Views from the Tour de Montparnasse

The church on the right is St-Sulpice, the Louvre is the huge building to the upper left, with the Tuileries gardens.

The Tour de Montparnasse is that ugly black skyscraper sitting all alone at the bottom of the 6th arrondissement, crowning the Gare de Montparnasse (train station). After it was built in 1969-1972, and at 210-meter (689-feet), it's the largest building in Paris. The locals were appalled by its ugliness and the way it cast a long shadow over the city, and immediately banned the new construction of all tall buildings. According to rumor, it supposedly is lined with asbestos and is being "cleaned", although I didn't see any evidence of this on my visit.

I can see my house from here! That's Montparnasse Cemetery on the right, and the 13th arrondissement straight ahead, with the Chinatown towers.

In the mean time, it does have one redeeming factor. You can visit the 56th floor for rooftop panoramic views of the city. There's an indoor area with a gift shop and café, a, actual restaurant, and a viewing platform outside. I was actually quite impressed with the views, even on the cloudy spring afternoon.

This is the view over the 6th, with Luxembourg gardens in the foreground and the Bois de Vincennes that dark spot in the far distance to the right. See the shadow of the Montparnasse Tower?




My Dog is Cuter than Your Dog

I was taking a photo of this plant (don't ask why...the plant is no longer with us, R.I.P.), and Lena the ham wouldn't get out of the way. The closer to dinnertime it gets, and therefore the hungrier she gets, the cuter she becomes. I'm sure if she could caption this photo, she would write, "Look how sick that plant is! She's starving us! Send help!"


Hard Rock Karaoke Night at Fleche d'Or

Thomas, Nicole, et Heather

Thursday night was actually relatively warm, so I crimped my hair (!!) and went out with some friends to see Nicolas Ullmann's Hard Rock Karaoké night at the Flèche d'Or. Amazingly, others actually dressed up too, and despite the fact that I can't sing (or won't, heh heh), it was a fun party! Here's the slideshow of pics:


Rock 'n' Roll, Baby!

The horizontal sleet of Easter weekend got the best of me (I was out giving walking tours), and I've been convalescing in this bed for so long I think my legs have atrophied. We'll find out, because dammit I'm going to be well by Thursday night so I can go dancing! Lots of exciting things happening over the weekend for rock fans.

Thursday night, April 3, is a special Hard Rock Kararocké tribute night at the Fleche d'Or (102 Bis rue de Bagnolet, 20th), hosted by the illustrious Monsieur Ullmann. Come and sing your favorite rock hits with kickass live band:Ac/Dc, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith  Anthrax, Black Sabbath, Blue öyster Cult,  Def Leppard, Deep Purple, Europe, Guns n’ Roses, Hanoï Rocks, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kiss, Motorhead, Mötley Crüe, Led Zeppelin, Megadeth, Metallica, Pantera, Queen, Spinal Tap, Scorpions, Slayer, Van Halen, White Zombie...there will also be special guest singers (get out your French rock encyclopedia) including: Cyril Bodin (Amenbirdmen) GUSH, Laura Mayne (Native), Yan Desthal (Modjo), Yarol Poupaud (FFF), Patrick Eudeline, Suzanne (Pravda), Salo, Nikola Acin (Hellboys), Pascal Mono (star Academy), Phillippe Almos (WAMPAS), Philippe Paradis (ZAZIE), François Delfin, NAWFEL, and a few surprizes. There will be prizes for the best singers, check out the website for the songlist available:  Free entry, from 8pm through 3am.

Friday April 4 on the Batofar (quai Francois Mauriac, 13th) is New Wave Day from midnight until 6am (okay, yes that means technically speaking it's Saturday morning, not Friday night, so keep your snarky emails to yourselves), a DJ set of the best of the 80s new wave, electro-rock and disco-punk (depeche mode, blondie, the cure, visage, eurythmics, new order, bloc party, the rapture, kaiser chiefs, editors, goldfrapp, vitalic, miss kittin & the hacker, alter ego, tiga, lcd soundsystem, ladytron, swayza, etc.), entry €10.

Friday-Sunday April 4-6, are the semi-finals of the FallenFest music festival of up-and-coming bands from the Ile-de-France. For just €15, you can listen to about ten rock bands battle it out to make it to the finals this summer. One of my favorite bands, Delicate, will be playing Friday night. The concerts take place at Le Trabendo (Parc de la Villette, 221 avenue Jean Jaurès, 19th), from 7pm until midnight. The last round I went to sold out, so get there early in the evening if you want to get in!


Buy a Piece of Paris History

parisparkchair.jpgAs I've said before, I don't really do cafés. I mean, I like them and all, but I don't have a favorite where I spend my afternoons with  café crème scribbling in a notebook. But I do have a favorite garden, the Jardins du Palais Royal, and one of my quintessential Parisian indulgences, when I have a rare free moment, is to recline in one of the garden's metal lounge chairs on a sunny day, feet up on the edge of the fountain. All of the Paris parks have these chairs, some that are reclined, some with arms, some just simple chairs that you can move around to get the preferred sunny or shady spot. But Palais Royal's gardens are surrounded by arcaded shopping galleries, not streets full of noisy, smelly traffic. Pure bliss.

And the window shopping isn't bad. I particularly am fond of the Prince Jardinier boutique, so was disturbed to see they are temporarily closed after a fire. The online boutique is still open, though, and wouldn't you know it, they are selling authentic Paris park chairs, rescued by the Prince Jardinier from "retirement" in the local dump, and given a good scrub and paint job.

No, they are not cheap; the reclining chair, my preferred, is €495. But where else can you get an authentic piece of Parisian history for so little? Until I can afford one of the little apartments above the shopping arcades with a view of the gardens, then a chair will do just fine...


How do you know if your Parisian hotel or apartment is in a good neighborhood?

Today I got an email that touches on a subject I've been asked about often, so I thought I'd share the response with all of you:

"Heather, My husband and I are taking a 7 day trip to Paris in September. We want to rent an apartment, but I am have no idea what area to rent in. Everything looks nice online, but you don't know if it's in the worst area of town. I know that you would be able to help."

The apartment agencies listed in the Paris Accommodation section normally only list apartments in the central, safe, tourist-friendly neighborhoods like the Islands (1st, 4th arrondissements), the Louvre/Palais Royal (1st), the Marais (3rd,4th), the Latin Quarter (5th), St-Germain-des-Prés (6th), Invalides/Eiffel Tower (7th), Opéra/Grands Boulevards (9th) and Montmartre (18th). There are less interesting, less central, less pretty areas of Paris, but as far as "bad" areas of town, you wouldn't see any reputable agencies renting out apartments in those areas, such as between the train tracks on the east end of the 18th arrondissement (I would not put my mother in a hotel anywhere east of Montmartre). There are some areas of the 9th that are not pretty, seedy sex shops around Pigalle, and some around the rue St-Denis in the 2nd. I wouldn't stay in any of the outer edges of the north or east Paris, but I don't think there are any areas on the Left Bank or the 8th or 16th that I would say are "dangerous", just some areas that are not very interesting or are too far from public transportation.

This is becoming a long answer, because sometimes it really depends on the exact street, how close it is to the metro and shops, etc, and it's more important to be cautious when you're renting direct from an owner on a site like Craig's List or from FUSAC. But as I said, you pretty much can't go wrong with anything in the first 8 arrondissements, and legitimate apartment rental agencies wouldn't even list apartments outside safe areas, so don't stress too much!