When Thorold native April Pett first fell in love with Paris on a high school trip, she never anticipated living in Paris as a business owner only a decade later - and now, that’s just what she’s doing. Pett is the owner of April In Paris Tours, and has taken thousands of tourists on Parisian strolls through everything from historical sites to boutiques around France.
Pett offers a variety of tours to cater to any type of traveller - her most popular is her Versailles tour, but just as fascinating is her Off The Beaten Path tour that takes you down little-known cobblestone roads only locals are familiar with.
As a local herself, Pett offers tourists an authentic Parisian experience, stepping away from the guidebooks and venturing into the lesser-known spots around the city.
“I want to give a really authentic experience. I think that’s really important so you can see how the locals live and shop and eat and enjoy life. If you take a tour with me on a Sunday, for example, we might go to a market and eat oysters like I do on a Sunday,” said Pett.
This way, Pett gives her tours a personal touch. Reviews of her tours echo this sentiment, with clients consistently speaking of how much they love the insider perspective Pett offers.
“I always give people the option at the beginning of the tour - do you want to do what was originally planned or do you want to go off the map and do something a little bit crazy?” she said. “Most people say ‘let’s do what you would normally do, we want to see what it’s like to live as a Parisian for a day’.”
The tourism industry seems like a no-brainer for Pett. She had consistently travelled to Europe throughout her childhood and has since looked for travel opportunities wherever she could - she studied abroad in both high school and university, then picked up Italian citizenship and eventually backpacked around Europe.
After two years of living in Australia, Pett realized Paris was still calling her. She’d lost her French in that time and wanted to study up, but that wasn’t the only reason Paris was where she felt she needed to be. “I just had this everlasting love for France ever since the moment I left.”
Pett cannot stress the benefits of travelling enough, even trying to find a way to safely bring Paris to aspiring travellers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pett began to offer virtual tours over Zoom to bring some joy and Parisian charm to the rest of the world during quarantine and is still currently offering them. She is a firm believer that everyone should see the world, hence the desire to virtually bring France to those who are unable to travel.
“There’s so much self-discovery when you set off [travelling], you learn so much about yourself, but then, you also learn about these new, interesting foreign cultures and languages,” Pett stated. “I think it’s a great experience to open your eyes to other cultures and different ways of life, just to have a more open or worldly view. You come out of your own little bubble and have a better understanding of why things happen around the world.”
Pett said that the awe in her clients’ faces upon seeing France for the first time is part of why tourism is so important to her. “Do you know how many times people have actually cried in amazement on my tours?” Pett stated.
“I’m always seeing France through the eyes of new people and that always keeps me falling in love.” She cited a memory of an elderly woman - whom she still keeps in touch with to this day - crying at the sight of the Eiffel tower, telling Pett she never thought she would get to experience seeing it in person, stating experiences like those are always highlights.
Despite Pett’s love of seeing the world, Thorold still lies close to her heart, and she feels she owes thanks to the city.
“Working at the Thorold Tourism Bureau taught me so much about running a tourism business and just shooting for the stars. There, I really developed the skills, ambition and passion to set off on this journey,” said Pett.
“Without Terry Dow, who was my boss there, and the whole experience over the five years that I worked there, I don’t think I would be here.” As a seasoned traveller, Pett has one main piece of advice for those interested in travelling. “No hesitation - just do it,” she advised.
“There won’t be any regrets. [Travelling] broadens your horizons and you’ll make memories that you’ll remember forever. Just buy that ticket, you never know if the next day is gonna be your last so you might as well just enjoy life to the fullest and experience everything there is to offer.”
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