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Newsletter #106: May 1, 2011

In this Issue:

A New Paris Supper Club
Opera at the Theatre
Treetop Walking
Concierge Services
Tuxes for the Ladies
Airport Services
Coffee Cart
Picnic Season
The Real Paris in Photos
Get Your Paris Library Card
A Very Intimate Secret of Paris
Recent Articles and Posts
Secrets of Paris Calendar

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A New Paris Supper Club
Nothing is more Parisian than the enjoyment of gourmet cuisine and fine art. So Ana, Rosario and Kristi have created a new dining club that brings the two together, “Un Artiste à la Table”. Each week, 12 guests are welcomed in a lovely Parisian apartment in the 17th arrondissement by the young hostesses and their featured artist of the week. This week we got to meet the Brazilian painter and photographer Sandro Oliveira around a meal that featured four different wines and three courses, including one of the best entrecote steaks I’ve ever had in France (with perfectly cooked and seasoned Dauphinois potatos). Our well-traveled hostesses speak English, French, Spanish, Portuguese (and doubtless a few other languages), and the cosmopolitan guests were from France, Italy, Israel, India, Portugal, the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. The event costs €70/person. For more information on the upcoming dinners check out their Facebook page or email: paris@unartistealatable.com

Opéra at the Theatre
Going to the opera isn’t always that easy. Seats in the most popular productions are hard to come by, and even the nosebleed section isn’t cheap. But thanks to a partnership with UGC Cinemas, the opera is now more accessible. It may seem a bit strange to go to the cinema to see an opera, but the Viva l’Opera! screenings are real events. First, they show only the best productions from around the world, such as Faust (Théâtre Antique d’Orange), Carmen (Theatre du Liceu Barcelona), Aïda (Opera de Zurich), Eugene Onegin (The Metropolitan Opera), or La Traviata (La Scala de Milan); second, they are screened on Thursday evenings at several cinemas in and around Paris at €10-28 each; third, the quality of the recording is superior in both sound and view, which makes every viewer feel like they have the best seat in the house. Note that there’s also a bar serving Champagne and sandwiches before the opera and during the intermission. To reserve your places for the current or 2011-2012 season (the abonnements are excellent if you want to see more than one), visit the dedicated website: http://www.vivalopera.fr/

Treetop Walking in the Parc Floral
Accrobranche” is a new eco-adventure activity in the Bois de Vincenne’s Parc Floral (M° Château de Vincennes). Adults and kids (from 6 years and up) can explore the treetops through a 3-hour circuit of suspension bridges, zip lines, and rope ladders up to 50 feet above the ground (harnesses, helmets and safety equipment provided). There are three different treetop trails, one specifically for kids. Entry for kids is €10 (under 1m40) and €15 for adults (anyone over 1m40). Open through November every Wednesday 1-7pm and weekends 10am-7pm (July and August daily 10am-7pm). Last entry at 5pm.

Concierge Services now at Paris Airports
The Gold Key Concierge services usually found in Parisian luxury hotels are now operating out of both Orly and Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airports. Not only for business travelers and millionaires, concierge services are also great for families who need that extra bit of assistance to help make their vacation feel more like a vacation. They can arrange for your baggage to be delivered direct from your home or hotel to the airport (and the other way around), provide a personalized welcome at the arrivals gate, facilitate priority access through customs and security, and handle car, hotel, and show reservations. They also can pick up emergency medications, deliver keys or important documents, or ship items that can’t be taken into carry-on bags. The service isn’t cheap, starting at €150 (or €330 for the VIP airport limo and baggage transfer).  Tel 01 48 16 11 12 (available 24/7).

Tuxes for the Ladies
Anyone can pull off a cocktail dress. But do you dare to try a tuxedo? This week I stopped into a women’s tuxedo shop called “(No) Smoking” (57 rue Condorcet, 9th. www.nosmoking-collection.com). The French call a tuxedo a “Smoking” because it was originally a special jacket worn in the men’s smoking room. This little showroom boutique, run by two young female designers, is the place to go for contemporary women’s suits, tuxedos, little black dresses, and a few whimsical tops. Inspired by the famous Helmut Newton photo of a tuxedoed woman, each item of clothing is impeccably cut for a flattering silhouette, but with an edgy graphic quality that feel more glam rock than board room. Think Debby Harry, not Celine Dion. Clothes can be purchased off the rack (about €300 for a suit), made to order (three weeks), or even rented. Everything they design is sewn in France. Another place to check out is the ultra high-tech Nouveaux Ateliers (90 rue St Honoré, 1st, www.lesnouveauxateliers.com), which use a special machine to scan your body for the exact measurements. You then just choose your cut, fabric and length, and three weeks later your suit is ready (from €250 for women, €290 for men).

Airport Services
When was the last time you checked to see what your airport can do for you? There are always new services offered that passengers tend to find out about after they needed them. So before your next trip have a spin around the Aeroports de Paris website. Some services:

- Sign up for the fast lane in security check via finger-print identification with PARAFE’s automated border pass. It’s free and registration gives you immediate access. Check the site for locations in Roissy-CDG and Orly airports.

- Free WiFi access for 15 minutes (or for a fee after that, from €4.50/hour)

- There is now a place in Charles de Gaulle Airport to store your luggage, open 6am-9:30pm, to leave your bags for up to five days (starting at €6 for up to six hours). It’s located in Terminal 2, near the RER-TGV station, on the 4th floor, facing the Sheraton.

- There’s also a mobile app in English to help you stay on top of any flight changes or delays

- And for families there are several play areas, including Playstations, coin operated video games, and little playgrounds

A Coffee Cart in Paris?
I was walking through Paris with my friend David Lebovitz last week when we came upon an unusual sight for Paris: a bicycle-mounted coffee cart. The VéloCafé was parked in front of La Bourse with a lovely young Danish woman serving up shots of espresso for the suited businessmen passing by. They advertise real southern Italian coffee from Sandro, so we gave it a try. Not bad if you’re looking for a quick caffeine boost to go. Especially compared to the bitter swill which usually passes for coffee in Paris. But if you’re in the neighborhood, or on a quest for some of the best coffee in Paris, you really need to go Gocce di Caffè, a tiny Italian coffee stand between La Bourse and the Grands Boulevards, at 25 Passage des Panoramas. David had been telling me about Antonio’s amazing coffee for awhile, but until I actually tried it, I didn’t believe him. I still can’t believe I have to take two metros across town to get decent coffee. Totally worth it. Read David’s full article about these and the Caféothèque de Paris.

Picnic Season has Arrived!
It would be nice if we all had time to browse the Paris markets gathering cheeses, wine, desserts, breads and spreads for our Sunday picnic on the quays, but sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do all of the work. Preferably someone with good taste like Arnaud Delmontel, one of my favorite boulangeries (39 rue des Martyrs in the 9th; 57 rue Damrémont in the 18th, or 25 rue de Lévis in the 17th). He offers a €59 gourmet picnic basket for 4-5 people stuffed with all the drinks and munchies you’ll need as well as a corkscrew, cutlery, cups, napkins, and a picnic blanket. Order the night before. Other traiteur/delis in Paris offer pre-made “panier pique-nique” (check at Hédiard, Fouchon, BE Boulangepicier, or for an organic option check out Zuzu’s Petals at 8 rue Marie & Louise in the 10th)

A Rare Glimpse Inside the Real Paris
The Goutte d’Or neighborhood in the 18th, just above the Barbès-Rochechouart metro station is one of the most ethnically diverse districts of Paris, a colorful mix of French, African, Arab, Jewish, and Indian cultures. Unfortunately it’s also known as an area suffering from crime, prostitution, urban decay, illegal immigration and Muslims praying in the streets for lack of space in the mosques. Photographers are usually treated with suspicion, especially if they have an agenda or a political angle to sell. But British photographer Martin Parr not only gained their trust, he became part of the neighborhood, welcomed into the homes, shops, mosques, and local hammams usually well hidden from the outside world. Don’t miss his exposition, it will change the way you see this neighborhood. “The Goutte d’Or!” through July 2 at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam (19-23, rue Léon, 18th, M° Chateau Rouge; open Wed-Sun 3-8pm). This friendly community center also has a nice little patio and café serving mint tea and light snacks.

Get Your Paris Library Card
There are 69 municipal libraries in the city of Paris. Ten libraries have special collections dedicated to tourism and travel (Bibliothèque Germaine Tillion, 16th), women’s studies (Bibliothèque Marguerite Durand,13th) or detective novels (Bibliothèque des Litteratures Policières, 5th). And many are in historic buildings such as the 15th-century Hôtel de Sens (Arts Library, 4th), the 16th-century Hotel de Lamoignon (History of Paris Library, 4th) and the 19th-century Hôtel de Ville (Law, History and Social Science Library, 1st). All but seven of the city libraries have at least 100 books in English, and several have language learning books and CDs. I went to the Hôtel de Ville library last week to get my new card that’s valid in all of the libraries (all you need a passport-sized photo and identification). Many of them allow books (and CDs, DVDs) to be checked out, some of the older ones only allow on site consultation. For more info visit the central website for the city’s libraries: www.bibliotheque.paris.fr or call 3975.

A Very Intimate Secret of Paris
Paris may be the romance capital of the world, but few visitors or even longtime expats really understand how to benefit from that sly and encouraging nod the city offers you that says: go ahead, enjoy. Victoria the Pleasure Coach helps her clients lean “How Paris Can Improve Your Love Life” with her insider's view, not of addresses and phone numbers, but of the social and cultural factors here that can ensure your time in Paris is a memorable and life-enhancing one. Whether in a couple or solo, you can meet with Victoria in person or by Skype, tell her Heather sent you! For more information about her work and to read former clients’ testimonials, visit her site: www.ThePleasureCoach.com

Recent Secrets of Paris Articles and Posts
- British comedian Eddie Izzard en Français in Pigalle
- American Sweets at the Sugarplum Cakeshop
- Shops at Le CentQuatre 104
- Summer on the Docks en Seine? Not likely.
- Boca Mexa – Mexican Food at La Mouff’
- Free Exposition “The Commune: Paris Insurrection 1871” (with a link to download the English translation of the exhibition text).
- And the N’Importe Quoi Photo of the Week

Secrets of Paris Calendar
There are some fabulous events taking place in Paris this month, including the Foire de Paris, Paris Tout en Lettres literary festival, the Nuit des Planètes at the Paris Observatory, an exposition by the godfather of graffiti artistry, a costumed ball at the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, and open house at the artist ateliers in Belleville and Les Frigos. Find details for these and more on the Secrets of Paris Calendar.

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