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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:

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Calendar of Paris Events

April 4-6
Buying fresh farm produce comes easy at Pari Fermier, with everything from vegetables to whiskey originating in all the regions of France on sale for 3 days. Free invitations are available, along with a list of producers and directions to the Parc Floral de Paris at Metro station Château de Vincennes. Follow the Facebook page for more updates.  

April 5
Put on your favourite superhero costume, real or imagined, and join the release party for H-man, the superhero of France and Europe! Participate in Kararocké (Karaoke, but only to rock music) as you watch episodes of the new series, and you may also win a prize for the craziest costume. At the Bus Palladium, 6 rue Fontaine, 75009 Paris starting at 8:30 PM.   

April 17-26
A comedic and "disrespectful" take on the classic movie Casablanca titled Casablanca: The Gin joint cut takes the stage at Théâtre Déjazet, 41 boulevard du Temple, 75003 Paris for 11 shows next month. With a small cast of only three, this is the play's first appearance in France. Buy tickets online.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL CALENDAR

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

Secrets of Paris Newsletter #65: December 8, 2005

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

* From the Editor
* A Good Cause: Art Auction for Cancer Research
* A Less Expensive Good Cause: Metro Calendars
* Charitable Christmas Markets
* Equitable Commerce Boutique
* Fair Trade Coffee
* Feed the World
* See the Pretty Lights
* Entertainment: Jacques Brel on the Seine
* Book Event
* Hotel News
* Shopping: Luxury Pet Carriers
* Drinking & Dining: Cozy Tea Room
* Drinking & Dining: Breakfast in America
* Drinking and Dining: Polly Maggoo's
* Nightlife: House of Live Changes Name
* Shopping, Drinking & Dining: A Day at the Puces
* Shopping/Art: Portes Ouvertes
* Christmas Eve Tour: Sinners and Saints
* Museum News: Girodet, Melancholy, Cinema and Buddha
* Don't Go: The Salon de Noël
* A Serenade in Paris ?
* Shameless Promotion
* Heather's Christmas Wish List: An Agent
* R.I.P. Rivierawriter.com
* Are you on the list?
* Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…

* From the Editor *
Ho ho ho! (don't ask me for the French version of that)
As usual, Paris looks even *better* than it usually does, decked out for the holidays with sparkling street lights, imaginative window displays, and flocked pine trees propped up in every square. Even the most jaded of my Parisian friends can be caught sighing in appreciation. As a guest in foreign country (whether you're a tax-payer or just passing through) it's easy to forget to be thankful for the opportunity to live or visit such a beautiful place. You're all used to me ranting by now, but I hope it doesn't ring hollow when I say that, even on holiday in Paris , we shouldn't forget those less fortunate than ourselves. And it doesn't even require you to donate your time or money. Below you'll find the regular schwag bag of Paris secrets, along with ideas for giving back to the community through responsible shopping, with addresses of equitable commerce boutiques and independent artisan markets. It doesn't take any extra effort to buy Unicef cards or purchasing gifts that you know weren't made by children in sweatshops.
In other news, I'll be continuing to work on the re-launch of the Secrets of Paris website, including a handy new Resource Guide to help you find all of the essential Paris info you need, whether you're a long-time resident or visiting the city for the first time. Thanks to everyone who has written in with encouragement and kind words this past year. Have a happy, relaxing, and safe holiday season, wherever you are in the world. Until 2006! –H

PS Don't forget to check on upcoming events in the Calendar!

* A Good Cause: Art Auction for Cancer Research *
The St-Germain-des-Prés gallery owner Anne Lettrée is auctioning off 300 works of art from her private collection (including Arman, César, Combas, Di Rosa…) to benefit cancer research at the Institut Curie. The auction takes place Thursday December 8 at 2:30pm , at the Mairie du 6me, Place St-Sulpice (the works are on display as of the 6th ).

* A Less Expensive Good Cause: Metro Calendars *
Every December ladies all over France look forward to a certain calendar featuring buck-naked French rugby stars, their manhood modestly hidden behind strategically-placed balls. But those are already sold out, so opt instead for the “Dieux du Ligne 2” the first “sexy” calendar featuring the 13 conductors from Line 2 of the Paris metro posing in humorous, semi-naked scenes depicting the themes of each stop along Line 2. All proceeds go to local children's health charities. The price is 10 euros, available at the boutique Kodak Express (26 Place de la Nation, 12th). www.ligne2rires.net

* Charitable Christmas Markets *
The Mairie (Town Hall) of the 4 th and the Lions Club of the Ile de la Cité are sponsoring a Marché de Noël this weekend (December 9 and 10) at the Espace des Blancs Manteaux (48 Rue Vieille-du-Temple, 4th ), with all profits going to help support the charitable projects and grants of the Lions Club. Open Fri-Sat 2pm-9pm , and Sunday 11am-9pm .

On December 15 through18 a special Marché de Noël run by l'UNAPEI (a work-assistance association for the mentally handicapped) takes place on the Place St-Sulpice (6th ), with entertainment (concerts, a ball) and stands selling arts and crafts products made by the members of the association. Free entry. Open daily 11am-8pm ; Saturday until 10pm.

* Equitable Commerce Boutique *
The Boutic Ethic (1 Place de l'Ecole Militaire, 7th ; tel 01 45 55 56 06), located near the Eiffel Tower and Rue Cler market street just outside the Ecole Militaire metro station, has a tiny window on the street, but a surprisingly large space once you're inside. They sell many colorful gift objects, toys, scarves, jewelry, home décor and pottery purchased directly – and at a fair price -- from artisan cooperatives in developing countries around the world. I bought some adorable Peruvian finger puppets!

* Fair Trade Coffee *
Okay, I'm not a Starbucks fan, but for research purposes I stopped by the new one facing Bercy Parc in the 12th (www.starbucks.fr). A good start: at the entrance is a big basket with free sacs of coffee grounds (mixed with soil, I believe) free to anyone that needs a bit of fertilizer for their home gardening. Second, they have a collection box for toys for the Necker Children's Hospital in Paris . Third, real coffee mugs (someone told me you can only get paper cups). I ordered a « muffin au caramel et Sel de Guérande » and some sort of Praline latte that was a bit too sickly sweet (and I usually put three sugars in my café crème). I read the brochure on the Fair Trade coffee (Max Havelaar) that Starbuck's uses while enjoying my winter view of the park. Starbucks may not be the Evil Empire some make it out to be, but I doubt I'll be returning. If it was a locally-owned café I'd be there every day, and I think that, for the most part, the French still feel the same way.

* Feed the World *
The Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart) need donations and volunteers to help feed those in need during the winter. To learn more about the association, visit their website: www.restosducoeur.fr

* See the Pretty Lights *
The City Hall's website has a map of all the Parisian districts participating in “Paris Illumine”, a city-wide holiday lighting contest. I think the “flames” along the Rue de Rivoli are pretty cool, even if they do look like glowing hotdogs.

* Entertainment: Jacques Brel on the Seine *
Catch the hit musical revue “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris ”, starring Bill Dunn, Bremner Duthie, Alexis Kendrick, and Lorin Milano. Love Brel's songs? Hear them here (translated into English) and performed with humor on the Balle au Bond showboat (moored at 55 quai de La Tournelle, 5 th ) every Monday at 8pm (doors open at 7pm ). Tickets are 10-12 euros, with one drink minimum at the bar. No smoking on the boat. For more information call 06 26 18 45 83. www.paris-brel.com

* Existentialist Book Event *
I just finished reading “Tête-à-Tête: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre” a thorough new biography on France 's renowned Existential couple, by the Australian author Hazel Rowley . Even though the couple seemed to live their unconventional lives openly, twenty years after Beauvoir's death we now have even more evidence of the scandalous web of their many relationships. Here's an interesting interview with the author. You can hear her read at 7pm on January 12 at the Village Voice (6 rue Princesse, 6th, M°: Mabillon, Odeon or St Germain des Pres). She will be reading in a more intimate setting on January 6 at 7pm with the Alesian Literary Salon (RSVP to literarysalon@wanadoo.fr ).

* Hotel News *
There are so many hotels in Paris that even little extras can really make them stand out. The cozy and luxurious Hotel d'Aubusson (33 Rue Dauphine, 6th) keeps the jazz spirit of St-Germain-des-Prés alive with live concerts in their Café Laurent every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, 6:30-8pm and 9:30pm until midnight (free entry, drinks from 10 euros).

The swanky Hôtel Le Bristol (112 Faubourg St -Honoré, 8th) has two cute little Smart cars, decorated with the hotel's classy green logo, available to guests for (10 euros per half day) for shopping excursions around the city.

One of the newest hotels in Paris is the Kube Rooms and Bars (1-5 passage Ruelle, 18th , Tel 01 42 05 20 00), which is in a “rough” area of Paris (even by my standards), but ideally placed for those who want to be near the Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord. Their gimmick attraction is the Ice Bar, or, as they write, “the city's first ice bar”. As if Paris needs more than one place where it's so cold that you're given special polar gloves and jacket on arrival and only allowed to stay 30 minutes (with all-you-can-drink vodka out of ice shot glasses, 38 euros).

For those not interested in being cool (literally nor figuratively), the budget Port Royal Hôtel (8 blvd du Port Royal, 5th) offers guests a two-page write-up of the neighborhood, including interesting sights to see, where to eat, which buses will take you where, and local history (believe me, most budget hotel staff wouldn't know any of this). I popped in last month while updating the hotel section of the annual Fodor's Paris , and can confirm that the place is as bright and spotless as usual. Still no TVs, still no credit cards accepted, but what do you expect for 75 euros?

* Shopping: Luxury Pet Carriers *
French fashion designer Honorine has created a new collection of luxury pet leashes, matching carrying cases in materials like python, crocodile, gold lame leather, and fur. I had a chance to get a look at these up close (hard to resist stroking them!) and can say that they are probably the sturdiest dog carriers I've ever seen; the quality and craftsmanship is top notch, with the prices to match. There are also real fur-covered igloo beds. Everything comes in custom-ordered sizes, from Tinkerbell-tiny to Marmaduke-massive. www.honorine.com (that's the designer and her poodle on the site, not a model)

* Drinking & Dining: Cozy Tea Room *
There are so many nice tea rooms in Paris, but one of my favorites is L'Ebouillante (6 Rue des Barres, 4th ; Tel 01 42 71 09 69), just off the cobbled pedestrian street behind the St-Gervais-St-Protais Church (closest metros Hotel de Ville or Pont Marie). Open noon through 10pm (except Mondays), they serve a large selection of teas, pastries, fruity cocktails, coffees, salads and light meals in a casual and bright, white-wash dining room with large windows. Brunch available weekends, and a sprawling terrace in fine weather (see the pic on the website).

* Drinking & Dining: Breakfast in America *
As much as I've grown to love French-style breakfasts (aka “Continental”), I still get an urge for pancakes. Often at odd hours of the day (growing up on Denny's will do that to you). So I thought I'd stop into Breakfast in America (17 rue des Ecoles, 5th , Tel 01 43 54 50 28), a typical American 50s-style diner with formica tables and bottomless Mug O'Joe (affectionately translated as “Jus de Chaussettes” on the menu). Breakfast is served all day (until 11pm , seven days a week), but I actually cracked for the bacon cheese burger, which came perfectly-cooked with a side of fries. I sat at the bar to eat, while the tables and booths filled up with mostly French students from the Sorbonne. The prices are reasonable (a meal for about 10 euros), the atmosphere authentic (not at all a “theme diner” à la Planet Hollywood), and the service friendly. Every once in awhile we Americans do food the right way! ;)

* Drinking and Dining: Polly Maggoo's *
Back in my student days, Polly Maggoo's (officially, “Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?” 3-5 Rue du Petit Pont, 5th ) was a seedy dive open until the wee hours, a historical hangout of the Soixante-Huitards (for those unfamiliar with the term: http://www.paris.org/Kiosque/may98/5th.arr.html ). At some point, I thin in 2003, it actually closed (the Henri IV Hotel is in its place) and moved one block closer to the Seine, on the same side of the street, with a cheery Andalusian décor of mosaic-tiled bar and wrought iron stairwell. But the schmancy new look doesn't mean it's any less of a good time. My friend Jeanne and I managed to down a few glasses of red wine on a particularly chilly night, with some tasty bar snacks thrown in for free. It stays open nightly until 4am , and weekends until 10am , with a breakfast buffet spread. My student days being long over, it may be easier for me to wake up early for that!

* Nightlife: House of Live Changes Name *
After Chesterfields and House of Live, we now have Charlie Birdy (124 Rue de la Boétie, 8th). There's still free, live rock concerts at night and Gospel brunches on Sundays, but the décor is now Indo-Anglo-American, and there's even – can you guess? – an Ice Bar (yes, another), with more of a Mongolian yourte theme. Half-price drinks for happy hour, weekdays 4-8pm .

* Shopping, Drinking & Dining: A Day at the Puces *
Paris was warm up until November (I was walking the doggies in a t-shirt on Halloween), then got ice-cold for a few weeks (with a day of snow) before settling into average winter chilly. At the peak of the chill, I decided I needed to go Christmas shopping for my mom at her favorite place in Paris , the Marché aux Puces (okay, technically in St-Ouen, not Paris ). I met up with my friend Gentry, who was looking for a late-18 th -century corset. There just happens to be several vintage lingerie boutiques in the Puces, including Nuits de Satin (Marché Dauphine , 140 Rue des Rosiers, Stand 254/284; www.nuitsdesatin.com ), Francine Dentelles (Marché Vernaison, Stand 121, Allée 7, tel 01 40 12 05 58), and Delphine B. (Marché Vernaison, 137 Rue des Rosiers, delphine@delphinevernaison.com ). I got a 1924 Christmas magazine for my mom, and Gentry scored a corset, vintage postcards, pretty paper gift boxes for her cashmere undies, and the phone number of a cute “antiquaire” (d'oh! Did I say that?). Partner-in-crime Carolyn showed up just in time to thaw out with us at the Chope des Puces (122 Rue des Rosiers) with some vin chaud and live jazz. We stayed for lunch, and I scarfed down the best Moules-Frites (mussels and fries) served in a creamy garlic sauce…divine! The other house specialty is tripe soup (smelled good, but we didn't test it ourselves). We headed back to the metro, fortified with a few shots of whisky to keep us warm, vowing to return when we could feel our feet again.

* Shopping/Art: Portes Ouvertes *
I love getting a sneak peek into Parisian artist studios, and the best time to do that is during the Portes Ouvertes (Open Doors), usually organized by neighborhood. Last month was the annual Portes Ouvertes Ateliers d'Artistes Anvers-aux-Abbesses, covering a large area of the 18 th and 9 th arrondissements. Like most open atelier days, there's a map of all of the participating artists available at the main gallery, and a collection of postcards representing each atelier. If you want to know whether any Portes Ouvertes are taking place around Paris , the best place to look is in the weekly Zurban guide (one euro at any newsstand) in the “A Vos Quartiers” section (at the front of the guide, by arrondissement). There are also usually posters all over the participating neighborhood a few days in advance.

* Christmas Eve Tour: Sinners and Saints *
I'll be traveling over the holidays, but my Canadian colleague and pal Lisa Pasold will be leading her annual Christmas Eve walking tour through the streets of Montmartre with the theme: Sinners & Saints “from Saint-Denis to Toulouse-Lautrec, from Stein's Lives of the Saints to Picasso's Harlequin period” (two hours, 18 euros/person). Meet in front of the Moulin Rouge, 2pm. Call 06.15.19.31.64 or email pasoldla@yahoo.ca to confirm.
 

* Museum News: Girodet, Melancholy, Cinema and Buddha *
This month I got a chance to visit several museums and exhibitions. I'm a huge fan of the French painter Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824), who is probably best known for his “Endymion” painting at the Louvre (most of you pass it at high speed on the way to see La Jaconde). The exhibition has a good number of canvases and sketches, along with works from his mentor, David. The exhibition continues at the Louvre until January 2; I recommend going after 6pm on Wednesday or Friday, when there are no crowds (open until 9:30pm ).

I went to the « Mélancolie: Génie et folie en Occident » exhibit at the Grand Palais on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, and was thankful that I didn't have to stand in the absurdly long line outside (press pass). But there was no space left in the cloakroom for my heavy coat, and the crowds made it hard to get a good view of the larger works and impossible to see the smaller ones. Half of the entries in the guest book mentioned that the captions on the artworks were too tiny and far down on the wall to read. I asked a guard when it would be a good time to visit, and she said it was always like that. Too bad, because I really liked the theme and diversity of artworks in this exhibition. If you go (through January 16), be sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time online (there's a separate entrance with no lines), and don't even think about it on the weekend.

The complete opposite was the case at the peaceful Panthéon Bouddhique, a peaceful annex to the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet. It's about one block up the street from the main museum, and features a beautiful Japanese garden and tea room (there's a regular schedule of tea ceremonies open to the public). There was no one else there the day I visited (free entry).

I visited the new Cinémathèque Française, located in the Frank Gehry building overlooking Bercy Park . There is nothing in English, but for cinema fans this shouldn't make a huge difference. The permanent collection (2 nd , 4 th and 7 th floors) is presented in a highly theatrical setting, with costumes, props, old promotional posters, vintage projectors and multimedia clips of classics. The current temporary exhibition, “Renoir, Renoir” (5 th floor; through January 9), is a retrospective of the director Jean Renoir alongside impressionist paintings by his father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir. There are also daily screenings, a film library, and, in the new year, a café.

Finally, December 10 is the official re-opening date of the Petit Palais: Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (www.petitpalais.paris.fr), after several years of renovations. Entrance is free (as it is for all municipal museums), but get there early to avoid standing outside in long lines.

* Don't Go: The Salon de Noël *
I was suckered in by the cute poster, and spent a good half hour on a bus going to the Christmas Market (“Noëlissime”) at the Porte de Versaille/Paris Expo. It was horrible. No atmosphere at all, like being at a trade show. The stands weren't all bad, but there wasn't anything special that was worth the entry fee and hassle of getting there (including the twenty minute walk through the Paris Expo complex before getting to Hall 7 where the market takes place). Save your feet and money and go to the cute outdoor Christmas markets set up around town, like the one at l'Espace des Blancs-Manteaux this weekend (there's also one set up last night along the sidewalks outside the closed Samaritaine department store, metro Pont Neuf).

* A Serenade in Paris ? *
Looking to have a quartet serenade your darling or entertain your party guests? Check out the website for Soleil Sonne, who specialize in “Aubade à Domicile”, including birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or even engagements (they can sing to you on the Eiffel Tower ). Prices from €260. And if your sweetie has old windows like myself, being on the seventh floor won't impede the sound quality from the street at all! ;) www.soleilsonne.com

* Shameless Promotion *
If you're flying easyJet airlines this month, check out my feature article on Gentry Lane 's lingerie empire in the “Business: How I Did It” section of the inflight magazine (you can also peek at it online). An article I wrote about absinthe for Context: Paris appeared (without the reference to the new Vert d'Absinthe boutique) on Rick Steves' website. You can read my article about the filming of the “Da Vinci Code” on location in Paris in the upcoming France Guide 2006, published by the Maison de la France/French Government Tourism Office (order a free copy here).

* Heather's Christmas Wish List: An Agent *
How often do I ask y'all for favors? As some of you know, Carolyn Heinze and I have been working on a very specialized women's guide to Paris for the past year, and are now ready to send our baby out into the world. But instead of going directly to the publishers, we've decided we'd like to hire an agent. Preferably one that's recommended by someone we know. So…if any of you can vouch for a literary agent (ideally interested in non-fiction/pop culture/adult content books rather than typical guide books), either one you've used yourself or someone you know personally, I'd be more than grateful for their contact info (or, if you prefer, pass along my e-mail address to them). Thanks!!!

* R.I.P. Rivierawriter.com *
Some of you who have been reading since the start might recall my original website www.RivieraWriter.com . As much as I enjoy popping down to the Côte d'Azur (especially when it's cold and grey in Paris ), I've given up the domain name to another journalist still living in the South, Dawn Howard . So please don't send any more e-mails to the old address if you want me to get them. The only work e-mail I use now is heather@secretsofparis.com .

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