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Newsletter #103: January 2011


* Bonjour, Je suis Française
* New Taxi Lights
* Multicultural Dinners in Paris
* Artisan Fans & Champagne Country
* RT Flights from Paris to NYC €369 TTC
* Virtual Visit of the Palais Royal
* French Films…that Don’t Suck
* Rent a VW Camper Van
* Events at the Vincennes Hippodrome
* Food Markets Open in the Afternoon
* New Tag-Along Reconnaissance Tours
* Paris Dining Roundup
* Calendar, Tweets & Facebook

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* Bonjour, Je suis Française*

On January 13 I finally got to sing La Marseillaise and pose with Marianne in my beret for my French naturalization ceremony with about 40 other foreign nationals. It was actually a lot of fun and good-humored. The people who work at the Bureau of Immigration must be the friendliest bureaucrats in France! There were no oaths or solemn swearing of allegiance, only a few reminders about the fourth French Republican Value (after Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité): Laïcité. I also got a nice little form letter from President Sarkozy in my welcome package reminding me that, now that I’m French, I’d better follow the French laws. At least now they can’t deport me if I don’t. ;-)

* New Taxi Lights *

I like the way Paris keeps getting more user-friendly each year. By the end of 2011 it will be a lot easier to see if a taxi driving down the street in Paris is free or taken. That’s because the old system of “the whole sign lit up or just the little bulbs” is being progressively replaced by new signs that are green when the taxi is available, and red when they’re taken. The best part is that it’s a lot easier to see the green lights from a distance at night when walking down the street.

* Multicultural Dinners in Paris *

Every last Thursday of the month, the Mairie of the 4th (2 place Baudoyer, 4th) hosts Le Goût de l’Autre, a special dinner for locals to share a meal cooked by someone in their community from another country. Past dinners have been Russian, Chinese, Senegalese, etc. The next dinners are January 27 and February 24. Reserve your spot, only room for 15 people. Price: €6/person, sign up at 06 82 35 57 52 or email legoutdelautre@yahoo.fr

* Artisan Fans & Champagne Country *

The 2011 edition of France Guide Prestige just came out this month, a beautiful magazine published by ATOUT (the France Tourism Development Agency) with a focus on luxury. I wrote two articles for this edition: “Language with Flair” is about two young Parisian women who have brought a historic French fan making company back to life, and “Sweet on Champagne” is about the many gourmet chocolate and pastry boutiques that can be found in Reims (you need something to go with the Champagne, right?) You can read the entire edition online.

* Round Trip Flights from Paris to NYC €369 TTC *

In case you haven’t seen the ads all over the place, XL.com is selling round-trip air tickets to NYC from Paris for just €369 (they have to be purchased before January 31st, but can be used in the summer). That’s a total steal, and the dates that correspond to that rate are clearly posted. Flights to Vegas start at €579. http://www.xlairways.fr

* Virtual Visit of the Palais Royal *

See the Palais Royal like you’re there in this virtual 360° tour by the Ministry of Culture : http://www.visite.culture.gouv.fr (note: pretty soundtrack, Danny Elfman?)

* French Films…that Don’t Suck *

This month in my video film review series I talk about the animated drama Une Vie de Chat, and two romantic comedies, Les Emotifs Anonymes and La Chance de ma Vie. Nominations for Les Césars, the French film awards, were just announced today, with Des Hommes et des Dieux getting 11 nominations alone. Stay tuned for a review!

* Rent a VW Camper Van *

I once dated a guy with a vintage 1967 VW minibus. I learned to drive a manual transmission (and how to push-start it when the clutch cable snapped) and we drove it from Arizona to Minnesota when I started college. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t one of those cool pop-top camping versions. After touring around Europe for three months (in 2000) in a modern motorhome, I imagined how much more fun it would be to do it in one of the old VW Combi’s. Et voila, you can actually rent them just outside Paris (vintage and modern models) for less than the cost of a hotel (don’t ask about gas prices and mileage though, d’oh!) Check out their site at We Van.

* Fun Events at the Vincennes Hippodrome *

I’ve been to every horse track in the region except Vincennes, not being a huge fan of “trotting”, but they’re hosting some very interesting events lately. This Sunday the 23rd is the Journée Nature et Liberté (horse-drawn carriage shuttles from the Joinville RER station, pony rides for kids, a “chevaux en liberté” horse show, stable visits, and a presentation of different kinds of donkeys), next Sunday the 30th is the 90th annual Prix d’Amérique (the most prestigious event in trotting races), and February 5-6 is the Week-end Chocolat! (with chocolate maker stands, ateliers for kids, and plenty of freebies). You can print off free invitations on their website for all of the events. http://www.hippodrome-vincennes.com/

* Food Markets Open in the Afternoon *

Most open-air food markets are only open until 1or 2pm. But there are a few that are open in the afternoon until 8:30pm, including the Marché Baudoyer (4th, M° Hôtel de Ville) on Wednesdays, the Marché Goerges-Brassens (15th, M° Convention) on Fridays, and the Marché St-Honoré (1st, M° Tuilleries) on Wednesdays. Bookmark the full list of Paris markets at http://www.paris.fr

* New Tag-Along Reconnaissance Tours *

A lot of readers ask me where I find my “secrets”. If you see my desk…well, here’s a photo. Like all journalists, I collect a new pile of magazine and newspaper clippings, brochures, flyers, press kits, vernissage invitations, business cards…and don’t even get me started on the number of sites I have bookmarked. Of course, I have to check out these places in person before I can write about them or recommend them to my tour clients. Recently one of my clients traveling solo to Paris asked if she could “tag along” on one my reconnaissance missions. “It might be totally lame,” I warned her. She thought it was great seeing what my job was like behind the scenes, and thus the idea of “Tag-Along Tours” were born. What will we see? We could check out the decor at new hotels, dine at the latest recommended bistros, peek into new ethical trade boutiques, trek to the far edge of Paris to see an intriguing exposition in a reconverted factory, meet with an artisan honey producer, or see a stand-up show in English that will be running the rest of the season. I have a long list to choose from! Two-hour tag-along tours start at €150 for 1-2 people. See my private tour page for more info.

* Paris Dining Roundup *

This month I finally got to Chateaubriand for a lovely dinner (the link is to the Food Snob review, which pretty much says it all). My only addition would be to make sure your table isn’t next to the bar, where the masses without reservations pile up and stare at you sadly as they wait for a table. The wine list was so good, that all I was sober enough to remember about Le Dauphin next door (where we retreated for a night-cap) was that I felt like I was in a 1970s marble box. Sorry Rem, it’s just odd.  Today I had the €18 lunch menu at Kunitoraya 2, and it’s now my favorite Japanese eaterie in Paris (I love how any place that uses Paris metro tiles in the décor looks “New Yorker” to French journalists). On the way back, I stopped into Le Stube for some amazing little chocolate-coated sugar cookies. Opened last spring, this adorable little German deli and tearoom serves currywurst and gourmandise to eat in or to go…the strudels look amazing! I also stopped by the new “Horror Picture Tea: Patisserie Rock”, which advertises itself as a new Rock Tea Room and Tattoo Parlor. It’s an old bistro at 95 Rue St Honoré that, aside from some new wallpaper with little skulls on it and the tattoo shop downstairs, doesn’t seem to have its act together yet. On a Wednesday afternoon there were no pastries, no menus (“we’re working on it”) and no people. It still looks like an old bistro.

* Secrets of Paris Calendar, Tweets & Facebook *

Don’t forget to have a peek at the Secrets of Paris calendar for upcoming events. As always, follow me on Twitter to find out about last-minute events and news in Paris. You can also follow the Secrets of Paris on Facebook (yes, I’m everywhere, bwah ha ha!)

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