A tour guide and a travel blogger is a combination one can trust, right? We’ve caught up with Guillaume Le Roux, a French guy that has just come back from his trip to Lithuania – Kaunas, too. He’s recently published a second Kaunas guide in French on his blog, so we’ve decided to ask him a few questions about how he discovered our city and what he likes best about it. Great tips, Guillaume – hope you come back soon for some nightlife experience!
- Tell us a little about yourself. Are you originally from Paris? Which came first – the wish to tell visitors about Paris or to share your own travel experiences with the world?
- I’m a travel/food/music blogger (716lavie.com) and a tour guide in Paris (levraiparis.com). I started in 2008 as a food blogger focused on the good tips in Paris regarding quality food AND friendly service and also as music blogger looking for good underground music from all over the world. Later on, I realised that my expertise for food and music was helping me a lot to get quickly into the local scenes of the places I was visiting. I started to write about my good gastronomic and musical discoveries. Then I began collaborating also with Tourism Boards for professional co-ops. My goal is always to think local, whether I show my own town or when I’m travelling.
- What have been the highlights of your career as a blogger so far?
- I’m celebrating the 10 years’ anniversary this year, which is long for a blog, most of them die after 3 or 5 years. My highlights were being the only French food blog selected by Google when they had launched the Field Trip App, collaborating with numerous countries for super cool insider experiences, having announced before others: in 2008, that Colombia would become super touristic; for 5 years now claiming that the Baltic countries will also get very much more visited in the next 5 years. Most of all, having enjoyed crazy experiences with locals without betraying my philosophy.
- How did you first learn about Lithuania and what was your first trip here like?
- It’s a good and intimate question, at least the reply is intimate, ha. I first discovered the Baltics because I was interested in those countries I didn’t know. I met my girlfriend who was Lithuanian and then came to visit her. I will always remember my first impression when I arrived there in summer.
By then I was stressed by my professional situation in Paris, working a lot and making no money. My girlfriend had found the cheapest rental car agency that ever existed in Europe! 50 euros for 4 days for an Audi. The place was in a strange area, near the highway exit outside Vilnius. I was suspicious, but everything went well. When I started driving outside the capital, surrounded by pine forests, I felt immediately deeply relaxed, like if nature would talk to me and would welcome me in her arms.
- When did you first come to Kaunas particularly? Was there a stark difference from Vilnius?
It’s funny because I first visited Vilnius, Kernavė, Anykščiai, Klaipeda, Nida, before I finally discovered Kaunas (I’ve been to Lithuania 6 times so far).
I knew Kaunas was different from Vilnius. In the beginning of our relation with my girlfriend, she was very much into « Kaunas is better than Vilnius, because it is more quiet, etc… ». I was a bit bored by this argument, because:
1) everywhere I go, there is always a competition between the first and the second cities of the country;
2) I come from Paris and I’m used to big towns so it is not a problem for me.
The first time I came to Kaunas it was winter time and not so easy to move around the city. I was hosted outside the old town and I had difficulties to feel comfortable walking around, because Kaunas is mostly made of large avenues with cars when you are outside the old town. But I really enjoyed the old town and the surroundings of Kaunas where a friend had driven me. Overall I enjoyed the quiet atmosphere and the fact the soul of the town was not so easy to catch, but once you get it, you can get hooked up.
- If you could compare your first and most recent visits to Kaunas, what are the differences?
The more I come, the more I like it. I’ve just come back from my 3rd visit – I took my parents on a surprise trip to Lithuania this time. I thought it would be interesting for them to discover the country through Kaunas at first.
It also seems that the town is on a good move. From what I can see, some interesting restaurants are being opened, the Tourism Board (Kaunas In, - editors note) is actively promoting the city: new guided tours and itineraries, inside or outside town. And you can feel all is yet to come.
- The clash of topics in your blog is rather unusual for travel blogs – it’s travel and… electronic music. Do you always search for nightlife spots or local music while travelling? What’s your Lithuanian experience in this area?
- Yes, I always try to do so, although with the age coming I’m more and more enjoying a quiet night more than being out late. Still, at least, I check for local artists through the web, they are always interesting as much for their own work as for their approach at their environment, they can be a precious source of info and insights.
In Kaunas, I had a good night at the Largo; the concert of Lithuanian band Deeper Upper as much as the spirit of the place and the owner’s personalities were super cool. Regarding DJs, I have published a mix of local artist Svengalik on my blog and I’m of course open to discover more.
- What do you think about the restaurant scene in Kaunas? What are its differences from other cities in the region? What were your best picks?
- So much more is about to come, it’s crazy, Kaunas has a huge potential: the attachment of locals to their hometown and surroundings, the quality of the countryside and its products, the interests of inhabitants for new options in town, the growing interest of tourists for the city – all of this allows to promise a bright future.
Still, Kaunas misses a lot of different types of food (foreign food for example) and has far too many pizzas and fast food, ha! But there are a lot of top options in different styles – veggie (Moksha, Žalia Pupa), traditional revisited (Višta Puode, Monte Pacis), trendy (Nüman), Neapolitan pizza (Jurgis Ir Drakonas).
And here is my favourite place in the country with Keulė Rūkė in Vilnius: Spurginė. You can’t beat Spurginė, never. Spurginė is the symbol of the never dying charm of Kaunas and it has to stay like that.
- What are the three main things you would say nobody should miss while in Kaunas?
- The nature! Juniper valley (Kadagių slėnis), Kaunas Lagoon Regional Park (Kauno marių regioninis parkas), Panemunė pineowood (Panemunės šilas). The old town with a walk around the Kaunas castle. Monte Pacis.
- What are, from your experience, three of Kaunas’s best kept secrets?
- What would you suggest improving or maybe giving more attention to in Kaunas for people living here?
- Increase the space dedicated to bike lanes, communicate the local art scene more (I’m sure people do but, at least for a tourist, it would be nice to see more events announced), develop the underground club scene (surely I must have missed something, but I have never been to a cool underground electronic music party here).