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

Through February 19
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is Ice Hockey, though it will be less brutal than the NHL!

January 11 - February 21
The annual winter sales, aka Les Soldes. Honestly, the rules about when and how sales can take place in France since the economic crise have essentially made the sales irrelevant. There are sales all of the time now (often called "promotion" or "7 Jours BHV" or something like that). 

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

Entries in Adventures (25)

Thursday
Feb022017

Secret Tip: The Train to Chantilly

Did you know you could hop on a train in Paris and in less than a half hour be in the historic town of Chantilly? Before you plan your own escape to the countryside, find out the secret to getting the right ticket!

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Tuesday
Dec132016

A Day Trip to the Strasbourg Christmas Market

If you want to experience a real French Christmas market, don't miss Strasbourg's famous Marché de Noël. Europe’s oldest Christmas market was founded in Strasbourg in 1570. Four and a half centuries later it continues to celebrate Alsatian holiday traditions with over 300 chalets in a dozen locations throughout the picturesque town of cobblestone pedestrian streets and half-timbered buildings with decorated facades and twinkling lights. I’ve visited several times and have taken friends and family, and the Strasbourg Marché de Noël never fails to impress. Disneyland wished it looked this cute!

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Thursday
Jun162016

Some Tips on Using Vélib City Bikes in Paris

I love using the Vélib to get around Paris, especially now that it’s so nice outside (read: between sudden thunder showers it’s actually sunny and gorgeous). It looks a lot scarier to ride a bike in Paris than it feels when you’re actually on the bike. Maybe it’s the high of cruising through the capital with the wind in your hair, but it’s very quickly addictive.

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Saturday
Dec192015

Steam Locomotive at the Living Train Museum

Choo choo!

Last weekend I went on the monthly Ile-de-France hike led by Abbey Bookshop owner Brian Spence. To get a peek at the annual Medieval Christmas Market, our destination for the "Rando de Noël" was the historic town of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Champagne countryside.  

As usual, about 20 of us met at the Gare de l'Est at 10am to take the train out of Paris to Longueville, where we'd begin our relatively short, three-hour hike (and we take the train back, because there are only so many hours of daylight in winter). But before we began our trek, we got to make a short detour to visit the Musée Vivant du Chemin de Fer, or Living Train Museum. 

This museum is located in a listed 1910 SNCF rail depot at Longueville just a few minutes' walk from the regular SNCF train station. The depot has a completely wooden, circular frame, housing a impressive collection of old trains, including a Train Bleu car, Pullman cars, and a dozen steam locomotives dating back to the early 20th century. 

One of the first trains from the 19th century, showing the 1st, 2nd and (short-lived) 3rd class compartments. 

More than a museum, it's also a restoration workshop, and the trains regularly take small passenger trips. On the day we visited they were preparing one steam locomotive for the Provins Christmas Market, the Train du Père Noël (which gets completely booked about two months in advance). 

The next two events are the Valentine's Dinner in the Train Bleu car on February 13th, and the Easter Egg Train on March 26 (steam locomotive trip from Longueville to Provins). Keep an eye on their website or FB page for registration information (it's not up yet). 

There is very little information in English on their website, but if you visit the museum, the staff are very friendly and will explain as much as they can to you about the trains in English. You can get there by car, but it's very easy by train from Paris (the Transilien train from the Gare de L'Est station), then a five-minute walk from the Longueville station. 

Musée Vivant du Chemin de Fer - Dépôt des Machines
3 Rue Louis Platriez 
77650 LONGUEVILLE
Tel: 01 64 08 60 62  
E-mail: contact@ajecta.org  
Website: www.ajecta.org 
Low Season Hours: October 16 to April 30 on Sundays from 1-5pm.
High Season Hours: May 1 to October 15 Saturdays and Sunday 10:30am-6pm.
Entry fee: €4

If you'd like information about the next Abbey Bookshop hike, stop into the store (29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th, M° Cluny-Sorbonne or St-Michel) and Brian will be happy to give you all of the information.

Our intrepid hike leader Brian, map and walking stick in hand. 

 

Saturday
Oct172015

Peloton Café and Bike About Tours

Last week, when the temperatures in Paris briefly took a dive below 50°F, I finally got a chance to pop into the newly-opened Le Peloton, a café run by Christian Osburn and Paul Barron, founders of the city's popular Bike About Tours.  

I had just finished a walking tour of the Marais and needed to thaw out, so I thought I'd just try a cup of their locally roasted Belleville coffee, but when I sat down at the large counter, the first thing that caught my eye was the apple tart. "Freshly baked!" said Christian. It's okay to eat dessert before lunch if it's home-made, right? I also had a bottle of their Luscombe hot ginger beer (as in spicy, not warm), another weakness of mine. The cold removes all of my resistance, I'll admit it! 

Le Peloton is located in the Marais district on a quiet street between Rue de Rivoli and the Seine, just behind Hôtel de Ville. Most of the seats are around the bar, so as people came in and sat down for a coffee, it was easy to chat. It's not the kind of coffee house where people hide in a corner with their laptop. While Christian performed barista duties, Paul welcomed a group of cyclists who finished up their Bike About Tour at the café. These expats (from the US and New Zealand) started Bike About Tours ten years ago, so we often cross paths on our respective tour routes around Paris. 

I'm always impressed when anyone can start a small business in Paris and make it work, but their tours also happen to be really good! (and I sincerely hope you'd trust me before you'd trust TripAdvisor, but they are #1 there, too) So many other bike tour companies hire guides who either barely speak comprehensible English or are so new to Paris they have no knowledge of the city beyond the Wikipedia text they've memorized (yes, I've been spying; I'm the one pretending to to be checking my phone when a bike tour stops for "commentary"). 

Much like Secrets of Paris, this grassroots tour company gives a real insider's look at the city (and Versailles and Champagne, too), keep their groups small, and avoid the typical generic Paris tour circuits followed by most bike tours. They also support the international charity, World Bicycle Relief, which I think is awesome. And now they're keeping Parisians well-caffeinated! For the moment the only snacking options are baked goods made fresh locally (pies and cookies), but they hinted they might look into waffles. Who doesn't like waffles?

Le Peloton Café
17 rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, 4th
M° Pont Marie or Hôtel de Ville
They're currently open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm, but since they're less than a month old they may adjust that as needed, so check the Facebook page

Cycling and coffee fans can also read the excellent article in Sprudge, In Paris, Exploring Coffee by Bicycle

Monday
May252015

Bike Tours of the Parisian Countryside

 

You're not in Paris anymore, Toto (but you're not far, either!)

The weather in Paris is finally getting nice enough to enjoy the sunshine and start craving a bit of nature and tranquility. And while there are actually many green spaces throughout the city, some hidden and almost secluded, there's nothing like a bike ride through the countryside just outside Paris to escape the masses and reconnect with nature. 

So what is the best way to experience the Parisian countryside without any hassle? Contact Bruce from French Mystique Bike Tours, and he will take care of everything. Originally from Boston, Bruce moved to France in 2008 and spent his free time exploring the little towns, villages and countryside just outside Paris with nothing but a Michelin map and his bike. A few years ago he started French Mystique Bike tours to share his favorite routes with visitors (and Parisians) looking to truely get off the beaten path.

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