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

Through October 3
Don't miss one of the most magical events of the summer, the Candlelit Evenings at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, just an hour south of Paris by RER and shuttle. Visit the family-owned palace and gardens that inspired Versailles by candlelight, including dinner in the gardens (or bring your own picnic or book a table for a gourmet meal starting at €59) and a fireworks finale. Every Saturday evening, entry €19.50. 

Through October 18
The 32nd annual funfair carnival, the Fête à Neu Neu, opens on August 30th in the Bois de Boulogne (Porte de la Muette, 16th, M° Rue de la Pompe). Open 4pm-midnight Mon, Tues, & Thurs; 2pm-midnight Wed & Fri; and noon to midnight Sat-Sun. Free entry, ATM, Vélib station, food tents and rides (tickets purchased onsite).  

September 11-13
The annual Fête de l'Humanité is three days of live music (65 acts including headliners Manu Chao, Texas, and Juliette Gréco), debates (because the French love a good debate), arts and cinema expositions, a bal populaire, a book fair, and activities for kids. The main sponsor/organizer is the daily newspaper L'Humanité, whose motto is "Envie de Changer Le Monde" (The desire to change the world), so you can imagine it's quite a leftie leaning festival where politics, social justice and liberty are the main stars. This year it takes place in La Corneuve (northeast suburbs), and three-day passes are just €32 (€35 at the door; camping and parking also possible). 

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

Wednesday
Aug122015

Escape the Heat in Hidden Paris Courtyards

Everyone loves a good hiding place, especially when it means escaping the crowded, noisy, hot Parisian streets in the middle of a summer heat-wave to enjoy a cool drink in the shade. Here are two favorites in the heart of St-Germain-des-Prés

Café Da Rosa at Coiffirst

Da Rosa has opened a small café in the courtyard of the Coiffirst Hair Salon at 44 rue du Four (6th arr., Metro Mabillon). You just stroll through the salon (which is gorgeous itself with the large windows and chandeliers), and step outside into a calm little oasis of green in the brick-lined courtyard garden. There are little cakes, coffee, teas, focaccia, and other sweets for a lovely afternoon tea (items also available to go). Open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm. If you're more in the mood for wine, Da Rosa also has a hedged-in terrace nearby at 62 Rue de Seine (just across from GROM, which is on Da Rosa's menu so you don't have to stand in the line).  

Bar Ephémère by L'Eté de Saint-Germain 

Just for a few weeks, the historic Palais Abbatial of the St-Germain-des-Prés church, usually only open to the parish priests, is hosting an ephemeral bar in their large garden courtyard. Open daily 9:30am-10pm through August 23rd with pastries from Hugo & Victor, cheese and charcuterie platters, coffee, tea, wine, beer, live music and even a pétanque court.  L'Eté de Saint Germain at the Palais Abbatial de St-Germain-des-Prés (3 rue de l'Abbaye (6th arr., Metro Mabillon). All of the proceeds go to help fund the renovations of the church. 

Tuesday
Aug112015

Stay with a Parisian in a Real Bed & Breakfast

There's no better way to experience what it's really like to live like a Parisian than to live with one in an authentic Bed & Breakfast, aka Chambre d'Hôte in France. There are many vacation rentals in Paris, but since so many of them are remodeled in a generic fashion to be used just for weekly tourist rentals, they are usually nothing more than glorified hotel rooms without a trace of Parisian authenticity.

Staying with a Parisian as a guest is not only totally legal (most vacation rentals are not, as we're all now finding out thanks to crack-downs by the local authorities), it also means you get to actually meet and interact with a local, see how they really live, eat, and welcome guests into their home. There are few B&B's in Paris because of a general lack of space, but you can find a good selection through Une Chambre en Ville, a bilingual website approved by the Paris Tourism Office and the Federation of Professional Parisian B&Bs, with many properties awarded the Eco-Friendly B&B label. With this company, you don't need to worry about who you're staying with and the quality of the welcome because they personally check each place and act as the go-between for the hosts and guests.

They have a few rooms listed on their website's home page (click on one of the five areas of Paris to see more in each neighborhood), and some which aren't listed publicly, but are shared once you fill out a request form. The prices are reasonable, and of course always includes breakfast. There are often minimum stays, and descriptions of the language(s) spoken by the host in addition to the description of the room facilities. 

Monday
Aug102015

Free USB Charger at Paris Bus Shelters

Paris has been steadily rolling out the sleek new bus shelters since the spring, and all 1850 of the old ones should be replaced by the early fall. Not only do the new AbriBus shelters (which are paid for by the billboard ad compay, JCDecaux) have easier-to-read signs, better digital signs displaying the waiting times, and free USB charger ports for when your gadget starts to lose juice (be sure to carry your charger cord with you), but some of them also have green rooftops, solar panels, and even touch-screen computers with searchable maps and nearby services and activities.

Not everyone is impressed. These are bigger, taller and brighter than the old ones (urban “eyesores” for some), and in order to allow wheelchair access some are only closed on two sides instead of three, which lets in more rain and wind. Here’s a detailed complaint on Slate.fr (en français). 

Saturday
Aug082015

Discover the Best Secrets of Paris in this TV Series

"Next Stop Paris" is a 13-episode Canadian TV series aired last year that features my good friend and fellow travel expert Lisa Pasold. Each 45-minute episode (now online) centers on a particular neighborhood around 13 Paris metro stations, so you can use it as guide for in-depth explorations of these districts: OpéraMontparnasseCharles-de-Gaulle-EtoileGrands BoulevardsPlace d'ItalieLes HallesSt-PaulSt-Germain-des-Prés, InvalidesBir HakeimBastilleButtes Chaumont, andGambetta.

If you live in Canada you may have seen one of the episodes on the Discovery television channel. Lisa is always stopped by Canadian tourists when we're walking through the city, it's hard to miss her! I helped with some of the research (and frequently ran into Lisa and the film crew while leading my tours last fall), so of course I highly recommend watching each 45-minute episode for a real insider view of the city and its colorful history. 

Friday
Aug072015

Official Website to Buy or Resell Paris Race Entry Bibs

There are many running events in Paris throughout the year, but the Paris Marathon in April, the Paris Half-Marathon (Semi-Marathon de Paris) in March, and the 20km de Paris in October remain the most popular, selling out almost immediately. Normally there's no legitimate market for selling purchased bibs (because of injuries, illness or other commitments) or for those who missed out on buying them. There's a black market, as described in this WSJ article Marathons, Triathlons Allow Runners to Resell or Transfer Entry Bibs, which besides opening up the possibility of scalpers buying bibs just to resell them at a profit, also presents the very real problem of what happens when someone has a medical emergency during a race wearing someone else's name. 

Certain races in the US are now offering refunds and transfers. In Paris, a new service, Luck-It! is an offical website for buying or reselling your entry bibs. At the moment only the sold-out 20km de Paris is listed, and the website is only in French, but if you can figure it out then you'll be able to get your money back if you can't run, and get a bib in your own name if you're looking to enter the race. Sign up as soon as possible if you want to get on the wait list (organized by gender and time expected to complete the race). 

Wednesday
Aug052015

Charming Paris Jewelry Boutique

If you're looking for a Parisian charm for yourself or for a gift and would like to avoid the international chains that have popped up all over town, check out this cute little jewelry boutique in St-Germain-des-Prés. Lilou (146 blvd St-Germain, 6th arr) sells charms, bracelets, cufflinks, rings and necklaces, most which can be custom engraved on-site for free.