Secrets of Paris Newsletter #74: October 29, 2006


IN THIS ISSUE:

* Heather’s News
* Activities: Music & Drama Classes
* Activities: Choir and Orchestra Now Recruiting
* Activities: Volunteer Vacation at Historic Restoration Sites
* Café & Dining Reviews
* Getting Around: Latest News
* Adventure: Voyageur Noir Cultural Tours
* Getting Here: Between Paris and Switzerland or London
* Free English-language classifieds
* Home Entertainment: DVDs Delivered to Your Door
* Health & Fitness: Sexy Fitness Club
* Health & Safety: Where There’s Smoke…or Not
* Nightlife: Getting on the List
* Shopping: Beer Boutique & Gourmet Spices
* Shopping: Fauchon’s 120th Birthday
* Make A Difference! Learn CPR
* November Events on the Calendar

* Heather’s News *

In case any of you were wondering where the September newsletter went, it was on vacation with me! But I’ve been busy since returning this month with hotel reviews for Fodor’s and Eurocheapo, some of which you’ll see in the Resource Guide shortly (okay…probably January). October has been gorgeous, and even though it’s raining now, it’s still not cold enough to need hat and gloves. Perfect weather for exploring Paris ! Over the next few weeks there will be a lot more changes to the website, and the newsletter, too, starting with this one. From now on the Secrets of Paris newsletter will also be sent out as a blog entry so that all of you who prefer to use RSS Readers instead of reading e-mail will be able to get your monthly fix. I just got out of the dark ages myself and finally set up my own Google RSS Reader, so I’ll be adding “how to” links on the site for all of you who are curious but clueless. Happy Halloween and Bonnes Vacances for all of you who have escaped during the Toussaint weekend! - Heather

* Activities: Music & Drama Classes *

Le Laboratoire de la Creation is a non-profit association helping artists of all genres to develop their career through residencies, workshops, concerts, promotions, etc. Their members offer music, acting and drawing lessons at reasonable rates. (website in French)

* Activities: Choir and Orchestra Now Recruiting *

The Académie de Musique in Paris is recruiting beginner and experienced choir singers and musicians ages 18-30. The 250-strong choir and orchestra will be performing Verdi’s Requiem and film scores for the 2006-2007 season.

* Activities: Volunteer Vacation at Historic Restoration Sites *

Union Nationale des Associations Régionales Etudes et Chantiers (UNAREC) is always looking for volunteers for community service workcamps throughout France . Workcamps are a form of short term (2-3 weeks) voluntary service aimed at everyone from 14 years old and up, without any special training or preparation. Volunteers work to restore historic monuments or participating in community-building actions such as: restoring a village bread oven, cleaning riverbanks, organising a festival, activities with children during the school holidays, etc. Each workcamp has about 10-15 participants from different countries (English and French are the main languages spoken). There are camps specifically for teens 14-17, and camps for adults 18 and older. There is a small registration fee, but modest housing (tents or gymnasiums) and food are provided. It’s a great way to meet other travelers! Only part of the website is in English. Call if you need additional information.

* Café & Dining Reviews *

This month’s café and dining reviews are now online for:

- BazArtCafé

- Deliziefollie Gelateria

- Centre Ville Cafe

- Mauzac Wine Bistro

- Cherche Midi Italian Bistro

- Bubbles Juice Bar

I’ve got to go test the newly-opened Le Caméléon on the Rue Chevreuse (6th)…if anyone would like to join me, it’s about €35/person (depending on how much wine you drink). Any takers let me know!

* Getting Around: Navigo, Tram 3, & Air France Coach *

Lots of transportation news for the fall! The spanking new Tram 3 has already been seen doing test runs, and my Line 7 metro even has the tram “correspondence” already listed on the route maps. Official word is that it opens to the public “mid-December” . Not that the average tourist would ever need to use the tram unless they were visiting the Port de Versailles Paris Expo, the Park Montsouris, the Cité Universitaire, the book market at the Park Georges Brassens, the Park André Citroën, or Chinatown…nope, nothing to see here folks, move along, move along!

In case you’re not in Paris or can’t understand what they’re droning over the metro loudspeakers, the Carte Orange is being phased out in favor of the NAVIGO pass (which let’s you go through the speed lane without even taking it out of your purse!). It doesn’t cost anything to change from one to the other, although apparently some people are paranoid about having a card that can “track” their movements around Paris . If any of you are doing anything *that* interesting that would attract unwanted attention, then you should write a book about it and use the royalties to take taxis. Sheesh! You will still be able to get a Carte Orange through 2007 (mostly to help visitors in town for just a week or so), but by 2008 it will be a bitter-sweet adieu to the ubiquitous little metro pass!

On my way back from Charles-De Gaulle earlier this month, I noticed the Air France Coach into Paris has gone up to €13 one way. Maybe I was annoyed because I got on the bus for Etoile instead of Gare de Lyon in my jet-lagged fug, but I couldn’t help but think that at that price it’s almost worth paying for a door-to-door shuttle service!

If public transportation is getting to you but you’re too smart to get a car and are too lazy to get a bike, then why not try an electric bike? I know of at least a handful of Montmartrois folks who’d love to get up those hills without breaking into an unflattering sweat! Vélo Electro (50 rue Saint Georges, 9th) sells, repairs and rents out six different brands of electric bikes. It’s just €25 for a full day’s rental, so why not give it a test run? The bikes sell from €999 up to €2309….that’s more than I paid for my 1991 Renault Clio, “Swampy”. Trade, anyone? ;)

* Adventure: Voyageur Noir Cultural Tours *

One of the latest “boutique” tour companies on the Paris scene is Voyageur Noir, a small company run by the très cool Afro-Parisian Carole Fleurival specializing in black tours of Paris . Read all about it (and see the photos) here.

* Getting Here: Between Paris and Switzerland or London *

Those of you coming from (or to) Switzerland may find the TGV Lyria train more convenient than flying. There are seven trains per day between Paris and Geneva (3.5 hours), and in 2007 it will be possible to travel between Paris and Zurich in 4.5 hours and Bâle in just 3.5 hours. Perfect for all of you who feel the need to escape the Eurozone for a few days. ;)

I went to London earlier this month on the Eurostar (through the famous Chunnel) and on the way back noticed that Waterloo Station (that’s London-side) sells Paris RER/Metro tickets. I *highly* recommend you buy them here, because every ticket window at the Gare du Nord in Paris will have huge lines. They also can change your British pounds to Euros (not a great rate, but if you plan on getting a taxi on arrival, it’s good to be prepared).

* Free English-language Classifieds *

If you’ve had enough of the FUSAC fees, try the free Franglo classifieds. They’ve only just started up, so there’s not a huge amount of traffic yet…better to get more attention for your ad! All topics covered, including housing, jobs, personals and things for sale, for “people who speak English and Live Français” (they trademarked that, of course). Another option is the Paris Craigslist site, which seems to finally be gaining a following in Paris . 

* Home Entertainment: DVDs Delivered to Your Door *

If any of you have used NetFlics in the US , free delivery of DVD rentals has finally arrived in Paris via Glowria.fr and Locafilm.com. The former also has video on demand, and the latter has “Adult” films. Both have many US and British series such as Nip/Tuck, Desperate Housewives, and 24hr.

* Health & Fitness: Sexy Fitness Club *

I was visiting the Hôtel de Noailles last week, and standing in the lobby I spotted a really cool looking space across the street. It turned out to be the sleek new Usine Club de Sport. Having been a member of the Gymnase Club (now called Club Med Gym), I was never too impressed with French gyms. But this….this is architecturally interesting, creatively-illuminated, and, damned if I’m too easily swayed by chrome against exposed stone walls, but it’s SEXY, too! Why not? For €1280 per year (or €45 for a visitor), it better do more than get my scrawny limbs toned and supple. Classes include pilates mat, yoga, Feldenkrais and lots of abdo-fessier “bums & tums” sessions. They have a sauna and hammam, no pool though. Located between Pyramides and Opéra on a quiet side street.

* Health & Safety: Where There’s Smoke…or Not *

I’ll bet you’re all wondering why I haven’t put out a smug blog entry yet celebrating the passage of the smoking ban in Paris . Sorry, I’ve been too busy doing the happy dance! Paris smoke free!? The new loi Anti-Tabac, voted into law October 16, will take effect in February 2007 for all public places except restaurants, bars-tabacs, and nightclubs, which have until 2008. Hotels will all be non-smoking, which the managers like because they won’t have to pay the costs of cleaning the smoke and burn marks, but many are worried about enforcement. To calm the irate bar owners, the government announced they would lower the taxes on bar games like pinball and foozball, which were so high many bars removed them. Here’s an interesting article in English on the subject.

In response to the sex question in the article…his bar allows sex? ;) Everyone seems to think it will ruin business, but no other city has been affected by the ban ( Rome , Dublin , NY , LA, Amsterdam , etc.). In fact, I think more people will go out and stay out longer when they can breathe. Earlier this week I was at a club with my friend that has no cover charge. We had a drink before two bands played, but by the time they finished it was so packed with smokers around the bar that we had to eventually push our way out to get some air…then just decided to go home. Also, having been a bartender (and thus a heavy second-hand smoker), I noticed that no one can just have empty hands in a bar: if they can’t hold a cigarette, they’ll probably go get another drink. Good thing hardly anyone who lives in Paris has to drive home!

* Nightlife: Getting on the List *

If you want to go to an Irish bar in your baseball cap and big white sneakers, no one is going to stop you at the door. If you want to go where the cool cats hang out, you’d better be on the list. Not necessarily because they’re all snobby places, but because the hottest venues in town are TINY. Le Baron, for example, can only really hold 150 people at once. Le Paris-Paris is free, but faces similar space restraints. Getting there early won’t help if you’re not on the list. So the question is, how to get on the darned list?! The man you need to know is  Nicolas Ullmann, and lucky you, with the magic of MySpace, he can be your friend, too!

* Shopping: Beer Boutique & Gourmet Spices *

Can’t stand wine? No reason to feel uneasy in Paris now that there’s a boutique, the Cave à Bulles, specializing in French and Belgian microbrews. Another fun specialty boutique I recently found is the L'Epicerie de Bruno  (30 rue Tiquetonne, 2nd Tel 01 53 40 87 33), selling over 400 varieties of exotic herbs, spices, and even salts from Hawaii , Bolivia , and Australia . They also sell grains, chocolates, cookies, sauces…all available online. Each month they host an apéro to try the latest products. The next one is November 30 from 7pm-9pm .

* Shopping: Fauchon’s 120th Birthday *

Looking for the ultimate gift for the holidays? Drop by the Fauchon gourmet food boutique and traiteur at the Place de la Madeleine (8th) to purchase the exclusive products celebrating their 120th anniversary: the Fauchon Sauternes white wine (€40), the Fauchon Cuvée Auguste Champagne (€85), Champagne and Foie Gras (€130) or the Party package (Champagne, foie gras, cookies, mustards, jams, chocolates, and gourmet tea for €290), all in the 120 Anniversary logo packaging.

* Make A Difference! Learn CPR *

Living in France and don’t know CPR procedures? This is one of those life skills that everyone should learn, and it’s super-easy to find a class in Paris : First Aide and CPR classes at the Red Cross take place over 10 hours during the weekend or several soirées for €60. Sign up every Wed from 7:30-9pm at the Red Cross offices (6 Place d’Italie, 13th) or call 01 47 07 09 47. For other addresses around Paris go to the Boutique du Secourisme, 16 place des Abbesses, 18th, Mon-Fri 3-7pm.

* November Events on the Calendar *

Don’t forget to check out the upcoming events on the Secrets of Paris Calendar.

* Heather’s Tours and Vacation Planning *

Coming to Paris and want to make the most of your trip? Don’t have any friends here to show you around and give you the lowdown on all of the best places to eat, shop and go out at night? Read about my custom tours and vacation planning services on the Secrets of Paris website: http://www.secretsofparis.com/customtours/

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