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Sunday
Jul012007

Newsletter #78: June-July 2007

IN THIS ISSUE:

** Heather’s News
** Getting Around: New RATP Tickets
** Getting Around: Strikes and Other Bad News
** Getting Around: Vélib City Bikes Arrive in July! Woo hoo!
** Getting Around: Thinking of Renting a Car?
** Getting Around: A Central Taxi Call Number!
** Living in Paris: Now You Can Choose Your Own Utilities Company
** Disneyland Paris : Not for the Faint of Heart
** Sightseeing: Now Opened
** Sightseeing: No More Free Views from the Pompidou
** Travel: Another Low-Cost European Airline
** Culture: Mini-Subscriptions at the Paris Opera
** Nightlife: Champs Elysées Closings
** Hotel News: The Best Large Hotel in the World according to Zagat
** Getting Connected: Paris WiFi
** Fans and Fries in Paris
** Heather’s Blog and Calendar
** Heather’s Tours and Vacation Planning
** Are you on the list?
** STILL Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…

** Heather’s News **

So I keep getting emails asking: “where’s the newsletter?” Okay, I skipped a few months. There just wasn’t one interesting thing going on in the entire city to tell you about. Or…busy Heather just got busier! Blame the French tax people. Back in February I opened a new company, Fleur-de-Lire, which now encompasses all of my various projects, including the Secrets of Paris website, the guided tours, and the publication of the Naughty Paris guide (that itself is taking up more time than planned, arg!). So the French tax people are now a lot happier since they can read my business plan in French and extract their considerable percentage, and I can get back to doing what I do best, which is to tell y’all about all of the cool stuff happening in Paris right now (mostly thanks to the creative spending of aforementioned taxes I’ve been paying). Ever since summer arrived (June 21), it has been chilly and wet in Paris . But never fear…that just means you don’t have to worry yet about whether you have air-conditioning or not. Happy summer! –Heather

** Getting Around: New RATP Tickets

The RATP is introducing a new ticket next month to replace the current lavender/mauve “single ride” ticket. The old ticket was only good for one bus ride (no transfers), but the new one will be valid for 90 minutes on the entire bus and tram network (but no transfers from bus to metro or tram to metro), so you can switch as much as needed within that time period. The bad news is that it costs just a bit more. Single tickets will now be €1.50 and a “carnet” of ten tickets will be €11.10. More info here.

** Getting Around: Strikes and Other Bad News

If Sarkozy has his way, there will be guaranteed minimum service (with non-strike employees brought in to fill in during strikes), no pay for those on strike, and a two-day advance warning required. Politics aside, this is good news for those of you who need public transportation to get around. Keep informed on any strike action and closures due to construction (there’s quite a few stations closed this summer) on the www.Ratp.fr website.

** Getting Around: Vélib City Bikes Arrive in July! Woo hoo!

This isn’t a secret at all, but I can’t help but tell you anyway, because it’s such a fabulous idea I can’t believe they didn’t do it earlier. For just €29/year you get to use the bikes all you want in 30 minute increments. And they’re cute bikes, with chain guards, splash guards, a basket, and lights! You can also use your credit card to have access to the bikes for just one day for €1 (that’s ONE Euro) or one week for €5. But there is a little glitch that will probably keep Americans and Canadians from being able to use this fabulous service as tourists: the machines that take your card look exactly like the ones they have in the metro stations and at museums (where you can buy tickets from automated machines instead of standing in line)….these machines only work with cards that have the “puce”, or microchip. Most European bank cards have this chip, but I’ve never seen one on an American or Canadian card. Bummer, eh? See the bikes in action on this great little video.

** Getting Around: Thinking of Renting a Car?

What are you? A fool? Or maybe lucky enough to come from a country with a currency stronger than the Euro? If you’re American, and you’ve had a look at the current exchange rates, think twice before renting a car to get around France. It will now cost you the equivalent of about $8/gallon. Did I mention France has one of the best high-speed train networks in the world? You can even practice your French by eavesdropping on everyone’s cell phone conversations. ;)

** Getting Around: A Central Taxi Call Number!

Can you believe that up until now, there was never a central number to find a taxi? You had to call Taxis Bleus, or Taxis G7, or whatever, and hope they find one close enough to you that the car didn’t arrive with €15 already on the meter. Now there’s one number to call, so program it into your phones! Tel 01 45 30 30 30 (cost of a local call).

** Living in Paris : Now You Can Choose Your Own Utilities Company!

Starting July 1, 2007 , thanks to privatization, the French utilities (gas and electric) are no longer run by the State. That means that if you’re not happy with EDF, you can choose one of their competitors, such as Enercoop, which uses wind, solar and hydro power. Keep in mind, of course, that EDF will probably be the least expensive because it is subsidized by the State (France has the cheapest electric/gas in Europe), but if you’re serious about doing your part to cut down on our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power, then suck it up and pay the few extra euros per month.

** Disneyland Paris : Not for the Faint of Heart

Another person died this week on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster ride at Disney Studios (next door to Disneyland Paris). Similar to the first incident in 2004, the person passed out on the ride and couldn’t be revived. In both cases autopsies showed that the victims had died from pre-existing medical conditions. So heed those warnings at the front of the ride seriously! Pregnant women and those with heart or neurological problems shouldn’t ride. Claire and I went on the rollercoaster several times the day it opened in 2002, and I still have the photo of us, the skin on our faces pulled back like we’re at warp speed. Pardon the gallows humor, but personally, I can’t think of a better way of exiting this world than on the Rockin’ Rollercoaster, woo hoo!

** Sightseeing: Now Opened

The 12th-century Château de Vincennes, which has the highest tower/keep in Europe , just reopened after years of renovations. It’s just at the end of metro line 1, so no need to schlep down to the Loire Valley to get your castle fix! Also reopened is the Cité de l’Architecture et Patrimoine in the Palais de Chaillot, the Jeu de Paume photography collection, and the Pinacothèque private museum/gallery at Madeleine.

** Sightseeing: No More Free Views from the Pompidou

The folks at the Centre Pompidou are onto me. Normally, if you want to see the nice views from the top floor, you either have to buy a museum ticket, or say that you’re going to the restaurant George on the top floor (there’s a dedicated elevator for this to the left of the main entrance). Usually I (and apparently the rest of the world) would tell the guard we’re going to the restaurant, but then leave after having a look at the view. Last week I had to argue with the guard at the door and then the ladies inside at the museum entrance before they let me go up. I’m not a huge fan of the restaurant (overpriced, underserviced), but it may be worth reserving (tel 01 44 78 47 99) or having a drink at the bar just to see the view (preferably on a clear day).

** Travel: Another Low-Cost European Airline

EasyJet still leads the pack with flights from CDG and Orly to destinations all over Europe (including direct flights to Edinburgh beginning September), but now there’s a new company, Vueling, offering flights from Paris CDG to many sunny destinations (Barcelona, Rome, Seville, Ibiza, Valencia, Madrid, Malaga) as well as Amsterdam and Venice. They also offer the option to have a seat with more leg room for €10. One to watch!

** Culture: Mini-Subscriptions at the Paris Opera

You can now get a mini-subscription to the Paris Opera, with “formulas” of three or four shows at either the Opéra Garnier or Opéra Bastille. Info online or by phone at 01 44 61 59 65.

** Nightlife: Champs Elysées Closings

It’s your last chance this weekend to visit the Mandalaray (formerly the Man Ray) on the Rue Marbeuf before it closes for good on July 2. Apparently it’s going to reopen in the fall as “ World Place ”, with a slightly absurd-sounding goal of being like a computer chat room but in the real world. Hmmm. We’ll see. La Suite on Avenue George V will be closing and turned into a cashmere store. King Elysée (I never went here) is also closing, and Le Baron (over by Alma-Marceau) lost permission to have the live karaoke band on Sunday nights because of the news (it’s now at Le Paris-Paris on Sundays instead). Why all of the closures? It seems that even the late night bars and restaurants are losing permission to be open until the wee hours. Maybe this is all part of the city’s plan to turn the Champs-Elysées area into more of a luxury shopping destination than a nightlife party spot. But don’t despair. One place closes, another place opens. That’s Paris for you.

** Hotel News: The Best Large Hotel in the World according to Zagat

The Four Seasons George V hotel was awarded the title of Best Large Hotel in the World by the readers of Zagat Guides, coming in above American and Asian hotels (four of the top ten are Four Seasons Hotels; two are in Chicago; none are in London or New York). It’s certainly one of my own favorites, particularly for their spa, which has a boudoir look and feel right out of the Château of Versailles. They even have a new Marie-Antoinette spa treatment called “A Stroll through Versailles”: “a three act journey in the heart of the queen’s universe is an invitation to discover treatments which honour Marie Antoinette’s favourite scent: orange blossom.” The treatment ends, of course, with a tasting of French pastries. Yum! From €130-300. Tel 01.49.52.72.10.

** Getting Connected: Paris WiFi

The Mairie de Paris will offer free WiFi throughout the city beginning mid-July, in over 400 hotspots in city parks, the Champs-Elysées, in front of Hôtel de Ville, the Champ de Mars, Trocadéro, city halls, libraries, municipal museums, and even at some of the public pools (!!). Of course, it only works during opening hours of these places. See the list at www.wifi.paris.fr. There’s another service offering WiFi subscriptions throughout the city (meaning you can use the service at your home as well as anywhere the network has coverage in the city) for €18/month called Ozone Paris. I found them when my own WiFi was down (they’re not everywhere in Paris yet), but wasn’t able to connect consistently. They do offer free WiFi for life if you opt to have one of their antennae placed on top of your building. Something to consider…

** Fans and Fries in Paris

I went to Le Truskel (10-12 Rue Feydeau, 2nd) last night with an old college classmate who just moved to Paris, and a very boisterous French woman overheard us speaking English and asked if we were from Texas. She stayed in Dallas for a few months and fell in love with the city and the people (after having already visited San Francisco, NY, etc.) and couldn’t say enough about how much she enjoyed her time there. I don’t know how many times I have to tell Americans that the French don’t hate us. Sigh. Her boyfriend was from Austria, and we got to chatting about what we were doing in Paris. When I told him I had a “little website called Secrets of Paris” he looked at me all excited and said, “You’re Heather!” It’s actually very rare that I run into people who read the newsletter, so it made my evening. Once my friend and I had our fill of alternative rock (“hey, this was big freshman year!”) we had the munchies and, being in the 2nd arrondissement at 4:30am, were perfectly situated to get a plate of hot fries at Le Tambour (41 rue Montmartre; open until 6am).

** Heather’s Blog and Calendar

Do check out the Secrets of Paris website to read the blog for recent photos, news, and other happenings in Paris . I’ll be adding more restaurant reviews in the coming week for BC, Le Senso, Fouquet’s, Jardin des Pâtes, and other places I’ve tested in the past few months. The calendar is also back (sorry, I was on vacation last month), with summer events and concerts listed.

** 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.

** STILL Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this… *

This is an opt-in and opt-out newsletter managed by YourMailingListProvider.com ( www.YMLP.com ). If you want to change the address that this newsletter is sent to, then you need to click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the newsletter, the go to the subscription page to enter your new e-mail. I’m still getting emails from people asking me to do this for them. Or at least that’s what I hear, because it seems those emails get lost to the Spam Recycle Bin before I get a chance to do anything about it…. ;)

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