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

May 15-17
One of the biggest flower shows in France, Journées des Plantes de Courson, takes place this weekend at the Chateau de Chantilly, just 45 minutes north of Paris from the Gare du Nord. Entry €20 (or €17 if you get your tickets online before May 14).

May 16
Check out your favorite Paris museum at night during the 11th annual Nuit Européenne des Musées, when all over Europe museums stay open all night...for free! 

June 21
Celebrate Fête de la Musique in 17th-century aristocratic style at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte for their annual costumes dance event, La Journée Grand Siècle, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the original owner, Nicolas Fouquet. There will be an elegant picnic in the chateau gardens, live music and dancing, as well as carriage rides and sword-fighting shows. If you don't have a costume gown you can rent one on-site from €17. 

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

Tuesday
May052015

Don’t be Afraid of the Best Western 

I rarely have tour clients who book rooms at the Best Western affiliated hotels in Paris. I think people are afraid it will be a generic chain hotel. But in fact the hotels are all independent. They are simply members of the Best Western marketing group that allows them (after passing certain standards, of course) to use the Best Western or Best Western Premier brand. Each one is completely different in style, atmosphere, size and of course location.

Some are recently renovated, stylish boutique hotels, some are rather old-fashioned and dated, but many of them are in the best neighborhoods in Paris and priced far below other hotels in the same area. Several located in the 6th district (around St-Germain-des-Prés and Luxembourg Gardens) are below €200/night, all of them are below €300. If you’ve got member points, you have a lot to choose from! If not, just keep in mind that you shouldn’t let the Best Western label scare you off, judge each hotel on its own merits (checking out the descriptions, photos, user reviews, etc). You may be happily surprised!

Monday
May042015

Last-minute Tickets at Opéra Garnier


Although the Opéra Bastille has had the discounted last-minute tickets for €5 available since their opening, the Opéra Palais Garnier has only just started offering the option this season. Known as “6thcategory seats”, they cost €10 and go on sale one hour before the curtain at the Palais Garnier box office, while supplies last!

There are also special rates for students under 28 (with student ID) who purchase tickets at the box office 30 minutes before curtain. Note that seats regularly go back on sale on the official Opéra de Paris website, so even if a show you wanted to see is unavailable, keep checking back, or look at the official Bourse d’Echange to see if anyone else is reselling their seats (at face price). 

Sunday
May032015

Museum News: Renovations & Night Openings

If you have your heart set on visiting several Paris museums when you’re in town, be sure to check in advance that they’re open (or that the collection you want to see is open). There are several currently closed (or partially closed) for renovations. On the plus side, many museums also have late opening hours to help avoid the morning crowds, highly recommended, and you get to sleep in!

The Carnavalet History of Paris Museum is partially closed (most of the ground floor apartments) and there are long lines just to get the free ticket, no dates mentioned for reopening.

The Modern Art Collections (1905-1980) of the Centre Pompidou reopen May 27th (night opening at the Pompidou until 11pm on Thursdays).

The main collection of the Rodin Museum is closed through November, with just the gardens and temporary expositions open (until 8:45pm Wednesday nights).

The dome of the Pantheon is still under construction, but the building remains open (exceptionally closed mornings May 22-28 for official ceremonies).

The Louvre Pyramid entrance is open during renovations of the guest welcome area below it, although the gift shop is housed in a temporary building in the courtyard for the next two years (Louvre is open until 9:45pm Wednesday and Friday).

Victor Hugo’ House in the place des Vosges is partially closed (his living quarters) until June 2nd.

And if you’re heading out to Disneyland (hey, don’t judge!), Space Mountain is closed for renovations through the end of July).

For other evening cultural excursions, the Grand Palais expositions (including the wildly popular Vélazquez retrospective) are now open until 10pm Wednesday-Saturday.  Notre Dame Cathedral is open weekend evenings in May and June at 9:15pm for a special audiovisual show with music (free entry).

Also, be aware that because of additional Vigipirate (anti-terrorist) security checks, lines in some places will be longer than usual, including Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle, even if you have a Museum Pass. 

Saturday
May022015

Hidden Shops in Parisian Courtyards

Visitors to Paris love taking photos of the large carriage doors that guard the entrance to the city’s historic apartment buildings, but they rarely venture beyond. But not all of them are locked. If you see a plaque at the entrance, there are likely offices and a few shops in the courtyards of these buildings, open to the public during opening hours. Two of my favorite French boutiques are hidden inside these courtyards.

On the Left Bank, I’ve become a total addict of La Compagnie du Kraft (LCK), which produce refillable Kraft paper notebooks with cardboard or leather covers right outside Paris (working by hand, they are proudly “The least productive producer of notebooks in the western world”). They are at the back of the courtyard Cour de Saxe at 12 Rue Jacob, 6th. Drop on by, they all speak English and include embossing of initials on your leather-bound notebooks.

On the Right Bank, Caroline De Marchi makes luxury leather goods, specifically purses, designed in Paris and handmade in Italy. Her boutique, at 217 rue Saint‐Honoré, 1st, is just a few steps from Colette, but once you step through the doors of the building and walk to the end of the second courtyard, you’ll feel miles from the crowds. My favorite bag this season is the adorable Cubo Zèbre & Jaune Citron, a bit out of my budget. No worries if the shop seems out of yours, the friendly staff at the boutique welcome anyone who is curious about the brand…word of mouth is always the best press!  

Friday
Apr102015

Newsletter #151: April 2015

In this Issue:
* Where to Get Parisian Garden Chairs
* Best Baguettes in Paris
* New Discount Paris Airport Bus
* Three Reasons to get to BnF
* Museum Expos for History Addicts
* Visit a Stained Glass Artisan
* Where to Get a Quick Parisian Updo
* Free Student Housing with Seniors 
* Puces getting Posh
* Houseplant SOS
* French Visas for Millennials 
* Suburban Kids Helping the Homeless 
* Share Your Paris Apartment with Heather 
* Paris Travel Planning

Click to read more ...

Friday
Mar132015

Renewing Your American Passport in Paris

Every ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it's not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash. 

Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the "approved" format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.

Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can't do it at the mailing counter).

2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn't let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).

Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home. 

Total cost: €171.95

Total time: 2 hours (plus "4-6 weeks" to receive my new passport)

Annoyance level: High

The US Embassy is only 20 minutes from my flat, but they won't let you come to the Embassy in person to renew and pick up your passport, which would save on the Chronopost envelopes and cash mandat fees and the trips to La Poste (I'd rather wait in line at the awesome US Embassy than my boring neighborhood post office). The only time you can go to the Embassy is to get a new passport, if your name has legally changed, or to replace a stolen or damaged passport, and even then, if you live here (ie it's not urgent) you need an appointment. And taking a peek, I see the earliest one available is April 17th. 

So now I'm waiting to see if my new passport will arrive before my next trip to the US in June! 

As an aside, I'm also getting my first French passport. I currently have a French National ID card (issued free to all French citizens as proof of ID, and can be used traveling in Europe). My appointment for that is April 2nd, at the police station a block from my flat, and the cost is €86, which I can pay with Timbres Fiscaux (special stamps you can buy quickly with cash at any tabac or even online). Official French passport photos can be purchased in any photomat in the Paris metro (usually €5 for 4). So why not just get a French passport and use that instead of my US one? Because it's illegal for me to enter the United States with a foreign passport (one of the rules of double nationality). Still, I think in a pinch it's nice to have both on hand. Plus I won't have to wait (or go in a roundabout way) to go to Cuba. :-) 

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