at Voltare and Rousseau's desks and caught a glimpse of the last letters written by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
We paused here for some cookies and coffee, seated right across from one of Napoleon's hats.
It's impossible for me to recall everything we talked about (the full three hours was packed!) but it was interesting to see how much went on in the little area we circled through. Danton was a prominent figure in the revolution, and this commemorative statue was located right by the charming alley that used to be the place where they first tested out the guillotine (not so charming then, eh?).
We walked past a university area that I assume had a med school because of the proliferation of medical text books shops. We also spotted Paris' most popular essential oil store (it was full to the brim!) plus its cheapest pharmacy as well.
The Australian lady I was grouped with was a frequent visitor to Paris and talked about her experience, being in the city during the Charlie Hebdo incident in 2015. She was telling the story right when we came up to this wall, which indicated the shift to the metric system.
I learned a lot about Robespierre, the sans culottes, early feminism, and oddly enough Australian football during the tour, which ultimately sparked my decision to visit the Pantheon a few days later to see where the National Convention took place.
If you're thinking about booking a tour like this, it helps to have a background on history, just to enrich the entire experience. Because of my prior fascination with Marie Antoinette, I did have a handle on Versailles and the Bastille, as well as what all of those events led to… but I'm thinking it would have been even better if I had gone as far as Voltare and Rousseau to really gain familiarity with all the stories.
That said, I was so happy I took the tour. For €59, I became acquainted with a part of the city that I never would have met otherwise. Agathe was super accommodating and entertaining, and I don't think any Paris trip would be complete without signing up with Localers. (Maybe a food tour, next!)