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

July 13-14 Bastille Day
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" Click here to read the defintitive guide to what to see and do in Paris on July 13th and 14th, what's open, what's not, how to get around, where the parties will be, and insider tips on being prepared: http://bit.ly/BastilleDayPAris

July 20 - August 16/23
Paris Plages: sand, beach trees, volley balls and bikinis -- on the Seine! Along the Right Bank quays and Hôtel de Ville until August 16th, at the Bassin de la Villette until August 23rd. This year's edition of the Paris Plages will feature many fun activities. Free entry, 9am-midnight. The 2015 schedule will be up here on opening day.

July 22-August 23
The annual Open-Air Cinema Festival takes place Wed-Sun nights at the Parc de la Villette's Triangle Prairie (M° Porte de Pantin), starting at sunset (around 10pm), free entry (deck chair rentals from 7:30pm). This year's haunting and spooky and horrific theme is "Home Cinema" (all films can be downloaded to watch at home from the website), including: Last Days, Beetlejuice, shutter Island, The Shining, Moulin Rouge, the Ghost Writer, and many French and international films (all in VO with French subtitles). 

July 26
Since 1975, the finish line for the Tour de France has been at the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées. Join the crowd of Parisians and tourists alike to see the winner of the race. Expected arrival time: 5:30pm.

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

Monday
Jun082015

Heather's Paris Picnic Recommendations

After a few false starts (sunny and warm in April, then rather chilly and wet in May), picnic season has finally come into full bloom in Paris. Here are a few of my own recommendations for having the most successful picnic.

1. Enjoy the abundance! Most blogs encouraging visitors to picnic always say the same thing: get a bottle of wine, some cheese and a fresh baguette. I'm not saying you can't do this (and if you're on a tight budget that may be all you can afford), but you’ll find there’s so much more to enjoy if you follow your nose to the local open-air food markets.  You’ll not only find bread, cheese and wine, but also fresh fruit and salad fixings, foie gras and paté, nuts and olives, roasted chickens (you can just get a few thighs or drumsticks) and potatoes, seafood salad, dried sausages, yogurts and jams, Lebanese hummus and breads, and hot dishes of all kinds: choucroute with ham and cabbage, pasta, curried rice, beef stew, Polish sausage sandwiches and potato latkes, quiches and meat pies! My favorites for the best selection of prepared foods are the Marché Auguste Blanqui on Friday and Sunday mornings, the Marché des Enfants Rouges (every morning but Monday, try and avoid the weekends after 11am because of crowds), the Marché Bastille Thursday and Sunday, the Marché Président Wilson Wednesday and Saturday, and the covered Marché Beauvau in the Marche d'Aligre (any morning but Monday). For those into making baguette sandwiches, you can find mayo and mustard in toothpaste-style tubes in most Parisian supermarkets, but honestly it’s easier to get one already made fresh at any bakery.

2. Pack ziplock bags of supplies. Plastic forks and spoons, paper plates and napkins, a real knife (like a Laguiole pocket knife), a bottle opener, and plastic cups are essentials. Cutting boards are also handy! These supplies can all be inexpensively purchased at any Parisian supermarket like Franprix or Monoprix, but if you want the best quality and stylish materials at the lowest prices check out kitchen supply stores that sell to the general public (plus 20% VAT), such as Le Comptoire de la Table near the Marché d'Aligre (I got a dozen very cool plastic Champagne flutes for €3 here), or La Bovida near Rue Montorgueil. Extra bags for leftovers and/or trash are also handy.

All of the essentials, these guys are pros (napkin rings are the lady's touch, merci Jeanette!)

3. If you can't find ice (try Allo Glacons or Picard), just buy a few bags of cheap frozen peas or potatoes at the grocery store to keep wine and foods cool. Many grocery stores sell insulated bags if you need to keep things cool for longer on the hottest days. Worst case scenario: buy drinks that are already cold at a supermarket or bakery, and look for an actual wine shop (there are always a few near each market) which has some chilled wine and bubbly. When you don’t have a way to keep food cold, avoid any foods that might go bad if left at room temperature too long.

4. Bring something to sit on, if not a blanket then at least a magazine or newspaper. Parisian benches often have pigeon droppings on them, grass can be damp, and the cobbled quays of the Seine aren’t very soft on the derrière. Bonus points for cushions.

Stylish Parisians like Laurent not only bring cushions, they can also wear shorts without looking like tourists!

5. Don't be late! The more scenic the location, the earlier you’ll have to get there to secure a spot. The quays of the Seine, the Islands, and the Canal St Martin are usually packed by 8pm. Any grassy spot in a park that doesn’t close at night (ie Carroussel du Louvre, the Jardins du Trocadéro) can be nice, but beware of little critters that come out after dark looking for food scraps. Having candles and/or flashlight handy will help once the sun goes down (not until at least 10pm in June and as late as 11pm in July). 

Paris Plage along the Seine in late July.

6. Les Toilettes. You’ll want to find a spot far enough from any public toilets (or corners that are used as public toilets…follow your nose) to avoid smelling them, but close enough for when you’ll inevitably need it yourself. Cafés are not usually so happy about picknickers using their facilities, so don’t count on it. Paris Plage (in season) and Les Berges have public restrooms (and water fountains!).

7. Drink responsibly. Technically speaking, there are a few confusing container laws, and you’re not supposed to have glass in Parisian parks, so if you have wine or beer bottles, keep them discreetly hidden away (high-end boxed wine is handy in this case). The police on patrol usually just ask you to finish or put away your alcohol unless you seem to be rowdy (I have never been fined for drinking in public, nor know anyone who has in Paris).

Pretty wine cups don't have to be expensive, these are all under €3.

8. Bring a few bottles of water for drinking and rinsing hands (and questionably clean fruit). If you want to be super classy you’ll have linen napkins (linen tea towels are sold in any French kitchen shop).

9. Make your life easier: cocktail tomatoes instead of ones you have to slice; ask the baker to slice your bread loaf for you (“tranché”); don’t buy hard cheeses if you only have cheap plastic knives; don’t buy runny cheeses if you don’t plan on eating it right away; get everything already prepared (sandwiches, pasta salads, fruit salads, desserts) at any delicatessen (“traiteur”).

10. Make friends with the locals: share your bottle opener; share your wine; clean up after yourselves; don’t feed the ducks or the pigeons (I saw a woman in the Place des Vosges feed one lone pigeon and then a whole flock descended on her à la Hitchcock...just don’t do it).

Bonus tip: if you live in Paris, invest in a set of pétanque/boules balls and learn the basics. It’s popular now for all ages, not just old French guys (great locations 

What are your own favorite picnic tips and recommendations? 

Sunday
Jun072015

Shopping for Luxury Fabrics in Paris 

Many Parisians shop for everyday fabrics at the Marché St Pierre in Montmartre, but if you're looking for high-end French fabrics while visiting Paris, it's worth stopping into the Malhia Kent showroom in the Viaduc des Arts (19 ave Daumesnil, 12th, M° Bastille). 

Here you'll find a vast colorful shop with over 2000 new fabrics each season (four collections each year), all made in France, as well as yarns, samples/swatches, and a few racks of unique clothing and scarves made with the fabrics. They specialize in tweeds that are made on special looms for lightness and durability, many incorporating glittering threads, lace, ribbons, and even feathers for whimsical and creative fabrics you can use for clothing or home decor.  There are more photos on the Viaduc des Arts page.

I visited with tour clients last week and the friendly shop keepers invited us to take photos, try on the clothes, and touch the fabrics all we wanted, no pressure and no following us around. Honestly, this is not common in high-end French boutiques! 

A few doors down is Le Bonheure des Dames, a store specializing in cross-stitch embroidery kits, haberdashery supplies and everything you need for needlework. 

Wednesday
Jun032015

Paris Street Art of the Week

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you'll notice I take a lot of photos of the Parisian street art (and yes, I'm a bit obessesed with the Lo-Fi filter). I live in the 13th, where many internationally renowned street artists have decorated buildings, usually at the invitation of the local Mairie (town hall) or art galleries in the district.

The brown electric boxes which normally go unnoticed (which I assume are for street lights, traffic lights, etc.) make great canvases. So far I've only seen them decorated in the 13th. 

The first four below are by Pimax, who usually does the Marilyn Monroe graffitti around town.

The street artist Moyoshi has a very distinct style, seen in the two boxes below. This series is numbered (here #05 and #07 of 13 total). His work is often in street art galleries, such as Le Lavo//Matic.

This artwork below is part of my neighborhood's artists' network Lézarts de la Bièvre, which is having their Portes Ouvertes June 13-14. Sorry, I'm not sure who the artist is! 

And here are some other interesting street art works I've seen around Paris this week, the first two from a large street mural in the 13th, Rue Boussingault in the 13th.

This one is from the Rue des Recollets in the 10th.

And this below was seen on a funky 1950s (?) building along the Petite Ceinture rail-to-trail path in the 15th.

These painting below of Dali and Serge Gainesbourg are on the facade of a tattoo shop next to the Jardin des Plantes (5th), so they're not technically street art, but they convey the same feel and I like them.

If you're a street art fan, there are several events coming up that you might like:

-  June 5th: wrap-party for the end of the Artiste-Ouvrier exposition at Lavo//Matik, 6-10pm

- June 7th: a street art auction of 93 lots at the Blancs-Manteaux Auction (Marais), from 3pm

- June 13th: 10th annual Murs Ouvertes opening night at at Lavo//Matik, 3-9:30pm

- June 14th: the annual Salon Emmaüs flea market for charity will have street artists on site to decorate any items of your choosing, at Porte de Versailles Expo Hall 9:30am-7pm, €3 entrance

Saturday
May302015

Why You Should Try Wine in a Box

I was on one of my morning runs when I passed a new shop in my neighborhood with cute lavender-colored boxes in the window, so I stopped for a photo. Wine in a box! They looked so cute I went back for an apéro that evening with my friend Lisa to check it out.

Click to read more ...

Friday
May292015

Difinitive Removal of Locks from Parisian Bridges

Because of the considerable damage and deterioration of the Pont des Arts and the Pont de l’Archevêché due to the thousands and thousands of rusting metal padlocks (aka "Love Locks"), Paris authorities have finally decided to remove them for good.

The Pont des Arts will be closed to the public June 1-7 while the locks are removed, and the bridge's panels will be temporarily replaced with an art installation of works from international artists. Plexiglas panels will be permanently installed in the fall to prevent tourists from attaching their padlocks (some test panels were already installed in 2014, photo below).

Photo courtesy Mairie de Paris/Henri Garat

No word on what will be done for the other bridges that are suffering the same fate (such as the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, aka Pont de Solférino, and the bridges of the Canal St-Martin), but it's a great start in putting a halt to the rampant vandalism that has turned the bridges of Paris into dangerous eyesores.

While some tourists think the "Love Locks" are a Parisian tradition, it's actually a fad started in 2006 after the teenage lovers in the book I Want You by Italian author Federico Moccia attached their padlock to the Ponte Milvio in Rome. The book was made into a film in 2007, and by 2010 the practice spread to Paris. In 2014 the first panel collapsed under the weight on the Pont des Arts, but it didn't dissuade tourists from continuing to attach their padlocks to any surface they could find. 

Wednesday
May272015

Paris on Periscope

This is a short video of my friend Claire about her experience as an early adopter (and #superuser) of the cool new livestreaming app Periscope. The sound isn't great, but you can hear her better than the interviewer.

If you're on Periscope you can see Paris in all its glory on Claire's feed, @clairewad (she's a #superuser with over 3000 followers). She streams sunsets, walks along the Seine, and visits of Paris monuments and museums. You can see Paris through her eyes, ask her questions, and make comments (the screenshot here is from my inaugural peek on the Periscope). Unlike many "Scopers" who just broadcast without interaction, Claire is constantly chatting with her followers, answering questions and saying hello to each new person who logs on as she strolls along.

Claire is originally from New Zealand with a French mother, and has been living in Paris for 20 years (we've known each other for almost 19 of them!), so she really knows the city like a local. You can learn more about Claire and her Periscope tours on her website Paris with Claire.  

FOR PERISCOPE NEWBIES

Even though my dad sent me to computer camp when I was just 9 years old,  I'm always the last one to know about any cool new technology (still bitter Texas Instruments stopped making computers right after I learned to code my TI99/4a). If, like me, you don't know anything about Periscope, you can read What is Periscope? and Periscope: Four Ways It's Shaking Up Media. The free Periscope iPhone app launched a few months ago, and the Android version came out a few days ago. You log in using your Twitter account (they created the app). After that, it's a bit crazy surfing around and watching videos. I recommend figuring out how it works before accidentally turning your own camera on and broadcasting your morning face to the world.