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
* Travel Writing Workshops
* 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 July 31
The 22nd annual Paris Jazz Festival: come enjoy traditional Parisian and international jazz music in the Bois de Vincennes's Parc Floral. Entrance to the park is 6 €.

Through August 21
The 30th annual Fête des Tuileries funfair with carnival rides at Tuileries Gardens starts today, free entry, rides with individual tickets. Plenty of food stands, too!

Through August 27
La Nuit aux Invalides is an impressive sound and light show in the courtyard of Invalides highlighting the monument's history (Louis XIV, Napoléon, Charles De Gaulle), in English on Monday and Thursday nights. Tickets €18 (adult price). See the teaser video.

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 Make a Difference (50)

Sunday
May292016

Do You Know the French Phrase for “Stroke”? 

The Protection Civile de Paris, or PCP, is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization of first-aid responders in Paris. You might notice their presence in the blue and orange uniforms manning first-aid posts at public events like music festivals or sporting events. They also reinforce fire department paramedics and SAMU ambulances by acting as first-responders for emergency medical calls, natural disasters, and first-aid assistance for the homeless. There are over 600 volunteers of all ages and professions currently serving in the PCP.

They also educate the public by offering beginner and advanced first-aid certification courses (including PSC1, PSE1 and PSE2). I took the PSC1 (Prévention Secours Civiques) last weekend in my neighborhood and not only learned about how to use the emergency heart defibrillators found in most public building in Paris, but also how to assist the most common medical emergencies, including how to properly make an emergency call.

For example, 18 will get you the fire department paramedics (they can stabilize someone and get them to a hospital), while 15 will get you the SAMU, which sends the doctor directly to you (with an ambulance if needed). All numbers, including 17 for the police, go to the same central switchboard, so it’s not actually a big deal if you can’t recall which number to dial or aren’t sure, but it’s faster if you do. Don’t speak French? Dial 112 anywhere within Europe and you’ll get an emergency switchboard available in every EU language (including English). Best of all, these numbers work for free on any phone, even if they’re locked or out of network range (the emergency network is separate).

I highly recommend taking a class to brush up on your Heimlich maneuver and CPR skills, and also to learn some very important vocabulary you’ll never need until you really need it: a stroke in French is an “accident vasculaire cérébral” (or AVC). 

Monday
Apr252016

Viator Promoting Vandalism Tours of Paris 

UPDATE April 26th: Thanks to the public outcry and many of your emails, Viator has removed the "Love Lock" tour from its website! The FB page remains active, but hopefully not for long. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share this article and to speak out against the destruction of Paris's beautiful bridges, it makes a difference! 

In the latest episode of heartbreak and disgust, the world's largest reseller of tours is promoting vandalism tours, and the beautiful bridge overlooking the 863-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral is completely covered in ugly scaffolding after its railing were destroyed by the rusting padlocks known as "Love Locks". 

Le Pont de l'Archevêché behind Notre Dame, behind scaffolding until late summer 2016 because of the rusting padlocks.

Are you as sick of reading about the destructive "love locks" as I am writing about them? Unfortunately until tourists stop attaching padlocks to the city's historic bridges and monuments, I'm going to keep reminding you (and I'm hoping you'll pass it on to your friends and family and colleagues when they travel to Paris). 

Despite the massive, ongoing efforts of the Mayor of Paris and citizen campaigns like No Love Locks, there are still idiots attaching padlocks anywhere they feel like it. Yesterday I discovered by chance that Viator is now marketing a vandalism tour where couples pay €120 per person for the "Love Locks Workshop while Drinking Champagne". On this "tour" they get to choose and customize a padlock while drinking Champagne, then "when your Love Lock is ready your guides will conduct you to hang it up on the poetic Pont de l'Archevêché, where there's a great view of Notre Dame." I almost threw up reading this. Viator, owned by TripAdvisor, is the largest reseller of tours in the world. As I mentioned in my article What You Don’t Know about TripAdvisor (which now has 80k views!), Viator lets anyone post any tour at all without verifying legality, let alone legitimacy. There is no way to flag the tour, nor a "contact" link to ask Viator to remove it. The "guide" Eléonore Chevallier and her husband also have a Facebook page promoting the destructive tours.

View of the Pont de l'Archevêché from the Left Bank, covered in scaffolding.

The little red heart up at the top of this sign says "Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. No more love locks!"

The most distressing thing is that the railings of the specific bridge they mention has been completely ripped out because of the damage and are now under scaffolding. The pictures above are from this weekend, and the ones below from last summer.

The Pont de l'Archevêché covered in rusting padlocks and graffiti, from summer 2015.

Unfortunately each time the City of Paris finds a way to prevent padlocks from being attached to a bridge, the vandals just find a new place to attach them: I noticed there are now padlocks being attached to the fencing in front of the Cathedral. Disgusting!

Speak out against this horrific practice, and please tell your friends visiting Paris not to participate in the destruction of this beautiful city! 

Tuesday
Apr052016

Another Parisian Bridge Liberated from Destructive Padlocks

This morning on my run I was thrilled to see a dozen municipal workers removing padlocks one by one from the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, formerly known as Passerelle Solférino (the pedestrian bridge connecting the Tuileries Gardens to the Musée d'Orsay).

You can see sky through the finished section on the left. They still had the other side of the bridge to liberate...but how to keep idiot vandals from adding more locks all over again? Unlike the Pont des Arts, the architecture of thin metal wires on the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor doesn't allow for the Plexiglas panels that prevent padlocks from being attached. 

If you're interested in more news about the destructive "Love Locks" that are ruining the beautiful historical bridges of Paris, check out the No Love Locks website. 

Friday
Mar112016

Learn How to Save a Life in Paris: Free First-Aid Workshops March 26th

Living in Paris? Consider it part of your civic duty to learn basic first aid, who to call in an emergency, and other useful skills such as how to use the public defibrillators found throughout the city.

To make it super-easy, on Saturday March 26th the Mairie de Paris at Hôtel de Ville, as well as each local arrondissement’s town hall, will be hosting free first aid workshops (in French…essential vocabulary!) conducted by the SAMU, Red Cross, and the Pompiers de Paris as part of their annual Samedi Qui Sauve campaign. #samediquisauve

You’ll need to register online for the 2-hour classes at your mairie by March 24th (ages 12 and up), or you can simply show up to the Hôtel de Ville where there will be first-aid demonstrations, blood donation tents, Q&A sessions, and a chance to learn about volunteer and career opportunities with the Paris emergency services. And kids can check out the paramedics’ trucks! 

Monday
Feb222016

A Fun Fashion Week Event for Normal People

In case you missed all of the hype, Paris Fashion Week is March 1-9. Most of the city’s trendy bars, stylish hotels, and designer concept stores will be overrun by fashion bloggers, models and editors dressed in outrageous outfits that only the fashion world understands. Enjoy the street scene, because regular plebes can’t actually get into the catwalk shows. 

But if you want to check out a fun alternative, head over to L’Archipel a charitable association housed in an amazing 19th-century convent near Gare St-Lazare. Although dedicated to assisting single mothers, they also host many events for the general public to raise funds and awareness in the spirit of solidarity, including yoga classes, knitting workshops, concerts, Sunday brunch in the former nave, and a Saturday "troc" to swap clothing (men’s, women’s or kids), accessories, books, CDs, DVDs, etc. (you get a credit for the Troc Shop for every item you bring). 

On Saturday March 5th Singa will be hosting an inclusive Fashion Show at l'Archipel from 2-6pm, where anyone can participate as a stylist, model, DJ or photographer, with hair and make-up by beauty school students and a photo booth to immortalize your look (sign up if you want to participate). If you just want to watch, the actual show is from 3-4pm, and while waiting you can check out the Troc Shop (bring your used items if you want to trade) or enjoy an organic smoothie from the bar; open noon-7pm. 

Thursday
Jan212016

Freegan Pony: Will this secret restaurant revolutionize the Paris food scene?

A Parisian restaurant hidden in the “bad” part of town has a mission to combat food waste by serving creative, market-fresh cuisine...for the cost of a movie ticket.

Click to read more ...