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How to Tour Paris

What do Louis I, Louis II, Louis III, Louis IV, and Louis V have in common? They all ruled France as king at one point or another, they’re all named Louis, and tourists are likely to learn about them if they take a regular walking tour in Paris. However, one tour company is changing the status quo with their walking tours that focus on the women who contributed to the history of the City of Lights.

Heidi Evans was a tour guide for a large corporate tour company before noticing that something was strange about the way the tours portrayed female historical figures: the figures were either nonexistent or cruel. “The tour was focused on all of these great things that men had done throughout history, with only the occasional wicked woman like Marie Antoinette,” said Evans to CityLab. “We spent a lot of time talking about men named Louis.”

Out of Evans’ frustration with the standard walking tour, she created her own walking tour company, Women of Paris, which provides walking tours that focus on the female movers and shakers of Paris’ past. Currently, two different tours are offered: The Essential tour and Sugar & Spice tour. The Essential tour takes tourists past the landmarks like the Panthéon and discusses female political and scientific figures. Meanwhile, the Sugar & Spice (and Women Who Write) tour takes tourists to former homes, hangouts, and businesses of women who contributed to historical Parisian literature. Both tours include stops at famous bakeries and pastry shops so that tourists can taste some of the finest desserts in the city. The Women of Paris website justifies the choice to include stops to bakeries by explaining, “We’re in Paris after all!”

One of the most successful novelists of the 19th century, George Sands, is one of the women Evans mentions on the tour. Stopping at the late writer’s home, Evans reviews Sands’ life story, including how she would dress as a man to gain access to male-dominated spaces. During her career and after her passing, Sands was known for her excellent writing and incredible mind.

“She was really just a badass,” said Evans. According to CityLab, other women mentioned in the tour had refused to let Nazis burn their books and turned their bookstores into libraries so that members of all economic classes had access to books.

Evans also brought up writers who were robbed of the opportunity to publish novels under their own name by husbands who noticed their talent and stole their writing from them.

In talking about the importance of having tours that emphasize women’s roles in history, Evans said, “In the 21st century, it’s often easy to forget how not long ago women were treated as second-class citizens.”

Walking the streets of Paris and remembering the women who fought to have their voices heard reminds people of an all too recent history full of the unfair treatment of women. Though much has improved since those times, the tours serve to remind people that there is still more work to be done.

Featured Image by WiLPrZ on Flickr
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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