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
* Christmas in Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


 


Calendar of Paris Events

Through February 27
The 100% Packaging-Free Organic Pop-Up store by BioCoop, originally just slated to run through COP21, has been such a success that it's not extended through the end of February.  There are over 250 itiems available in bulk, including produce, fresh bread, dairy (butter, yogurt and cheese), fresh ground coffee, nut butters, and other items, 20% from local sources. If you don't bring your own reusable glass jars and other containers you can buy them at the shop. At 14 rue du Châteu d'Eau, 10th, open 10am-8pm Mon-Sat. 

December 1 - January 31
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is COP21, so expect to see an eco-friendly decor.

Through February 28
Bartabas' Zingaro shows combine equestrian theatre, dance, world music, poetry and many other disciplines. After having pounded the ground of his Théâtre Equestre Zingaro for more than a quarter of a century, Bartabas is now tackling the skies with his new show "They shoot angels, don't they? (elegies)". Get your tickets €42-50 at FNAC

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

Thursday
Dec312015

Can you spot the HEROES in this image? 

Hint: none of them are wearing a cowboy hat.

Yep, they’re all heroes except that goofy one in the running outfit. That’s me at my first marathon in 2012. I'm not a hero. I'm just an average, concerned citizen who wants to help end suffering where I can. Running marathons is a silly hobby when you think about it (especially considering how slow I run). We're a bunch of health fanatics paying for the privilege of inflicting pain on ourselves, then being publicly rewarded for it. After three years of running for my own entertainment, I’ve decided to try and put all of this restless energy to good use. 

I am running the 2016 Paris Half Marathon on March 6th to raise €1000 for Médecins sans Frontères (MSF) aka Doctors without Borders.

I’m running it because the real heroes are too busy saving lives to run through the streets of Paris being cheered on by adoring crowds. I’m running it because the heroes at MSF – many who put their own lives in danger just to go to work – don’t get a triumphant photo finish and a medal at the end of their day. I’m running because I'm hoping that if I donate my time and energy (and knees) spreading the word about MSF’s important work, it will inspire enough people to help make a small difference. Please consider supporting MSF, whether by donating to my campaign (deadline February 26), directly to MSF, or simply by spreading the word and sharing this with others. Merci!

To read more about the amazing work MSF does around the world, just have a scroll through the MSF Twitter feed, or this powerful collection of MSF images from 2015: “Photographers, both staff and commissioned freelancers, accompanied our medical teams as they responded to death and destruction on an unprecedented scale in Syria, natural disasters in Nepal and Malawi, to the refugee crisis in Europe, the end of Ebola in West Africa, and to provide care for civilians caught up in Yemen’s war, amongst many other emergencies.”

 

Sunday
Dec272015

French Start-Up Growing Strawberries in the City

Running through Bercy Park one day this fall I saw the Cooltainer, a shipping container covered in wooden slats parked across from the Cinémathèque. I stopped to read the little info panels and thought Agricool was some sort of fruit food truck, but seeing no opening hours listed, I took a photo to remind me to Google it back home, and continued my run. 

“Beans from New Zealand, strawberries from Spain, Tomatoes from Morocco. Fruits and vegetables travel more than you. But unlike you, they don't enjoy it.” - Agricool.co

According to the website, Agricool was created by two sons of French farmers, Guillaume and Gonzagues, to grow fresh strawberries in a recycled shipping container (aka Le Cooltainer). Not only would they be pesticide-free, grown locally and inexpensively, the intensive production methods would allow them to grow as many strawberries in just 30m² as you could produce on a farm. The idea sounded great, but to get these strawberries there was a waiting list. I sign up and get an email saying I'm #148. 

By chance, I got to see Guillaume speak at Végétalisons Paris, a conference sponsored by the Mairie de Paris. I learn a bit more but still had questions, and being the nosey journalist I am, I want to see these strawberries. I ask him for an interview and a peek at his Cooltainer. I may have been hoping for some fresh December strawberries, too.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Dec212015

French Firemen's Calender Heats Things Up

Every December in France you'll see the French firemen, or pompiers, selling their annual calendar to raise money for their non-profit association, ADOSSPP (Association pour le développement des œuvres sociales des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), which provides assistance to injured fire fighters, as well as their families in case of death. As the French fire fighters are part of the French military, the calendars are rather...professional. You will see images of the fire fighters at work, putting out the flames, saving lives, in training exercises, etc.

I've seen two different covers, not sure if they're the same inside. 

I like to follow the Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris on Facebook because they always post photos and videos of their work. I should warn you the remains of burn-out houses and apartments are depressing, but you also get some pretty cool stuff, like this amazing rescue of an injured tourist in the dome at Sacré Coeur Basilica and needed to be taken out through the windows in a stretcher. You can watch one of their training videos to see what kind of physical strength and endurance is required of all fire fighters (note: they're not all firemen; women make up 8% of the French fire brigade, or about 14,000 total). 

If you would like your own 2016 Calendrier des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris, and you haven't run into any firemen selling them at the market, you can simply stop by any caserne in Paris to buy them direct. Here is a map of all of the fire stations in Paris and immediate suburbs. 

It should be said that the French buy these calendars to support the fire fighters, not because they're very interesting calendars. Or rather, not very exciting. But now there is a new calendar by Pompiers sans Frontiers (Fire Fighters without Borders), a French NGO that responds to humanitarian crises around the world as well as working with at-risk and vulnerable populations in France. To raise money and awareness for their work, they have come out with a très chaud calendar featuring the sexiest firemen photographed by Fred Goudon and published by Flammarion.

See some of the sexy "making of" videos here (not particularly suitable for work). You can find these calendars at FNAC in Paris, or order your copy online here (worldwide shipping available).

 

Sunday
Dec202015

Recommended Reading for Francophiles

For this month's recommended reading list, I've got something old, something new, and something that will probably make you want to pack up and move to Paris if you're not already here. 

To start off with the most magical of the three, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs is not, in the words of its author Elaine Sciolino, "a chick-lit expat book about how I discovered sex, fashion and life in Paris". It is, however, a story about how this highly honored international news journalist fell in love with a market street in Paris, its people, its history, its food and the way it slowly but surely transformed her into a "local" in her adopted neighborhood south of Pigalle. Yes, this book will make you die of envy if you don't already live in Paris, and make you nod in recognition if you do (because like Elaine, we all can't help but fall in love with our own market street in Paris). 

When my long-ago intern, running buddy, and tour guiding colleague Bryan Pirolli finished his doctoral thesis and obtained French citizenship this fall, I wanted to find the perfect gift. I stopped into the Abbey Bookshop and one of the other clients recommended Sudhir Hazareesingh's new book, How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People. Perfect! Only when I started reading it on the way home, I quickly realized I'd need a second copy for myself. Even after 20 years in France, I can pretend I know the French, but the "why" remained a mystery. This book, heavily researched by a British academic, finally clued me in. I'm only two chapters in (Descartes, the cult of Napoléon, Victor Hugo's occultism) and I already feel the little pieces of insight I've collected over the years are finally falling into place with the right context. It may be a bit heavy for the casual visitor, but if you live in France, this should be required reading. As an aside, I find it amusing that the UK cover has a suave-looking man smoking a cigarette, but the US cover is just the cigarette on its own. 

The last book is one that I never actually thought I'd read. Secrets of Paris is a novel by Luanne Rice, one of those prolific romance writers who comes out with a book every year. This one came out in 1991, and I hadn't heard about it until I started using Google search around 2001 (anyone remember metacrawler?) I'm not really a romance genre reader, but when I was at my aunt's house in Arizona last month she had a pile of paperbacks and told me to take one, and guess what was in the pile? I hate badly-researched books set in Paris (yes, I'm looking at you Dan Brown), but this one is faultless. Either the author lived in Paris or did her homework. It's a perfectly entertaining airplane or poolside read, and you can probably find it at your local library. 

Saturday
Dec192015

Steam Locomotive at the Living Train Museum

Choo choo!

Last weekend I went on the monthly Ile-de-France hike led by Abbey Bookshop owner Brian Spence. To get a peek at the annual Medieval Christmas Market, our destination for the "Rando de Noël" was the historic town of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Champagne countryside.  

As usual, about 20 of us met at the Gare de l'Est at 10am to take the train out of Paris to Longueville, where we'd begin our relatively short, three-hour hike (and we take the train back, because there are only so many hours of daylight in winter). But before we began our trek, we got to make a short detour to visit the Musée Vivant du Chemin de Fer, or Living Train Museum. 

This museum is located in a listed 1910 SNCF rail depot at Longueville just a few minutes' walk from the regular SNCF train station. The depot has a completely wooden, circular frame, housing a impressive collection of old trains, including a Train Bleu car, Pullman cars, and a dozen steam locomotives dating back to the early 20th century. 

One of the first trains from the 19th century, showing the 1st, 2nd and (short-lived) 3rd class compartments. 

More than a museum, it's also a restoration workshop, and the trains regularly take small passenger trips. On the day we visited they were preparing one steam locomotive for the Provins Christmas Market, the Train du Père Noël (which gets completely booked about two months in advance). 

The next two events are the Valentine's Dinner in the Train Bleu car on February 13th, and the Easter Egg Train on March 26 (steam locomotive trip from Longueville to Provins). Keep an eye on their website or FB page for registration information (it's not up yet). 

There is very little information in English on their website, but if you visit the museum, the staff are very friendly and will explain as much as they can to you about the trains in English. You can get there by car, but it's very easy by train from Paris (the Transilien train from the Gare de L'Est station), then a five-minute walk from the Longueville station. 

Musée Vivant du Chemin de Fer - Dépôt des Machines
3 Rue Louis Platriez 
77650 LONGUEVILLE
Tel: 01 64 08 60 62  
E-mail: contact@ajecta.org  
Website: www.ajecta.org 
Low Season Hours: October 16 to April 30 on Sundays from 1-5pm.
High Season Hours: May 1 to October 15 Saturdays and Sunday 10:30am-6pm.
Entry fee: €4

If you'd like information about the next Abbey Bookshop hike, stop into the store (29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th, M° Cluny-Sorbonne or St-Michel) and Brian will be happy to give you all of the information.

Our intrepid hike leader Brian, map and walking stick in hand. 

 

Friday
Dec182015

A Selection of Paris Expositions

The weather is exceptionally warm for Paris this December, hovering around 55°F/12°C, with no frosty freeze in sight. But if you have already had your fill of Christmas markets, ice skating, and the overcrowded halls of the Louvre, Orsay and Grand Palais, there are several smaller exhibitions around Paris worth a peek this winter. 

Philippe Halsman Astonish Me! at the Jeu de Paume
One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Philippe Halsman got his start as a young man in Paris alongside contemporaries such as Dali and Man Ray before moving to New York in 1940 because of the Occupation. There he started working for Life Magazine (where he holds the record of 101 covers), shooting some of the greatest stars and personalities of the time, including Marilyn Monroe. This retrospective showcases 300 exclusive images and original documents (contact sheets and prints, preliminary proofs, original photomontages and mock-ups) that attempt to show not just the finished photos themselves, but the avant-garde techniques he perfected to achieve them. There's a free smartphone app for the exhibition as well. Through January 24, open Tues 11am-9pm, Wed-Sun 11am-7pm. Entry €10.

Ateliers d'Artistes at the Musée Mendjisky
I had been meaning to visit this museum in the 15th arrondissement for some time. It's a museum dedicated to the two Ecoles de Paris (Schools of Paris), artists who worked primarily in the Montparnasse district in the 1920s and immediately after WWII. The building itself is an Art Deco artist's studio designed by the Robert Mallet-Stevens, one of the most influential architects of the interwar period, and a contemporary of Corbusier. It's down an almost hidden passage called the Square de Vergennes, right outside the Vaugirard metro station. The architecture is what I found most interesting about the museum, but I also enjoyed the temporary exhibition Ateliers d'Artistes, which features 60 photographs, architectural plans and descriptions (in French only) of Parisian artist studios from the 19th and 20th centuries, from Montmartre to Montparnasse, most which are inaccessible to the general public outside open studio days. Through January 10th, open from 11am-6pm (closed Thursdays, and Dec 24th-27th), entry €9. 

Hey! Modern Art & Pop Culture/Act III at the Halle Saint-Pierre
I've always loved the Halles Saint-Pierre, an steel, brick and glass pavilion at the foot of Montmartre housing a museum, art gallery, book store, café and auditorium. The exhibitions are usually "outsider" contemporary art and art brut. I saw an HR Giger exhibit here years ago. The current exhibition is a collaboration with Hey! Magazine of modern art and pop culture featuring 62 artists -- including "lowbrow" art pioneer from California Mark Ryden, Joël Negri, Ed Hardy, Alain Bourbonnais and Thomas Woodruff -- and 400 works of art in various mediums. Through March 13th, open 11am-6pm, Sat until 7pm, Sun  from noon-6pm, entry €8.50. 

Bons Baisers de Paris at the Galerie des Bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris
Kisses from Paris: 300 Years of Tourism in the Capital is a bilingual English-French exhibition on the ever-changing role of tourism in the City of Light from the 18th century through the post-WWII boom. Photographs, posters, travel brochures, tour guides and other vintage documents from the national archives and Carnavalet Museum are presented in four themes: The Revolution in Paris Tourism, Paris as a Show, The Spirit of Paris from Bohemian to Luxury, and the Globalization of Tourism. Held in the City of Paris Library gallery in the Marais (22 rue Mahler) through March 31st. Open Tues-Sun 1-7pm, Thurs until 9pm. Entry €6 (free Thursdays 6-9pm).