When Houston native Dr. Monique Y. Wells began leading tours in Paris more than 10 years ago, most of her guests were university study-abroad groups. She still gets them, but Entrée to Black Paris now has expanded to offer 12 different African-American history walks, including "Black History in and Around the Luxembourg Garden" and "Montparnasse -- The Artists' World."
Wells' company specializes in private, guided tours, and her most popular is "Black Paris After World War II," which Wells says offers "a lot of talk about the entire African-American diaspora experience."
"It's important for African-Americans to see there are other race struggles going on in the world," says Wells, whose e-book "Black Paris Profiles," shares the stories of 24 black American and Afro-Caribbean folks who reinvented their lives here.
"And for people who are not black and taking the tours -- if they are Americans -- to see just how much the African-American presence has brought to Paris. The Paris they know would not be the same, and it's important for them to understand that."
Wells mentions jazz, first introduced to France by black Americans. Not only has this music led to a French-grown jazz culture, but "so much art from the 20th century has been influenced by jazz."
Culinary contributions also figure into Entrée's year-round tours. "When I moved here, you could not find sweet potatoes on mainstream menus," says Wells, a co-author of "Food for the Soul: A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris."
Now, she says, this African-American Southern food staple is everywhere -- and served thinly sliced and fried as a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre or soup garnish.
Passionate about helping tourists explore French culture through food, Wells this month will start joining Jacksonville, Florida-based Chef Amadeus for "The Southern Passion Lounge in Paris," an Internet radio show. Broadcast the third Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. ET, they'll transport listeners to Parisian eateries through food, wine and music -- and also will spotlight French restaurants and chefs in the States.
The newest Entrée to Black Paris offering takes guests to the western Parisian suburbs for the "Josephine Baker Tour in Le Vésinet." They'll see Le Beau Chêne, the mansion Baker owned and called home for 18 years, have lunch at a nearby American-owned bed and breakfast and learn about Baker's life over dessert.
Wells and husband Tom Reeves also operate Discover Paris!, a service offering everything from gourmet food tours to self-guided downloadable walks to presentations on "Black Paris and the Myth of a Colorblind France."
Entrée to Black Paris' prices range from $25-$30 for self-guided walking tours to $325 for private, guided walking tours for between one and 15 people (no per-person charge). Activities such as museum art walks and the "Josephine Baker Tour in Le Vésinet" are group-only; contact firstname.lastname@example.org for prices.