Secrets of Paris Newsletter #75

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

* Heather’s News
* Four Stylish Hotels Under €200
* Sightseeing: It’s an Aquarium, it’s a cinema!
* Nightlife: Live Musical Acts to Get You Moving!
* News: Famous Squat Moves House
* Discount Designer Shopping
* News: Getting Around Gets Easier
* Seine-side Entertainment
* Practical: Parking in Paris
* World AIDS Day
* Shop to Save the World
* More Holiday Solidarity
* Entertainment: Chilly Holiday Fun
* Two Interesting Photo Websites
* December Events on the Calendar
* Are you on the list?
* STILL Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…

* Heather’s News
This somewhat belated November issue (I know some of you won’t see it until December) comes to you direct from my old stomping grounds on the French Riviera! I meant to send this out earlier today, but there’s something about sitting on a sunny terrace in jeans and a t-shirt on the last day of November (and lots of sunblock) that makes it hard to get anything productive done. Good thing I’ll be back in the city by Saturday! Not that Paris has been much colder. When I left yesterday I still didn’t need a hat or gloves or winter coat. We had one week of cold back in October, then it got all mild. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s a bit odd. And makes me worried about how long winter will last when it does come (last year it didn’t get cold November 1, but didn’t warm back up until July). In case you think I’ve been slacking, I’ve started the Nightlife and Entertainment & Arts sections of the Resource Guide, as well as the Make a Difference! page of the Special Interest section. This month I’ll be adding more hotel reviews and the shopping section, just in time for the January sales, woo hoo! Have a great holiday season, and stay cool! -Heather

* Four Stylish Hotels Under €200

You don’t have to be rich to find a bit of style in Parisian accommodation. I mean, sure the new Fouquets Barriere Hotel has TV screens above every bathtub and the closets are the size of my apartment, but you don’t have to shell out €600/night for style and comfort.

- For the first-time visitor to Paris , I recommend the Eiffel Seine Hotel (3 blvd de Grenelle, 15th, M° Bir Hakeim; €110-€160). It’s a contemporary Art Nouveau style hotel opened this year on the Seine right outside the closest metro and RER stations to the Eiffel Tower . And the best part is that the friendly owner, Monsieur Vaurs, will tell you where to park your car nearby for free.

- For the savvy design-conscious traveler who knows Paris , I recommend The Five Hotel (3 rue Flatters, 5th; M° Gobelins; €120-€200). It just opened in October on a tiny street on the quiet end of the Latin Quarter . It’s one of the most “compact” boutique hotels, but packs in a lot of design cachet with custom artwork, 400 TV channels, fiber optic stars above the bed and bath, and even a private Jacuzzi patio suite.

- For those who enjoy old-fashioned comforts and elegant style, I recommend the Hotel de Varenne (44 rue de Bourgogne , 7th; M° Varenne; € 109-€197). My mother would feel right at home in the garden courtyard. It’s a safe neighborhood (lots of government buildings nearby), walking distance to the Orsay, Invalides and Effel Tower . Extras include flat-screen TVs with DVD players, WiFi, and stylish bathrooms.

- For the Naughty Girl and her bad boy, I recommend the Hotel Amour (8 rue Navarre , 9th; M° Pigalle; €90-€180; Tel 01 48 78 31 08; no website yet). It’s in a scruffy hipster ‘hood near the Rue des Martyrs market street, but definitely gets its vibe from neighboring red light district of Pigalle. Contemporary artists have decorated each room in edgy colors and vintage nudie magazines. Flying solo? You may be able to find a local dinner date downstairs in laidback brasserie and patio garden. Interesting conversation guaranteed, in any case!

* Sightseeing: It’s an Aquarium, it’s a cinema!

There was once a hole in the market for an aquarium that doubles as an animation studio. Not anymore! Confused? You’re not alone. The Cinéaqua opened with very little fanfare this year at the foot of the Palais de Chaillot (Trocadéro). It’s underground location doesn’t help, since all you see is a Cinéaqua sign and stairs going down. The original underground aquarium had been closed for many years, but because it’s a listed historic monument, it couldn’t be reopened unless it remained a place where people can go look at fish and sharks and other sealife in huge tanks. But the Japanese owner who purchased the rights to open it apparently *really* wanted an animation studio. So he did both. So, in between the fish tanks and shark pools (9000 fish, 26 sharks) are 16 screens showing continuous loops of the latest animated cartoons produced in-house. It’s probably heaven for short-attention-span children. There’s also an upscale Japanese restaurant overlooking one of the largest tanks. Something to see, if only to see something that’s unlike…well, anything else!

* Nightlife: Live Musical Acts to Get You Moving!

Do you rock? Get thee to La Maroquinerie for the Lords of Altamont (December 16, €15; opening band is Pornorama). I saw this LA band last week at Le Paris-Paris (it was a surprise band from the Ullmann Cabarock series), and it was the first time since getting my glasses knocked off by Jesus Lizard in a tiny Minnesota club in 1994 that I actually thought, “sh*t, I’m too close to the stage!” They totally rock and have an interesting look (imagine if Marilyn Manson had a 1950s motorcycle gang as backup). Unfortunately, the crowd was so darned….Parisian….they just bobbed their heads and applauded politely after each song, even when the singer threw his keyboard around the stage and the drummer brought his kit into the crowd. Sheesh! (okay, there was one person moshing in the crowd, but she’s American so that doesn’t count). So lace up those Doc Martens you’ve been hiding and come have fun!

If you’re more of a genteel Parisian type, then come on the 18th (same place) for Adanowsky & Friends (€17). I saw him perform at the Nouvelle Casino last month, and it was certainly something to remember! Imagine a 28-year-old with the sequined outfits of Johnny Hallyday, the dirty lyrics of Serge Gainsbourg, and actual musical talent…and just ignore those panties flying in from the crowd (obviously the Parisian women have no problem letting loose!) A fun night out, in any case. ;)

* News: Famous Squat Moves House

The colorful Chez Robert: Electrons Libres artists’ squat at the Rue de Rivoli have finally been moved to new digs in an old gymnasium at 18 rue de la Tour-des-Dames, 9th. They will be here for about 18 months while their old squat undergoes restoration works to bring it up to safety codes. For seven years it was open to the public and was supposedly the 3rd most visited contemporary art space in Paris , with over 850 artists exhibited during that time. But the squat was closed to outside visits last year for safety issues. Check back in 2008! On a sadder note, the Barbizon Cinema squat by the Amis de Tolbiac (141 rue de Tolbiac, 13th) was expelled and cemented up last month. The group is still in talks with the mayor to try and get it reopened,and in the meantime are showing their indie films in other locations.

* Discount Designer Shopping

It just isn’t like it is in the US . You have to know how to dig for things at discount outlets here (usually called “déstockage” or just “stock”). The Depot Ventes (consignment) are probably the best bet, especially Réciproque (88-101 Rue de la Pompe in the 16th), but I know some people hate the idea of used clothing. The best way to see the most at once in a tidy, consumer-friendly environment is at La Vallée Village outlet mall out by Disneyland (RER station Val d’Europe). But it’s *too* neat, you get the feeling there are no real bargains, just the leftover stock and seconds. Here are some addresses in Paris :

- Et Vous Stock (15 rue de Turbigo, 2nd) Large, looks like a regular store except it’s all last season’s clothing.

- Annexe des Créateurs (19 rue Godot de Mauroy, 9th) There are two tiny shops here, one for daywear and one for nightwear. Lots of well-known brands, but very hard to sift through. Many things are high up so you need to ask for help from the woman working there (she’s usually alone; if your French is good, do let her help you out; great store for finding something to wear for a special occasion). 

- Azzedine Alaia Stock (18 rue de la Verrerie, 4th, down the passageway) A small, tidy shop with some of last season’s and leftover shoes and clothing from the exclusive Parisian designer. Think €250 for the top instead of €500.

- Zadig & Voltaire Stock (22 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 4th) A medium-sized store with last-season’s collections from the popular “slouchy” look clothing store.

* News: Getting Around Gets Easier

The Tram will start running in two weeks (December 16 at 2pm ). No, that’s wrong. It’s actually already running. On my way out of town Wednesday morning at 6am (I hate driving through Paris when there are other cars!) I actually passed one en route, no passengers, near the Porte de Vanves. I have to admit it looks pretty snazzy, and it will make it a lot easier for me and the mutts to get to the doggy bakery without taking three metros to get from the 13th to the 15th.

For all of you visitors who tried to visit Montmartre last month and found yourselves stuck at the foot of the hill, you’ll be happy to know that the Abbesses station reopens December 12.

You can now use Mappy.fr for finding out the best route to use by public transportation at any specified time. For example, if I wanted to get from Abbesses to Place d’Italie at 2am (no metro at all), it gives me the direction on how to take the Noctilien (unfortunately, I need to change busses twice, but if I don’t have taxi fare on me, this is handy info). En principe, it works for the suburbs as well, but every time I tried asking how to get home from Versailles at 4am , it said the system was “momentarily unavailable”. At Mappy.fr (click down at the bottom on Métro,Bus, RER…”

The happiest news of all regarding public transportation is the extension of working hours for the metro until 2am on Saturday night and the eve of holidays. This will take effect starting December 23. By the end of 2007 it will include Friday night as well. This is especially welcomed by all of those who live in the suburbs and need to catch that last transfer train home after dinner (and we all know how rude it is to try and sneak out of dinner before 1am). Maybe this will cut down on the sprinting stiletto’d and suited masses at 1:30am…although it’s really the only time you’ll see the French haulin’ it!

Note: Of course those having to work an extra hour for the public service went on strike November 17. They have their own blog, which is probably a bad idea, because, if you can read French, you’ll see how annoyed it made everyone!

* Seine-side Entertainment

Ever see those parties on the boats moored along the banks of the Seine and wonder how to sneak in? Better yet, to avoid getting thrown into the drink, why not get invited? The Bateau Daphné, moored on the Quai du Montebello, 5th (M° St-Michel or Maubert-Mutualité) has an awesome view of Notre-Dame’s flying buttresses and regularly hosts cocktail-concerts (€12-15), interactive magic shows for kids (€7), and art exhibitions (free entrance during exhibitions from 11am-6pm). The magic shows are every Wednesday at 3pm , and classical music concerts are throughout the day on Sunday (see the website for the schedule).

* Practical: Parking in Paris

Not that I recommend having a car here at all, but there’s almost nowhere free to park in Paris . Almost. The sneaky places I know of are either in very shady neighborhoods or are so central they’re probably just an oversight by the local officials, and I expect them to disappear any day. Most street parking places have 2-hour limits during the day, and those meter-maids sure do stay busy! If you’re a resident you can do what I do and get a free resident card that lets you park for €2.50/week in designated residential zones. Otherwise you’ll need to park in a garage, which can be pricey. But it depends where you go. The Vinci chain has parking garages all over town. I keep finding flyers for specials on long-term parking: €50 for 3 days at the Soufflot garage in the 5th, and €48.50/month for three months at the Vincent-Auriol garage (that’s near me at Place d’Italie). Not bad, eh? They also loan clients shopping caddies, umbrellas, and bikes. Find all of their locations at Vincipark.com. I should also mention that the Vinci folks at the Invalides garage are very nice! (see my blog)

* World AIDS Day
December 1 is the 18th annual World AIDS Day. To commemorate the event and help support AIDS activism, the new boutique of the cashmere designer Hobbs (3 rue du Faubourg St -Honoré, 8th) has a special cashmere sweater with the red ribbon selling for €500 euros. €50 goes to Sidaction (French AIDS activist group).

* Shop to Save the World

Not everyone can afford expensive cashmere sweaters, but most of us shop, and shopping online is even better for avoiding nasty holiday traffic jams at the mall! Well now all of your online shopping can help the charities that help the world, and it doesn’t cost you a cent! The campaign is called “Le don qui ne coute pas un rond” (The donation that doesn’t cost a dime), and they have three funny commercials on the site that sum up with “sometimes we don’t want to give; it’s human”. The way it works is that you shop on Cashstore.fr (a group of 321 different online shops, including groceries, electronics, toys, beauty, flowers and even vacation packages). With each purchase you get points, and those points can then be redeemed for cash donations towards the 141 international human rights groups listed with the International Federation for Human Rights. The best part is that you get to deduct this donation on your French tax bill. Only downside? It’s only in French, so you English-only lurkers out there will have to get out the dictionary!

* More Holiday Solidarity

Each year Handicap International sells their “Sac à Sapin”, a completely bio-degradable white sac that decorates the base of your Christmas tree and catches fallen needles, then wraps up the whole tree neatly for disposal at the end of the season. It costs €5 (€1.30 goes to help handicapped children in the developing world) and can be found at all hypermarkets and major florists around France . You can also buy it online at their Boutique Solidaire  along with other equitable commerce goodies like coffee, Christmas ornaments, calendars and jewelry.

* Entertainment: Chilly Holiday Fun

Last year there was an ice rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower . This year is a winter wonderland theme of a pine forest labyrinth. I suppose there’s less risk of twisting an ankle! Free to anyone with entrance to the tower (stay warm by taking the stairs, heh heh). For those of you who still want to show off your Dorothy Hamill moves, the ice rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville is already set up and ready to go (as soon as it cools off in Paris!) 

If you want to escape the kiddies and go glam for the holidays, check out the sexy new Ice Bar at the George V Four Seasons (31 ave George V, 8th). For €55, you get to sit on elegant carved ice furniture wearing a floor-length hooded fur cape (not sure if it was real or imitation – it was warm though!) eating canapés and sipping the premium Imperia vodka from Russia . I should add that this stuff is soooooo smooth that anyone could easily knock back five or six shots before realizing how strong it is…consider yourself warned! Open daily from 6pm -10pm through January 15. Reservations a must 01 49 52 70 06.

* Two Interesting Photo Websites

These don’t really fit into any category. I love the Paris section of the “Project for Public Spaces” because it sums up a lot of what I really like about Paris as a highly livable urban center. Well, that and I took a class on the topic in college and got so into it that I thought I’d become an Urban Planner someday (hey, I’m not dead yet!)

The second site is “My Paris for You”. I love it simply because the photography is so engaging. Eribel is a German woman who has lived in France for 13 years. What’s amazing (to me, anyway) is that she says she just started taking photos recently (she’s in her 50s). I would have guessed she was a pro! Well, bravo to her for making these images available to us for free, and for the bilingual commentary. Check out the link to her equally fascinating photo blog on India.

* December Events on the Calendar *

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

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