Secrets of Paris Newsletter #51: September 17, 2004

IN THIS ISSUE:

* From the Editor
* This Weekend
* Dining/Drinking: Wine Bistros
* Services: A Nouvelle Hair Style
* Accommodation: Airport Hotel
* Services: What’s Up with the Paris Tourism Office?
* Practical: Parking in Paris
* Shopping: Happy at the FNAC
* Shopping: Walk and Roll Skates
* Sightseeing: Heather’s Paris Tours
* Sightseeing: At Night
* Writers and Readings
* Outdoor Adventure: Cycling Club

* From the Editor *
Ahhh…nothing better than a sunny September day sitting at the computer with the window open, a glass of red wine, the Eurythmics on the stereo, and the doggies snoozing peacefully as I begin this month’s newsletter.

[Two weeks later…]

It was so nice outside I actually allowed myself to be talked into an evening picnic with friends on the banks of the Ile-St-Louis (thanks Thomas!), and then real world deadlines pile up and the newsletter gets a bit behind schedule. Not that there’s a schedule, of course, but I was a bit sheepish when Terry and Maureen, two Secrets of Paris readers I met last week at Ric’s Metropole Club, mentioned that they had hoped to get the September issue before their vacation. And of course there are so many wonderful things going on in Paris right now! September has always been my favorite month, and not just because it’s my birthday (Libra’s rock, woo hoo!). So I’m back at the computer, beer in hand, the Clash on the stereo, and the determination to finish this so I can go out and play this weekend. And I hope to see more of you playing in Paris this fall, too. ;) -Heather

* This Weekend *
Lots going on this weekend, including the European Heritage Days, the Jacques Mélac Wine Bistro Grape Harvest in the 11th, a ReginaVox concert in homage to HR Giger at the Halle St-Pierre, the TechnoParade on Saturday from Montparnasse, and a tour of the Hidden Gardens of the Marais by yours truly on Sunday. Get off your bums and check out the calendar for more details. And for all of you Americans out there, send in your request for your absentee ballot by October 2!

* Dining/Drinking: Wine Bistros *
Readers Terry and Maureen have been to Paris 14 times, and they always come prepared with their little book of Wine Bars. Their favorite is La Tartine, hidden in plain sight right on the Rue de Rivoli near Metro St-Paul. Around since the 1930s, the place had apparently become run down and was listed in guidebooks as having the worst toilets in town. But in 2003 it changed owners, the historic décor was completely restored, and real bathrooms installed. It’s a great, unpretentious place to go try some “petit vins” from all over France, accompanied by traditional terroir specialties, sliced meats, cheeses, and Poilâne bread. Open daily 8am-2am, 24 Rue de Rivoli, 4th, Tel. 01 42 72 76 85.

If you’ve got a big appetite, I recommend the Taverne Henri IV (13 Place du Pont Neuf, 1st, Tel 01 43 54 27 90), which has some of the biggest savory tarts I’ve ever seen in Paris and a good selection of wines by the glass, or the more humbly-decorated Le Gavroche (19 Rue St-Marc, 2nd, Tel 01 42 96 89 70), which has excellent steaks and Beaujolais wines.

* Services: A Nouvelle Hair Style *
Fed up with the ho-hum hair cuts from the chain salons? Wish your stylist would quit running off to perm some other woman’s hair while your scalp is burning under peroxide? Book an appointment at La Nouvelle Athènes Salon in the 9th, where Sylvie Coudray welcomes only one client at a time into her elegant Bourgeois apartment of parquet floors, intricate molding on high ceilings, antique wooden furniture, red velvet curtains and comfy sofas. With many years as a stylist for the fashion industry, Sylvie knows what cuts are the most flattering and appropriate for each person. Best of all, this personalized attention doesn’t cost any more than regular stylists, at €60 for a shampoo/cut/dry. Reserve by calling 01 48 74 86 89. www.lanouvelleathenes.com

* Accommodation: Airport Hotel *
Looking for a convenient and inexpensive hotel at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport? Try the Hotel Ibis CDG Aéroport-Gares, located at terminal 3 right next to the RER station into Paris. Free airport shuttles go between the terminals, or you can catch the hotel’s own shuttle. Rooms are compact, but clean and have all the modern conveniences like telephone with voice mail, WiFi internet access and satellite TV. Prices €75-€90 per night. Warning: While the Paris Metro runs until 1am, the RER B between the airport and Paris stops at midnight (then you’re stuck waiting for the hourly night bus or taking a taxi for about €50).

* Services: What’s Up with the Paris Tourism Office? *
Ever since the old location on the Champs-Elysées closed last year, everyone has been waiting for the new location to open on Rue des Pyramides. So far, it doesn’t look like it will be open anytime soon, so if you want any hotel booking assistance (which costs a small fee) or Paris info you’ll have to go to one of the “satellite” branches. The one inside the American Express Office behind the Opéra Garnier has a few brochures for the Moulin Rouge and bus tours, but if you want a map or the handy (and free) mini-guidebook called “Paris for You”, you’ll have to ask at the counter. There’s always a huge line when I stop by, so sometimes I just reach over the counter and grab what I need if I see it on the rack. The branch at the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center is combined with the regional tourism department for the entire Ile-de-France, so you have access to more info on things to do outside of town like visiting chateaux and Fontainebleau forest.

* Practical: Parking in Paris *
The only thing worse than driving in Paris (if I had a euro for every time I somehow managed to be going the wrong way down a one-way street…), is parking in Paris. Living out in the sticks of suburbia, I sometimes drive into town, particularly at night, when parking is free on the streets if you can find a spot. No easy feat. Circling for a half hour is no fun, but don’t be tempted to park illegally – I saw the police ticketing cars last weekend in the Latin Quarter who blocked crosswalks and bus stops. During the day, most meters charge for the entire day (ie no break at lunch), 7 days a week. Go off the main roads a bit and you may find free parking on weekends, and parking garages become cheaper the further away from the center you go. Some places offer discounts on parking for clients, such as the Tang Frères Asian Supermarket (two hours free parking) and the MK2 Bibliothèque cinema (one hour free parking). And don’t forget most of the Vinci car parks offer clients free bicycles and umbrellas.

* Shopping: Happy at the FNAC *
I’ve never really made an effort to shop at FNAC, a chain which sells books, music, DVDs, concert tickets, and the like until I needed a specific gardening book one morning, preferably close to Montparnasse station where I catch my train. I called the FNAC on Rue de Rennes and they had it in stock at €2 off the listed price. So I dropped in. The new Björk CD caught my eye on the way to the books, so I had a listen (very good), and noticed all new releases are just €16 (usually €23). So I listened to the new Prodigy as well (very, very good). At FNAC you can listen to any CD in the store by scanning its barcode into the listening stations. Maybe I’m behind the ball here, but I’ve never seen that before. So I hung out for awhile to catch up on some listening. When I picked up my book, I noticed a huge English book section, split into Suspense/Mystery and Literature. They have all of the major titles, and they are only fractionally more expensive than the US $ or UK£ list price (unlike the huge mark-ups at most English bookstores in Paris). Definitely worth a look next time you’re in the ‘hood.

* Shopping: Walk and Roll Skates *
Ever wonder where you can get those funky sneakers that turn into roller skates at the click of the heels? They’re now on sale at Vertical Line (4 Rue de la Bastille, 4th) for €99. They’ve also got every kind of skate for hockey, freestyle skating, and the old-fashioned four wheel styles for sale or rent. If you can’t skate, they can teach you. Hell, they’d probably do the skating for you, too, if you just want to sit around the apartment watching bad French TV.

* Sightseeing: Heather’s Paris Tours *
The best thing about moving back to Paris this year (after living on the Riviera for four years) is that I’ve been able to get out from behind my computer and share what I love most about Paris in person as a tour guide. Most of my clients come from the States and have never been to Paris before, so they want a guide who can show them what’s worth seeing in a short amount of time, and, more importantly, knows where they’re coming from. There are plenty of French guides who speak English very well, but they can hardly point out the little differences between American and Parisian culture if they’re not from the US. I also get quite a few people who know Paris very well, and are looking for something different. These are my favorite guidees, because I get to take them where I would go myself, not up to the Eiffel Tower. ;) All tours are custom-designed, so if you’re interested drop me an e-mail and we’ll talk.

This month I’ve also started doing garden tours with Robin Watson’s Paris Gardens (formerly the Paris Garden Guild), which has been wonderful, especially when the weather is cooperative. These are quite specialized, and focus on individual gardens in the city, their history, design, and individual plants and trees. What better way can you think to spend two hours than wandering around in gardens sniffing the roses? Check out the Secrets of Paris Calendar for the Paris Gardens regularly-scheduled tours for September and October.

* Sightseeing: At Night *
If you’re in Paris on business but still want to get in some sightseeing at night, there are a few places that stay open past the regular museum hours of 6pm: The Modern Art Museum at the Pompidou Centre (9pm), the Palais de Tokyo (midnight), temporary exhibitions at the Musée National du Luxembourg (10:30pm), the Musée de l’Erotisme (2am), the Maison Européen de la Photographie (7:30pm), the Arc de Triomphe (11pm) and of course the Eiffel Tower (11pm). Most major museums are open late at least one night per week (such as the Louvre, Wed and Fri until 9:45pm), the Musée d’Orsay (Thur until 9:30pm), Musée des Arts et Métiers (Thur until 9:30pm), and the excellent Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle (Thur until 10pm) at the Jardin des Plantes.

* Writers and Readings *
There are so many book launches, poetry readings and other literary events this fall that you’ve got no excuse for not attending at least one! In the pipeline are readings by Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners at the Village Voice Bookstore, a poetry contest coinciding with the “Lire en Fête” festival at the Abbey Bookstore, and the launch of the WH Smith Kid’s Club. Check out the Secrets of Paris Calendar for details.

There’s a call for submissions for "The Book of Hopes & Dreams", an anthology of transcendent poetry, short stories and art. All profits from this book will go to Spirit Aid, a humanitarian relief organization dedicated to alleviating the suffering of children and young people whose lives have been devastated by war, poverty, genocide, ethnic cleansing and all forms of abuse. All contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the book. Guidelines & submission criteria at www.thunderburst.co.uk

And (cue drum roll) my own book is finally out! I‘ve been waiting so long for my publisher to edit, proofread, and print my "Paris & Ile-de-France Adventure Guide" (known on Amazon.com as the Adventure Guide Paris & Ile-de-France) that it’s hard to believe it’s really out there – my first book! As far as I know, you can buy it at Amazon.com, at HunterPublishing.com, and by next week it will be at the Abbey Bookstore in Paris. I’m still waiting for my copies to arrive by US Post. If you’d like to purchase a copy (or give one as a gift), be sure to support your local, independent bookseller: they can usually get books to you as fast as the online stores – and with a smile!

* Outdoor Adventure: Cycling Club *
If you’d like to go cycling with a group sans touristy commentary, join the MDB (Mieux se Déplacer à Bicyclette), a group that lobbies for better urban cycling conditions, for their regular outings to places in and around Paris and the even in France “profond”. This month they’re going to Versailles and the Vallée de Montmorency. For an annual fee of €30, you get to go on all of the excursions for free, as well as receive the leisure cycling magazine Roue Libre. Check out their website for more information.

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