Secrets of Paris Newsletter #49: July 30, 2004


* From the Editor
* Accommodation: Luxury Hotel Summer Rates
* Entertainment: Open-Air Shakespeare Theatre in the Garden
* Entertainment: Paris Basket Racing
* Entertainment: Singing in Paris
* Outdoors: Tennis in Paris
* Sightseeing: Paris à la Carte on the Batobus
* Sightseeing: La Grande Roue des Tuileries
* Nightlife: Where it’s Not
* Making Friends: Thursday Evenings on the Pont des Arts
* Afternoon Tea: Big Ben Bar at Le Train Bleu
* Dining: Save 20% by Reserving Dinner Online
* Recommended Reading: From Tour de France to Basque Culture
* Practical: Public Transportation Just Got More Expensive
* The Secrets of Paris Calendar of Events

* From the Editor *
Lance is God on Wheels! C’mon, even if you’ve never cared much for cycling, you have to admit that winning the Tour de France 6 times in a row is pretty hard core. Can you believe they ride for 21 days, usually 6-7 hours at a time without getting off (unless they fall off…ouchie). From the Pyrenees through the Alps and into Paris, I got to see Lance Armstrong literally whiz by – up hill – with an international mix of hungry competitors close on his heels, even after lead contenders Hamilton and Mayo dropped out. Like a three-week long tail-gate party, the Tour is a blast to follow, with the exception of Paris (too crowded…too flat), and I’m already planning on how I’ll get to watch again next summer. In other news, the book (my book) is supposedly coming off the printer’s presses this week, and one of you might actually even see it before me (it takes awhile for books to arrive overseas)! Stay tuned… -H

* Accommodation: Luxury Hotel Summer Rates *
Why bother paying €250 for a so-so chain hotel when you can get a room at a four star hotel for the same price? One of the great things about August in Paris is that all of the business travelers are gone (to the Riviera, most likely), so the luxury hotels try to make up for the loss by offering absurdly low rates, right on their own websites! Don’t believe me? Check out the €150 Internet Rate at the Hotel Westminster, a classic luxury hotel just off the posh Place Vendôme, where rack rates are in the €350-€450 range. The Concorde chain of palatial hotels (including the Hotel Ambassador and Concorde St-Lazare) is offering a 4th night free when you pay for three nights (which includes breakfast and comes to about €200/night). Lesson? When looking for a hotel, aim high and see what the current promotional rates on their website offer, or try the site or And remember, even the smallest room at the Ritz has air-conditioning!

* Entertainment: Open-Air Shakespeare Theatre in the Garden *
When the weather’s nice, no better place to be than in the Théâtre du Verdure of the Shakespeare Gardens in the Pré Catelan (Bois de Boulogne, 16th), watching a classic play under the stars. Molière’s “L’Avare” is being performed through August 22, and then from August 29 through October 3 will be Shakespeare’s comedy (in French), “La Mégère Apprivoisée” and “Shakespeare’story”, a sort of comedic tribute to the English bard. Tickets are €15, €6 for kids. For more info check out the website.

* Entertainment: Paris Basket Racing *
Most basketball fans, whether they’re French or American, know who Tony Parker is (French-born star of NBA team Texan Spurs). I just caught a little headline that he has purchased, along with an international group of investors including his US coach Mark Fleisher, the Paris basketball team known as Paris Basket Racing (which won their last national championship in 1997). This is the team where Tony first got a taste of the big time, and he plans on turning it into a top contender in the international scene -- and perhaps a breeding ground for more NBA stars? Check out the action yourself when the season starts this October.

* Entertainment: Singing in Paris *
Everyone who loves Paris has a favorite song about the city (I particularly like the Red, Hot & Blues version of “I Love Paris”). Hear the classics made famous by Charles Trenet, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Patricia Kaas, as well as international songs about Paris, in the hour-long tribute concert (live piano and singing) “Singing in Paris!” throughout the month of August at the Hôtel Guillaume de Brossier, 12, Rue Charlot, 3rd.

* Outdoors: Tennis in Paris *
You don’t need to be a member of a posh country club to play a bit of tennis in Paris. There are 41 municipal tennis courts in Paris, available to rent by the hour for a modest fee of €5.75, (or €11.40 for covered courts). Up until this month, you had to reserve your place by the Minitel, very annoying for those of us who don’t have one. But now Mayor Delanoë has begun to make the process easier with online registration and court reservations. So far only the courts at Luxembourg Gardens and La Faluère are available online, with the rest following by the end of September. For more info go to the official website:

* Sightseeing: Paris à la Carte *
The Batobus (boat bus) has a number of great specials at the moment. There’s a partnership with the Musée d’Orsay trough September 30, where you get €2 off a Batobus day pass with your museum ticket, or €2 off museum entrance with your Batobus ticket. Another special that looks to be a permanent offering is Paris à la Carte, which includes a two-day pass good on both the Batobus and the Paris Open Tour (the double-decker green buses) for just €35 (€15 for kids). Both are “jump-on, jump-off” type passes that have a combined 58 stops throughout the city. Not bad for those f you trying to save the feet from needless exhaustion! Tickets can be purchased at any Batobus stop along the Seine or Open Tour boutique (13 rue Auber, behind the Opéra).

* Sightseeing: La Grande Roue des Tuileries *
More romantic than climbing the Eiffel Tower with hundreds of other tourists, hop on the giant ferris wheel, La Grande Roue, at the Jardin des Tuileries, 11am-11:30pm through August 25, tickets €5.

* Nightlife: Where it’s Not *
Oh, why do I ever think the nightlife on the Champs-Elysées will be worth the effort? Last Saturday I met up with a group of Americans (on the final night of their Backroads Tour de France Tour) at Johnny Depp’s restaurant/club Le Man Ray (Rue Marbeuf, 8th). If you’re on the guest list (saves you the €20 entrance fee) and only have a Coke (€10), it’s not too expensive. These Americans had paid the entrance (arriving at 11pm, an hour before everyone else), then ordered a few bottles of vodka to get a table. At €240/each. Ow! Of course, the place was packed and the music not bad at all (the final summer soirée of the “So, Happy in Paris?” organizers), but the crowd was not full of Johnny Depp’s colleagues and pals, and the service was rather grumpy, as it usually is in places like this. I’d much rather head east and go to the clubs around the Grands Boulevards, Oberkampf or Belleville. Even the Bastille area seems to be getting interesting again…and that’s in addition to free or cheap entrance fees, friendly staff, and cold beer that doesn’t cost what I make in a week.

* Making Friends: Thursday Evenings on the Pont des Arts *
When the weather is nice everyone heads to the Pont des Arts, the little pedestrian bridge between the Louvre and the Académie Francaise. The French-American organizers of Tea Time = Talk Time set up an impromptu table at the Académie end of the bridge (Michael is the host) and ask everyone who wants to join them for conversation to bring a bottle and some snacks to contribute. It’s usually a huge, friendly crowd, gathering from about 8pm.

* Afternoon Tea: Big Ben Bar at Le Train Bleu *
Waiting for the train at the Gare de Lyon isn’t really al that exciting, but I like to get there early so I can pop into the historic haute-cuisine restaurant, Le Train Bleu, overlooking the tracks. Their food is a bit on the pricey side for me, but the Big Ben Bar (on the left and through the doorway with the sign pointing to the restrooms) is open all day until 11pm serving up tea, coffee, wine and beer (and daily papers on hand) for reasonable prices considering the amazing setting and comfy leather chairs. You can also order your very own packed lunch for the train for €19.50. Only caveat: there’s no elevator up to the restaurant, good luck if you have heavy luggage!

* Dining: Save 20% by Reserving Dinner Online
The chain of historic brasseries run by the Flo Group (including the Brasserie Flo, Julien, Le Balzar, Bofinger, La Coupole, and Le Boeuf sur le Toit) is offering a 20% off the bill for anyone who reserves their table online (at least one day in advance). Then you simply print off the confirmation page, et voila! You’ll save enough to splurge on that extra bottle of Côtes du Rhône!

* Recommended Reading: From Tour de France to Basque Culture *
Could I possibly say more about the Tour de France? You betcha! But you might as well hear it all from the expert, commentator and pro-cyclist Bob Roll’s book “The Tour de France Companion” tells you all you ever wanted to know, including how to follow the Tour yourself, with tons of photos and a hilarious chapter, “Top 16 Reasons Why the Tour is Better than the Super Bowl”. If you do follow the Tour through the Pyrenees, that will place you firmly in French Basque country, which can seem like a foreign place with its Basque language and foods that differ from anything else in the world. Learn more about this fascinating culture in “The Basque History of the World”, by Mark Kurlansky.

* Practical: Public Transportation Just Got More Expensive *
It’s always a bummer to find that prices in your guide book have changed, and boy have they! The RATP tickets (bus, metro, tram) which used to be €1.30 are now €1.40, a carnet of 10 tickets are up €0.50 to €10.50, and the week Carte Orange Pass is now €15.40. Orlybus costs €5.80, Orly-Val €8.85, and Roissybus €8.30.

* The Secrets of Paris Calendar of Events
Looking for something to do? Check out my calendar, a personal selection of fun stuff to do around town in the coming weeks such as the Open-air cinema festival, Paris Plage, Rock en Seine festival and rare theatre productions.

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