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
* Private Secrets of Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

Through October 3
Don't miss one of the most magical events of the summer, the Candlelit Evenings at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, just an hour south of Paris by RER and shuttle. Visit the family-owned palace and gardens that inspired Versailles by candlelight, including dinner in the gardens (or bring your own picnic or book a table for a gourmet meal starting at €59) and a fireworks finale. Every Saturday evening, entry €19.50. 

Through October 18
The 32nd annual funfair carnival, the Fête à Neu Neu, opens on August 30th in the Bois de Boulogne (Porte de la Muette, 16th, M° Rue de la Pompe). Open 4pm-midnight Mon, Tues, & Thurs; 2pm-midnight Wed & Fri; and noon to midnight Sat-Sun. Free entry, ATM, Vélib station, food tents and rides (tickets purchased onsite).  

September 11-13
The annual Fête de l'Humanité is three days of live music (65 acts including headliners Manu Chao, Texas, and Juliette Gréco), debates (because the French love a good debate), arts and cinema expositions, a bal populaire, a book fair, and activities for kids. The main sponsor/organizer is the daily newspaper L'Humanité, whose motto is "Envie de Changer Le Monde" (The desire to change the world), so you can imagine it's quite a leftie leaning festival where politics, social justice and liberty are the main stars. This year it takes place in La Corneuve (northeast suburbs), and three-day passes are just €32 (€35 at the door; camping and parking also possible). 

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

Friday
Nov102006

Paris Illustrations from the New York Time Artist

Thanks to Sue for sending in this link to the charming illustrations by New York Times artist and children's book author, Maira Kalman. My favorites are the ones from Deyrolle and in Luxembourg Gardens. As Sue says, "She seems to 'get it' in a very simple and direct way."

Thursday
Nov092006

One-of-a-Kind Designer Doll Auction for UNICEF

Yves Saint Laurent, Cacharel, Versace, Chloé, and Louis Vuitton are just of the few of the 80 designers who have created one-of-a kind ragdolls for the "Frimousses de Créateurs" project, created by UNICEF in 2003 to raise money for child vaccinations around the world. The dolls are on display at the Palais de Tokyo this weekend (November 11-12) before being auctioned off on November 16 at the Drouot Montaigne auction house at 7pm. In 2005, more than €80,000 were collected, making it possible to vaccinate several thousands children. The dolls are soooo adorable! Look here (click on the "photos" box in red).

 
Places are actually limited at the auction house for those who actually plan on bidding. If you're interested, call 01 44 39 17 50 to reserve your place.

Complete list of the participating designers: Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Antik Batik, Biche de Bere, Byblos, Boris Becker par Nicole Pibeau, Cacharel, Carven, Célestina Agostino, Céline, Chacok, Chantal Thomass, Chloé, Christian Dior, Colette par Alexis Mabille, Comité de l’Orne pour l’Unicef, Comptoir des Cotonniers, Costume National, Daniel Swarovski, Dice Kayek, Disney, Elie Saab Couture, Elisabeth de Senneville, Emanuel Ungaro, Emilio Pucci, Erwan et Ronan Bouroullec, Eymerick François, Fendi, Fifi Chachnil, Franck Sorbier Couture, Giambattista Valli, Gilles Dufour, Giorgina Brandolini, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Iceberg, Isabel Marant, Isabelle Ballu, Issey Miyake, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Jean-Luc Amsler, Jean-Paul Knott, Jérôme Dreyfuss, Jérôme L'Huillier, Kenzo, Kookaï, Lanvin – Baccarat, Léonard, Levi's Kids, Lido par Edwin Piekny, Loewe, Loris Azzaro, Louis Vuitton, Loulou de la Falaise, Mango, Marie Claire, Max Chaoul, Miu Miu, Nathalie Garçon, Nina Ricci, Nodus, Ora Ïto, Ovale, Paco Rabanne, Parsons, Pascal Morabito, Paul & Joe, Paule Ka, Paul Smith, Petit Bateau, Prada, Princesse Tam Tam, Régina Rubens, Sakina M'sa, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sophie Papiernick, Sonia Rykiel, Stella Cadente, Tartine et Chocolat, Tradition Mode Africaines par Mariette Dicko, Tyra Banks, Valéria Attinelli, Versace, Yves Saint-Laurent, Zadig et Voltaire, Esmod.

Wednesday
Nov082006

Heather in Candyland....bliss!

Ever since the weather turned chilly two weeks ago, I've been getting some serious cravings for comfort food, aka chocolate and macarons. I could live off of these two fine food groups if the ensuing sugar/chocolate high didn't put me into a coma. Like Oscar Wilde, I give in to temptation as much as possible. Luckily my eyes are bigger than my stomach, because Paris is a never-ending series of boutique windows framing perfectly gorgeous pastries and chocolates like the artworks they are. Just you try and walk past the doors without being seduced by the scent of these heavenly creations!

Don't believe me? Come along, have a look at these and tell me your drool isn't puddling onto your lap!

Ladurée 

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 The latest "rosanis" macaron at Ladurée (rose with a hint of anisette), with the box design by the most fabulous floral design boutique in Paris, Odorantes (9 rue Madame, 6th).
 
Ladurée is my favorite place in the world. If they had a spa, I'd move in. They're famous, and rightly so, for their magnificent macarons. I've had tons of them, and none compare to these. The caramel au sel de Guérande, the fresh raspberry, the Orange blossom, the rose...all of them are sooooooo good! Of course, they have chocolates, too, but I never get that far. I had four macarons  and a cup of thick and creamy hot chocolate. My friend sat across from me eating an omelet, which also looked yummy, but I'll never know, I can't eat real food when I'm in this place. I get four more to go and eat them very, very slowly when I get home. Sigh....
 
Dalloyau 




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Dalloyau's pastry cakes (above) and the classic Religieuse de Rêve au Chocolat (below)  -- for six!

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Dalloyau is one of those elegant yet stuffy gourmet stores that always make me uncomfortable, but when I saw the giant religieuse au chocolat -- the first French pastry I ever loved -- I had to go in. It's a bit like a double decker eclair, but they made it cake-size to serve six (six small, wafer-thin slices, of course). They also had some interesting macarons this season (because of course the macaron flavors now change with the fashions) including Thé-Bergamote and Cognac-Champagne.

Le Chococafé 

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Closed for lunch, the fools!

I was working last Monday as an extra (for an adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel) in the north end of the Marais. Being an extra requires a lot of standing around, and frankly, we get pretty sick of the meager "snack table" offerings. Not much is open on Monday, but right across the street on the Boulevard Beaumarchais was this fine looking establishment...open on Mondays but closed for lunch! Argh! I ended up getting sushi at a Kosher Chinese restaurant (not kidding; it wasn't very good, either, go figure). Had to get back to work, so no chance to sample any of the six hot chocolate flavors proposed at this tearoom. Bummer.

Le Bristol 

The next day I had lunch at the bar of Le Bristol, where they do the Fashion High Teas with a runway show and a tray of pastries. They're also known for their selection of hot chocolates and divine desserts -- a tad more expensive than at the ChocoCafé, but I'm worth it, right? So I managed to keep the dessert section of my stomach empty so I could try one of the chocolate-caramel concoctions...I imagine the clothing would have to be pretty amazing to compete with these pastries during the shows! (note: no photos...I was so distracted by the food I totally forgot!)

Le Salon du Chocolat

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Mountains of chocolate bars at the Salon du Chocolat.

On the day of my visit to the Salon du Chocolat, my friend and I fasted all morning. I had gone to the salon six years ago and learned a hard lesson: I actually can't eat my weight in chocolate. Maybe Pedro's weight, but I digress. It usually costs €12 to get in, so people go a bit nuts and try shoving every free sample into their mouths as soon as they get through the door. We went on the last day, and it happened to be a French holiday (Nov 1 is All Souls' Day) and a Sunday -- triple whammy. The lines were absurdly long, so I used my "get out of the queue for free" card (aka: my press card) and snuck through in the fast lane.

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One of the chocolate-making demonstrations.

The secret is to be selective with what you eat. You may think Nestle and Lindt make perfectly fine chocolates, but why eat the mass-produced stuff when you can try the hand-made, hand-decorated chocolates of rare and super-high quality ingredients? Another secret is that on the last day, during the last hour, the vendors start trying to get rid of the remaining chocolates that won't survive the journey home (many come from far, far away). You can basically have all you want at this point. The only catch: "You have to take it with you in your stomach." They're not idiots, after all.

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One of the couture creations for the
chocolate fashion show.

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A special section promoted all-natural chocolate from Mexican producers. These chocolates were totally unprocessed, and had an almost powdery or gritty texture as opposed to creamy, with no sugar added. Not yet available in the US or France!


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Can you believe there was even a beauty stand giving complimentary leg waxings with...chocolate!

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My friend showed me this amazing Japanese chocolate maker, Madame Setsuko. I bought these gorgeous ganache fleuri (lightly alcoholic, with iris, plum, rose, lily of the valley, violet, and daisy flavors) for a friend who sketched the pretty designs before eating them.

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I was just going to get a few, but ended up with a whole sac of creamy Italian pralines from Venchi. The pistachio is amazing!

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Shown here in a dainty pale green box are Génaveh's Collection Romantique chocolates: passion fruit, blood orange, geranium-blackberry, rose, caramel, and Madagascar chocolate with vanilla.

We spent a lot of time at the Génaveh stand. They're based in Luxembourg, and their chocolates won one of the top awards at the salon. And they're just beautiful. They also have an excellent spicy chocolate with szechuan pepper...it was great paired with a heavy Bordeaux wine. Happily, you can find some of their chocolates at the Paris boutique Thé et Chocolat (88 rue de Rennes, 6th, tel 01 42 22 73 22).

New and Exciting 

Other news at the salon: we tried the macarons at the Maison du Chocolat (mandarine orange and chocolate is the seasonal flavor). I'm not sure they can do magic with their macarons the way they do with their chocolates, up to the taste buds to decide.

Bailey's Original Irish Cream now comes in two new flavors: Chocolate Mint and Crème Caramel. Irish Coffee is another weakness of mine. This isn't going to help!  

The luxury tea company Kusmi is not only opening their first "concept tea room" in St-Germain-des-Prés (at 56 rue de Seine, 6th), they've also got a new tea: thé vert chocolat -- chocolate green tea. Really!

There were also some scrumptious chocolate-covered Sancerre grapes that I also saw at LeGrand's boutique in the Galerie Vivienne...but can't seem to find the name of the company anywhere now (stay tuned...they make great aperitif snacks).

Finally, for all of you getting a chocolate beastie from reading this, here's an online chocolate boutique that delivers in 48 hours or less!within France. Simply called Boutique Chocolat, they have a huge selection of fine chocolates searchable by brand, type, or taste.  The web just got a little better. ;)

Wednesday
Nov082006

The Entertainment & Arts section is now online, woo hoo!

Check out the freshly typed Entertainment & Arts section of the Resource Guide! It includes info on cinemas, classical music, ballet, opera, dance, popular music and jazz venues, music festivals, theatre, cabarets, amusement parks, circuses, marionettes, spectator sporting events, entertainment guides with the latest listings, and even ticket venues.

I know it seems like some pages on this website will forever declare "no content" or "coming soon!", but I'm slowly and steadily getting all of the content typed up and coded and formatted and all those other things that make it useful and up-to-date. I was giving a tour at Versailles last weekend and can't help but take a bit of comfort in the fact that the château was a construction site pretty much throughout its lifetime as a royal residence. ;)

But I'm determined to get at least one section a week finished (I even rudely backed out of the cocktail party at the Titien exhibition tonight -- sorry Alexis!). As we speak, my poor editorial assistant is slaving away reformatting over 150 hotel listings from messy word documents into a database spreadsheet (don't worry too much about Caitlin, she's off to Berlin for a few days of R&R).

I'm going to try and finish the sections first that seem to be getting the most traffic, so in addition to the hotels, I'll be working on the nightlife reviews (bars, clubs, dancing, etc.) and then more restaurant reviews. Keep checking back, and thanks for hanging in there!

Tuesday
Nov072006

Looking for Opinionated French People!

Oh, and, you'll need to be able to talk in English and be willing to discuss your views on Franco-American relations. It's for a new project to promote cross-cultural understanding between Americans and the French. The project manager, Marilee, is only in Paris this month and needs to find some French people willing to be filmed for two-minute webcasts that will make up the project's website. Here's more info (if you're interested, drop her an email):

I am trying to network with people who are interested in helping Americans and French people understand each other, or helping Americans get along better in the world or who just finds the world of  culture a fascinating arena. My firm (an American travel firm who specializes in travel that promotes cultural understanding)  has given me some time to work on  project called:

www.usunderstanding.org
Understanding one another, face to face, on the web.

We are most concerned about the growing isolation of the US from other
world cultures.  We believe that we can address some of the current
divisiveness in between cultures in a new way.  We hope to use the web
and short video clips on the web site to connect people to one another
face to face. Here is one video that gives you a little idea of what the project tries
to do:

http://www.untoursfoundation.org/usunderstanding/hassanwishesanddreams.mov

In this video, I had asked Hassan Nitami, a Moroccan professor at the University of Pennsylvania a
question "What were your family's dreams for you growing up?" and the video above  was his answer.

The two cultures we are going to focus on first are France and Morocco.

To learn more about the project you can go to
http://www.idylldevelopmentfoundation.org/usunderstanding/index.html

You can contact Marilee Taussig at  01 39 58 89 46.  Mobile 06 33 39 25 13.  Or an email
reply to marilee.taussig@untours.comisl.

Thursday
Nov022006

Join the Global Climate Campaign Demonstrations November 4!

Saturday November 4 has become the official day of global demonstrations on climate change to coincide with the United Nations Climate Talks in Nairobi, Kenya from November 6-17. Want your government officials to take global climate change seriously? If Tony Blair can change his mind, then maybe his pals in Washington DC and Australia will come around, too!

There are demonstrations already scheduled in 48 different countries, including France. Join the Paris march Saturday at 2pm at the Place du Châtelet (M° Châtelet), with the participation of Vélorution, Reseau d'Action Climate - France, Les Amis de la Terre, Agir Pour l'Environnement, Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire, GreenPeace, les Verts and les Alternatifs.

Not in France? Find a demonstration in a city near you (and info in English) here.

Worried you'll freeze your butt off and waste a Saturday? Bah! Grab a few fellow frozen demonstrators after it's over and reward yourselves with some gullet-warming beverages at one of the local wine bars!