Around the Office: Guillaume and the French Open
Born and raised in Paris, “Will” is our resident Parisian and the man we turn to regarding French Open travel. He walks to work in every kind of weather and provides wine advice around the office. Here, Will was cool enough to answer a few of our questions:
How do the two weeks in spring stand out from the rest of the year when growing up near Roland Garros?
Roland Garros really is a national celebration in France. You see a lot of commercials for the brands sponsoring Roland Garros and the players, of course. The subway stations are decorated for the occasion, the Eiffel tower hosts a giant tennis ball in its center and you even can find tennis ball pastries in bakeries!
We also have all the games broadcasted live on national public channels, which are very popular in France. All other TV programs are affected, even the 8 o'clock national news are put on hold if a match is longer than expected. The month of May is definitely a big time for tennis in France.
If you could give one piece of advice to a tourist to Paris, what would it be?
Pack your best hat and sunglasses, but don’t forget to bring a light raincoat. We have uncertain weather at this time of the year. It’s very common to have a couple of sunny and hot days followed by a rainy, grey day. Also, give the small French restaurants you can find all over Paris a chance. Don't judge a book by its cover; you can find hidden gems in places that barely have four tables and display their menu on a chalkboard. If you ask Andrew (the president of GSTT) about his all-time favorite restaurant, he will tell you that it’s a very small restaurant in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Who is your favorite French tennis player?
As a kid I always liked watching Cedric Pioline; he carried the French team during the Davis Cups. He also reached the finals of two Grand Slam tournaments and lost against Pete Sampras both times. It must have been some kind of curse for him, but I remember the whole country rooting for Cedric during Wimbledon 1997. That was a great moment.
Who do you think was the coolest French tennis player ever?
Without any hesitation, Yannick Noah! He is the only French player to win a Grand Slam tournament: the French Open in 1983. Yannick is still extremely popular in France due to his genuine talent on the courts and his career as a singer. He was often “elected” as the most appreciated French person of the year by the Institut français d’opinion publique, the French Institute of Public Opinion.
I think that Gael Monfils has the same vibe and he also delivers awesome tennis to the crowd. He is such a good showman and I sincerely hope that he will be able to shine during the next French Open.
We stay at the Hotel Bel Ami in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Tell us a little bit about the neighborhood. How is it known to Parisians?
Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a unique neighborhood in Paris. Nested in the heart of the city, you will be close to high-end fashion stores and famous pastry shops, as well as landmarks like the Notre Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of gothic architecture, and the Pont des Arts, the bridge renowned for its love locks.
The atmosphere of the district is the definition of French chic. It's not uncommon to see famous actors or politicians having coffee at Café de Flore, located next to the Bel Ami Hotel. Parisians and tourists love one thing in Saint-Germain-des-Prés: the authentic spirit of Paris. Take a short walk in the neighborhood and you will experience a feeling of dépaysement, a non-translatable French expression to describe a sweet disorientation, or an unsteady yet pleasant feeling of being far away from your home country.
You live here in Stowe, Vermont. Which French food do you miss most?
There are simple things in Paris that you can’t find anywhere else, and a French breakfast is one of them. As much as I love my blueberry muffins, I miss going to a café in the morning. To me there’s something perfect about sitting outside on a terrace enjoying my crispy, golden croissants, catching the scent of a strong espresso, and watching the curls of cigarette smoke coming from the customer next to me. This is my Paris.
If you have any further questions for Guillaume or want him to help plan your next French Open vacation, send him an email!