Pampering Deal of the Summer!

So I was wandering around the super-annoying website of the Royal Monceau (a 1920s palace hotel near the Arc de Triomphe), losing patience with the slow-as-molasses flash-only navigation, when I stumbled upon some interesting news.

The hotel's recently renovated Les Thermes Spa (now with Kanebo spa products) has a special summer deal for July and August: €300/month for unlimited access to the spa's indoor pool (windows overlook the gardens), sauna, Jacuzzi, hammam, fitness room, and classes (eight per day are scheduled) such as stretching, aquagym, Abdo-fessiers (tums and bums), and yoga. It's open from 7am until 10pm, and there's even a pool-side café that serves healthy foods such as salads, chopped veggie platters, and grilled fish. Spa treatments are extra, but you're not obligated to sign up for them (might be hard to resist, considering how inexpensive this is).

Now I know some of you are saying, "Three hundred euros is a lot!" But most scruffier gyms in Paris charge more than that, without the exquisitely elegant setting you'll find at the Royal Monceau. The new floating swimming pool on the Seine (set to open next month) will be €5 for the first two hours and €5/hour for each hour after that. So an afternoon of three hours at the pool will cost €10. Go every day for a month and that's €300. No-brainer, if you ask me. Just go have a look at the photos on their site or stop by and have a peek. I'll be in the pool, dahlings!


French Village Reenacts German-American Battle

There was a small detour on the Sunday Canadian Club hike to take in La Fête de la Jeep in the village of Sagy. It's an annual reenactment of the August 1944 battle between US liberation troops (led by Captain Murray Pulver) and the Nazi Germany occupiers (led by Lieutenant Heinz Bliss). 

Here's one photo of the reenactment. I was too short to get a good one. This is from behind the Americans.
It was an elaborate show, with fireworks, live music (even a bit of Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries"), and authentic uniforms and vehicles. It was, I admit, a tad weird to hear the "German" and "American" troops speaking French afterwards (they're all French, of course).
The group organizing the reenactment is called Union Jeep-Vexin, and they collect all sorts of American military vehicles.
Around the field where the show took place were little military encampment scenes, and recruiting tables for the French Army (they had a slick and shiny motorcoach) and the French Foreign Legion (they had wine).
This is a Vietnam-era encampment.
Oh, and I should mention that the Americans did win this battle, managing to shoot Lieutenant Bliss as he attempted a dramatic retreat in a motorcycle sidecar. It was just one of the many small battles that took place throughout the country during the liberation of France.

Hiking in Ile-de-France

Last Sunday I went on one of the Canadian Club hikes, a day-long trek from Chars to Meulun (23.6k). Two things should be known: always get to the train station EARLY to have time to buy a ticket at the window in case the automated machine is out of order (or doesn't take your credit card); and never try hiking with the Canadian Club in anything other than real hiking boots (your feet will regret it, otherwise).

Here we are checking out the old church in Chars at the start of the hike.

Brian shows us the route on a topography map. We're heading for the Chaussée Jules César, an old vestige of a Roman road into Paris. He advises the "slow" people in the back to keep a map on them just in case. Then he takes off at lightning speed, leaving us all in the dust.

The hike starts off casually enough under the shade of the forest trees. We even think we have time to stop and smell the roses!

But as the sun gets higher in the sky, we leave our lovely forested trail and follow Brian into a endlessly stretching fields of wheat with no trees in sight. Bordered by stinging nettles (note: long pants not a bad idea on these hikes).

We find a patch of trees with enough shade to eat our lunch. Apparently, this is the Roman bit here.

Here are my sidekicks for the day, Lena & Pedro (wishing they'd left the black fur coats at home).

The post-lunch half of the walk is also tree-free. But notice those clouds are getting poofy (that's a French meteorological term).

Here's one of the cute villages we pass through. The horse is just a lawn ornament for the tourists.

We stop in front of a private château for a group photo. A few minutes later we enter the town of Villette, and Brian thinks it might be fun to hop over an old stone wall to see another château, designated on his map. Luckily for all involved, I actually recognized the name, Château de Villette (aka Teabing's mansion in the Da Vinci Code), and thought it might be more heavily guarded than your average country home. As we rounded the front to peer through the gate, indeed there was some sort of large pair of jaws with four legs frolicking on the grounds with some teenagers. They wouldn't let us in for iced tea (with nor without lemon).

After a day of sweltering heat, it begins to bucket down raining fifteen minutes before we arrive at the train station. We all get soaked. Here Pedro & Lena, completely pooped out, dry themselves in the sun while waiting for the ride home. They wouldn't look at me for two days afterwards. ;)

 PS Thanks Philippe for the extra photos!


Around Bercy

Last week I took a walk around the Parc de Bercy (12th). After opening just over a decade ago, the park and its gardens finally have a "lived in" feel. All of the flowers are in bloom, the trees shrubs have grown big enough to provide plenty of shade, and even the ducks seem to be at home now.

The Rose Garden at Bercy Park.
Being new, and slightly off the beaten track, the park is usually one of the quietest in Paris, the perfect place to hide with your lover in a leafy corner.

A leafy trail.

But the tranquility may be short-lived, since the new Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir is set to open next month, linking the François Mitterrand Library (and MK2 cinema and entertainment complex) directly to the park.

The new bridge and the library towers in the background.

The bridge connects to the park at the top of these stairs (that's a cascading fountain running down the center).

The Bercy vineyard and Maison du Jardinage in the back.
Bercy Park used to be part of the old wine bottling district of Paris. Wine used to arrive in big barrels from all over France via the Seine, then were stored and bottled in the stone warehouses, or chais, at Bercy (which was outside the city limits until the 1860s).  See some old photos here. This industry prospered until the early 2Oth century, when wines started to be bottled "at the château" instead. 
The "Potager", an educational garden for students within the park.
The whole district, completely run down by the 1990s, was completely transformed with a park, sports stadium, entertainment complex, and office buildings (including the enormous FISC tax-collector's HQ). Some of the original chais, cobblestones and buildings were preserved in the park. There are also several plane trees that are over 100 years old.
This historic building is now the Maison du Jardinage, open in the afternoon.
The pond and duck houses. Trees in the back disguise the Bercy Village shopping center.

The park is divided into two sections by a busy street, but two foot bridges make it easy to cross. At the far side of the park is Bercy Village, with cafés, shops and a movie theatre.
One of the resident water fowl near the lily pond.





Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the calendar!

I just added a ton of new events to the Secrets of Paris Calendar for this weekend, so go have a peek!


Eiffel Tower Memorabilia Auction

Now here's an event that doesn't happen every day: there's going to be an auction of Eiffel Tower memorabilia on the Eiffel Tower Monday night! There are over 500 lots, all featuring the Eiffel Tower, the architect Gustave Eiffel, and the Universal Expo of 1889 in photos, objects, magazines, drawings, etc. dating up to the 1930s.

June 26, 6pm-10pm, First Level of the Eiffel Tower.
The lots will be on display the same day from 9:30am-4pm.
Free entrance to the auction.