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

Entries in French Culture (54)


Does anyone still read the Pariscope?

I was going through some old files this weekend and found a Pariscope I had saved from May 1996 (above left) with a page on classic films dog-eared (I like to think I was going to watch The Bicycle Thief since I was obsessed with Italian neo-realism in college, but it's more likely I was planning to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show). For some reason I imagined the Pariscope was no more, like the Minitel or the Bi-Bop mobile phone. But passing by the newsstand on the way to the market, there it was (above right), neatly stacked, and still a steal at just €0.70. So I bought one, and it was like traveling back in time.  

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, the Pariscope is a weekly print magazine, about half the size of a regular magazine, which has come out every Wednesday since 1965 to coincide with the film schedule (cinemas change the films every Wednesday, when premiers are shown; that's why sometimes you get big American blockbusters showing in France two days before the more typical Friday premiers in America).

Aside from a detailed schedule of every single movie showing in every single cinema in Paris (and until you see them all in one spot like this, it's hard to appreciate the variety, depth and diversity of the film offerings in Paris), it also has restaurant reviews, the latest festivals, theatre, conferences and trade shows, museum and gallery shows, children's activities, and music concerts and festivals of all genres. It's thorough yet succinct. Read through the black-and-white newsprint pages and you feel like you know exactly what's going on and where.

Unlike the internet, you don't have endless clicking through mazes of information, some out of date, cluttered with ads, blinking images and videos, and only partial listings. There is even, quaintly, a page of "Numéros Utiles" with emergency services, weather, traffic, airports, taxis, and pharmacies open 24/7. 

For some reason, it just seems more simple than Googling for this info and getting 7 billion results to sift through. In 1996 it was just 3 francs (about €0.45), and although the price has gone up and the little English section written by the TimeOut staff  is gone, it hasn't visibly changed at all since 1996. There is no website, but in one nod to modernity there is a free smartphone application if you're averse to shelling out €0.70 for the print version. 

To preserve some semblance of journalistic integrity I should probably mention the Pariscope's competitor, l'Officiel des Spectacles, is also still going strong (and has a website). But much like Coke vs Pepsi or Burger King vs McDonald's, once you pick the one you like, you never cross over to the other camp. 


Hand-crafted Artist Pastels in a Hidden Boutique 

Despite being the oldest manufacturer of artist pastels in the world, there are many reasons why you've probably never heard of La Maison du Pastel. Like any true luxury item, these pastels are expensive and rare. And not because of marketing. These pastels are crafted with the highest quality ingredients, each one hand-rolled using the same technique the Roché family has been using since they started the company 1720.

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Self-Guided Tour of Edith Piaf's Paris

The singer Edith Piaf (1915-1963) is a legend in France, usually known by Americans for her 1947 hit La Vie en Rose and her defiant classic, Non, Je ne Regrette Rien. For the centennial of her birth the French National Library (BnF) has a major exhibition, PIAF, about her life, her music, and her loves. "An entire room just about her lovers?!" said my friend in disbelief as we walked through the exhibit. "Bien sûr!" You can even see the dress worn and the Oscar won by actress Marion Cotillard, who portrayed Piaf in the film La Môme (aka La Vie en Rose in the US). If you visit the exhibit, there is a neat little takeaway bonus: a free 10-page guide in English titled "In the Footsteps of Edith Piaf" which is a 4-hour, self-guided tour through Paris.

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Volunteering on Organic Farms in France


Would you like a seasonal work experience on an organic farm in France in return for food and lodging? Try WWOOFing! WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and although it was started in 1971, some people don't realize it's still going strong. If you're not afraid of hard work, practicing your broken French, and meeting new people, then WWOOFing is an excellent way for those on a tight budget to live in France for up to three months.

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What French Expats Find Weird about America 

There are many blogs by American expats in Paris that like to point out all of the "weird" things about France. Things that the French, of course, don't find strange at all, for example:

- The toilet is always separate from the bathroom

- They put the bread directly on the table, next to the plate, when eating

- They require fitted, speedo-style bathing suits in public swimming pools

- They wear scarves even in the summer, with a t-shirt

- Medicine is all behind the counter at the pharmacy

What most Americans don't realize is that the French living among them in the United States also find a few things to be rather strange.

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Controversy as Charlie Hebdo Honored at PEN Awards

Last night the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo were honored for the courage at the PEN American Center, despite protests from some writers who still mistakenly think these cartoonists, including the ones murdered in their office by masked gunmen in January, promote racism and religious hatred. Anyone who took even five minutes to read about the lifelong work and beliefs of these cartoonists would learn they are actively anti-racist. Offensive? Sure. But they attack ideas and beliefs, not people (unlike the hate group in Texas which actively promotes hatred of actual people based on their race and religion).

Several writers have admirably responded to the protests, including Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker (PEN has every Right to Honor Charlie Hebdo, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic (The Dangerous Myths about Charlie Hebdo), who includes links to many more excellent rebuttals, a saucy article by James Kirchick in The Walrus (Weaker than the Sword), and an interview with one of Charlie Hebdo’s editors Jean-Baptist Thoret on NPR’s All Things Considered. Check out France 24’s video coverage of the awards ceremony (including uncensored comments by Salman Rushdie).