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
* Travel Writing Workshops
* 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

April 15
Lost in Frenchlation presents French films with English subtitles on the big screen. This month see the feelgood film Rosalie Blum, tonight at 8pm at Studio 28 (10 rue Tholozé, 18th, M° Abbesses). Tickets €7.50. 

April 22-24
For all fans of street art, the world's greatest urban artists will be showing their works at the first Urban Art Fair - the Foire Street Art à Paris - at the Carreau du Temple, represented by 30 galleries. Entry €12. 

April 29 -May 8
The third annual Paris Beer Week celebrates local craft beers from the Ile de France region (Paris and the surrounding areas). Events, tastings, tours and more, with the grand finale on Saturday the 7th at La Bellevilloise with 45 breweries in attendance. For the full program see the website or facebook page. 

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


Our Widespread Lack of Trust in Travel Writing 

By Secrets of Paris contributing editor Bryan Pirolli

Trust is a tricky thing when traveling. Between the stories from your cousin Kathy, your new Lonely Planet, and those endless lists printed from the web, it’s hard to know which sources get it right when it comes to a destination. It’s especially difficult for a place like Paris and its endless amount of blogs, books, and websites.

How can you actually trust anything you read? This was a central question in my PhD thesis at the Sorbonne (don’t worry, I’m not about to get all academic on you here). The answer, however, was relatively clear after an online questionnaire with over 230 people and multiple interviews with writers and tourists in Paris: Travelers don’t ultimately trust any single source.

Click to read more ...


A Fun Fashion Week Event for Normal People

In case you missed all of the hype, Paris Fashion Week is March 1-9. Most of the city’s trendy bars, stylish hotels, and designer concept stores will be overrun by fashion bloggers, models and editors dressed in outrageous outfits that only the fashion world understands. Enjoy the street scene, because regular plebes can’t actually get into the catwalk shows. 

But if you want to check out a fun alternative, head over to L’Archipel a charitable association housed in an amazing 19th-century convent near Gare St-Lazare. Although dedicated to assisting single mothers, they also host many events for the general public to raise funds and awareness in the spirit of solidarity, including yoga classes, knitting workshops, concerts, Sunday brunch in the former nave, and a Saturday "troc" to swap clothing (men’s, women’s or kids), accessories, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. (you get a credit for the Troc Shop for every item you bring). 

On Saturday March 5th Singa will be hosting an inclusive Fashion Show at l'Archipel from 2-6pm, where anyone can participate as a stylist, model, DJ or photographer, with hair and make-up by beauty school students and a photo booth to immortalize your look (sign up if you want to participate). If you just want to watch, the actual show is from 3-4pm, and while waiting you can check out the Troc Shop (bring your used items if you want to trade) or enjoy an organic smoothie from the bar; open noon-7pm. 


All about the Paris Food Markets: A Video Interview with Paris Paysanne Founder Emily Dilling

Emily Dilling is a California native who has been living in Paris now for almost a decade, where she’s become known for her blog and podcast Paris Paysanne (rough translation: Parisian Peasant) which covers the local farm-to-table and craft production movement in Paris. She has interviewed and written about the markets, farmers, and chefs as well as craft beer brewers, natural wine producers and local coffee roasters.

In late fall her new book came out, “My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes”, including 60 recipes you can make anywhere and a collection of all of the wonderful people, restaurants, and markets she has written about since starting Paris Paysanne.

Emily has recently migrated to the French countryside (in the Loir-et-Cher region just south of Paris), but she agreed to meet with me while in Paris last month for an interview. We originally were going to film in the Marché Bastille, but since it was pouring rain and rather chilly we decided to take shelter in the nearby Café de l’Industrie for a chat. Enjoy the Parisian café ambience (and some groovy jazz tunes…the sax calms down after a few minutes) while Emily reveals some insider tips to the Parisian markets, including:

* How to spot the real farmer’s market stands among the other fruit and vegetable sellers
* Why some family farms opt out of the “organic labeling
* Where to find the three main organic markets: Batignolles, Raspail and Brancusi
* Some of the exotic fruits at the Marché Barbès
* Why you should get in line behind the old ladies at the markets
* Some of the myths about Parisian food (and the coffee)
* And a peek inside her book!


And don’t miss the latest episode of her podcast, Paris Paysanne Podcast Episode #10: Women in the Kitchen, Countryside Living, and the Parabere Forum where she talks to chef Alix Lacloche about healthy comfort food and women in the kitchen, Haven in Paris founder Erica Berman about leaving Paris for the countryside, and Maria Canabal, founder of Parabere Forum, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women's voices and views in the world of gastronomy. 

Fresh from the farm, at the Marché Bastille with Emily Dilling. 


The Forgotten Black Heroes of D-Day

"They stormed Omaha and Utah Beaches early on June 6, 1944. They've been written out of history. Movies don't show them. Most books don't mention them. But they were there." Watch the video to learn more about the men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. 

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War is the riveting story about the African-American soldiers who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day, virtually written out of history, their faces missing from iconic WWII films such as Saving Private Ryan. This well-researched book not only covers the military history, it also takes a hard look at race relations in the Jim Crow South and the sad lack of recognition these brave men were denied when they returned home. 

American journalist and author Linda Hervieux, former editor of the New York Daily News now living in France, first learned about the 320th in 2009 when she attended a ceremony in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day awarding one of the soldiers from that African-American unit the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor. This began Hervieux's long and detailed research into the other men of the 320th that would eventually become the book Forgotten, published in fall of 2015 to much critical acclaim.

"Forgotten is an utterly compelling account of the African Americans who played a crucial and dangerous role in the invasion of Europe. ... The story of their heroic duty is long overdue." – Tom Brokaw, best-selling author of The Greatest Generation

"Hard to believe this story hasn’t been written before. Linda Hervieux’s Forgotten is essential, fiercely dramatic, and ultimately inspiring. All Americans should read this World War II history, which doubles as a civil rights primer, to learn the true cost of freedom." – Douglas Brinkley, best-selling author of Cronkite

I joined a fully-packed audience for the presentation of her book at the American Library of Paris earlier this month, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the room after she shared their stories with us. One of the most inspiring was about Corporal Waverly B. Woodson Jr. of West Philadelphia, a medic with the 320th.

You can read an excerpt from the book about his heroism and the many lives he saved on the beach that fateful day despite his own injuries, heavy firing from the Germans, and the slowly rising tide. But although Woodson was nominated America's Congressional Medal of Honor, no African-Americans would receive their own nation's highest honor in WWII. There is now an online petition to award Woodson the honor posthumously (he died in 2005).

Another fascinating part of her presentation were the stories of how kindly the African-American soldiers were treated in the small Welsh town where they were stationed before the invasions, and the friendships they formed with the locals who welcomed them into their community. Linda is currently touring the US for the book this February and March (including Washington, DC; the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia; Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; and Harvard Law School in Massachusetts). 

The publisher is also offering the Kindle eBook version of Forgotten for just $1.99 during Black History Month (February). For more information about the men of the 320th, progress on the Medal of Honor petition, author appearances and news about the book, sign up for Linda Hervieux's free mailing list here.


Parisians Get a Citizenship Card

The Mairie de Paris (City Hall) just announced a new “Carte Citoyenne-Citoyen de Paris” or a Paris Citizenship Card, free for any resident of Paris – of any nationality and at least 7 years old – “to promote civic pride and reaffirm adherence to the values of the French Republic”.

Some people may think it’s little more than a feel-good publicity stunt aimed at making the city’s multicultural kids feel more a part of the community, but I think it never hurts to err on the side of inclusion from an early age.

So what does this card actually do? It allows access to a diverse schedule of special events hosted by the City of Paris such as concerts, guided visits of municipal services and sights such as the Hôtel de Ville, official launches and sporting events, educational workshops and other interesting ways of making Parisians feel like they’re a part of the local community, and of course it’s also a way for City Hall to show off all the ways they’re working for the people of Paris (the entire spring schedule is already posted online).

The cards will be given automatically to school kids, but you can get yours by simply filling out the form online. Note: this card has nothing to do with the French naturalization process and has no legal value. 


How to Avoid Lines at the Paris Catacombes 

The Paris Catacombes are known for their long waiting lines. No one likes wasting time in lines, right? A popular misconception is that going “early” is the best tactic to avoid lines. When I run past in the morning at 9am – a full hour before they open – there are already at least a dozen people standing in front of the door. They have guaranteed they’ll be waiting an hour to get in. That’s just absurd.

As I’ve mentioned before, almost everyone goes to the museums first thing in the morning. That means the best time to go is in the afternoon, two hours before closing time is optimal. And since 2014 the Catacombes have extended their opening hours to 8pm, with the last entrance at 7pm, you have plenty of time if you go right around 6pm. In fact, the official website even recommends visiting Tuesday through Friday after 3pm for the shortest wait times.

But let’s say you just can’t take a chance on waiting for even a few minutes, so you want to purchase a “skip the line” ticket for a specific time. Up until now the only option was to book a group tour through one of the many tour operators selling tickets for €48-€85 per person. I usually tell people it’s not worth it for that price, considering the actual entrance price is only €12, and the audio guide an additional €5. There's another option you won't find on TripAdvisor or Viator. 

Best-Value Catacombes Skip the Line Tickets

To save money (or avoid being in a “group”, which I know many of the Secrets of Paris readers hate), you can now actually book your tickets in advance through the official Paris Municipal Museums website for just €27 per person (kids 5-17 years old are €5), including audio-guide in several languages. There are two catches: the only booking times available are Wednesday-Friday 3pm, 4pm, 5pm or 6pm. And the ticketing site is only in French (you have to create an “account” with your name and address before purchasing tickets). So you have to work for that discount, but it’s worth it if you’d rather spend those extra euros on a nice dinner afterwards!

Paris Catacombes
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy (Place Denfert-Rochereau), 14th 
Metro/RER Denfert-Rochereau 
Opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday 10am-8pm.

Tip: To find the entrance look for the little green building in the center of the intersection. If you can’t see it when exiting the metro, look for the huge lion statue in the center of the square: his left ear is pointing to the entrance.

Warning: there are no bathrooms, no coat or bag check, a lot of stairs…and a lot of bones. But you no longer need flashlights, the lighting was completely redone a few years ago.