Secrets of Paris 
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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
* Christmas in Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here

Calendar of Paris Events

November 7-15
The 40th annual Salon Marjolaine, the largest organic fair in Paris, takes place this week at the Parc Floral (Bois de Vincennes) with 550 stands selling everything organic you could imagine: produce, meats, cheeses, artisan oils, wines, essential oils, herbs, teas, cosmetics, beauty products, household cleaning products, clothing, shoes, accessories, home decor, books, gardening supplies, as well as stands for environmental tourism, different green activist groups such as Greenpeace, etc.

November 12 - Seattle
Heather will be at Seattle's Paris Eastside cooking school and French boutique for the November Sip & Meet event with copies of Naughty Paris for a special price of just $27 (cover price $39). From 6-8pm, wine and nibbles, €5/person. Come say hello if you're in the area!

November 18-22
Shopping for some supplies for your creative projects? Head down to the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles for the annual Création & Savoir Faire show. Scrapboooking, knitting, gardening, baking, sewing, crafts, and decorating ideas for the holidays. Entrance €13-15, €22 for the two-day pass, open 9:30am-6:30pm (until 9:30pm Friday).  

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

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


Secrets of Paris Newsletter #77

IN THIS ISSUE: * Heather’s News *24/7 Package Delivery Pick-Up * Useful Info for Americans in France * Free WiFi at the Palais de Tokyo * Reserve Your Parking Space at the Airport Online * Getting Your RER Ticket Into Paris from Roissy-CDG * Bureaucratic Progress! * Info People Suck * Learn to Make Your Own Chocolates * Bundle Up if You Go to the Grand Palais! * Free Contemporary Art Tours * Free “Rencontres” at the Opéra Bastille * How to Make an X-Wing out of Two Metro Tickets * Own One of the Most Famous Café Chairs in Paris * French Porcelain * Champs Elysées Shopping Map * Multi-brand Designer Boutique * Cheapie Car Rental * Discount Luxury Shopping Online

Click to read more ...


Discount Shoe Shopping in Paris

Behold, my splurge during the sales!

 paris shoes.jpg

Alas, the five-week long winter sales extravaganza is now over, but you can always find great deals (and, if you're persistent, great shoes) along the Rue Meslay in the 3rd. This street, just off the Place de la République, is lined with shoe wholesalers, most of them open to the public. About half of them have exactly the same selection of very tacky shoes that seem to have arrived from China (shipped in the 80s), selling for as little as €10. The other half are a mix of last season's or current season's shoes at cheaper prices than you'd find in department stores.

Some very random designer shoes can be found at Dina Brice (#13), and I know I got these shoes in one of the first three shops on the left (as you head west along the street), but I was on a shoe high and can't recall which one. You could spend a couple of hours trawling this street, but it's a good idea to do a general reconnaissance mission before making any purchases so that you get a good idea of the price range and quality -- all which vary.


The Saint of French Pastries

Valentines Day Parisian Pastry.jpg
Today's Indulgence in Honor of "Le Saint Valentin" (from my neighborhood bakery).


Breaking News: Champagne is Actually Good for You!

UsineOperaChampagne.jpgAlthough it may look like I'm sipping bubbly at some chic Parisian bar, I'm actually (as I hope you can tell from the wet hair and lack of make-up -- Heather au naturel) at my gym. They were celebrating their two year anniversary today, and thus offering everyone a glass of Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut (on our way out, bien sûr).

Even the healthiest of the health nuts find it hard to turn down a glass of Champagne, but did you know that it's actually good for you to indulge in this fine bubbly? Yes, we are all aware of the health benefits of drinking red wine, but Champagne is actually the healthiest alcoholic beverage. At least that's what they told me at the gym.


From the monthly newsletter:

Unique, distributed in a very selective way, this is the Champagne of those who are concerned about their health yet still want to enjoy life! We found it... Ultra Laurent-Perrier Brut is the lowest-calorie Champagne, without added sugars, created from mature wines. Did you know:

- Champagne has been recognized during the centuries, and it is it still today, for its medicinal benefits due to its preventive and curative virtues...

- Champagne is undeniably restorative...

- Low in calcium, diuretic, and detoxicating from the hypocholestérolémiantes substances which it contains, it is actively opposed to the formation cholesterol and its deposit in the arteries...

- Independent of its beneficial effects on respiration, Champagne is better than red wine for those who have  cardiovascular problems...

- The potassium salts contained in Champagne support the contraction and tonicity of muscle fibres...

Well, hell, I'm sold! Order me a case, and I'll keep some in my locker (especially since -- for no good reason at all -- they won't be regularly stocking Champagne at the gym's juice bar, hmph!) 


The Latest Scam

The "Excuse me, is this your ring?" scam may not be new, but I've had three people in one day try it on me (I was in a very fashionable shopping district of the 16th arrondissement, too, not in a touristy area).

It works like this: someone walks near you on the sidewalk and appears to pick up a (rather ugly) gold (or probably brass) ring off the ground and ask if you've dropped it. Of course you say no, but while you're looking at it they ask if you'd like to buy it. Wide berth, folks. Watch for wandering fingers.

This actually happened to me last year during a tour in St-Germain-des-Prés, but in a slightly different way. A woman pretended to find the ring (same exact ugly ring, I might add) on the ground near me and when I said it wasn't mine she insisted I take it. Then she said it was her birthday and asked if I had any spare change so she could get a sandwich and coffee. I was in a good mood and gave her a euro. She asked for more, the cheeky monkey!

Anyway, be careful, and don't be shy about just saying no and walking away. All big cities have pick-pockets and scammers trying to get your dough. They don't need the money to eat (there are soup kitchens all over town for every meal -- I volunteer at one and there are always leftovers), so don't let the sob stories lure you in or you may find yourself without a wallet.


Patience is Addictive

If you've read my Paris packing recommendations in the Resource Guide, you know that patience -- and heaps of it -- is essential for a successful stay in Paris. Patience is a good idea no matter where you're travelling, but in Paris it's sometimes the one thing that makes or ruins your day (or if you're particularly prone to high blood pressure, your entire vacation).

After eleven years of practicing patience, I still make huffing noises behind people who stand on the left on escalators, make sure to position myself in front of all of the little old ladies and parents with strollers when the bus arrives at the stop, and occasionally grind off a layer of tooth enamel when a "two-day delivery" still hasn't shown up after two weeks. But in general, I've learned to be patient. I'm fanatic about having something to read on me for the metro, the doctor's office, and the line at the post office. I don't mind if my banker is a half hour late as long as I have a good book. I'm almost annoyed when people show up on time for appointments.  In fact, I'm starting to think that maybe I'm too patient.

Case One

Last week I had a meeting scheduled with the PR manager at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. When the front desk called upstairs, no one answered so he told me to wait in the lobby bar. It was 2pm, so I figured she was late returning from lunch. So I went to the bar. Stared at the posters. Had a look at the souvenir boutique. Peeked into the theatre where boxes of Champagne were being delivered for that night's show. After about 15 minutes I say down on one of the red velour chairs and started dozing (I had been up a bit late). At about 2:25pm the thought crossed my mind to go back and ask the front desk clerk to call again, but then a young woman poked her head in the bar and asked if I was Heather. It was the PR office assistant who was sent to "see if the American has arrived yet". The front desk guy had totally forgotten about me. Luckily, I only needed five minutes to ask my questions and get a press kit, because her next appointment was there at 2:30pm on the dot.

Case Two

When I moved from the south of France back to Paris three years ago, I waited about a year to finally send in the paperwork to update the address on my ten-year residency card (technically you're supposed to do this within 8 days of moving). It required calling the Prefecture and requesting the forms, then filling them out, adding two passport-sized photos, and proof of the new address (like a phone bill). I sent it all in and was told my new card would be ready in about three weeks. I also have a vague recollection that they told me I'd receive a letter stating when I could come pick it up.

A year passed and I didn't hear anything. But delays at the Prefecture de Police are legendary (it took me thirteen months for my card to be ready the first time I got it), so I wasn't concerned. After 18 months I started thinking I should probably call, but I lost the number and would have to go to my local station (behind my apartment) to ask for it again. But the only time I think of doing this is when I'm walking the dogs past the station, and dogs aren't allowed in, so I didn't stop by until last week. I was sure that they were going to tell me they had lost the dossier I sent in and ask me to redo it. But no...I call a few days later and they don't sound at ALL shocked when I say I sent in the paperwork almost two years ago. "Come pick it up between 9am and 4pm." "It's ready?" I asked, just to be sure. "It's here, Madame." Wow.

So I wait another few days because there are always huge lines at the Prefecture de Police (right across from the flower market where I meet my tour clients). I got there this morning at 9:15am. There were no lines. I went through security, over to building F, and there was still no line. I gave the woman at the desk my old card, she went into the back and brought out my file. I signed and received my shiny new card with my Paris address. I' surprised it didn't have to be dusted off. I was out of the building by 9:25am, so shocked at all the free time I had until my 11am appointment that I went to check out the sales at Galeries Lafayette.

Either I'm too patient, or -- gasp! -- the French are getting more efficient. ;)