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
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Calendar of Paris Events

December 6-14
The annual Féeries d’Auteuil takes place at the non-profit children's organization Apprentis d'Auteuil (40 rue Jean de la Fontaine, 16th, M° Jasmin or Eglise d'Auteuil) with a Christmas market, food stands, flea market, concerts, vintage carrousel and nativity scenes, from 11am-7pm. Live singing performances on St-Sun at 5:30pm. 

December 10-14
"Le Noël des Créateurs", highlights up-and-coming designers and artisans selling ther crafts "Made in France". Come for original and unique holiday gifts! You'll find 15 chalets along the Petit Ceinture (former railway) at Located at 83 boulevard Ornano, 18th (direct access to the Petite Ceinture through la Recyclerie, right outside metro Porte de Clignancourt).

December 20-21
The Village St-Paul (entrances along Rue St Paul, 4th) is having its winter brocante (flea market) this weekend, with outdoor stands in addition to the antique and vintage shops and other fun shops in the cobblestone courtyards. 

Through December 21
The newest musical comedy at the historic Folies Bergère is a high-energy burlesque show around the theme of love with dancers, acrobats, and singers performing French, American and British songs (many which you'll recognize in the preview below). Love Circus is the perfect alternative to the Moulin Rouge (including its busloads of tourists and high prices). Tickets €29-€84 (by seating area), no dinner included, discounts for booking online. 

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

Secrets of Paris Newsletter #148 was sent December 6th to subscribers. Sign up here to get the next one emailed direct to your inbox. 

Monday
Jul032006

Rue des Rosiers Construction

As part of the ongoing improvements to make the city look more like Disneyland*, the Rue des Rosiers has been completely torn up for re-cobbling. The west end towards the Rue Vieille du Temple (in the photo) is already done, although I think they still have to put the bars in that keep cars from parking. The whole area in front of l'As du Falafel is still dirt and planks.

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According to one of the shopkeepers on the street, they're going to make Rue des Rosiers pedestrian-only on Sundays. It's about time!

* Of course, we all know where Disney got the idea in the first place. They're really just trying to make the city look like it did before tarmac was invented. Minus the cholera and plague outbreaks. 

 

Monday
Jul032006

World Cup Madness



I've seen enough soccer (or football, as they say everywhere else in the world but the US), including every match in the last two World Cups, that I don't really feel the urge to sit through any more of them. It's not as if one needs to be watching in Paris anyway to know who's winning. Every time France scores a goal, the whole city seem to cheer. Cheers from every open window, every open café door, honking car horns and high fives in the metro.

It's way too hot again in Paris, about 33°C today. Saturday night I couldn't bear the idea of sitting in a bar full of sweaty bodies to watch. I went to see a cabaret production in a nice, dark, air-conditioned, sound-proofed theatre. Of course afterwards I had to take the metro home. It was packed full of fans on their way home, jubilant and pumped up after France beat Brazil. One of the tv monitors in the metro tunnels said that all bus service was cancelled for the night due to security issues. At the Place d'Italie there was already a huge crowd waiting at the bus stops. No one told them, of course. Wonder how everyone managed to get home, particularly those who depend on the night bus to get to the suburbs.

Beware of this if you go out Wednesday night (the  date of the next French match). There will be crowds everywhere, but particularly on the Champs-Elysées. The metros will be very crowded, and there may be no bus service. Taxis are usually hard to find. So is a bit of shut-eye. The horn honking continued well into the night, until at least 3am (video above recorded from my window two hours after the match was over).

Still, despite my cranky comments, it's nice to see the Parisians in such a good mood!  

If you want to watch the match on a big screen, there will be huge open-air screens at the Stade Charlety (99, boulevard Kellermann - RER Cité Universitaire, 13th) and Stade Jean Bouin (17, avenue Pierre de Coubertin - M° Porte de Saint-Cloud, 16th). Free, open from one hour before the matches start.

Tuesday 4 July
9pm: Italy - Germany

Wednesday 5 July
9pm : Portugal-France 

Saturday 8 July
9pm : match for 3rd place

Sunday 9 July
9pm : Final

Thursday
Jun292006

Pampering Deal of the Summer!

So I was wandering around the super-annoying website of the Royal Monceau (a 1920s palace hotel near the Arc de Triomphe), losing patience with the slow-as-molasses flash-only navigation, when I stumbled upon some interesting news.

The hotel's recently renovated Les Thermes Spa (now with Kanebo spa products) has a special summer deal for July and August: €300/month for unlimited access to the spa's indoor pool (windows overlook the gardens), sauna, Jacuzzi, hammam, fitness room, and classes (eight per day are scheduled) such as stretching, aquagym, Abdo-fessiers (tums and bums), and yoga. It's open from 7am until 10pm, and there's even a pool-side café that serves healthy foods such as salads, chopped veggie platters, and grilled fish. Spa treatments are extra, but you're not obligated to sign up for them (might be hard to resist, considering how inexpensive this is).

Now I know some of you are saying, "Three hundred euros is a lot!" But most scruffier gyms in Paris charge more than that, without the exquisitely elegant setting you'll find at the Royal Monceau. The new floating swimming pool on the Seine (set to open next month) will be €5 for the first two hours and €5/hour for each hour after that. So an afternoon of three hours at the pool will cost €10. Go every day for a month and that's €300. No-brainer, if you ask me. Just go have a look at the photos on their site or stop by and have a peek. I'll be in the pool, dahlings!

Wednesday
Jun282006

French Village Reenacts German-American Battle

There was a small detour on the Sunday Canadian Club hike to take in La Fête de la Jeep in the village of Sagy. It's an annual reenactment of the August 1944 battle between US liberation troops (led by Captain Murray Pulver) and the Nazi Germany occupiers (led by Lieutenant Heinz Bliss). 

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Here's one photo of the reenactment. I was too short to get a good one. This is from behind the Americans.
 
It was an elaborate show, with fireworks, live music (even a bit of Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries"), and authentic uniforms and vehicles. It was, I admit, a tad weird to hear the "German" and "American" troops speaking French afterwards (they're all French, of course).
 
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The group organizing the reenactment is called Union Jeep-Vexin, and they collect all sorts of American military vehicles.
 
Around the field where the show took place were little military encampment scenes, and recruiting tables for the French Army (they had a slick and shiny motorcoach) and the French Foreign Legion (they had wine).
 
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This is a Vietnam-era encampment.
 
Oh, and I should mention that the Americans did win this battle, managing to shoot Lieutenant Bliss as he attempted a dramatic retreat in a motorcycle sidecar. It was just one of the many small battles that took place throughout the country during the liberation of France.
Tuesday
Jun272006

Hiking in Ile-de-France

Last Sunday I went on one of the Canadian Club hikes, a day-long trek from Chars to Meulun (23.6k). Two things should be known: always get to the train station EARLY to have time to buy a ticket at the window in case the automated machine is out of order (or doesn't take your credit card); and never try hiking with the Canadian Club in anything other than real hiking boots (your feet will regret it, otherwise).

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Here we are checking out the old church in Chars at the start of the hike.

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Brian shows us the route on a topography map. We're heading for the Chaussée Jules César, an old vestige of a Roman road into Paris. He advises the "slow" people in the back to keep a map on them just in case. Then he takes off at lightning speed, leaving us all in the dust.

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The hike starts off casually enough under the shade of the forest trees. We even think we have time to stop and smell the roses!

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But as the sun gets higher in the sky, we leave our lovely forested trail and follow Brian into a endlessly stretching fields of wheat with no trees in sight. Bordered by stinging nettles (note: long pants not a bad idea on these hikes).

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We find a patch of trees with enough shade to eat our lunch. Apparently, this is the Roman bit here.

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Here are my sidekicks for the day, Lena & Pedro (wishing they'd left the black fur coats at home).

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The post-lunch half of the walk is also tree-free. But notice those clouds are getting poofy (that's a French meteorological term).

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Here's one of the cute villages we pass through. The horse is just a lawn ornament for the tourists.

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We stop in front of a private château for a group photo. A few minutes later we enter the town of Villette, and Brian thinks it might be fun to hop over an old stone wall to see another château, designated on his map. Luckily for all involved, I actually recognized the name, Château de Villette (aka Teabing's mansion in the Da Vinci Code), and thought it might be more heavily guarded than your average country home. As we rounded the front to peer through the gate, indeed there was some sort of large pair of jaws with four legs frolicking on the grounds with some teenagers. They wouldn't let us in for iced tea (with nor without lemon).

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After a day of sweltering heat, it begins to bucket down raining fifteen minutes before we arrive at the train station. We all get soaked. Here Pedro & Lena, completely pooped out, dry themselves in the sun while waiting for the ride home. They wouldn't look at me for two days afterwards. ;)

 PS Thanks Philippe for the extra photos!

Thursday
Jun222006

Around Bercy

Last week I took a walk around the Parc de Bercy (12th). After opening just over a decade ago, the park and its gardens finally have a "lived in" feel. All of the flowers are in bloom, the trees shrubs have grown big enough to provide plenty of shade, and even the ducks seem to be at home now.

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The Rose Garden at Bercy Park.
 
Being new, and slightly off the beaten track, the park is usually one of the quietest in Paris, the perfect place to hide with your lover in a leafy corner.

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A leafy trail.

But the tranquility may be short-lived, since the new Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir is set to open next month, linking the François Mitterrand Library (and MK2 cinema and entertainment complex) directly to the park.

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The new bridge and the library towers in the background.

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The bridge connects to the park at the top of these stairs (that's a cascading fountain running down the center).

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The Bercy vineyard and Maison du Jardinage in the back.
 
Bercy Park used to be part of the old wine bottling district of Paris. Wine used to arrive in big barrels from all over France via the Seine, then were stored and bottled in the stone warehouses, or chais, at Bercy (which was outside the city limits until the 1860s).  See some old photos here. This industry prospered until the early 2Oth century, when wines started to be bottled "at the château" instead. 
 
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The "Potager", an educational garden for students within the park.
 
The whole district, completely run down by the 1990s, was completely transformed with a park, sports stadium, entertainment complex, and office buildings (including the enormous FISC tax-collector's HQ). Some of the original chais, cobblestones and buildings were preserved in the park. There are also several plane trees that are over 100 years old.
 
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This historic building is now the Maison du Jardinage, open in the afternoon.
 
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The pond and duck houses. Trees in the back disguise the Bercy Village shopping center.

The park is divided into two sections by a busy street, but two foot bridges make it easy to cross. At the far side of the park is Bercy Village, with cafés, shops and a movie theatre.
 
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One of the resident water fowl near the lily pond.