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Oliver Gee is a native of Perth, Australia who has been living in Paris since 2015. He is a regular contributor to Bonjour Paris, and his lively weekly “Earful Tower” podcasts highlight people, places, and things happening in Paris. On June 12, he will be doing a live podcast from Adrian Leeds’ Après-Midi meet-up in the Marais, collecting more Parisian stories from the audience—it’s free, it’s open to everyone, and this one promises to be a lot of fun! Oliver recently took the time to answer Janet Hulstrand’s questions about how he got here and where he’s going next, in this interview for Bonjour Paris.
Janet: Thanks for doing this, Oliver. Let’s get the basics first: where are you from, what brought you here, and what is making you stay?
Oliver: I’m an Australian from Perth, and I’ve been in Paris for over three years now. I came for a job as a journalist and I stayed because, quite simply, Paris is the center of the universe and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Janet: How did you come up with the idea for “The Earful Tower,” and what is unique about it?
Oliver: A friend asked me to do a news program for his radio station, and I said I’d do it if it was more of a talk show and less about news. And just like that, The Earful Tower was born! I think it’s unique because there aren’t any other podcasters talking about Paris with an Australian accent. And if there are, I bet they don’t do walk shows too!
Janet: Yes, I love the concept of your “walk shows,” can you explain what they are and how they came about?
Oliver: When I saw that Facebook could do live videos, I invited a tour guide to join me for a chat and it really got people excited, so I just started doing more of them.
The idea is that it’s a mix of a walk and a talk show – in other words, I interview people as we stroll around Paris – and it’s all filmed live. I’ve done about 20 “walk shows” by now, and I’ve been doing them for over a year. I’ve been lucky enough to turn The Earful Tower into my job now- so now most of the walks are for members only – but I still do an occasional one for the full Facebook community. The next one I have planned is a walk through Montmartre and the Saint-Ouen markets—so watch this space!
Janet: How long have you been doing the Earful Tower, and what are some of the most interesting things you’ve learned, or people you’ve met, in the process of interviewing people for it?
Oliver: I’ve been doing the Earful since December 2016. I’ve learned so much from my weekly guests. But some of my favorite episodes are the ones that might sound the least interesting. I talked to an old man who’d lived in Paris for 50 years – he was fascinating. And an elderly lady told me she released crocodiles into the Canal Saint-Martin, that was a favorite too. But I’ve also done episodes on tandem bikes, from ambassadors’ residences, and from inside the Paris sewers. There’s never a dull moment!
Janet: What do you love most about Paris, and what drives you the most crazy?
Oliver: Paris, to me, smells of croissants, cherry blossoms, and opportunity. I love that there is always a story to be told here, from the ones the tour guides have been repeating a million times to the new ones that I stumble upon in the most unusual ways. I just found out the other day that the islands in the center of Paris used to include a third, called Cow Island (or Ile Aux Vaches), where cows used to graze. They have since fused the islands into just two, as we know them today. But I had no idea about that, and only learned it when I saw an old map of the city in a friend’s apartment.
What drives me crazy? The admin, the cigarette smokers, and the litterers.
Janet: What is your favorite place in Paris, and your favorite thing to do?
Oliver: My favorite thing to do is to walk, anywhere, in any direction, with as little purpose as possible. I never get tired of walking, even down the same old streets. I’d rather leave early and walk 30 minutes than take a five-minute Metro ride. My favorite place is anywhere along the Canal Saint-Martin, but not close enough so the crocodiles can get me…
Janet: What do you think is the most common misconception about Paris that people who don’t live there have?
Oliver: Parisians aren’t rude. It’s that simple. They have their way of doing things, and if you say your bonjour and smile, then you’ll find they’re as warm as fresh baguette.
Janet: Any other exciting news coming up that I haven’t thought to ask about?
Oliver: Yes! For season four of the show – The Honeymoon Season – I’ll be riding around France on a scooter with my fiancée (who’ll by then be my wife). Call it cheesy, but we will spend six weeks mapping out a massive love heart around the country – starting in Paris, arching to the northwest, then down to Marseille, then back up through the Alps and the east to Paris again. I really want to showcase France – and not just Paris, like I usually do – so if anyone lives on the route, get in touch!
Janet: What a beautiful idea! How long is your trip going to be? I hope you’ll consider swinging by to see me in Essoyes, in southern Champagne, on your way back to Paris.
Oliver: The trip should take about six weeks, though I suppose it takes as long as it takes. And it depends how the scooter holds up too! But even though Essoyes isn’t directly on the heart map, I would love to make a detour to see you. Put that champagne on ice!
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