Secrets of Paris 
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About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Secrets of Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

June 12-14
The Salon du Vinatge is always a fun event in Paris, whether you're shopping for clothing, accessories, vinyls, and home decor, or just to hear the retro DJ tunes and the festive atmosphere. Free entry, at the Halle des Blancs Manteaux (48 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd). 

June 12-14
The Portes d'Or is a chance for all the artistic workshops in the Goutte d'Or (18th arrondissement) to open their doors to the public. Over 80 painters, sculptors, jewelery-makers and many others who live and work in the Goutte d'Or wish to share their creativity. Please come support the community and experience these unique productions. 

June 13-14
The artists of the 5th (Mouffetard) and 13th (Butte aux Cailles/Gobelins) districts knows as Lézarts du Bièvre open their studios to the public for two days, 2-8pm. Free entry. Info points and maps here.

June 14
Get out your fancy hats and picnic baskets for the annual Prix de Diane races at Chantilly Hippodrome (just 45 minutes north of Paris from Gare du Nord). Read more about the event here. 

June 21
Celebrate Fête de la Musique in 17th-century aristocratic style at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte for their annual costumes dance event, La Journée Grand Siècle, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the original owner, Nicolas Fouquet. There will be an elegant picnic in the chateau gardens, live music and dancing, as well as carriage rides and sword-fighting shows. If you don't have a costume gown you can rent one on-site from €17. 

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees
to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Tuesday
Jun302015

More Paris Street Art

Just when it seems like the street art in Paris gets old and familiar, new artists come onto the scene or I take a different route and discover hidden artworks. These are photos taken during my morning runs (mostly in the 13th arrondissement) and on my walking tours of Paris. I take them with Instagram and share them on Twitter

A large mural by the OnOff Crew at Docks-en-Seine (13th). This collaborative street art group is decoration the walls of the newly-renovated Bercy Stadium (formerly known as POPB). 

A mural on Rue Tolbiac (13th) dedicated to the artist Nikki de St-Phalle by Kashink1, for the 2015 Women's Forum in Paris.

This skull was next to Kashink1's mural, but not sure if it's also her work or another artist's. 

An Ingres portrait in street art/poster on the Rue St-Honoré (1st) as part of artist Julien de Casabianca's Outings project, bringing museum artworks to the streets around the world. 

This cute little train mural appeared last week in the Square René Le Gall (13th), on the wall of a small building being renovated across from the play area. I can't find any signature, so if anyone recognizes the artist let me know. 

The Space Invader needs no introduction...this discreet little guy on the turret of the Hôtel de Lamoignon (History of Paris Library, 4th) is easy to miss. 

Street artist Alice Pasquini's pretty painting on one of the electrical boxes of the 13th (near Place Jeanne d'Arc). 

A mural on the wall across from the metro station Bibliothèque (13th) by the street artist YZ, who participated in the Sur les Murs exposition (which ended today).

"You are Here" by the artist K-Bal, on the Rue St-André-des-Arts (6th). 

 

Monday
Jun222015

Beware of Incorrect Paris Museum Information 

If you’re planning to visit a Paris museum or monument, do yourself a favor and double-check the opening hours and entry fees on the OFFICIAL websites. Don’t rely on printed or online guidebooks, on the Paris tourism office website, or on blogs.

Why not? Because they often have outdated information that is completely wrong. And if you’re planning your whole day – or even your vacation itinerary – around this misinformation, imagine how much life will suck when the museum is no longer open on that particular day, or the tickets are not free anymore, or the particular artwork or room you wanted to see is temporarily closed? Or the Paris Museum Pass you thought you could use to “Skip the Line” doesn’t work at Ste-Chapelle, Versailles, nor Notre Dame’s towers?  

Here are just a few examples of what you may haved missed:

Louvre Museum

Old info: The Louvre is free to everyone the first Sunday of the month.

Correct info: The Louvre is free to everyone the first Sunday of the month ONLY from October through March (this changed in 2014, read article here).

Breaking News: As of July 1st, 2015 the entrance fee will be a flat €15 and include the permanent collections as well as the temporary expositions (until now there were separate tickets of €12 for the permanent collection and €13 for the temporary expositions, or €16 for a joint ticket, so it’s actually €1 cheaper).

Château de Versailles

Usual Chateau Gardens Opening Hours: Daily 8am-8:30pm


Actual Chateau Garden Opening Hours: The gardens close at 5:30pm (last entry 5pm) EVERY Saturday from June 20-September 19, and on June 26, 27, 30, July 1, 2, 8, 9, 10. Check Versailles opening hours here.

Random Closures: Versailles, like many monuments including Ste-Chapelle, sometimes close because of private events, and it doesn’t matter that you already booked your entrance tickets for that date six months in advance (anyone who showed up May 29th for their visit found the chateau and gardens closed for “a private event” at 3pm could only be reimbursed their tickets by emailing a written request and bank information).

Free First Sunday: Versailles is ONLY free the first Sunday of the month in low season, November through March.

No Skipping the Lines: If you have an advanced-purchased ticket or Paris Museum Pass, you still have to line up with everyone else to go through security. ONLY annual pass holders have priority access (and, of course, private tours).

Reminder: The Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate do not open until noon. So if you decide to get there early to “beat the crowds” (ha!), you’re better off arriving after noon and visiting these first, then going to the chateau after 4:30pm (going the opposite direction of the masses is the best way to avoid them).

Musée Carnavalet

Closed Rooms: Due to renovations, there are many rooms of this History of Paris museum which are closed, including the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the French Revolution. In other words, all of the best rooms! Yes, it’s a free museum, so not a huge deal, but French Revolution buffs looking forward to visiting this museum will be disappointed.

Musée d’Orsay

No-Photo Rules Change: Up until this spring it was forbidden to take photos of the artworks in the newly-renovated Musée d’Orsay. But after a French cultural minister was shamed for taking photos of the artworks and posting them on Instagram, the museum now allows photos again. However flashes, tripods and selfies-sticks are still not allowed. 

Palais de Tokyo

Old Info: Closed on Mondays (like the Municipal Museum of Modern Art, in the eastern wing of the same building).

Correct Info: Closed on Tuesdays. This changed when the museum re-opened after massive renovations in 2012, but many sites, including the Paris Tourism Office website, still claim it’s closed on Monday. These things happen, which is why you should always check the official website!   

Other Paris Museums & Monuments that ONLY free the first Sunday of the month in low season, from November until March:

Arc de Triomphe

Conciergerie

Panthéon

Sainte-Chapelle

Notre-Dame Towers  

Saint-Denis Basilica

Château de Vincennes

Do you want more information like this? Subscribe to the free Secrets of Paris Newsletter, where you'll get the insider tips, Paris news, and exclusive info (not published here on the website) emailed to you three times each month, guaranteed to be fluff-free! Click here to subscribe. 

Sunday
Jun212015

Beta-Test CityScoot: Paris’ Electric Scooter Rental Program 

Photo courtesy CityScoot

First there was Velib’, the municipal bike-sharing program. Then came Autolib’ with its cute electric cars. Now the City of Paris is now beta-testing a new program called CityScoot, a self-service electric scooter rental program scheduled to roll out in 2016 as part of the Paris Climate Conference initiative to “go green”.

You can sign up to be one of the beta-testers if you live in Paris (and can fill out the French sign-up form). As these are small electric scooters, a driving license isn’t required if you’re born before 1988. You can read more about the program here

Friday
Jun192015

Green Hotels and Charitable Booking Site 

If you’re environmentally-minded, there are only a few options for certified “green” hotels in Paris, but they’re good ones. Right at Trocadéro (just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower) is the Hotel Eiffel Trocadéro (€200-€300/night) and its sister hotel Le Gavarni (€160-€260). If you like the idea of escaping to a private hotel garden after a day in the busy city, and don’t mind being in a quiet-but-chic residential area, try the Regent’s Garden Hotel (€170-€250). For those on a really tight budget, the Solar Hotel (€89 flat rate all inclusive) is a great eco-friendly option right off a bustling market street near the Catacombes and Montparnasse Cemetery (they also have free bike rentals). Please don't forget what you save in price you make up for in space! 

Clockwise from top left: Eiffel Trocadéro, Gavarni, Regent's Garden, and Solar Hotel

For those who like the wide selection offered by sites like Booking.com, try BookDifferent.com, a site that uses the Booking.com database but donates 50% of its commission to one of the 126 participating charities (you get to choose). It let’s you sort hotels by carbon footprint or whether it’s eco-certified, and tells you exactly how much of your stay will be donated to the charity. Of course, it may make more sense to just book direct with the hotels (the hotels give preferential treatment for those who do), and donate the saved money direct to one of your favorite charities. But if you want the “path of least resistance” option then go ahead and reserve with BookDifferent.com

Thursday
Jun182015

Pétanque (or Boules) in Paris

Whether you call it pétanque or boules, the traditional French game with the shiny silvery balls has made a comeback. It used to be the only people you'd see playing in were old men in berets sipping pastis. Now everyone plays, particularly Parisian hipsters (les BoBo's) who don't have to worry about breaking a sweat. 

In the mood to try your hand? You can learn the rules of pétanque here, and find a great list of places to play here, but what about les boules? You can either buy inexpensive sets of balls at sporting goods store like Decathlon or from pro shops like Obut. You'll probably see another game with little wooden pins, almost like bowling. That Jeu de Quilles, a Finnish game that has become more popular around Paris, possibly because the equipment is lighter and less expensive, and little kids can play. Not sure where they rate on the cool-o-meter, though. Stick with boules unless you're devoid of hipster aspirations or immune to subtle Parisian mocking. 

Casual pétanque games in the Arènes de Lutèce, for all ages (click here to see a cheeky angle to this pic). 

If you're just passing through and don't need the extra kilos in your suitcase you can also rent them from Paris Ma Belle for just €10/person for the day, and they even deliver and pick-up the balls when you're done. Another option if you don't want to have to do anything yourself is to hire Paris Localers to take a Pétanque Tour including an apéritif and a match on the Place Dauphine. 

Note that many people say you can play in the dedicated pétanque courts in Luxembourg Gardens, but they are usually reserved (and obsessively raked like a zen garden) for the local pétanque club. So feel free to play elsewhere in the park, there is plenty of space, but don't play in the reserved areas unless you get permission. 

Serious pétanque player in the immaculate Jardin du Luxembourg.

 

Tuesday
Jun162015

Ticks in Paris

New signs have appeared in all of the parks and gardens of Paris warning visitors of ticks, or tiques. Paris isn't known for having ticks, but they have been found in its larger green spaces like the Bois de Vincennes and in the surrounding natural parks where Parisians go for their Sunday hikes, bike rides and picnics. As Lyme disease is a real risk with any tick bite, be sure to do a close inspection after any extended trips to the park with your family or pets, and if you do find one go to your nearest pharmacy to have it correctly removed (they sell the little tongs specially adapted for tick removal). If you see a round, red spot that might be a tick bite (it will look like a "target"), see your doctor. Lyme disease can be prevented if treated with antibiotics immediately. There is no reason to avoid going to the parks, but awareness is essential, so spread the word.