Paris par rues méconnues unveils an unexplored part of participative tourism
par Adrien Geneste | 04.15.11
In February 2008, a think tank composed of almost 350 people from the Belleville district of Paris resulted in the creation of the association Paris Par Rues Méconnues (Through the lesser-known streets of Paris). Beyond traditional tourism, the association offers the population of districts that are often neglected help to integrate into society.
An innovative approach to urban tourism
Immerse yourself in the more-than-ever authentic Paris. This is the promise made by the association to visitors from every corner of the planet as well as to Parisians keen to discover their city. The initiator, Angénic Agnero, drew her inspiration from African oral traditions, punctuating the tours with a multitude of anecdotes of all kinds. “Some people from the district tell us how their parents met Edith Piaf,” Anne Malanda, the co-founder of the association, says joyfully. Along the streets, each participant is invited to enter studios of artists from the district, small traditional shops and even inhabitants’ homes.
“The association truly acts as a social sponsor with the district’s actors by inviting strollers to meet them!” Thus the dream of discovering the beautiful interior courtyards hidden behind the cold doors of the capital finally comes true and the art studios become for a few hours the scene of tourist activities.
These original tours are first and foremost meant to be convivial and based on exchanges with the heterogeneous and multicultural population of the visited district, who “never hesitates to invite strollers for a coffee”! This way of discovering the area from the inside enables visitors to get onto the subjects that they have previously chosen. There are about thirty different tours available on the list: urban culture, architecture, ecology, gastronomy, local craft industry or demography and migrations…
A social and solidarity-based tourism
But what makes a difference in the innovative concept of Paris Par Rues Méconnues is the importance of the project’s social aspect, for the purpose is not simply touristy: “we are helping a lot of young people find a training opportunity with the district’s craftsmen or train in partnership with recognised organisations.” Thus Paris Par Rues Méconnues helps and trains a significant number of young people with no qualification, leading them towards working life and making their integration into society easier. Civic education of new comers and French people of foreign origin is also part of the association’s priorities, which pays particular attention to sustainable and responsible development by increasing inhabitants’ awareness of the issues tackled during the Grenelle de l’Environnement (Environmental Round Table held in Paris in 2007) for instance. For Anne Malanda, “letting new comers become withdrawn is out of the question: they must integrate!” To do so, they can learn French, thanks to the lessons given by volunteer workers from the association, but also participate in numerous activities.
Finally, the local population’s involvement is boosting inhabitants’ self-esteem, in districts where they are too often denigrated, by encouraging relationships based on exchange, hospitality and cheerfulness with strollers, glad to share something with artists, craftsmen, inhabitants and shopkeepers who not only support the association’s project but also participate very actively in it.
This initiative is remarkably effective since Paris Par Rue Méconnues now covers no less than 7 districts of the capital and offers an increasing number of activities. Now Anne Malanda only fears that they might not be able to spread in certain areas of the city, where “inhabitants may not be as inclined to open their doors.” Hospitality does not come to order.
Photo credits: Paris Par Rues Méconnues
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