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

May 15-17
One of the biggest flower shows in France, Journées des Plantes de Courson, takes place this weekend at the Chateau de Chantilly, just 45 minutes north of Paris from the Gare du Nord. Entry €20 (or €17 if you get your tickets online before May 14).

May 16
Check out your favorite Paris museum at night during the 11th annual Nuit Européenne des Musées, when all over Europe museums stay open all night...for free! 

June 21
Celebrate Fête de la Musique in 17th-century aristocratic style at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte for their annual costumes dance event, La Journée Grand Siècle, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the original owner, Nicolas Fouquet. There will be an elegant picnic in the chateau gardens, live music and dancing, as well as carriage rides and sword-fighting shows. If you don't have a costume gown you can rent one on-site from €17. 

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


String bikinis, topless, and nude sunbathing banned at Paris Plage.

We're not in St-Tropez anymore, Toto. The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, reminded the public on Saturday that, since its creation in 2002, that local prohibits "indecent behavior" on the banks of the Seine accommodating Paris Plages. That means no string bikinis, no topless sunbathing, and definitely no 'naturisme', or nudity. On-the-spot fines are €38. "Aggressive behavior" and "loud musical instruments" are also banned. Not all of the French agree with this, but I would guess the tourists feel a bit more comfortable -- or possibly let down! Vive la France. Psychotic.

Marie-Antoinette's Estate at Versailles


While the main courtyard at Versailles is under construction (they're re-installing the original wrought-iron gates that were removed), the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette officially re-opened in July after extensive renovations. The Petit Trianon was open before, but now you can also visit the hamlet (hameau) and animal farm, the queen's personal theatre, the English-style gardens with the  grotto and pavilions. My photo of the theatre didn't come out well, but it's definitely worth seeing, even if you can't go in further than the doorway.

Interior of the French Pavillion (refreshment house).

Marlborough Tower and a swan in the lake of the Hameau.

One of the hameau houses, each one with its own garden.

Farm animals at the hameau.

The Versailles Passport (for entrance to all areas of Versailles) is still €20 (€25 on summer weekends when the garden fountains are on), but the entrance for the château alone is now €13.50, and separate tickets for the gardens is €7, for Marie-Antoinette's Domaine it's €9. So you might as well get a Passport!

Advice: give yourself a full day, have lunch between visiting the château and  Marie-Antoinette's Domaine, and save your feet by taking the mini-train!


Arms & Armor of the Musée de l'Armée


Last week I went to Les Invalides to see the Arms and Armor collection at the Musée de l'Armée. I had already seen Napoléon's tomb under the Dôme. I had walked through the very thorough World War II -- Order de la Liberation collection. I had given tours of the gardens and seen the canons in the courtyard many times.

François I's suit of armor. The head, shoulders and elbows are lion's heads.

But I had never seen the old suits of armor and weapons, dating all the way back to the 13th century. And I heard the museum had air conditioning. It turned out to be pretty cool, and not just because of the A/C!

Intricate ironwork on the back of this one; sorry about the glare!

I was totally surprised at how elaborate the suits of armor were. I also never realized the little boys wore armor, too ( I don't know if it was to train or protect them).


There was actually a large number of children's suits of armor. We wondered if they were hand-me-down's.


If I went shopping for a helmet, I'd totally get this one. It's so me, n'est-ce pas?

Close-up of the helmet's dragon.


This is actually a gunpowder container. Everyone thinks it looks like an Eiffel Tower olive oil dispenser.

This cannon was never fired. It was a wedding gift (thus the entwined lovers). No one gave me a cannon for my wedding. Hmph!

To Visit:

Open daily (except the first Monof the month) 10am-6pm (until 5pm in winter). Entrance €7.50, includes the entire Musée de l'Armée collections and the Eglise du Dôme. 



Château de Vincennes almost ready for its close-up

The Château de Vincennes isn't one of the city's "must see" monuments. It's usually not even in most visitors' top 20. But as soon as the renovations are complete (supposedly by January 2007), I have a feeling that will change.

The 14th-century keep.

You can go visit now, but the 14th-century keep (or donjon, in French), the tallest in Europe (50 meters), is still closed off.

From the enceinte wall, the 17th-century Queen's pavilion (right) and the 16th-century Sainte-Chapelle (left).


The guided tours get you into the chapel, the dry moat where prisoners used to exercise, the royal Sainte-Chapelle, and the keep enceinte (main enclosure surrounding the tower).

Construction at the base of the keep.

Located at the end of the metro line 1 (station Château de Vincennes, bien sûr) on the edge of the Bois de Vincennes, the château was a royal residence from the 12th century until the 18th century.

The keep enceinte, and in the back to the right, the edge of the outer wall where it was bombed in 1944.


It still has two of its original medieval towers, moat, gatehouse, outer wall (except where the Nazis bombed a hole), and the royal chapel with 16th-century stained glass windows.


The bridge to the keep.


The17th-century apartments of the king and queen and the block houses from the 19th century now house the Ministry of Defense history department.


The day I was there, a very hot day, an official fireman's ceremony was taking place in the main courtyard.


The château is open daily 10am-noon and 1:15pm-6pm. Guided tours are organised every day (enceinte of the keep, moat, Sainte-Chapelle), lasting 1 hr 15 min. In English at 3pm, € 6.50 (full rate), € 4.50 (reduced rate), free for under 18s.


Tourism Office Kiosks


The Paris Tourism Office has set up some information kiosks for the summer, staffed by Welcome Ambassadors, at the Hôtel de Ville, Notre-Dame, Place de la Bastille, and outside the Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau metro station. Pick up free maps and information on sumer events.



Jazz at the Sept Lézards


 The Sept Lézards closed in early 2008...hang in there while they look for a new location!

There's never much in the way of advertising for the Sept Lézards, a little jazz club and restaurant on the Rue de Rosiers. But it's a great address to know in Paris for several reasons. When you enter there's a tiny bar. Just beyond it on the mezzanine is the dining area for the restaurant (open at dinner), and an adorable garden terrace where you can eat in peace during the warmer months. The jazz club (and a second bar) is downstairs. It's an intimate space, not large at all, with comfy red sofas and chairs, room for maybe 50 people comfortably. But that's what makes it great; no matter where you sit you feel "close" to the stage, almost like you're in someone's living room.

7lezards2.jpgAnd I should mention, since it's been soooooo hot, that it's nice and cool downstairs, and no smoking is allowed (this is becoming more common in jazz clubs to save the musicians' health). There's a good schedule of bands almost every night, with some free concerts by the house band (you should buy a drink: from €6). Check out the program at their website,

A friend brought me along July 10 for a concert by the Julien Lallier Quartet. Exceptionally, they had a woman playing drums for them that night. Having been a little drummer myself back in my school days, I can't tell you how rare it is to see one playing professionally, especially in the jazz world! Bravo!


Julien Lallier on piano.