About Secrets of Paris

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:

* Custom Travel Content 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

October 8-12
The theme for the 81st annual Fête des Vendanges, the grape harvest festival, is Montmartre Fête les Poètes. Events include a parade, grape stomping, the food & wine tasting village, cooking demos, live music, and tons of other fun stuff. Check out the entire program, the online boutique (get your commemorative bottles of wine!) and other info about the festival here.

October 12 
Stock up on fall reading material for a handful of euros and support the English-language SOS Helpline at their Autumn Book Sale today from noon-4pm at Orrick Law Offices (31 ave Pierre Ière de Serbie, 16th, M° Alma-Marceau). Paperbacks €1, hardcovers €2, all categories for adults and kids, as well as bake sale items. Those who want to donate books can drop them off during the sale.

October 16-17
Blending culture with social, Sinfonietta Paris brings you an evening of Mendelssohn and Brahms exquisitely performed by a brilliant ensemble of young professional musicians. At the Institut FInlandais (Latin Quarter, 60 rue des Ecoles, 5th) from 8-11pm. Tickets €25 (wine and hors d'oeuvres included). The address will be mailed once confirmed; the performance on the 4th December is in the 17th; on the 5th December it's in the 1st. Register on the website; places limited. 

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

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Tuesday
Mar042008

An Ode to Heather's Beret

So I go to this party last night, and it's cold and raining outside so I wear my hat. I have a lot of hats, but I seem to favor one more than the other: my beret.

 Experimental%20beret%208.jpg
Last night at the Experimental Cocktail Club soirée.

Such a cliché, isn't it, wearing a beret in France? I remember when I first arrived in August 1995, and a friend from home was teasing me, "So, you gonna buy a beret?" "Ha! Not!" was my reply. But then winter came, a particularly cold winter where it snowed, and with it the worst transportation strikes since May 1968. The flu was going around, and living in a big city for the first time in my life, I was a germ magnet.

 Paris%20Puces%20beret%204.jpg
At the Marché aux Puces, 2005.

So I needed a hat. Specifically one that would keep my ears warm during the long walks to school each morning, that wouldn't blow off from the wind, and preferably wouldn't squash my head too much. I tried on every hat in town, and ended up buying my black wool beret on the Rue Mouffetard in November 1995.

Avignon%20beret%202.jpg
With the puppies in Avignon, 2000.

I have lost this beret in every bar, metro car, coat check room, and friend's apartment in Paris. Somehow it always finds its way back. I've tried many other hats over the years, and either they didn't fit well, blew off my head into the Seine (happens more often than you'd think), went out of style, gave me frizzy hair, or didn't look very good after being stuffed into my purse or thrown in the washing machine. So I always end up back with my beret.

 Disney%20beret%201.jpg
In front of the Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris, 2005.

"You look so French," say some of my tour clients. Sort of embarrassing when they say that. French people actually *do* wear berets, particularly the women in Paris. Only old men in the countryside tend to wear them. Only tourists wear ones that have "Paris" embroidered on the rim.

 French%20guy%20beret%205.jpg
A Parisian demonstrating the proper way for French men to wear a beret (hand-rolled cigarette and baguette obligatoire), 2004.

So last night at this party a guy couldn't help but comment on how he found my beret totally sexy and stylish.  Actually he said the opposite, but I refuse to repeat it. I don't want my beret's feelings to be hurt, it may not come back next time I lose it! "It's 13 years old," I  said. "Practically vintage." If I didn't have actual work to do today, I could probably dig up a few photos of my beret in its early years, touring the Loire Valley, keeping me warm in Minnesota, looking worldly in Budapest...for now here just a few digital pics from the past 8 years.

Boston%20beret%203.jpg
On the "T" in Boston, 2006.

Freezing%20beret%207.jpg
When the heat died in my apartment, 2007.

naughtyparis_coverfinal.jpg
 I love my beret so much, that there's even a silhouette of a woman wearing one on the cover of Naughty Paris!

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Reader Comments (4)

Aww. I love your beret too! So many good times you've had together... how dare someone cast aspersions on it - a pox on him!
March 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNYC Karen
A pox on him, indeed. Hmph!
March 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall
I love your beret. Here in Estonia we have serious winters and my beret was one of the very few hats that worked. Unfortunately it blows off when I ride my bicycle in the wind so I had to by a knit cap with long tails that I cam tie under my chin. No photos of that - I'd murder anyone who tired.
March 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermartha
Cute! How many people look so good in a hat? I have never found one that I could wear in public. Yours ,looks great! Wear it with pride! :-)
March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

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