Fortune teller machines, antique carousel horses, a Hall of Mirrors, a unicorn who plays piano, vintage games and masked Venetian singers...the Musée des Arts Forains, or Carnival Arts Museum, is a private collection of vintage and antique decor, games and rides from carnivals, country fairs, traveling shows, curiosity cabinets and exotic gardens.
Herb Lester, a British company that makes beautifully-designed maps printed on recycled paper with a quirky retro feel, has come out with a new specialty map, Paris: Small Shops. Written by the Paris-based writer Anne Stark Ditmeyer of Prêt à Voyager. It includes 40 small boutiques, many of them dating back several hundred years or hidden in secret passages. Other Paris maps in the collection include Paris en Famille, Paris for Pleasure-Seekers, and It’s Nice to be Alone in Paris. All maps are available on the Herb Lester website for £4 each, or you can ask for them at your local bookstore.
Despite the many screw caps in the US market, French bottles of wine and Champagne still come with corks. And these corks can be recycled at any Nicolas wine shop in France. They are sold to manufacturers to be reused (in décor, insulation and other building materials), with the proceeds being used to plant new cork oak trees in France (8000 corks = 1 tree). While you’re at Nicolas, don’t forget they not only sell wine, but also bags of ice!
If you’re planning to visit a Paris museum or monument, do yourself a favor and double-check the opening hours and entry fees on the OFFICIAL websites. Don’t rely on printed or online guidebooks, on the Paris tourism office website, or on blogs.
Why not? Because they often have outdated information that is completely wrong. And if you’re planning your whole day – or even your vacation itinerary – around this misinformation, imagine how much life will suck when the museum is no longer open on that particular day, or the tickets are not free anymore, or the particular artwork or room you wanted to see is temporarily closed? Or the Paris Museum Pass you thought you could use to “Skip the Line” doesn’t work at Ste-Chapelle, Versailles, nor Notre Dame’s towers?
Here are just a few examples of what you may haved missed:
Old info: The Louvre is free to everyone the first Sunday of the month.
Correct info: The Louvre is free to everyone the first Sunday of the month ONLY from October through March (this changed in 2014, read article here).
Breaking News: As of July 1st, 2015 the entrance fee will be a flat €15 and include the permanent collections as well as the temporary expositions (until now there were separate tickets of €12 for the permanent collection and €13 for the temporary expositions, or €16 for a joint ticket, so it’s actually €1 cheaper).
Usual Chateau Gardens Opening Hours: Daily 8am-8:30pm
Actual Chateau Garden Opening Hours: The gardens close at 5:30pm (last entry 5pm) EVERY Saturday from June 20-September 19, and on June 26, 27, 30, July 1, 2, 8, 9, 10. Check Versailles opening hours here.
Random Closures: Versailles, like many monuments including Ste-Chapelle, sometimes close because of private events, and it doesn’t matter that you already booked your entrance tickets for that date six months in advance (anyone who showed up May 29th for their visit found the chateau and gardens closed for “a private event” at 3pm could only be reimbursed their tickets by emailing a written request and bank information).
Free First Sunday: Versailles is ONLY free the first Sunday of the month in low season, November through March.
No Skipping the Lines: If you have an advanced-purchased ticket or Paris Museum Pass, you still have to line up with everyone else to go through security. ONLY annual pass holders have priority access (and, of course, private tours).
Reminder: The Grand Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate do not open until noon. So if you decide to get there early to “beat the crowds” (ha!), you’re better off arriving after noon and visiting these first, then going to the chateau after 4:30pm (going the opposite direction of the masses is the best way to avoid them).
Closed Rooms: Due to renovations, there are many rooms of this History of Paris museum which are closed, including the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the French Revolution. In other words, all of the best rooms! Yes, it’s a free museum, so not a huge deal, but French Revolution buffs looking forward to visiting this museum will be disappointed.
No-Photo Rules Change: Up until this spring it was forbidden to take photos of the artworks in the newly-renovated Musée d’Orsay. But after a French cultural minister was shamed for taking photos of the artworks and posting them on Instagram, the museum now allows photos again. However flashes, tripods and selfies-sticks are still not allowed.
Correct Info: Closed on Tuesdays. This changed when the museum re-opened after massive renovations in 2012, but many sites, including the Paris Tourism Office website, still claim it’s closed on Monday. These things happen, which is why you should always check the official website!
Other Paris Museums & Monuments that ONLY free the first Sunday of the month in low season, from November until March:
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Photo courtesy CityScoot
First there was Velib’, the municipal bike-sharing program. Then came Autolib’ with its cute electric cars. Now the City of Paris is now beta-testing a new program called CityScoot, a self-service electric scooter rental program scheduled to roll out in 2016 as part of the Paris Climate Conference initiative to “go green”.
You can sign up to be one of the beta-testers if you live in Paris (and can fill out the French sign-up form). As these are small electric scooters, a driving license isn’t required if you’re born before 1988. You can read more about the program here.