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...

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


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... 


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

On the "T" in Boston, 2006.

When the heat died in my apartment, 2007.

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


Can Ex-Patriots Be Trusted with the Vote?

Check out this essay by Gary Lee Kraut (published on his website, Paris Revisited). It brilliantly describes what it's like to be an expatriated patriot.