My husband and I love food. If you have read my blog before, or follow me on Instagram, this is no surprise. One of our favorite things to do is to plan trips that either revolve around food or at least have a hefty portion rely on food. Food tours are at the top of our list as an incredible way to do an un-touristy tourist thing in a part of a city or country that we may not have reason to visit otherwise.
Our recent 10-day Eurotrip from France to Germany to the UK had us spending our first 3 days in Paris. The only scheduled event we had on tap for our Paris visit was a 3-hour food tour through the suburban area of Montmartre, which also houses the grandiose church Sacré Couer and the infamous Moulin Rouge. Both are a short walk from the area of the walking tour.
There are so many options for Parisian food tours, but we were drawn to the reviews and outline of Secret Food Tours. They have a clean and easy website to navigate, thorough itineraries that get you excited about what you will taste without giving away too much. Secret Food Tours offers 6 stops plus a “secret dish” that you don’t learn about until the day of the tour. Two tours are offered in Paris: Le Marais and Montmartre. We had decided to stay in an Air BnB in Marais to take advantage of the local feel, so selecting the Montmartre tour was a no-brainer. That plus the slogan for was, “Learn to Shop and Eat like a Local.” Sign us up!
Secret Food Tour Montmartre Starting Point
There is a day and an evening option for the Montmartre Tour and we selected the daytime route at 10:30 a.m. so we could eat and wander during the day, and have time to digest before meeting my cousin (who lives and works in Paris) for dinner later that evening. If you select a weekend tour BE CAREFUL TO NOTE THE STARTING POINT. I’m not yelling at you here, I’m yelling at myself. The weekend tours leave from the Abesses metro stop (circled above) not the Alvers stop, where I navigated us to. This was not a surprise, and the SFT people make it abundantly clear, but we were so jetlagged I legitimately thought it was still Friday on Saturday morning. Ugh.
Paris is super pretty, peeps.
Thankfully the Alvers metro stop is less than 1 kilometer from Abesses, so we started our day with a short metro ride from Marais, followed by a brisk 700m walk/jog to the meeting point, and snuck a quick view of these peaceful Parisian gardens.
Our Guide: PJ
We met our guide, PJ, at the
Alvers Abesses metro stop. He was easily recognizable from the orange umbrella he was holding as well as his boisterous laugh, and the 6 very un-french folks standing around him nervously in a semi-circle, devouring mini pastries. We introduced ourselves as the lone Canadians, claimed our croissants, and we were off to the first stop.
Now, I’m torn between telling and showing you everything we did on this tour, or just giving you the highlights so that you would be pleasantly surprised if you chose to embark on your own tour…
That being said the name of the company is Secret Food Tours, so I think I will have to stick with the greatest hits.
1st Stop: Baguette my heart.
Our first stop was for baguettes at one of the one million bakery/boulangeries I have seen in the first 24 hours in Paris. Here PJ selected 3 different types of baguette for us to enjoy after we had collected all the pieces for a perfect Parisian lunch. I learned two main things here: 1- If a bakery doesn’t use the word “boulangerie” then it means that the bread is not made on site. And 2- if you aren’t lining up for fresh baguettes when you smell it coming from a shop, then you are not French.
2nd Stop: Cheese, please.
Here we got to sample a small taste of a hard sheep’s milk cheese, which reminded me of an aged cheddar. Very mild, yet flavorful. We collected 4-5 different kinds of cheese. I made notes about what kinds, but then I dropped my phoned down 4 flights of stairs and can’t open certain programs… Sidenote: yay for Otterbox!
3rd + 4th Stops: Meat and Wine!
I don’t have any photos of this one because the local shop we went to was so small and so busy, I couldn’t get in for a photo. Instead, I enjoyed snapping the street art and quaint houses down the side street beside the meat shoppe. PJ picked up a few different types of salami/cured meats and some soft patés. He also seemed to know everyone in Montmartre, and the amount of hellos and hugs and kisses he dolled out was amazing. He told us after that this is the neighborhood he grew up in, and after years of working and traveling abroad, he loved coming home and guiding these tours around his hometown.
And now, we feast!
About 90 minutes into the tour, after a quick stop in an old wine shop, we congregated at the back of a local bar (presumably owned by a friend of PJ) to sit down and enjoy our spoils: Wine, cheese, meat, baguette.
We sat for an hour or so, wining and dining, and eating more bread and cheese than my body knows how to handle. I tried stinky cheese, soft cheese, mouldy cheese, ashy cheese… I think there was even one more.
5th Stop: Sweet Treats!
You can’t visit France without tasting fresh macarons and chocolate, and we are very lucky to try both! We went to a small shop run by two ladies who know a thing or two about sweets, and I was able to sample a Baileys and Banana macaroon and a wasabi salted caramel truffle, among other flavors.
6th Stop: It’s a secret, silly!
It wouldn’t be a secret food tour without the secret dish. For us, it was this
life-changing incredible pastry that I am not going to tell you the name of. Okay, okay, I will tell you the name, but not the boutique name. These little babies are called Choupettes, and you MUST try one on your visit, even better if you can try one from the secret spot. Through your dietary concerns away and eat one dozen of these, asap.
And now, the end is near…
With that, we were left to our own devices to drunkenly crawl into the nearest ditch and lay in a food coma until dinner time (which, in Paris, is about 10:00 p.m.). Just kidding, about the dying. The dinner time is 100% true. We thanked our guide and asked for a few other recommendations in the area, and decided to try and walk off our lunch with the short trek to Sacré Couer which has probably the best view of the city.
At night you can walk down to the red light district and see some colorful stuff, including the iconic Moulin Rouge. After seeing it, I don’t really get it, but whatever. (In my honest opinion, if you’re not there to go inside, you can skip it.)
Secret Food Tours Paris: Final Thoughts
It’s 14 days later and I’m just starting to feel hungry again after this trip, no joke. For this food tour, there is definitely enough food, even though you are just eating little bits of everything. But here are some of my honest notes regarding the Secret Food Tour Montmartre:
1- Though it’s pegged as a walking tour, there’s really not that much walking.
I’m the nerd who tracks my steps on vacation, and we took less than 3,000 which equates to about 2 kilometers total. Montmartre is full of hills and lots of steep inclines, so for some, this is a good thing. I did ask about it after and PJ mentioned that before there were some people who complained there was TOO MUCH walking, lol. So, I guess you just can’t make everyone happy, and if less walking means more time for eating and drinking, then so be it.
2- This is a “Hunt & Gather” style tour
Past food tours I’ve been on offer a sample at every stop. This one does not, for the first part of the trip where you are collecting your food for the sit-down lunch. Again, not a complaint, just different. I would have planned my morning meal differently, or eaten one, lol. We opted to do a quick coffee on our own and NOT eat breakfast assuming we would be wolfing down food from the first minute.
3- The 3-hour runtime is more of a guideline, not exact timing.
If you are a person who loves making a sticking to tight schedules, Paris is not for you. In Paris, timelines are lax, and the focus is on your enjoyment and lifestyle. If you sign up for this tour, note that it will not end right at 2:00 p.m., and may run and extra 30 – 60 minutes over (the guide will ask you if this is okay, so don’t panic if you have a 3:00 pm Louvre tour scheduled). My suggestion would be to leave your afternoon open so you can explore Montmartre.
Overall, PJ was great and the food was wonderful. I have always said I could eat like a Parisian every day (read: baguette, wine and cheese plates) until I did for 4 days, and thought I might explode. So that was our foray into being a true Parisian. Secret Food Tours run almost every day of the week and start at 89 Euros per person.
Have you ever done a food tour when traveling? Let me know in the comments. Or, check my post on How to Spend 48 hrs in Quebec City which also features a food tour!