About Secrets of Paris

Created in 1999, the Secrets of Paris is the oldest independent and locally-owned website about Paris in English, for both visitors and residents. Discover what you've been missing:

* Free Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events 
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here




Calendar of Paris Events

Through February 19
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is Ice Hockey, though it will be less brutal than the NHL!

January 11 - February 21
The annual winter sales, aka Les Soldes. Honestly, the rules about when and how sales can take place in France since the economic crise have essentially made the sales irrelevant. There are sales all of the time now (often called "promotion" or "7 Jours BHV" or something like that). 

Click here to see the full calendar of events...


Heather's Interview on Moleskinecity.com

There's something so clichéd about the American writer in Paris scribbling in a Moleskine journal on a café terrace. But I buy them anyway. I like the little elastic band that keeps the notebook closed. I like the paper, which is smooth and heavy enough that I can write on both sides without my runny fountain pen bleeding through. I'm especially fond of the pocket-sized Reporter Notebook version (there are many now) that opens vertically like a journalist's pad, with simple horizontal lines. I hate writing on graph paper, blank pages, and those multi-lined notebooks that school kids use to practice their handwriting. I can't remember the last time I actually sat in a café writing in my notebooks. I usually only go to cafés to meet with friends, and there are usually more interesting things to watch anyway. The Metro, though, is another story. Nothing interesting to look at, nothing at all (aside from the occasional bad or silly billboard advertisement). So it's the perfect time to spend scribbling away. Not that I'm working on that novel. I tend to make notes to myself, draft articles, write down things I saw while walking around town to report back here, or just write about what's bothering me (a sort of therapy journaling, I suppose).

In any case, I now have a huge box of used Moleskine's (and other non-branded versions...Moleskine as a brand didn't actually exist until 1995) in my storage cellar. The very first one was in fact purchased in 1995 just before I left for my Christmas/New Year break in Budapest. I used it as a travel journal. I used a purple pen that fit in a loop on the notebook. The elastic was green. I made a lot of ugly skeches in it after I slipped on the ice and broke my camera. Today you can actually buy Moleskine city notebooks, a sort of mix of a travel guide and a notebook. The Paris guide has maps of the city and Metro, tabs for making sections where you note your essential addresses, etc. I think they're a great idea. I probably won't use them myself; habits are sometimes hard to break. But you might like them. Their website has an interesting multilingual blog covering several European cities. The Paris blog features an interview with moi today. Enjoy, have a surf around. Funnily enough, they don't actually push their notebooks here at all. For that you'll have to go to www.moleskine.com (where you'll also find info about how to participate in their creative challenge to benefit lettera27, a nonprofit literacy organization dedicated to support the right to education and access to knowledge around the world. 


Israel Honored in Paris this Week

French and Israeli flags over the Opera Garnier

If you happened to notice the Israeli flags all over Paris this week, it's because Israel is the honored guest of the annual Salon du Livre (Book Fair), featuring the latest Israeli authors and their works. Arab publishers at the fair have called for a boycott, which has caused quite a stir in the publishing community.

President Sarkozy gave President Shimon Peres the guided tour of his posh pad on the Champs-Elysées (maybe Carla made cookies), and a tour of the city, including a stop at the Pantheon to honor the memorial to those who helped save Jews from deportation during WWII.

Articles on Franco-Israeli relations here and here.


Tecktonik dancing in Paris

Someone emailed me today asking about tecktonik dancing in Paris. Personally, it doesn't look very different to what we were doing at techno clubs in the States when I was in highschool (early 90s), but apparently the French think they've invented something original and now it's everywhere. A favored location is on the Esplanade of the Palais de Chaillot (Trocadéro), which makes for great videos with the Eiffel Tower in the back:

If you want to check out the original tecktonik club, head to the southern 'burbs to a place called Metropolis where they have the weekly Tecktonik Killer soirées (Saturdays).


Closings and Survivors

Bars open and close all the time in Paris, that's just the reality of the big city. Which is probably why places like Harry's New York Bar and Closerie des Lilas do do well...they've been around long enough that tourists can revisit them on return trips to Paris. 

A few notable closings in 2008 so far:

  • the Bar Fleurs in the Marais (rue des Tournelles) which was a cool vodka and Champagne bar that also happened to be an exotic floral shop as well...I guess it confused people though. 
  • the Sept Lézards, also in the Marais (Rue des Rosiers), which is supposedly looking for a new location.
  • and sadly, I noticed yesterday that the only royalist bar in Paris (which I wrote about in my Adventure Guide years ago), Aux Templiers (35 rue de Rivoli) is now a contemporary cocktail lounge called (did they do this on purpose?): Majesty. I miss the old dusty PMU bar full of Fleur-de-Lis, images of young Louis XVII, and a statue of Jeanne d'Arc. You just don't find places like that anymore in Paris!

When I was a student back in 1995 I used to hang out a lot around the bars of Beaubourg because my best friends lived on the Rue des Lombards. A funky little bar opened that year on the Rue de Quincampoix, L'Imprévu. That's where I spent long afternoons doing my homework (well, sorta) and nursing an 8 franc café because I couldn't afford to buy more than one cocktail a week back in those days, LOL! Amazingly, this little bar is still open,  one of the few from that time period still surviving.

On Saturday night it was totally packed, so I went to "Aux 3 Escales," across the street at #12, a Taj Mahal type bar, cozy and colorful, smelling like someone was smoking a hookah pipe (or more likely burning apple incense). It was completely empty at Happy Hour (6pm), but by 8pm all of the cushioned corners were full. They serve cocktails, sangria, mint tea, etc. They used to serve food, have regular soirées and apparently downstairs there is a hammam, but I didn't see any trace of these offerings on my visit, which makes me wonder if perhaps it's under new ownership. 

One of the older Seine-side péniche bar-clubs that has also been around since my student days is the Guinguette du Pirate (on the Quai Françpis Mauriac, foot of the Bibliothèque Nationale, 13th), now called La Dame de Canton. It's actually celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so check out their packed program.

Up in the Latin Quarter near Place de la Contrescarpe, my old student stomping grounds, Earl of the Shebeen (rue Pot de Fer) tells me he has sold the bar (it will be closed as of March 14) and may be moving back to South Africa for other opportunities. Earl and I used to work together lifetimes ago at a (now closed) Irish bar at Châtelet called the Cruiscin Lan. Before opening his own place, Earl worked at the sister bar around the corner, The Fifth (at 62 rue Mouffetard), which is still going strong after all these years -- a decade now?! -- with the international expat crowd.

On the other side of the planet, the Bar Fontainebleau at the Hôtel Meurice is now Le 228 (that being the address on the Rue de Rivoli), completely redone by Philippe Starck in late 2007 (yet it pretty much looks as cozy as it always did, which I unfortunately can't say about the Winter Garden's surrealist makeover...ugh). The bar is hosting "Nocturnes", a degustation of fine wine with sommalier Nicolas Rebut, accompanied by canapés from the hotel's star chef Yannick Alléno for €90/person. The next ones are March 13 (Champagnes), April 3 (White Burgundies) and June 5 (Rhône Valley Reds), at 7pm sharp. To sign up call 01 44 58 10 66.



New Dining Reviews

Check out the Dining Reviews section of this guide for the latest reviews of Thai, Vietnamese, and French restaurants.


Sherlock Holmes Soirée at Experimental Cocktail Club

Last night the Experimental Cocktail Club hosted a special theme soirée: A Night in the Company of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Amazingly, the crowd was almost all dressed up in Victorian clothing according to the theme (sauf moi, who had no pipe nor top hat lying around, dangit).

The soirée was sponsored in part by Hendrick's Gin, so all of the evening's cocktails had a gin base.

There was also punch served in little china cups, dainty little sandwiches, and freeflowing booze.

One of our gracious hosts, Olivier.

 The biggest cocktail shaker I've ever seen...

In keeping with the English theme, there was rain (!)
and an antique car from 1903.

That's our driver on the right (the car being English...
and no, I didn't ask what kind of car).
Two Americans barely fit in the back...people were tiny back in 1903!



I tried the Aviation, which had juniper juice in it, and was instantly wide awake, hello! 

Stay tuned...there are more Experimental Cocktail Club soirées in different locations, including Cannes and one of the hottest bars in London...