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

June 12-14
The Salon du Vinatge is always a fun event in Paris, whether you're shopping for clothing, accessories, vinyls, and home decor, or just to hear the retro DJ tunes and the festive atmosphere. Free entry, at the Halle des Blancs Manteaux (48 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd). 

June 12-14
The Portes d'Or is a chance for all the artistic workshops in the Goutte d'Or (18th arrondissement) to open their doors to the public. Over 80 painters, sculptors, jewelery-makers and many others who live and work in the Goutte d'Or wish to share their creativity. Please come support the community and experience these unique productions. 

June 13-14
The artists of the 5th (Mouffetard) and 13th (Butte aux Cailles/Gobelins) districts knows as Lézarts du Bièvre open their studios to the public for two days, 2-8pm. Free entry. Info points and maps here.

June 14
Get out your fancy hats and picnic baskets for the annual Prix de Diane races at Chantilly Hippodrome (just 45 minutes north of Paris from Gare du Nord). Read more about the event here. 

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

Sunday
Sep032006

An Insider Gets Backstage at the Paris Opera

Ever wanted to know what it was like to work for the Paris Opera? To get backstage and meet the legendary singers and artistic directors of one of the most venerable opera houses in the world? Last year a fellow American expat Justin Taylor got a gig as an intern for the production of Tristan & Isolde, and got to experience all the glamour first hand. But when his stories of what really happens backstage started coming out, of course all of his friends egged him on to write about the experience. Et voila! After many rewritten drafts, painful cuts, and pitches to countless editors, today his article Casting Call: Paris Opera 'Big Time' -- after a fashion appears in the San Francisco Chronicle. We're all proud of you Justin!
Friday
Sep012006

Strange Veggies

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I get my veggies direct from the growers at my local market (blvd Auguste-Blanqui, in the 13th). I particularly like the mutant carrots. I'm afraid to ask what kind of fertilizer they use!
Friday
Sep012006

Spotted near Denfert-Rochereau last Sunday night.

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Well, hell. I wasn't going to say anything, but I can't help it. The head-to-toe purple is one thing (yes, the shoes are lavender), but the cat litter?! Proof that not all Parisians are stylish...

Thursday
Aug312006

Rock-en-Seine 2006

Note: Also see Rock-en-Seine 2007 here and Rock-en-Seine 2008 here and here.

rock-en-seine poster.jpgRock-en-Seine 2006 was pretty damned cool. Aside from the freak weather (ie sunny), the gorgeous setting at the St-Cloud park, and the awesome bands, I actually got to go! Usually getting a press pass isn't too hard when you've actually written about an event. So I sent in my official request back in June, and watched as, in late July, the two-day passes and Saturday tickets had already sold out with no word about my status. I emailed the PR people and was told I'd know by the middle of August. Now, here's something all of you should know for next year: you need to have a two-day pass if you want to get into the campsite. And you want to get into the campsite if you don't want to be faced with one of the other two options:

- cram into the last metro at 12:30am (earlier if you need to change)

- stay sober and try to drive home through the immense traffic jam...the parking area closes at 12:30am, so no hanging around!

I did the camping thing last year, and with ear plugs and a warm blanket (the suburbs get chilly) it was actually okay. But it was already looking bad. About two weeks before the festival I got an email saying there was not enough room for all of the press, so I couldn't come. Unless of course I wanted to buy a VIP pass for €85. Ha! There's a reason press get in for free -- we make peanuts. I mustered by best French and made my case, asking them to "reconsider". Just when I had given up and waved my fist at the air cursing French rock, I got an email saying I could come, but without a guest. Woo hoo!

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The Seine and the Parc de St-Cloud..the festival is at the base of the hills under the trees.
 
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The all-important press pass...

Of course, I had to figure out how I was going to get home each night. The concerts end around midnight, but then there's a party in the VIP tent. I must say, for all of you non-press people, that the €85 VIP pass is a pretty good deal. The VIP tent not only has two bars and a BBQ, there are also the VIP toilets, which are ten times better than port-a-potties, even if they still smell funny.

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Here's the Scène de la Cascade, the second of the three stages (you can see the singer from the Rakes on the screen).
  

 

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They put down straw to keep the damp ground from getting too muddy.


So of course I don't want to have to rush back to the metro at midnight, so I decide to take my car and try to find parking outside the festival so I don't have to leave by 12:30am. I missed most of the early bands on Friday while trawling for a parking space (finally found one at the top of the hill in St-Cloud...this is an easy half hour stroll to the main stage). On Saturday I had an ingenious plan. I actually went at noon and parked the car around the corner at Sèvres (which is on the VIP tent end of the immense Parc de St-Cloud), then went back home by metro and returned by metro later in the evening just as the Rakes were playing.

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The Fontaine des Cascades...part of the pretty Parc de St-Cloud setting.
 
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Here's the main stage, the Grand Scène, just before Beck's concert.


My favorite band of the festival was the Raconteurs, one of those rare groups who actually sound much better in person than on the radio. Morrissey was one of my favorite singers growing up, both with the Smiths and solo, so I was pretty jazzed to see him up close. Okay, he's an old man, no way around that. But his voice is still excellent, and he's actually pretty funny in front of a crowd for someone who's supposed to be angstful (check out my mini videos below).  Richard Ashcroft cancelled at the last minute, so he wasn't there Friday, a bit of a disappointment, but these things happen at festivals.

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Everyone gets a handy program at the door, and what looks like candy. But don't eat them, they're ear plugs. Très résponsable, non?

 

Afterwards I headed over to the VIP tent and spy a table where Jack White and Brendon Benson from the Raconteurs are drawing pictures of KISS bandmembers. It turns out to be part of an art project for Kolkoz, the French artistic duo made up of Benjamin Moreau and Samuel Boutruche, for the Frieze Art Fair in London this October (with the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin).

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Not only is Brendan a snazzy dresser, he can also draw (that's Jack on the left).


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New for 2006: pick up a plastic bag at the Point Vert, fill it with used plastic cups, and exchange it for a free drink token. "It's working a bit too well," say the organizers. The grass seems a lot cleaner this year, that's for sure.

On Saturday I watched Beck and his puppet show. By the time Radiohead came on, it was getting chilly and I was getting thirsty. Sick of being squashed next to people blowing their cigarette smoke in my face, I went and hung out on the hillside, sitting on my press kit because the ground was damp (beer or rain?). This year's Rock-en-Seine wasn't nearly as crazy as last year's, when it seemed that every band had a mosh pit going. Not that I like getting trampled, either, but there's just something wrong about sitting around at a rock concert. So after about five or six songs -- Jeremy, I can already hear you screaming -- I went back to the VIP tent to have a coffee (hey, I'm working -- and driving -- remember?) and sit on one of the chaise loungers, listening to Radiohead in the distance.

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This being France, there are not only beer tents, but also a wine and Champagne tent.

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There's also mint tea. So civilized...

After Radiohead was finished everyone came flooding into the tent for the after party. I met Bruno from the group Neïmo (who I missed on Friday while driving around), Nicolas Ullmann from Le Paris-Paris, and an old friend Earl from the Shebeen Clandestine Bar up by Place du Contrescarpe (in the 5th). He was hanging out with the people at Le Mouv', my favorite French radio station. Earl now manages a few local bands, who play live at the Shebeen. Even though I live ten minutes away, the last time I was there it was a sports bar full of rugby players.

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Earl of the Shebeen, Lester Bangs (just kidding; it's the cartoonist Luz from Charlie Hebdo), and Mc Fly from Le Mouv' wearing the latest fashion.

So I went to check out the bar, and true to form it was packed full of rocker types, even a few well-known ones, at 2am...but my caffeine having worn well off by now, I headed back to my pad, remembering to remove my earplugs before crashing. So who will be at Rock-en-Seine next year????

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Behind the scenes...the VIP tent.

Thursday
Aug312006

Rockin' Paris

Last weekend at the Rock-en-Seine festival I got to meet up with some of the players of the Parisian rock scene. I know it seems like every club in town is only interested in techno, hip-hop or jazz, but real rock music is out there for those of you willing to sniff it out! Here's what's shakin' at le Paris-Paris, just to get you started...

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La Rentrée brings the return of the Ullmann Cabarock at Paris-Paris (5 avenue de l’Opéra, 1st). Concerts from 10pm. Free entry, but you have to be on the list! Send your name and number of people to Nicolas (that's him playing James Bond in the photo) at ullmann.tcb@gmail.com or by SMS to 06 12 06 58 72. The schedule:

September 5: Opening the Cabarock is Chris Wilson & his Groovin’ Flames (tribute band for Flamin’ Groovies, a cult American rock band founded in 1965 by Cyril Jordan and Roy A Lonely, then joined by Chris Wilson in 1971).

September 12: The Elderberries (that has to be a Monty Python reference) are an Anglo-saxon group (I’m just reporting what I’ve been told, folks) with an average age of 17 years old. They probably shouldn’t be up this late! Fans of vintage clothing and causing a ruckus on stage. 

September 19: Neïmo were at Rock-en-Seine this year, and their “Hot Girl” single plays regularly on Le Mouv’ (a French radio station with no commercials and great rock music). Yes, they’re kinda French (the singer is actually Portugese…don’t tell him he looks like James Blunt, either), but they rock in perfect English with a post-punk sound (they like New Order and Blondie). Popklub Arsenal are also playing, influenced by Morrissey, the Strokes and the Libertines. I’m so bummed I’ll miss this concert! Get on the list early…

September 26: Koacha is a dandy mod group with a post-punk style. Their sound has been compared to Jarvis Cocker on the Pulp albums. Judge for yourself.

More coming soon! 

 

Sunday
Aug202006

La Défense Doesn't Completely Suck

La Défense, the business district to the west of Paris, is a big ol' ugly place. It's not that they don't try: it's all pedestrianised, but the huge expanses of concrete are depressing. I have to admit I do enjoy the big skyscrapers. Maybe they make me homesick. And if you're into contemporary art, there are all sorts of weird statues scattered around the business park.

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This isn't a statue; it's the Grande Arche de La Défense. Looks much bigger up close than from Paris, eh?

In any case, La Défense isn't the place I'd choose to spend the night out, but I wanted to see the opening of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel (woo hoo!), and I wanted to check out the new UGC Ciné-Cité that opened in May for the world premier of MI3. It replaces the abandoned IMAX Dôme, incorporating the cool mirrored dome into the new cineplex. Friends told me there'd be no one there (a plus at a movie theatre), and that there's nowhere to eat. That's totally not true. It may not be full of cute Parisian bistros, but the food court at the Quatre Temps Commercial Centre (the mall adjoining the cinema) is actually quite nice: airy, contemporary, good selection. There was even a juice bar.

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Just you try and look at this without the Jetson's soundtrack starting in your head.

 

My friend and I were mesmerized by the futuristic Yo! Sush restaurant (click on the link to read my review), so we ended up eating there before the movie since we had time to kill. Despite everyone's assurances that La Défense is dead, the 8pm showing was already full, so we had to wait until 9:30pm. And since we arrived at 9:29pm (only the French could make conveyor-belt sushi slow), there were only seats in the front left. Unlike some older theatres, they weren't so close that we got neck cramps, though.

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The escalators leading to the spanking new UGC Ciné-Cité La Défense (formerly known as the IMAX Dôme).

So...would I go back? Maybe. The mall is actually huge while still being accessible by Métro (end of Line 1), and the cinema was relatively nice compared to others inside Paris. But best of all, the immense scale of La Défense is a good fix for those of us who live in Paris's old, winding districts of narrow sidewalks and short buildings. It's nice to see a bit of concrete sprawl to remind myself why I don't live in Scottsdale anymore.

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The skyscrapers of La Défense.