Secrets of Paris 
featured in:
 

 


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

Monday
Jul312006

Paris Plage after Dark

parisplagerivegauche.jpg
Paris Plage Rive Gauche

On Thursday night I finally had the chance to wander around the new Rive Gauche section of Paris Plage at the foot of the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand.

parisplagejosephinebaker.jpg
On the right, the Josephine Baker floating swimming pool.

parisplageguinguette.jpg

Le Guinguette Pirate at Paris Plage

parisplagebeauvoirbridge.jpg
The Simone de Beauvoir Footbridge

Back in February it was still a muddy construction site. Now the Simone de Beauvoir footbridge is finished and the Josephine Baker pool is open, and Paris Plage has more room than on its Right Bank location to set up wooden sunbathing platforms, children's play areas, and the requisite palm trees, misters, and beach chairs.

 

When it's over on August 20, the peniche bars and cafés will still be there. The amphitheatre between the Batofar and the rest of the quai is almost finished, otherwise the newly cobbled paths -- now off limits to parking -- have erased the former scruffiness of the whole Quai François Mauriac. I have to admit I kind of miss the old look of uneven cobbles, broken beer bottles, the squat-like appearance of peniches; it helped balance out the pristine look of the new library. But I'm not complaining. Anything to get more night owls into the 13th -- my end of town -- the better!



Friday
Jul282006

And this year's Hasselhoff award goes to...

 stevenseagal.jpg

Who knew Steven Seagal, butt kickin' action hero of American cinema, is also a blues singer? Well, maybe I'm just out of the loop...good thing I saw this poster pasted up on the wall of my local city council building...anyone ever actually hear him sing? Should I be hounding the press agent for a pass? Will his musical stardom have a negative affect on his acting ability? Questions to ponder...

Thursday
Jul272006

Rue des Rosiers still under construction

rosiers1.jpg


The cobblestoning of the Rue des Rosiers is continuing, slowly. This week when I walked through it was looking very Third World with the uneven dirt roads and wooden boards serving as ramps into the shops.

 rosiers2.jpg

There's no way a site like this would be open in the US, too much of a chance of getting sued if someone trips and sprains an ankle! Still, the falafel kings on the corner are doing fine business, and look how pretty the finished part is!

rosiers.jpg 

 

Thursday
Jul272006

Take the Paris Plage Boat Shuttle

This summer Paris Plage has once again managed to expand into new territory, this time down on the Rive Gauche at the foot of the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand where the new Simone de Bauvoire footbridge and Josephine Baker pool have just opened. That's actually quite a hike from the main area of Paris Plage, which goes from Pont Neuf to Pont Sully, especially since line 6 is down at Quai de la Gare station for repairs.

But that Mayor Delanoë is one sharp dude, so this year there's a little navette, or boat shuttle, between the two for just €2. It leaves every 90 minutes from the Pont Marie to the Port de la Gare (a 30-minute ride).

Also, for all you country folk living on the outskirts and suburbs of Paris, there's a boat shuttle to bring you in to Paris Plage, €3, from Sèvres (Bassin de Marivelle) at 11h30,14h20, and 17h10 (stops at Parc de l'Ile St-Germain in Issy, Quai du Pont du Jour in Boulogne-Bilancourt, and Parc André Citroën in the 15th),  or from Charenton-le-Pont (near the athletic field) at 11h, 13h45, 16h20 and 19h05 (stops at Chinagora in Alfortville and Port d'Ivry in Ivry-sur-Seine).

Monday
Jul242006

Excuse me, waiter, there's sweat in my soup

Author's note: Actual helpful info at the end of this rant.

Yeah, it's hot in Paris. Very hot. And before you try and tell me that it's hot in Houston, too, remember that it's hot everywhere in Paris, not just outside. It's hot in the métro. It's hot in the Eiffel Tower elevator. It's hot at Versailles. It's hot in my seventh-floor oven...er, apartment. I would check to see if I could fry an egg on the tin windowsill (I'm right under the roof) if I was sure the yolk wouldn't slide down onto my neighbor's balcony below. It's also hot in practically every single restaurant. Even the ones that advertise climatisation.

A true story:

On Friday I had a group visiting from the US. We had reservations at their favorite Italian restaurant in the Marais, Café Baci. The night before they had suffered through dinner at the un-air-conditioned Willie's Wine Bar, so just in case I decided to check the Café Baci in advance. In person. I stopped by at lunch and the air was warm, all of the windows and doors opened onto the sidewalk. "No air?" I ask. "Only upstairs," they replied. Perfect, that's where they want to sit.

So I arrive before the rest of the group that night, and am greeted with the worst phrase one could possibly hear in these situations: "Il y'a un problème." Apparently the A/C upstairs broke. "But we have it downstairs in the back. I go to check, and it does indeed feel cooler. But as I sit at the bar with my apéro, waiting for my friends, the manager arrives and starts opening the large window-doors overlooking the sidewalk. I ask the waitress, "Won't it stay cooler if you keep the windows closed?" She agrees, but says the management wants them to stay open.

I'm not even going to get into the French obsession with "terrace" (sidewalk) seating and their aversion to A/C. According to one friend, they don't even like air from a fan, thinking all drafts are unhealthy drafts. I'm not going to say a thing. I wait a moment, then casually walk over to the back room once more. It's exactly the same temperature as outside now. I can't feel even the faintest wisp of cool air coming from the vents. My friends arrive.

"We have a problem." They all go upstairs, which is ten times hotter, then order drinks at the bar while I call the closest restaurant in Paris that advertises A/C. The directory assistance number I call can't seem to find the number for Bofinger, one of the city's historic brasseries. They finally give me a number and I call.

"Do you have A/C?"

"Oui!"

"Does it work?"

"Oui!" 

"Do you have place for eight in fifteen minutes?"

"Oui!"

I announce the short walk. They're good troopers (they think they're getting A/C). We arrive, now good and sweaty in our nice clothes, at Bofinger. The maitre'd doesn't have my reservation, says he didn't get my call, and that he doesn't have any room for us. "What number did you call?" I look at the texto that directory assistance sent and show it to him. "ah, that's Petit Bofinger, across the street."

I herd my herd back outside and across the street, where a big sign proudly announces an air-conditioned non-smoking section. It's in the back. It's about one degree cooler than the rest of Paris. We all pile into our seats, defeated, sweaty, exhausted by the heat. We fan ourselves with the menu, hoping it will feel cooler once we settle down.

It didn't. They still had the windows open in the front room (for the smokers, I'm guessing), and since there's no door separating the front from the back...well, I'm not going to explain how circulation works, but I remember what my mother said if I held the front door open too long. "What are you trying to do? Refrigerate the whole city?" 

As promised, here's some genuinely useful info: 

- L'As du Falafel, 4th: There are two rooms in this Jewish falafel stand, one that's air-conditioned, and one that has eight high-powered fans attached to the walls. Bonus: open Sunday.

- Ladurée Tea Room and Pastry Shop, Champs Elysées, 8th: It's not high-powered air, but it's cool enough to keep the pastries from melting, I wasn't uncomfortable at all. A bit pricey, yes, but you can't beat those macarons!  Bonus: open daily until 1am.

- La Chope, Place de la Contrescarpe, 5th: Not only is the terrace of this café equipped with water misters, there are also rotating ceiling fans made up of mini fans (see photo). This must be a first. Not A/C'd, but A+ for effort!

fan.jpg 

-  McDo at Place d'Italie, 13th: It has free WiFi and air conditioning so cold I actually had goose bumps after a half hour. And no one working there seemed to care that I stayed at my corner downstairs with my laptop for four hours on one hot afternoon, trying to finish an article that was already past due. Did I mention it's within eye-sight of my apartment (aka, The Oven)? There are other McDo's, but I haven't tried any of them.

- Pozzetto, 39 rue Roi de Sicile, 4th: Not A/C'd at all, but according to the expert David Lebovitz, this is where you'll find the best gelato in Paris, open until midnight,  à consommer sans moderation!

pozzetto.jpg 

Read David's blog for hot weather survival tactics in Pars.

 

 

Monday
Jul102006

Breaking News!!

I didn't really have plans to watch the World Cup final. The idea of being trampled by exuberant crowds sort of put me off the idea. But yesterday afternoon a French friend invited me to watch the match with a bunch of friends, which sounded so darned civilized I agreed to meet him there at 7:30pm.

Remembering the cancellation of bus service and the electricity cuts in the Metro (people kept falling onto the tracks in their "party" state), I thought it might be a good night to dust off the bike. I rarely ride it in the city, it's more of a country bike (a cross between a mountain bike and a street bike). But even though those comfy Dutch-style cruisers are more lady-like (and only €175 at Go Sport), I have an emotional attachment to my vélo (I rode it from Minneapolis to Chicago when I graduated from college), so I won't be switching anytime soon.

I'm the one with the helmet on. And sometimes even cycling gloves (I hate calluses) if it's not too hot. I have a side mirror so I can see how close the busses are to squashing me. I didn't get on the road until 7:30pm, and the streets were already practically empty, everyone piled into cafés and bars and restaurants to see the match. The few vehicles on the road were honking, many with passengers brandishing huge flags -- French or Italian -- from the window. I arrived at the apartment two seconds before the French captain Zinedine Zidane scored the team's only goal. 

The rest of the match, as you all know, was very exciting, a real nail-biter. During the pauses we all (mostly French, plus me and a guy who was half-American and half-Spanish) went out onto the balcony overlooking the street. A suspiciously huge French flag hung from the balustrade ("Which library did you steal this from?"). We all agreed that even if France didn't win, they were playing a good game.

Then what happened? Who knows. Rampant speculation. Zidane, in the final minutes of overtime, lost his cool with one of the Italian players and head-butted him in the solar plexus. Ouchie. It was actually kinda funny, like he was one of those characters from He-Man (Ram-Man...I had to look that up). Not so funny a few seconds later when the red card came out and he retired (literally), head down, to the lockers. Such a sad ending for one of the legends of the World Cup, everyone said (because no matter why he did it -- rumors of racial slur, of being hit in his injured shoulder, etc. -- losing one's cool is never cool).

HOLY COW!!!

Okay, I just looked at the FIFA Official World Cup site, and Zidane has been voted Best Player for the 2006 World Cup!! Hooray Zizou! That's a much more fitting end to the career of such a great player and (aside from the obvious glitch) role model for Franco-Arab kids -- hell, ALL kids!

Post note: In a typical linguistical faux pas of hilarious proportions, I referred to Zidane as "Zizi". As my French friend kindly pointed out, that means something else. ;)