About Secrets of Paris

Created in 1999, the Secrets of Paris is the oldest independent and locally-owned website about Paris in English, for both visitors and residents. Discover what you've been missing:

* Free Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events 
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Paris Events

September 9-11
Les Traversées du Marais is a three-day music festival with a "Carnival!" theme taking place throughout the historic courtyards of the Marais district, see the map here

September 16-18
You'll find food specialities from Southwestern France at the 17th annual open-air food market on the Seine, Les Marchés Flottants du Sud-Ouest, for three days along the Quai Montebello (on the Left Bank, facing Notre Dame Cathedral, M° St Michel). Free entry. Open 10am-10pm (Sunday until 7pm).

September 24-25
Celebrate the Fête des Jardins in gardens throughout Paris (many normally closed to the public). This year's theme is urban gardening. Check the full schedule online

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
Jun092016

wonder.land: Musical in English at the Théâtre du Châtelet

Photo Brinkhoff and Mgenburg

Another world-class musical in English is playing at the Théâtre du Châtelet this month, wonder.land: the edgy modern-day take on Alice in Wonderland "that explores the blurred boundaries between our online and offline lives." Commissioned in partnership with the Manchester International Festival and the National Theatre, wonder.land uses a combination of live theatre and digital sets, as well as a score is by Damon Albarn (of the British group Blur), to create a very contemporary look at coming-of-age in the 21st century.

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

Aly is a modern British girl from a broken home being bullied at school who escapes her difficult life into a virtual world as her avatar, Alice. Here, where suddenly there is color, she meets an entire cast of misfit friends. Until a cruiel teacher confiscates her smartphone...and steals her identity. "Who are you?" the Caterpillar asks, underlining the theme of the story. 

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

After seeing Sondheim's Passion and then Carmen La Cubana, which I both loved, I didn't think I'd actually like this contemporary "audio-visual" show, but it was surprisingly fun and touching (not sure why I'm still surprised, but my "I don't like musicals" bias is stubbornly hard to kill).

Photo Brinkhoff Mgenburg

Throughout the show I kept changing my mind about who was my favorite character. Aly (Lois Chimimba) and Alice (Carly Bawden) are the stars, but her mother's voice is stunning (Golda Rosheuvel), Mrs. Manxome's evil glee is contagious (Anna Francolini), the and the White Rabbit (Joshua Lacey)...well, who wouldn't want to follow him? Hal Fowler's character actually morphs throughout the show from the MC to the Cheshire Cat to the Caterpillar, with an entire choir for a body. 

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

Through June 16th, in English with French surtitles. Tickets from €10 to €55. 

Thursday
Jun092016

Almost Back to Normal: Sunshine and the Seine in Paris

It has been gorgeous and sunny in Paris since Monday. I went out for a morning run in the Jardin des Plantes Wednesday morning and thought I'd have a look at the level of the Seine along my usual running route on the quays, and was surprised to find cyclists and pedestrians already enjoying the Quai Saint-Bernard (5th arrondissement). 

On the Quai St-Bernard near the Batobus stop for Jardin des Plantes. 

The Resto du Coeur (soup kitchen) boat along the Quai St-Bernard back in service.

A bit of gravel and mud along the lower end of the quay.

The little amphitheatres where people dance on summer nights are still underwater. Click for the Instagram video I filmed here.

Quite a bit of mud here, but most of the flowering shrubs on the right seem to have weathered the submersion without problem.

Municipal gardeners are out planting the summer annuals now that the rain has stopped. 

Closer to Notre Dame Cathedral, the water is still above the lowest paths along the quays. 


You can see here on the right the benches peeking out from the water, which is still knee-high here across from the Ile-St-Louis. Note that the only roads that flooded in Paris were these auxiliary quays along the water. The Seine never rose above that wall on the left. Click the photo for the second video from Instagram.

This photo taken from the Théâtre du Châtelet Sunday night shows the first rays of sun shining on Notre Dame in the early evening. You can see more clearly here the pedestrian path along the river is still flooded, but the water, even at its highest level, never got close to the top of the main wall protecting the city (where you see all of the cars, buses, pedestrians).

Some cellars and the RER C, which runs rights along the river, were infiltrated by water, but the museums didn't suffer any flooding, even though as a precaution they closed for the weekend while moving crates of art works from lower level storage into the upper galleries. Sunshine predicted in Paris through Saturday, we should be back to normal in no time! 

Sunday
Jun052016

French Film Extras Needed July 25-August 31

The Academy Award-winning director of L'Artiste, Michel Hazanavicius, is looking for extras  for an upcoming film Le Redoutable about the love story between Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky during the Mai 1968 events in France, starring Bérénice Bejo, Stacy Martin and Louis Garrel. 

They are looking for extras available for 1-10 days of filming between July 25th through August 31st, with at least one half day available for wardrobe between July 4th and July 22nd. Payment follows standard French film industry rates for extras. The following profiles are needed:

  • hommes et femmes "profils étudiants" de 18 à 30 ans
  • hommes et femmes italiens de 16 à 80 ans
  • hommes et femmes de 16 à 80 ans

You need to be legally able to work in France (ie you need a French Social Secutiry number) and fluent enough in French to read and fill out the application...and obviously follow directions. 

Click here to apply 

Tuesday
May312016

Scared of coming to Paris this Spring? Some perspective...

France has had a tough spring for tourism. The terror attacks in Brussels spooked people into cancelling their visit, strikes and protest marches in response to the new employment law reforms have slowed train service and blocked gas stations, and record-breaking rainfall has caused flooding and the delay of the French Open. From afar, Paris must look like a total mess. There are some serious problems that I don’t mean to minimize, but for visitors to Paris there’s no reason to be unduly alarmed. In fact, within Paris you wouldn’t even know anything is out of the ordinary if you didn’t watch the news. Okay, the rain is hard to miss this week, but public transportation in the city is working normally, and the protest marches are contained within specific designated areas (usually far from anywhere tourists would go anyway).

Wednesday the 25th May, with the Travel Writing Workshop participants at the Marché d'Aligre. 

In fact, I’ve had a half-dozen tours and a week-long travel-writer’s workshop over the past two weeks, and none of my clients was inconvenienced by the events (again, except for the rain if they only packed summer clothes). The protest marches get the most press because they look scary and exciting with riot cops throwing tear gas and masked protesters throwing Molotov cocktails. But most Parisians just roll their eyes and go back to smoking on a café terrace; they’ve seen this before, and it always blows over.

Capturing the absurdity of the situation perfectly, freeze this news video below of the protests at 1:46 and you’ll see a colorfully-dressed man on the right of the screen who’s obviously having a good time posing for the cameras (although I now realize he was just trying to warn us all of the coming floods).

You can watch a longer video here showing that same protest march, in the 6th arrondissement, where for over an hour the riot police and the workers’ union protesters (the ones with red flags and armbands) are throwing tear gas canisters, fireworks and flares back and forth. For you Americans out there, keep in mind that despite the scary-looking mob, ONLY the police have guns. No one else has guns. That’s probably why you’ll also notice in every shot there are spectators watching from the sidelines, more excited to record the “action” on their smartphones than worried about actually getting hurt. At 4:08 you see tourists inside La Rotonde taking photos from the windows (until the waiters wisely move them away). 

Usually protests marches are a noisy but harmless way for the French to let off some steam. But the police, who make all public protest marches possible by blocking traffic and maintaining order, have been getting so annoyed at the “casseurs” (basically the trouble-makers who show up to any protest march just to pick fights and break stuff, as well as the growing violence of the union protesters) that they held their own protest the next day. In this Associated Press video below note how the cop whose car has been attacked and set on fire with two officers inside doesn’t even bother to un-holster his gun in the face of the idiot who’s still swinging a metal rod at him (five protesters have been identified and arrested since then).

To sum it up, as I wrote in Newsletter #68 during the “riots” of 2006, “Don’t worry about canceling your trip to Paris until you see me posting photos of my airlift to safety from the roof of the American Embassy.” 

Sunday
May292016

Do You Know the French Phrase for “Stroke”? 

The Protection Civile de Paris, or PCP, is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization of first-aid responders in Paris. You might notice their presence in the blue and orange uniforms manning first-aid posts at public events like music festivals or sporting events. They also reinforce fire department paramedics and SAMU ambulances by acting as first-responders for emergency medical calls, natural disasters, and first-aid assistance for the homeless. There are over 600 volunteers of all ages and professions currently serving in the PCP.

They also educate the public by offering beginner and advanced first-aid certification courses (including PSC1, PSE1 and PSE2). I took the PSC1 (Prévention Secours Civiques) last weekend in my neighborhood and not only learned about how to use the emergency heart defibrillators found in most public building in Paris, but also how to assist the most common medical emergencies, including how to properly make an emergency call.

For example, 18 will get you the fire department paramedics (they can stabilize someone and get them to a hospital), while 15 will get you the SAMU, which sends the doctor directly to you (with an ambulance if needed). All numbers, including 17 for the police, go to the same central switchboard, so it’s not actually a big deal if you can’t recall which number to dial or aren’t sure, but it’s faster if you do. Don’t speak French? Dial 112 anywhere within Europe and you’ll get an emergency switchboard available in every EU language (including English). Best of all, these numbers work for free on any phone, even if they’re locked or out of network range (the emergency network is separate).

I highly recommend taking a class to brush up on your Heimlich maneuver and CPR skills, and also to learn some very important vocabulary you’ll never need until you really need it: a stroke in French is an “accident vasculaire cérébral” (or AVC). 

Sunday
May082016

Will.i.am Sings in the Louvre: Mona Lisa Smile  


Will.i.am - Mona Lisa Smile with Nicole Scherzinger by Louvre

On April 12th the American singer Will.i.am (one of the founding members of the Black Eyed Peas) released this music video reinterpreting his song "Mona Lisa Smile" from his album #Willpower. Set in the Louvre, it features the singer Nicole Scherzinger as La Jaconde, and Will.i.am in over a dozen of the museum's most famous paintings. How many can you identify?

And for those of you who know the Louvre well, you'll quickly realize the wall with the Mona Lisa on it (which should be in Salle 6), is actually superimposed into another gallery of paintings with red walls. Can you guess which one? (hint: look at the ceiling)

This video isn't just a one-off gimmick by the singer, he's actually been planning this for several years. According to the Louvre website:

"This remarkable and unprecedented collaboration is the fruit of many years of work. In 2010, the Louvre welcomed a production team from New York to film a documentary that was part of the “Visionaries” series. This episode was devoted to will.i.am and used to launch Oprah Winfrey’s TV channel, OWN. Deeply inspired by his visit to the world’s largest museum, will.i.am tapped into the experience to create a video for the song “Mona Lisa Smile.” But the creative juices didn’t stop there: the artist sought to perpetuate, and especially share with others, his great appreciation for the museum by producing a documentary on the newly renovated rooms of the Department of Decorative Arts and the surrounding galleries."

After this Will.i.am was inspired to film a 12-minute documentary called "Will.i.am at the Louvre", a sort of "Highlights of the Louvre" tour with the editor of Wired UK and the curator of the Decorative Arts department (where he falls in love with an elaborate 18th-century clock). This is a great little video to watch if you're hesitant to visit the Louvre, because it shows how it's so much more than just paintings and the Mona Lisa. 


will.i.am at the Louvre by Off

The funniest quote is when he's in the stunning (and highly gilded) Napoléon III Apartments, and his guide infers that it must look like the interior of many hip-hop moguls houses, and Will.i.am responds, "Oh no, we don't do it like this. They put the gold in their teeth." But generally it's a great documentary about how art is still important to today's culture. You'll also learn the meaning of the fabulous French phrase, l'esprit de l'escalier.

You can follow Will.i.am's Louvre tour yourself here.