Have you heard about the secret underground tunnels that snake through the dark Catacombs of Paris? When was the last time you climbed the rooftops of the French capital to really see the view? Or dove into the canal in search of a crocodile?
If you’ve been there, done that with Oliver Gee and his wife Lina Nordin Gee then you must be one of the million followers fascinated by their adventures in Paris. Since Oliver Gee moved from Australia to France in 2015 and married the talented Swedish artist Lina Nordin in 2018, the intrepid, creative couple have launched the award-winning podcast, The Earful Tower, written and published several books including two children’s books, produced a unique 2022 guide to Paris and even found time to have a baby!
With their child in tow, the Gees are currently exploring and documenting each of Paris’ 20 diverse arrondissements, sharing their discoveries with every step.
INSPIRELLE caught up with Oliver Gee and Lina Nordin Gee on a break from their busy schedule to learn more about why Paris and France continue to enthrall locals and visitors with its history, secrets and untold stories.
Meet the Gees in person at INSPIRELLE’s next event June 8, 2022 at Free Persephone Spa in Paris to learn about their next exciting adventure! Details below.
A popular podcast, blogs, books, designs, even shoes. What gets your creative juices going?
Oliver: I tend to question everything. Why is that door shaped like that? Where does that tunnel go? Who picks the paintings for this museum? Then either finding the answers – or imagining them – can really get a story going.
Lina: I challenge anyone to walk down a bustling Parisian street and not be inspired!
Of all the places in the world to live and work, what drew you to Paris, France?
Oliver: I’ve always been drawn to Paris. My dad (and even his dad) had great stories about their visits and I always wanted to understand the fuss. When a job opportunity came up in 2015, I jumped in headfirst.
Lina: I’ve always been curious about Paris after living in other European cities like London, Milan, and Stockholm. Paris is iconic, I had to check it out.
How well did you know France when you arrived? Any preconceived notions or expectations?
Oliver: I knew nothing beyond the stereotypes, which was terrible because I was arriving to work as a journalist on the subject of France. I was meant to come a lot later, and had planned to read up on the country, but big news stories brought me here much sooner than planned. When I got here, I learned an extraordinary amount, extraordinarily quickly.
Lina: I didn’t know it well at all, I’d been on a few family trips but was essentially flying blind.
How do you work together as a creative team?
Oliver: I’d say Lina is the creative one. I have a lot of ideas and tackle a lot of the logistics, but it’s Lina whose mind goes into the most unique and wonderful places. Often when we make the books, I write the text, then she adds new pictures that I hadn’t even imagined. There’s a lot of back and forthing, but we don’t typically work face to face on the same project at the same time.
Lina: We complement each other, it’s kind of like a tennis match but we’re on the same team.
The Earful Tower is now one of the most popular travel shows in the world! How is your podcast different from others and why do you think your listeners are so dedicated?
Oliver: The podcast is very authentic, and I’m genuinely curious to hear and share people’s stories. Also, I dare to sneak into the catacombs, climb on the Paris rooftops, and chase crocodiles – I’ve not seen any other podcasters do these things… yet! As for the dedicated listeners, I think they enjoy a reliable 30-minute escape to Paris every Monday. We’ve been coming out for five years now.
Tell us why you created the book, “Kylie the Crocodile in Paris” for children and your experience of getting it published and sold in the Louvre Museum!
Oliver: An old Parisian lady told me that she released a small crocodile into the Canal Saint-Martin. The story became one of the most popular podcast episodes I’ve done, and during the first lockdown in Paris we were so bored that we decided to turn it into a children’s book. With the help of the podcast listeners and social media followers, we crowdfunded an initial print run that turned into a real book, which turned into something of a bestseller! They recently put it on display in the Louvre gift shop and we’re still pinching ourselves. As we speak, we’re working on the third print run, and the third book in the series!
So much has been written, illustrated and filmed about Paris? Why do you think people continue to be fascinated by the city and can there be new discoveries?
Oliver: Firstly, of course, there can be new discoveries! Look at the crocodile story! As for Paris, it’s just the perfect city to be fascinated by. There’s so much going on, so much history, so much beauty, and such an interesting mix of people. Why would you want to be anywhere else?
We often find ourselves passing by some incredible building and saying “Can you believe we live in this city?!”
Have the pandemic and lifestyle changes had an impact on how you navigate your lives in Paris?
Oliver: Not nearly as much as life has changed since we had a baby. The baby seems to have changed everything. He’s nine months old now, and it takes planning to a whole new level, not least considering we’ve just started a huge project to visit every arrondissement of Paris for 24 hours each time.
Every day seems like so much fun for you both. What’s a typical day like for the Gees in Paris?
Oliver: We wake up early in the morning to the sound of a hungry baby. Before the crowds descend on our favourite cafe, we slip in for a coffee and a brainstorm. Lina will often paint or draw into the afternoon, while I might interview someone or write my next book. If we’re not working at home, we’ll be doing something in Paris for the show, whether it’s a museum, a boat trip on a canal, or a cool new restaurant. Follow us on Instagram and you’ll see exactly what we get up to because we tend to share a lot (not necessarily our personal lives, but definitely a lot of Paris).
Lina: There is no typical day. When you have our jobs, you can be trekking across Paris to find the right painting materials one day, and then scooting to deliver books the next.
What haven’t you done in Paris yet that you would love to experience?
Oliver: Each year we write a Paris bucket list, so I can tell you exactly. My list includes playing chess with a stranger in Luxembourg Gardens and dining at le Train Bleu restaurant. Lina’s includes a visit to the Vanves Flea Market and playing a game of tennis at the Luxembourg Gardens. Let’s see if we can tick off everything on the list!