Tag Archives: Free Tour

“Jaw With John” – Paris je t’aime, But I’m Going to Bitch About Seeing You For Free

A few months ago a friend and I were in Paris. She had some family friends (whom she had not seen since she was young) who were available to host us for free.

Now, I have always been taught that when entertaining, a guest comes first. These people, however, made us feel as though we were an inconvenience to them and their two children, though we only slept on their pull-out couch — that was it.

The father in the family runs a touring company, and my friend thought we should ask for a tour, to be polite — with the intention of paying him.

He gave us a very short tour of one of Paris’ museums — one of my favorites — for free. But the tour was odd and he acted a bit rude, challenging my knowledge of the museum and the paintings and rushing us. I did not enjoy it.

Later on in our visit, we came home late (about midnight) after going up the Eiffel Tower. We did not have a key and he proceeded to go to sleep. Luckily, the au pair let us in. But after that behavior and his lack of an apology, I decided I can’t stand him.

Now he sends me emails about giving a review of the tour (which he insists must be a five-star review). I have refused. Should I keep ignoring his emails? Or should I write the bad review because the world has a right to know?

I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but what kind of host leaves someone locked out and then goes to sleep — and then demands a five-star review? — Frustrated with Friends of a Friend

Dear Frustrated:

Let me get this straight: you’re complaining that you got to stay in Paris FOR FREE and got a personal tour of a museum FOR FREE?


I don’t even know where to begin.

Firstly, it was on you to get a spare key or set up some type of system where you could get back into their place/meet up with them to get the key if they weren’t home. That’s just common sense. I did it when I stayed with a friend in Hong Kong and again in Chicago. Communication is key, especially in a foreign land. You’ve now learned this for another trip.

About the curt tour, as you described it. Perhaps something was lost in translation. What he might have perceived as gentle ribbing might have been rude to you, but he was doing his job (FOR FREE) and trying to engage you with the museum and the pieces. You know what else you could have done if you didn’t enjoy the trip? Gone again. That’s right. You could have gone back and taken the time you wanted to see things you didn’t before.

As far as the review goes, you don’t owe him 5 stars if you didn’t feel it was worth 5 stars. If reviews are anonymous then give whatever you feel best reflects your experience. But I ask you this: Did he give you the full tour as described by his company? Because if he did and it was a sub par experience then by all means give whatever rating you want (but if it were me I’d probably still give it 5 stars because it was FREE). If it wasn’t then think before you type and submit.

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An Early Morning Bike Ride Around the Imperial Palace

Imagine if the US Government allowed road closures around the White House and then let people ride bikes around it. Sounds awesome but there would be detractors who would say it was a waste of tax payer dollars to close the roads and provide free bikes for people and then there would be the national security element and on and on and on which would ultimately lead to it never happening.

Good thing this is not the US.

Every Sunday, a roughly 3km set of road surrounding the Imperial Palace is closed to car traffic and 500 free bikes are available on a first-come-first-served basis. All it takes is a simple signature – I assume it is some sort of waiver – and you get to choose any bike you want.


Look at all these bikes!

It’s very simple to just hop on and ride and there are guards who point you in the correct direction. On the Sunday in November we were there, there is no one around to pressure us to finish our lap so we were able to ease into the ride and stop and take as many photos as we wanted.


Oh Hey!


Taking a photo of a guy taking a photo


The roads are closed



Near the turn around



Tokyo’s Finest

After completing the loop and returning to where we first picked up the bikes, it was time to actually enter the Imperial Palace gardens, which just so happened to also be free! We couldn’t ask for anything more!

First up was touring the outer portion of the Palace and admiring the architecture and scenery. Just as it was with the Meiji Shrine, it is amazing to find a place as serene and beautiful that is also surrounded by a metropolis. We were drawn to the Palace gates – mainly because there were numerous tour groups gathered in front taking group photos so we decided to see what was going on. As it turned out, it was the main entrance for the Emperor and Empress – who are very rarely seen.



Then it was time to head inside and tour the gardens.


Entrance to the garden







There really isn’t a whole lot more to tell. The photos speak better than I could hope to and physically illustrate the beauty and majesty that is the Imperial Palace and the Gardens inside.

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