Laurence is passionate about Montmartre and knows intimately the story behind its vineyard "Le Clos Montmartre."
Laurence was born in Dijon, the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, where the fairies of patrimony and gastronomy gave her their blessings, which she has carried throughout a nomadic life that has taken her from France to Morocco to Spain to Ireland and back to France again. Having earned diplomas in hospitality and oenology, she has shared her passion for history and winemaking throughout Europe. All of these experiences (and a sprinkling of fairy dust) come together on top of the hill of Montmartre where Laurence is honored to share the fascinating story about how the rebellious Parisian spirit protected a piece of land which remains Europe’s oldest and most well-kept secret urban vineyard — “Le Clos Montmartre.”
From our Gazette news section: In Montmartre’s Historic Vineyard, a Living Chapter of Paris History
When did you launch Secret Journeys and how did you get the idea?
We officially launched in the fall of 2018 after a year during which we experimented with different models. When working for The New York Times, I had witnessed firsthand the launch of NYT Journeys, which consists of trips around the world where journalists and columnists join travelers to share their expertise derived from living in these places and doing on-the-ground reporting. Having traveled the globe extensively myself for over two decades, I immediately thought that bringing the art of storytelling and the very best narrative journalism to the world of travel could be a way to create truly amazing and memorable moments. I knew that Paris, where I live and where I know so many top journalists and authors, would be the best place to launch Secret Journeys.
Your signature mentions “privileged encounters,” can you tell us more about this idea?
Whether cooperating with iconic landmarks such as the Palace of Versailles or the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris (one of our destinations until the fire of April 15, 2019), or entering private studios, galleries or museums, we bring our guests into contact with many passionate people who have so much enthusiasm and knowledge to share. Whenever possible, we organize special moments during our Journeys for our guests to interact and converse with the people who bring each destination to life. Day in and day out, artisans, chefs, curators, artists, and experts — they are the real stars of the Journeys and the chance to talk to them brings an authentic experience of Paris that is rare for a visitor.
How about “private access,” how do you manage that part?
I think it is human nature to enjoy seeing things and experiencing spaces that are rarely seen. Beyond our ability to access private spaces generally closed to the public, we design each and every one of our Journeys with the highest attention to what we call its “scenography.” In theatrical terms, our Journey locations in and around Paris are the most magnificent “stages” one can have access to, and we view our mission, with our storytellers, as creating the most unforgettable "performances" for our audience — our discerning clients.