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In this episode Annie shares the exciting news that she is teaming up with VoiceMap to provide self-guided Paris audio tours. These tours are GPS-Aware which means you hear the right stories in the right place and you get voice directions to the next spot.
Buy the Tour
I can't possibly accompany each of my listener on their visit to Paris, but you can take me in your pocket so I can show you around Paris! You’ll enjoy Paris at your leisure and I’ll make sure you take the time to stop and smell the croissants.
In this episode I will also play a little bit of audio from the tour, tell you why audio tours are the best way to enjoy a city, how these audio tours work and how you can purchase them.
Why Self-Guided Audio Tours?
I’ve wanted to do audio tours for a long time because for as much as I l love to show you around Paris, I live in Toulouse and most of you visit Paris, so it rarely works out.
So, I’ve decided that the next best thing for me do is audio tours! I love audio, I assume you do too or you wouldn’t be listening to me right now. Audio is super popular right now; you can do a lot with audio to bring the streets of Paris to life.
If I’ve learned anything about you, my listeners, it’s that you are Francophiles. It could be your 1st or 10th visit to Paris, but you are the person who is not going to be satisfied with just seeing the big attractions or going on the big tourist bus to snap some selfies. Maybe you were a shallow visitor in other cities (I was) but not in Paris. There is something special about Paris in your heart.
In Paris you want to see the big hits AND you want to go off the beaten track too. You want to hear about the major landmarks everybody gets to but also the more obscure places and events that made Paris what it is. With these audio tours bring both to your ears. You want to know about the Revolution, you want to know about Paris in the Middle Ages, you want to know where great bakeries are, you want to know why there is more to that Basilica than meets the eye. You are not your run-of-the-mill average tourist and I love that about you BTW!
The Benefits of Self-Guided Audio Tours
GPS-Aware audio guides are all about bringing the city to life and guiding you through the streets with audio cues so you’re looking around at the city and don’t have your nose in your phone constantly. You don’t have to worry about getting lost. You don’t have to worry that you’ll walk right past something amazing and that you didn’t know about.
These are GPS-Aware tours, so you can look at a map on your screen if you’re nervous, but honestly, it’s OK to put the phone away. Sometimes in the tour I tell you about something that’s small or hard to see. In that case I describe what you need to spot to find it, but I also include a photo to make sure you can see what I’m talking about. The idea is for you to be fully immersed in the stories while walking around Paris.
What Parts of Paris Can You Explore Right Now with These Audio Guides?
There are two available in August 2019 with a third coming in September 2019. Then I will work on tours for outside of Paris.
Ile de la Cité
I started researching this one in Feb 2019, it was mostly written when the fire at Notre Dame happened in April 2019. So, I had to go back to the drawing board to find the best route to take around the Cathedral so you could see it as well as possible and hear stories about what makes it so special. This terrible fire delayed things a lot, but I found a great way for you to see as much of Notre Dame as possible. This tour will always be special to me because it was my first and Ile de la Cité is where Paris was born and you can’t understand the city if you don’t explore this area.
Everyone wants to see the Marais, it’s really popular and so interesting! There is so much in the Marais! Beautiful architecture, amazing stories, I had to make a lot of choices so the tour wouldn’t get too long. It’s a big neighborhood where people tend to get lost in the Marais. So, how to show you the best of the Marais without taking the whole day? I’ve got this, let me show you around!
This one is not out yet, but I will publish it in Sept 2019 just around the corner so I must mention it. As you know if you listen to this podcast, Montmartre was not my favorite place in Paris. It’s too busy, too commercial, too many pickpockets, too noisy, I never felt good there. But I know it’s a favorite for lots of people and a lot of great stuff happened there, so I didn’t give up on it. I went back again and again to look around on every trip I take to Paris. I watched movies, I read articles, books, I really gave it time.
It turns out that I only dislike Montmartre when I follow the throngs of people. There’s a sea of people all going around like lemurs in Montmartre that really doesn’t work for me. So, I went off on little side streets, talked to people who live there, like an old lady at the Bateau-Lavoir and the guy who takes care of the little vineyard and they told me how to enjoy Montmartre!
As you may know, there are a lot of stairs in Montmartre, 220 steps to go up to the Sacré Coeur, 176 to exit the Abbesses Metro (if you don’t know that there’s an elevator which I explain in the App) so I wanted a path anybody could take. My tour will work with kids, elderly people, I’ve made it as easy as possible on the knees because my knees aren’t happy every day. You get to enjoy peaceful Montmartre without killing yourself, you get to all the cool things. And we end the tour with the busy parts around Place du Tertre and the Sacré Coeur. But by then you’re so charmed that I bet you’ll enjoy those too!
Inspiration for Tours
Let me tell you a bit about my process in writing those audio tours. Unlike most other English-speaking guides, I rely on French sources. After all, I am French, I am plugged in to French culture. I really don’t want to rehash stuff everybody’s heard, I want to bring genuine France into a tour in English.
And I want you to have a great time in France, feel sorry you have to go home. That’s why I bring in bits of French culture and lifestyle into the tours.
GPS-Aware Audio Tours Are a Big Time Saver
You’ll save time because I map things out for you. You won’t get lost because you can skip back and forth on the tour if you missed some directions. There are people who say the whole point is to get lost in Paris! That’s how you really discover it! I agree with them, if you’re not on the 5 days in Paris plan. If you move there, sure, have fun, get lost! But if you have limited time, get a tour, it will save you aggravations.
You’ll learn about things you’ve never heard of. I make a point to bring a little bit of everything into the tour. A bit of history, architecture, science history (there has been a lot of scientific breakthroughs in Paris!), popular culture, famous novels and movies, food, wine. If it piques my interest, I’ll find a way to put it in the tour.
How do VoiceMap Tours Work?
VoiceMap These tours are designed to be around 1 hour of audio and about 2 miles long. But in reality, you’ll probably stop and look at things, maybe you’ll listen to an audio bit more than once, maybe you’ll rest your feet for a bit. Most people take the tour in two hours.
The tours only work outside of buildings because they are GPS-driven, the technology to make GPS work inside isn’t quite ready for prime time.
So, with the Ile de la Cite tour (that’s Notre Dame Cathedral area) I take you right in front of the Sainte Chapelle and tell you why you should go inside at some point during your stay in Paris. Well, if the line is short, why not go see it right there and then? Pause the tour, enjoy the Sainte Chapelle, and when you’re done resume the tour!
That’s one of the best things about doing an audio tour! Most in-person tours either go too slow or too fast. They stop for a bathroom break when you don’t need one and when you’re dying the guide keeps talking.
In person tours are sometimes hard to hear. The guides do their best, but you miss half of the stuff. That won’t happen with headphones or earbuds!
With an audio tour, you control the pace. You can tear through it in an hour, or you can take it slow, stop in all the museums, monuments, restaurants I recommend and then it’ll take most of a day! You can pause and resume as often as you’d like. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, go hide in a café and come back the next day. Audio tours give you total freedom.
Download the Tours You Want at Home
And, this is important, please listen carefully: As soon as you’ve downloaded the tour you’ll see a button that says “start”. You can play the tour from home anywhere in the world.
You should in fact play with the App so you get comfortable with it. The more technologically challenged you are, the more I recommend you spend a little time playing with the App before you get to Paris, and feel free to ask me questions if you have any! But it’s like an audio book with chapters, you can pause, skip, repeat, all that good stuff.
What’s magic is when you get to Paris, open VoiceMap and go to the tour meeting point, the phone will know that’s where you are and I will start telling you about this particular part of Paris.
You must download the tour at home before your trip, you could do it at the last minute from your hotel, but hotel WiFi is never great.
You Will Not Need a Data Plan for These Tours to Work
And get this: once the tour is downloaded and you’re in Paris, you can turn data off. The map and audio are already in your phone and GPS works without data. You don’t need a data plan while you’re in Paris for this App to work. Just download the tours you want at home and enjoy them while in Paris!
But whereas you won’t need data, you will need power! Make sure you phone is charged, a couple of the tour testers told me they had to stop and recharge because their phone died in the middle of the tour.
There are two things you can do about this:
- Turn your screen off and just listen to the audio. That will save a ton on battery.
- When you travel, always have an external battery pack and a cable in your bag. That will save you so much time and aggravation!
So, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to grab your smartphone, go to the App Store or Play Store. In the App store search for VoiceMap (all in one word) and install that. SPELL VOICEMAP. VoiceMap is free App, and once you’ve downloaded it, you create an account.
Then, once VoiceMap is installed and you have your account, scroll through to Paris. There are two Paris tours of mine on the App right now and a third will be published in September 2019. You can recognize them easily because the podcast logo is on the image and it says tour by Annie Sargent.
My current tours are called:
--Ile de la Cité: Where Paris Was Born
--The Marais: the Paris Neighborhood that Has It All
Free Updates for Life
Why do you have to create an account? You have to do that because you can’t buy anything on-line without an account, but also 5 years from now, when Notre Dame is open and ready for your visit, I will update the tour to include the new parts of the Cathedral you’ll be able to see from the outside.
And it won’t cost you a penny because VoiceMap will remember from your account that you’ve already bought that tour, you’ll be able to delete the old one, download the new one again and done! You’ll probably switch phones at some point, no problem, download VoiceMap on your new phone, sign in to your account and your tours are right there!
I’ve also made sure it is not a creepy App that tracks you and sells your data to the highest bidder. They know your GPS location when the App is running but they don’t share it with anyone. Their business model (and mine) is to sell great tours, not creepy surveillance!
Let me answer a few questions that have come up from people who’ve taken the tour:
Does everyone in your group need to download the App and the tour? I think having your own copy of the tour is ideal, but you could share an air bud with someone, or get a chord splitter if your phone has a headphone jack. But for everyone’s enjoyment, I think it’s best if each person can go at their own pace.
How Do You Buy these Tours?
There are two ways to buy these tours:
You can buy the tours directly from the VoiceMap App as soon as you install it.
You can also buy a tour code from joinusinfrance.com because I offer it at a discount for podcast listeners. Look for the menu or green button that says Audio Tours. In that case you’ll get the code and instructions within 24 hours and we’ll respond to any issues you may have.
Ile de la Cité Audio Tour Sample
Now here’s a sample from the Ile de la Cité tour just to give you an idea of what you can expect. Most audio bits in the tours don’t have sound effects because that would get old, but this one does and I love it! This part of the tour describes how the man who killed Henri IV was executed. Not for the faint of heart, but this is really what happened back then!
First Time in Paris