Monday
Nov052018

Armistice Centenary: November 11, 2018

The Great War, now known as World War I, officially ended after four long years with the signing of the Armistice on November 11th, 1918. Commemorated each year as a national holiday in France, for 2018 there will be special events in Paris for the hundredth anniversary, including new monuments of remembrance, guided tours, exhibitions, concerts and conferences. You won’t find much information in English, so here is a translation of some of the main events listed on the official City of Paris website.

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Sunday
Oct282018

A Costco Near Paris: Worth the Trip?

I grew up in the US, but I moved to Paris when I was still a student, so my memory of member-only-discount-bulk-shopping stores such as Sam’s Club are a very distant memory for me. Not that I haven’t heard of Costco. You’d have to live in a cave (without Internet access) to not know how popular these stores are in the United States. But as someone who can’t stand shopping at all, I never made a point to visit one during my trips there over the past 25 years.

Until recently, competition from French hypermarchés such as Carrefour and Géant kept these stores out of France. But in June 2017 Costco finally managed to open a store in a very inconvenient location approximately 35 minutes south of Paris, just off the A10 highway near Orly airport. If you drive, you’ll most likely need 45 minutes to get there and about an hour to return if you’re dumb enough to go on the weekend or after work, because the traffic jams getting back into Paris are horrific.

If you don’t have a car or access to one, you’ll have to take the RER B to Massy, then one of the four local bus lines to La Brûlerie. And who on earth would bother taking the train and bus (and then the hike across the immense parking lot) to go to a store where everything is sold in bulk? Maybe if you’re just getting a discounted sonic toothbrush, a new winter coat, or a few bags of hot dog buns. But would that really be worth the trek?

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Thursday
Oct252018

Recommended Reading: Half An Hour from Paris

Half an Hour From Paris: 10 Secret Daytrips by Train” by Annabel Simms, author of the now-classic “An Hour from Paris”, written in the days when people had more time, is a great resource for locals who need a good excuse to escape Paris for the day, or for visitors looking to expand beyond the regular tourist haunts of the capital. As I write this on a particularly gray and chilly autumn day, I want to say that this would be a great book for the warmer days of spring, or to escape the suffocating heat of the city in the summer. But then I remember one of my favorite daytrips from Paris was on a snowy New Year’s Eve in 2016, when I took the RER up to Chantilly with a Parisian friend simply to enjoy the winter wonderland for the day (note to future self: wear actual winter clothing and snow-proof shoes next time).

You’d think Parisians would go on little daytrips outside the city all of the time, but most of us, like New Yorkers, don’t own cars, and if we did we would probably go further afield, like Brittany or the Loire Valley. But Annabel’s excellent book removes all of the silly excuses we give ourselves.

-        She gives us 10 daytrips to choose from and the best time to go

-        She explains exactly how to get there using public transportation (distance, time involved, whether you can get there using a Navigo pass, and how much -- as of printing -- the train ticket costs)

-        She gives a full guided tour of what to see in each location, the local tourism office, and even a few suggestions of where to eat

-        There are maps (for those who don’t rely on their smartphone) and plenty of photos to give you an idea of what you’ll be seeing on each daytrip

Annabel’s book is based on her own 20 years of experience exploring the countryside outside Paris, and it shows. If you’re still a little nervous, start off with the Château de Vincennes or the Parc de Bagatelle, two easy daytrips right outside Paris that are still surprisingly free of crowds, let alone tourists.

If you're in Paris, you can find "A Half An Hour from Paris" at most English bookshops, including my favorite, the Abbey Bookshop. And of course you can always purchase it online.

Wednesday
Oct032018

My Favorite French Cleaning Products

So in this month's newsletter I (half) jokingly mentioned that in a future newsletter I would share my French cleaning product tips. But after getting over a dozen emails asking for me to spill the beans NOW, here's the shortlist of products I wish I'd known about sooner. 

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Sunday
Sep302018

An Update on Paris Street Art in the 13th 

It's been awhile since my last update of the latest street art in the 13th arrondissement, but there's always more being added! The 13th has an impressive number of street art murals from artists around the world thanks to support from the local Mayor Jérôme Coumet, who is keen to cover up some of the less interesting towers of the district with beautiful murals, and local galleries who regularly feature these artists in shows. Last week I visited the vernissage at the Galerie Mathgoth for the street artist Christian Guémy, aka "C215".

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Friday
Aug172018

New Book Alert: Travel Journalism!

Travel journalism. It’s a glamorous profession, you probably think. Expense accounts to eat in fancy restaurants, free stays in luxury hotels, endless offers to trek the globe — sounds good, right?

Well, travel journalists don’t actually do those things as much as you think. Not real ones, at least. And now that anyone can publish online, from blogs to Instagram, it’s all become a bit more complicated. Being a travel journalist is actually much more complex and nuanced than writing about your latest trip to some coastal town. There’s a lot at stake when you write about a foreign place. 

That’s the takeaway from my book, Travel Journalism: Informing Tourists in the Digital Age, published by Routledge this year. The culmination of nearly 6 years of research at the Sorbonne, it covers travel journalism from a variety of viewpoints. How has social media affected travel journalism? How can it be a constructive practice? How has the sharing economy intersected with journalism? 

There are a lot of questions, and many answers to choose from, but this book, I hope, gets the conversation started.

Heather — founder of Secrets of Paris, in case you didn't know — gave me my first break into travel journalism years ago when she took me under her wing. A true journalist herself, she instilled a lot of the values and practices in me that I discuss in this book. She’s proof that travel journalism can be better than what most of us are seeing online. As we led our trave writing workshop a few years ago, we discussed many of the ideas I wrote about in this book, and I hope that they can now be useful to a new generation of travel journalists.

Make note, however, that this is not simply a how-to guide for wannabe journalists. It's more of an ethnography, a snapshot of the profession in the early 21st century. If you are familiar with the basic tenets of journalism or have worked in travel media, you’ll probably find it informative. There are a lot of academic references in it, but don’t be daunted. The principle messages should be fairly straightforward to any reader with some journalism experience.

If you’re a media student, a practitioner, or simply curious about travel journalism and its changes with the internet, this book might be of interest to you. I hope to see what sorts of ideas and research spin off it, because my work is far from the last word on travel journalism!

Check out Travel Journalism: Informing Tourists in the Digital Age on Amazon here.