An American in Paris

Jay Swanson moved from the USA and now lives in Paris where he calls himself: 'a YouTuber, writer, and puppy wrangler.' He publishes a guide to the city called Paris in my Pocket.

Hosted ByPeter & Felice

Peter Welcome to our travel podcast. We’re specialist travel writers, and we’ve spent half a lifetime exploring every corner of the world.

Felice We want to share with you some of our extraordinary experiences and the amazing people we’ve met along the way.

Peter It was Oscar Wilde who famously said, ‘When good Americans die, they go to Paris. Where do bad Americans go? They stay in America.’ This week we’re in the French capital to talk to an American who has succeeded in not only becoming a Parisian himself, a rare feat for anyone not born there, but who has actually succeeded in making a living out of telling people about his adopted city.

Paris in My Pocket  is the name of the unique guide that Jay Swanson writes and broadcasts on YouTube. Of course, it’s not only for Americans. We think it’s invaluable for any first time or indeed frequent visitor to the most popular city for tourists in the world, 44 million of them in 2022 alone.

Jay Swanson, you’re an American living in Paris, an American author living in Paris, and you’ve cornered the market basically in telling your fellow Americans how to integrate themselves into Parisian life, which is, I have to say, really difficult and I don’t quite know where you begin doing that. But how did you how did you get into this in the first place?

Jay I stumbled into it, I suppose. I’ve always wanted to live in France ever since I was a kid, I have no idea why. It just has always been a desire burrowing at the back of my mind. So I did immediately went to Nice to teach English out of college and thought it’s nice. Which is the most the worst and most persistent pun of living in Nice. But it is nice, but not really for me. And then I went through Paris on my way out and I realised this is what I always wanted., I always I always wanted this. This city is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of without knowing it my whole life.

So I just worked really hard to get back. Visas aren’t easy for Americans, obviously. I managed to claw my way back to Paris once again as an English teacher, but they kicked me out again after I think, ten months because that’s as long as the visa was good for.

Then I had to figure it out again and I got lucky, came back on a talent visa, I think, on the strength of my writing. But then I think it’s YouTube that saved me. So I kind of stumbled into it just by living my life on camera in Paris and that naturally led to sharing the experience and how I more or less have integrated. Now apparently that’s what people look to me for: ‘How, where should I go?’ The number one thing is probably ‘Where should I eat in Paris?’ And then outside of that, maybe: ‘How do I integrate?’

Paris in My Pocket is a series that I started on YouTube because I used to be a daily vlogger, and then I’ve been trying to figure out how I’d do YouTube from here, I think it’s always evolving. In the interim, a couple of years ago, I was inspired by a really, really wonderful channel called TopJaw that does travel content – they’re in the UK and I just really enjoyed them. And it’s like this is something that I could do more locally and just focus on the things that I love that I already share.

So I wanted to start that under a sub series. And so I was like, you know what? Paris in My Pocket just sounded catchy. The domain was available. I grabbed it and dove in. And I’ve sold a guide to Paris for years, a pdf that I wrote. It’s 140, 150 pages long. It’s basically a book, like with essays on how to navigate, how to enjoy it, what to avoid, how to avoid scams, all that kind of stuff, plus hundreds of recommendations of just the things that I’ve found while I’ve been in Paris that I enjoy.

And so it was like, ok let’s repackage that as Paris in my Pocket and separate the Jay Swanson personal storytelling brand from the travel stuff, which is very specifically Paris off the beaten path. You can go get tips on how to line up at the Eiffel Tower, literally. But if you want to get natural wine in the 11th where they serve vegan tapas or something ridiculous like that, not that I have a lot of options for that because there aren’t tons of options. But I’ve found so much stuff that I really, really love.

For me, when I travel, I like to see a couple of things that are the usual things. Like I would love to go see a cathedral or maybe get the best view in town, but in between each of those things, I want to find good coffee. I want to have a good lunch, and I want to end with a good local spot where people sell something that I enjoy. So that always cascaded into more of a food-based adventure that was always sprinkled with the usual stuff. That’s more or less the way that I approach visiting Paris.

Peter You’re talking our sort of language because that’s exactly what we like doing. We obviously live within 200 miles of Paris, that sort of thing. So we’ve been going there all our lives. I wouldn’t say I know it particularly well, but it’s a place of extreme fascination to me. But if you’re an American, and I have to say that most of our audience are American, an American coming to Paris is a whole different ball game, isn’t it?

American in Paris

Jay relaxing in a cafe.

Jay Yes, it’s a lot more work to get there. I think that we all have this fascination, or at least a subsection of Americans, have a real fascination with Paris. So it is a dream to get there. I do think that the first-time Americans get there, because it’s such a big event, it makes a lot of sense that you would want to see all of the big things because… and I have this in my guide, the wonderful thing about Paris is that the touristy stuff is worth it for the most part. Some of it can be a little bit of a pain and some of it is not worth it.

But the things that attract you to Paris, whether they’re large monuments or museums, galleries, there’s so many wonderful things, even the parks. They’re not there to try and sell you a larger size coke. It’s not like a big ball of yarn that somebody threw together and they’re just trying to get you to pull off at the side of the road and buy a hot dog. It’s very much storied, deep, deep, deep history in Paris and an incredible beauty and an incredible richness.

So in a way, I understand that tension to a lot of people when they come for the first time, maybe they’re not looking for the things that are off the beaten path. That may not be everybody’s thing. But yes, it’s quite the event. It’s even farther for…if you have any Anzacs listening…for them it’s a monumental effort to get all the way to Europe. So yes, it’s not quite the same as hopping on the Eurostar and hopping across the channel.

Felice So how did you start to get to know Paris? Did you have Parisian friends who helped you out?

Jay Well, yes. So I mean, when so when I first lived there in 2012, I met a few people, but in reality, I was just kind of I was a volunteer at the time on a hospital ship in West Africa. So I’d taken a year to work for the global office from Paris. I was just this poor volunteer working on my volunteer salary that I had raised and a little bit of money from the French government for teaching English.

So most of it was just I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a whole lot else to do outside of that, and so I just wandered. I walked around and I tried to find something that I enjoyed. I also didn’t have a kitchen in my tiny little chambre de bon, you know, my little maid’s chamber. So my lifestyle kind of developed around just exploring the city.

I really, really love Paris very deeply, and there’s just something magical to me about wandering and seeing something over the horizon, like a spire, and being very curious as to what could that possibly be. So making my way to try and figure out where it is and along the way, discovering three or four other things.

So just kind of naturally, over the course of both that year, and then when I moved back, I was a tour guide for the summer just trying to make ends meet again and also being a tour guide and getting to tell stories about the city and then go off and wander around and explore. I was also forced to do it because I was a daily blogger, so I had to make a video every day. So something interesting had to happen. So I had to go out into the world. I think that combination of things is just how I organically found the things that I really love in the city, while also early on, especially, making sure to hit all of the highlights and see what Paris had to offer.

Peter What are the biggest hurdles that the first time visitor needs to overcome language, I guess first of all?

Jay Besides Parisians, yes, the language is definitely not…I’m going to make fun of Parisians a little bit here today, but have become one myself. So it’s the number one thing that may I be so bold to say that we do is complain about ourselves. But yes, the language is definitely a big one. I think the biggest tip that I give most consistently, people that have been watching me for a long time might be sick of it, but it holds very true and it will transform anyone’s trip to Paris is just to say bonjour, which means hello.

Anytime you walk into a shop, anytime you walk into a bakery, anywhere, you’re walking into like basically anywhere to do any form of business – or your hotel or anywhere. Always open with bonjour, even if you’re not sure if you’re supposed to be saying bonsoir yet or not because it’s evening time, just say bonjour. It’s safe and it shows respect and restaurant culture and a lot of these a lot of these elements very much are you’re walking into someone’s home is how it feels. It’s where the word chez comes from. When you talk about like Chez Jean or something like that, it means Jean’s home, the word chez in so many restaurant names.

And so saying bonjour is just a really polite way of introducing yourself because Americans especially think Anglophones in general. But despite Americans being very chatty people and we like to tell you far too much, far too quickly, we also are slaves to efficiency. So a lot of times we would like to just walk into a store, say like, ‘Hey, I want to buy this, that, that and go.’ And that is considered to be very rude.

So there’s a cultural friction that happens there very, very frequently. And often if you find that you don’t, you’re not getting a very warm reception when you walk into places, it’s very likely it’s because you just didn’t know you need to say bonjour. And once you’ve said bonjour, you can get to business. You say bonjour if you walk into a restaurant, you can just hold up two fingers if you don’t speak French and just basically look pathetic, as sad as you can. Then they’ll know, ‘ok, this person needs two seats at a table,’ and they’ll seat you. But, you know, that’s how it works.

Then we actually just made a video about this recently, but there are a lot of things about restaurant culture specifically that trip up Americans, especially, that I still struggle with, because for one, there’s rarely unless you’re going to like a Michelin restaurant… and even then a lot of Michelin restaurants don’t have hosts or hostesses. If you walk into a restaurant, it’s just the serving staff that are buzzing about, so you have to get their attention, which may not be too hard if you’re standing in the doorway, but you do have to let them know, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’d like to eat.’

But the other thing that’s way harder is when you’re sitting at the table, they’re going to leave you alone. The nice thing is you’re only going to see your French waiter, basically when they give you the menu, when they take your order, when they bring your food and when they bring you the check. They’re probably going to ask you if you want dessert in there somewhere, too. But otherwise they’re going to back away. They’re not going to tell you their name. They’re not going to write it anywhere in print. They’re not going to ask you how your day was. They don’t care. They’re here to work. So they’re just going to try and serve you and move.

American in Paris

Jay and friend at a coffee shop

Peter So, of course, the first hazard off of that is the word entrée, isn’t it?

Jay Yes, that’s a very good point. So entrée is not the same meaning because in English, entrée means your main, right, your main dish. In French it’s your appetiser. So your appetiser is your entrée, and then your plat is your main. There are lots of little confusing things, but the thing that still throws me with all of this is that if you’re sitting there and you need anything, you have to call for your waiter’s attention, which in American culture is considered rude because basically if you raise your hand to get your waiter, it means they’re not doing their job, like they miss something.

But in France, it’s the opposite. They are going to leave you alone and they’re going to let you sit there for hours, which is magical. You can you can buy a glass of wine and sit for an hour; nobody’s going to bother you.

So take full advantage of that. Park and enjoy it. But if you need anything, you’re going to have to overcome that internal gag reflex that is, ‘I have to get this person’s attention,’ and then they’ll come on over…if they see you. Because the secondary challenge in that is that Parisian waiters are absolute experts at avoiding eye contact. So you’re going to have to do a little bit of extra weaselling about just to get their attention. They might look like they are begrudging of that fact, but that’s just their usual resting face. So don’t really worry about that too much. Ask for whatever you need and then carry on. There are a million different things we can talk about, about restaurant culture differences, but that that that’s definitely a big one.

Felice I find that what you’re saying is actually relevant for all of Europe, because in America we find it quite strange that we’re given a full description of all the food that we might eat. You’re not told that in anywhere in Europe, as far as I know. I mean, what you’re saying would apply to Switzerland and Austria and Italy definitely. All those places would be similar to what you’re saying about Paris.

Peter So we find it when we go to the States, we find it…what’s the polite word? Overwhelming.

Jay Now, I was just in the States a month ago and I too, am…that’s actually part of the reason that I realised I’ve become more Parisian in a way. I looked at it, the interactions that were happening around me in an American restaurant setting in the airport, and I was just like, ‘Yes, I don’t get this anymore. ‘Why are these strangers talking to each other? Why is the waiter asking how my day is?’ We do this too much. I just want to eat. ‘Just leave me alone I’ve been flying for two days.’

So yes, it’s funny because it does change the way that you approach these things. And then there’s so many things about American culture now too. Like tipping culture has gone bananas. You don’t have to tip in France. There are certain circumstances where I would really recommend you do – if you have a tour guide, I would definitely recommend you tip your tour guides because they often are working for very low wages. Tips are a big part of that.

Otherwise, if you go to a restaurant, I will leave a euro or €2 if it’s really good service. Generally we’ll leave change on the table and that’s not rude if you just leave a couple of euros like that. But what’s changing, and I talked about this recently with a friend at length because we’re fascinated and a little bit horrified by this. The new credit card machines that they’re putting out in Paris have an automatic tip function now. So they hand it to you and they expect you to…and they’re very low, it’s like $0.50 or something like that, but it’s starting and it’s terrifying. So it’s one of those things where it’s funny. I’ve become I’ve become a little bit more French in that sense that I’m kind of like, ‘What is this tipping thing? I don’t understand?’ I’m lost in the lost in the churn.

Felice This is the same in the UK now. There are more and more places where they have when you’re paying by card on the machine, it says 5%, 10%, 15%. You have to click one of them. And if you don’t want to click anything, it’s quite embarrassing because someone will be standing next to you watching.

Jay Yes, and then they just think, ‘Wow, cheap.’ Or maybe if you hit the no thank you, they might think, ‘Wow, brave.’

Peter But certainly the normal rule for us in Paris or anywhere else is that you just round up the figure.

American in Paris

Jay having coffee and pastry with Cooper

Felice Yes, absolutely. I love on your videos that you have your little dog with you.

Peter What’s your dog called?

Jay Cooper. He’s snuggled up in his travel bed behind me.

Felice What sort of dog is he? He’s a French-looking dog.

Jay He’s a Boston terrier.

Felice Oh, ok. He looks a bit like a French bulldog.

Jay Yes, he does. They have a very similar face. So there are a lot of people that think he is when they see him.

Peter And that’s the other strange thing in France and in a lot of countries in Europe, you can take a dog even into a Michelin starred restaurant, can’t you?

Jay Yes, I can take him anywhere. There’s only been a couple of places. I actually that’s the funny thing again, I think a little bit spoiled by life in Paris. I am now affronted if someone does not allow me to bring my dog. He’s very good. I’m also very good. Neither of us are going to pee on anything, please let us inside. It’s very rare that that happens. I basically can’t take him into supermarkets unless I carry him. So it’s only for, like, emergencies if you need water or something. And then doctor’s offices. But otherwise, he’s pretty much welcome everywhere. Yes, he’s done a lot.

Peter Yes. I remember coming back from a long trip to France a few years ago and we crossed the English Channel and arrived back in Dover and drove down the freeway, the motorway, and we stopped at a service area to get some food. I went in with the dogs and I was wandering around a food court area and this guy came up to me and said, ‘Would you please take your dogs out of here now. They’re unclean’. And I said, ‘I beg your pardon? My dogs are a lot cleaner than all your customers put together.’

Felice When we could, before Brexit, we used to take our dogs all over Europe with us. We drove to France and to Germany, to Austria, all over the place. And it’s great in all those places for dogs. You can take them, as you say, to every restaurant, everywhere apart from a doctor’s surgery or a supermarket.

Peter So what are the other problems in Paris? So we got through restaurants…

Felice I saw on one of your videos that you were telling Americans that they need to speak a bit more quietly, because Americans do tend to like to speak up.

Jay We’re very verbose, yes. So would I would say generally you’ve got to use that library voice and you’ll be about on par. You do notice, I think in coffee shops, restaurants, bars and stuff…I don’t think this is as pervasive as it used to be. It’s a level of self-awareness that has grown in American travellers, an awareness of the bad American tourist, that very, very strong stereotype that existed when I first moved here 15, 16 years ago. I think that’s very much changed over that time period. But I would definitely say, yes, I would get a read for how loudly the people around you are speaking, if you can, and then try to match that as best you can because it can be fairly off-putting if a group of Americans come in and are fully themselves.

Peter Like any city, you can wear what you want. What advice do you give Americans about dress code?

Jay I would say, well, for one, I do say wear whatever you want because I think that a lot of people get in their own heads about it and they ruin their trip because they get anxious about what they should or shouldn’t wear. So I think the first thing would be, you’re going to be fine. It is a big city. You see a lot of weird stuff, not as much weird stuff as in maybe London or New York, but you do see a fair amount of weird stuff. But generally you can never go wrong wearing black in Paris. Everybody wears black all the time. But if you’re going to wear anything like monochromatic or subtle, I would say, subtle colours, nothing terribly bright, no sports jerseys.

I was going to say no leggings for the ladies, but that’s changed, I mean, like athleisure is really coming in Paris now. So I guess I would say dress cute and a little bit conservatively and then maybe just go shopping when you get here. Perfect excuse to go shopping when you get to Paris, just be like, ‘You know what? I’m going to bring enough clothes for two days and then I’m going to go buy what the locals buy.’ Even sports shoes, as long as they’re again, subtle, people wear them now more and more. I wear Vans most days.

Felice Do you have a favourite place for shopping, favourite street or district?

Jay I guess I’ll give you three options that are going to be a little bit different from each other, but are going to be a lot of fun. One is going to be the Galleries in the 2nd. I think Passage or Panorama is more food stuff. Galleries Lafayette is very infamous for just being itself. It’s one of the oldest shopping centres and malls in the city, but you can find anything there.

The reason I recommend it actually more is because there’s a free view from the roof. So if you go all the way up to the roof, you can get a really nice view of the city and the opera house, which is right there. The strolling version, I would say, would be kind of the borderlands between the 3rd and the 4th in the Marais. If you’re walking around in the Marais, it’s a really nice walking district and you’re going to find a lot of really fun little shops, which is going to be really nice. Honestly, it’s just really nice to do some window shopping to see what’s going on. Lots of little boutiques if you’re clothing shopping especially, and you’ll find lots of pop-ups if you’re into the fashion, like the higher – maybe not the higher end fashion stuff, but the stuff that’s coming through for Fashion Week.

And then the most convenient one isn’t far from there either. It would be BHV, which is a department store down in the Marais that also has everything. If you’re looking for some fun souvenirs that are a little bit more classy, like some design-centric posters, maybe. There’s this really cool artist that they’ve had. It for a long time now that does cut outs. So you could buy like a little cut-out of a monument or a Wallace Fountain or something like that to bring home and have a little paper figurine that you bring back with you. That can be really nice, but it’s also a really good backup in case you need anything else like if you needed a suitcase or you needed new AirPods or you needed to buy clothes or even hardware. I don’t know why you would need a hammer, but you can get that in the basement. So they kind of they kind of handle everything from top to bottom, and that’s always a really good option.

Peter Of course, we should have explained at the very beginning, Paris is divided into different arrondissements.

Jay Absolutely. So Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements. And if I sound pretentious by pronouncing it that way, we can always call them arrondissements. But it’s divided into 20 districts. So those 20 districts are municipal districts. They’re divided into basically a spiral and think of it in terms of like a snail’s shell. At the very centre, you have the smallest ones and it starts with the 1st and it kind of folds back in on itself and then spirals outward until you get to the big outer districts. Each of them has their own character, but they also contain different neighbourhoods within them. So as you go between different parts of town, you get a really different feel depending on which one you’re in.

Felice Do you have a favourite place for coffee? A favourite coffee shop? Cafe?

Jay Yes, absolutely. I think my favourite…so I’m going to get depending on if any of them hear this, I might get myself into some trouble by picking one. But in my guide I actually have listed as my favourite one, Motors coffee for a number of reasons. One, it’s the most it’s funny if you’re not if you’re not really into coffee, this might not sound like a compliment, but it’s a very high compliment. They are possibly the most consistent. They always make a very good flat white or a very good pour-over filter. They just have really good coffee on offer. It is often just a little bit pricier, but it’s really worth it for the quality. Their pastries are very good. They make an amazing cinnamon bun in-house and then they also bring in the like best doughnuts in Paris into the coffee shop. So it’s very good.

It’s also very convenient because it’s in the first arrondissement, so it’s very central right next to a metro station. The area that it’s in can be a little bit sketchy layout. It’s definitely not the like the cleanest and the prettiest. If you’d like something that’s cleaner and prettier and a little bit more haute couture, then you can go closer to the Ritz for Cafe Nuances, which is growing all over the place. But they’re also phenomenal. They’re probably my favourite roaster in town, which there are a couple that are definitely in competition for that title, but they make some really, really good coffee.

Felice I suppose there are not as many different types of coffee names as there are in America. When we go to an American cafe, even over here in the UK, you’ll get a flat white, a mocha, an Americano. You get you won’t get that sort of choice, will you?

Peter Getting a plain cup of coffee seems to be really difficult in London now.

Felice Because of the American influence.

Jay We’re really sorry about that. I think there are some Australians that might claim to have also ruined a few things like the flat white. So we share the burden of immense coffee complexity. Yes, I think the funny thing is if you go into any average bistro in France and you ask for a coffee, you’re going to get an espresso. So that’s, I think, interesting. Every culture is different. What is a coffee? Say ‘I just want a coffee,’ and then see what you get. So if you go into those places, the French bistro will be more simple and a French speciality coffee shop will be somewhere in the middle. Like they’ll have oat milk and they’ll do a latte or a cappuccino or a flat white. But they won’t have flavours; they won’t have pumpkin spice.

white ceramic mug fill with coffee

Photo: © Matt Hoffman

Felice What about bars and restaurants? Do you have favourites?

Jay Oh, my gosh. It’s impossible, there’s so many. I think if you were to look at a map of my favourite stuff, it’s mostly going to be central to northeast. The Right Bank really is where the most lively and interesting stuff is happening. There are Left Bank stands out there that will certainly come after me for saying that. But if you go up into the 3rd, the 10th, the 11th, it is just completely rammed, chock full of amazing bars, amazing food. I struggle to keep up with it all because I want to go back to so many places and yet there are so many new places to try.

So picking a favourite would be pretty hard, but it depends on what your listeners are into. I would definitely say that my go-to favourite, which is definitely off the beaten path and definitely not for the faint of heart, would be Liquiderie. Liquiderie is a bar that does craft beer and natural wine both on tap. They have small plates, so you can eat a little bit there. Generally with a lot of French like bars, cocktail bars, that kind of stuff, I would say eat somewhere else first. Some of them end up having some really good food, but often smaller portions at higher price. So, you know, coming with an empty stomach is not always the best idea, but they do serve some really nice stuff and it’s just a really, really fun, fun, fun, fun vibe.

Then for cocktails, my most recent discovery that I absolutely love would be called Abricot, which is French for apricot. It’s also up in the 10th, not far from the canal. It’s run by two American women, actually. So Liquiderie: very French, Abricot: very American, but their cocktails are mind blowing. They have some vegan nachos, if anybody’s into nachos and I love nachos and they’re vegan and somehow they’re delicious. So there’s a lot of really, really good stuff in Paris to try.

Peter If you go to a simple bar in in Paris, what’s the kind of drink you might order? Not cocktails, I’m talking about somewhere pretty basic.

Jay Yes, just going to like a brasserie on the corner kind of thing. Well, so if you’re going to go – the French like to classify food by colour a lot. So you’re going to get your blanche or your blonde, for your beers usually. So the standard I would go for is a punch de blonde, which would be a pint of blonde beer, which could be all variety of different types of beers if you happen to have your own studded lexicon on beer. Or you could just order in just the corner place grab the house wine, just grab a glass of red, ask them for something to snack on if they’ve got it, maybe they’ve got a charcuterie board and you can sit.

The nice thing is about Paris that obviously I get very into the specifics of like the food that I really love, but I try to remind people that if you’re coming to Paris and you haven’t been there before, or maybe you haven’t been very often, the full experience just of being in Paris really is enough. Like you can go get the most overpriced Heineken and sit on the corner of the most touristy trap location and enjoy yourself so much because you just get to watch the world move around you with a Parisian backdrop behind it and it’s amazing.

It’s the same thing…I think there are very, very good croissants in Paris. Obviously there are amazing croissants in Paris, but I wouldn’t worry so much about getting the best croissant when coming to the city, if you don’t know any better. When I first moved to Paris, there’s this bakery around the corner that I thought was the best bakery in the world. It was amazing. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the bread, the everything is so good.’ And then about six months later, I was like, ‘This is garbage. This bakery is terrible. How did I not know this?’ You know, come to find out they actually bake from frozen bread that gets delivered in the morning or whatever, but you don’t know at first. So I think that it’s really easy to overhype yourself and be on the lookout for the best of everything. In reality, the beautiful thing about Paris that may be more true than any other city is that it can just be good enough on its own. So you don’t have to overwork yourself or over concern yourself with finding the best of everything.

Felice A little side story: my grandparents met in Paris.

Jay Oh, that’s great.

Felice They first met in 1923. They met in the Louvre; they bumped into each other.

Jay That’s amazing. They bumped into…you mean your grandfather was trying to work up the courage to say hello for 20 minutes? And then finally…

Felice Yes. My grandfather was the vice president of a sports club in Vienna, and he took his sports club on the way back – they’d played a big match in the in London and on their way home, because they’d beaten this other team, West Ham United, he took them to Paris to say, thank you, congratulations. They went to the Louvre. And my grandmother, meanwhile, was doing a course at the Sorbonne: History of Art and French. And she was in the Louvre and he was in the Louvre and that’s how they met. She was from what is now the Czech Republic and he was from what is now Slovakia, all the borders changed, but they met in Paris. So I’ve got a connection there. And we can get to Paris easily because of the train. The train, which is great.

Jay Yes, it’s so good. That’s a great story. I love that.

Peter Well, she’s just written a book, actually. It’s just come out, which is called The Tennis Champion Who Escaped the Nazis because her grandmother was Austrian tennis champion in 1930.

Jay Whoa, wait, where can I get the book?

Felice Probably Amazon is the best place.

Jay All right. I’ll look that up right now.

Felice Going back to you, how come your French is so good? Did you learn it at school?

Jay I did. I studied it in high school and in college. But you don’t really speak it until you live there, I think the immersion is really key. I think I was middling, even though I even though I’d studied it for so long. When I got there, all the kids that I did the first that English teaching program with, I think they were all better at French than I was. They came from like Harvard and all these Ivy League schools, and they were just like, ‘Yes, no problems.’ So the funny thing was that they just partied that whole year and didn’t really get outside of the English speaking circles, and I was the opposite. I was like, ‘I’m finding people to speak French with, and that’s all I’m doing.’ By the end of it, my French was…I won’t say it was better than theirs necessarily, because who knows? We never tested it, but I definitely felt like I’d improved greatly, while many had stagnated and developed certain liver problems.

Felice Where did your love of travel start? When you were a kid?

Jay We were too poor to travel; I think we never left the state, really. We lived right next to Idaho, so that doesn’t count. But I don’t know, I just always had a desire. I think partially I just wanted to get out of there, I just wanted to go somewhere. I also read a lot of books as a kid and saw that there was so much out in the world to see and experience. I think when you grow up in a small town, there’s a variety of different ways of approaching that, and I think a lot of people really enjoy it and are made for it. Then some of us just feel like there has to be something more. So I just kept looking for that something more, and travel is, I think, one of the most valuable and eye-opening elements of my life.

Felice Is there an actual hard copy of your guide or would people have to print it out if they want to have something to take with them?

Jay Well, the nice thing is, as long as it’s designed for your phone and we’ve just released an online version that’s basically the full thing in a live web app, so we can keep it up to date. So I’ve done it as a pdf in the past and updated it once a year, but now we have it so that we can update it in real time and flesh it out, make it more robust and just see what interests people the most and dive more into that.

So if you go to Parisinmypocket.com, you can still download the guide after you purchase it as a pdf, but then you have access to the fully updated version on your phone at all times. There are people that have printed it out, I definitely have met some people that printed the whole thing out and I was like, ‘Wow, you’re carrying that whole thing around with you.’ But I think for me, the reason that we’ve never done that has largely been that when you get into printing, it just adds a lot of complication. For me personally, I don’t want to carry a book around with me everywhere, but I already do carry my phone with me everywhere so that’s the middle ground that we’ve found so far.

Eiffel Tower at night

Eiffel Tower at night. Photo: © Leo

The cool thing is that the reason also that we’re not doing it, the goal would be with the evolution of my guide, is that it becomes something that you can use offline. We don’t want it to be online-only for sure, but the nice thing will be that we will be able to also give you much more specific and geo-localised recommendations so that you can just pull it up and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and it says, ‘Well, there’s a great place right next to you.’

Our goal is to get to that place where ideally the way that I look at how we approach travelling to Paris specifically for now is I would like you to feel like you have someone in Paris who’s got your back. So when you show up, you could do as little planning as possible. You have your place to stay and you know you’ve got your tickets. But then when you show up, you could just walk out your door and ask us and we would be able to tell you exactly where to go at any point in any day, just to relieve that stress so that you can go explore as you want, you can plan as you want. But then we want to alleviate the anxieties that come with travel, especially to a new place.

Felice And can you tell people where they can find out more, so your social media handles?

Jay Absolutely, yes. If you just look me up: Jay Swanson. Youtube is going to be the best place to find my full length videos, but we’ve been putting out a lot of reels and tiktoks and anywhere you’re going to want to go, we should be there blabbering on about Paris. Use the code ACTIONPACKED15 and you’ll be given 15% off the app.

Peter Jay Swanson, thank you very much for being on the show today.

Jay Thanks for having me on the show. I really appreciate it.

Felice Thank you very much for coming on our show. It’s been fascinating. That’s all for now. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please share this episode with at least one other person! Do also subscribe on Spotify, i-Tunes or any of the many podcast providers – where you can give us a rating. You can subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or any of the many podcast platforms. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’d love you to sign up for our regular emails to [email protected]. By the way, we’re no 7 in the Top 20 Midlife Travel Podcasts.

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