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Newsletter #116: April 2, 2012

Lady Liberty Convalescing at the Orsay
April Dining Recommendations
Running in Paris
Vintage Fever in Paris
Rent a Vintage Bus
Unique, Responsable, et Très Parisien
Only-in-Paris Fashions
Cara Black’s Secrets of Paris
Paris in the 21st Century
Hotel Discount for French Voters
Compensation for Late Trains
Organic Food Basket Delivery

 ** Note: This newsletter was emailed to subscribers on April 2nd, posted online a week later (I was busy with Easter tours!). If you'd like to get the newsletter emailed directly to you each month, sign up here. **


Lady Liberty Convalescing at the Orsay

If you’re a regular visitor to the Jardin du Luxembourg, you may have noticed the Statue of Liberty has disappeared. But don’t worry, she’s hasn’t been kidnapped, just transferred to the Musée d’Orsay where she’s being restored after suffering damage from vandalism in December. For those who are totally confused, the statue I’m referring to is the original 9-foot tall bronze model cast by the sculptor Frédéric Barthold in 1876 to use as a demo when presenting the idea of a gift to France’s sister democracy, the United States (keep in mind most of Europe still had monarchs in 1876). There’s another Statue of Liberty in Paris, on the Ile des Cygnes, just past the Eiffel Tower. Much larger, that statue is 1/5 of the size of the one in NYC, and was a gift to Paris from the American expat community living there at the time. So back to our little Lady Liberty in the park. Vandals swiped her torch and caused other damage, so the Senate (who manages the park) allowed the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay to take her to the museum, where they are currently funding the cleaning and restoration work on the statue. It will afterwards be displayed in the Orsay’s grand interior sculpture court. If you’d like to support their efforts, consider becoming a member of the AFMO or making a tax-deductible donation.  Note that you can get some pretty cool benefits as a member, such as private tours of the latest exhibitions and invitations to openings.

April Dining Recommendations

Last month I had dinner with a friend at Sésame (51 quai de Valmy, 10th, tel 01 42 49 03 21, M° République), a small, casual restaurant with a bit of girly-retro style overlooking the Canal St-Martin. The menu is quite interesting, with everything from vegetarian lasagna (€11.50) and bagel sandwiches (€7) to beef Carpaccio (€8) and curry pork kebabs (€14). Desserts (€5) include carrot cake, cookies, and cupcakes (although this is not an “American” restaurant). Large salads are €12. Breakfast menus are €5 and €9.50, lunch menus €9.50-€13.50. For happy hour they serve hot dogs with a glass of wine or beer for €5. Good food, nice atmosphere, friendly servers, and wines by the glass under €5…best to reserve a table, especially on weekends. Sunday Brunch is €22 (no reservations possible).

Just off the canal a bit further north is El Nopal (3 rue Eugène Varlin, 10th, M° Jacques-Bonsergent, tel 07 86 39 63 46, https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Nopal-tacos-burritos/114125051981446). I went here last summer with Bryan, another American transplant with a hankering for authentic Mexican food. It’s a tiny, colorful joint, really just for take-away (perfect for when the weather is nice enough to eat along the canal). I had the torta (Mexican sandwich) and Bryan had a set of tacos. Everything is superfresh, supertasty, and if like me you usually complain the food isn’t spicy enough in Paris, that little plastic cup of sauce they give you on the side will burn your face off, use with caution! For €10 you can fill yourself up on tacos, burritos, refried beans, homemade guacamole, and the house quesadillas. See some lovely photos in Barbra Austin’s blog here.

Finally, because we’re already on the Canal, why not make it three and visit  the boutique/restaurant Voy Alimento (23, rue des Vinaigriers, 10th, tel 01 42 01 03 44, M° Jacques-Bonsergent), a casual place with exposed stone and wooden beams (and the vintage “Bar des Artistes” sign still decorating the façade) serving super-healthy vegan dishes made with the superfoods sold in the boutique (Maca, cocoa nibs, Açai, Stevia, Yacon, Chlorelle, etc). You’ll find energy or detox soups, vegetable juices, raw chocolate desserts. Lunch menus are €20. I think Rebecca Leffler’s article about Voy Alimento on her RebeCook Healthy Eating blog is fabulous, and includes recipes!

A brief hop over to the center of town, where the Japanese dumplings bar Gyoza (56, passage des Panoramas, 2nd, M° Grands Boulevards) has been getting a lot of press. I ate there with a friend last week and thoroughly enjoyed about two dozen of the dumplings with some canned green iced tea. Two of us stuffing ourselves full came to €35, total. Service is quick (you’re sitting at a bar, after all), the décor is cool and modern for this dusty old passage, but beware the lines of people waiting, or you’ll get that “law of diminishing returns” effect. Now open for both lunch and dinner. You can order to go, although that seems to take half the fun away.


Running in Paris

I’m not someone who runs. In fact, I’ve broken my feet twice (one being a stress fracture from wearing stilettos and carrying a heavy bag), wear orthopedic walking shoes to give tours, and generally can’t figure out why anyone would want to run through parks when they could be hanging out on one of the chairs under a tree, reading a good book. But after spending most of the winter under the weather, I got the crazy idea not only to start running, but to actually sign up for some of the local races around town. Last week I ran my first, an 18k Eco-Trail (I know, right into the deep end). As I’m a total newbie, I thought it might help to share some of the info I compiled -- running clubs, races, where to find the right gear, and the best places to train -- with all of you who are considering running in Paris, in my article Running in Paris.

Vintage Fever in Paris

If you have a look at the Secrets of Paris Calendar, you might notice there are more than a few “vintage” and “retro” events, from swing dance concerts and vintage hair salons to clothing and furniture sales. Not that this is new, but there sure seems to be a lot of them at the moment! The organization “50s Sound” seems to organize most of them, so it’s worth getting on their mailing list if you’re into the music or would like to set up a stand to sell off your extra Poodle Skirts at the next Vide Grenier. If you’re into classic cars, head out to the Esplanade of the Château de Vincennes (the big parking lot between the castle and the Parc Floral Entrance) the first Sunday of the month from 9am-12:30pm to see the largest gathering of vintage, classic and antique (pre-1982) cars aficionados in town, Vincennes en Anciennes.

Rent a Classic Bus

Speaking of vintage, are you looking for an original way to get your group around Paris? Whether it’s for visiting the city with your extended family, a group of friends, wedding party or other celebrations, consider renting a 1930s RATP city bus for up to 50 passengers through LocaBus (about €1300 for two hours, book months in advance) or a 1958 Renault Galion (looks like a VM Minibus) for up to 7 passengers through Le Bus Bleu (about €200 for one hour around Paris).

Unique, Résponsable, et Très Parisien

In my ongoing quest to help visitors find souvenirs that are made in France and not sold in the malls back home, I’ve found a wonderful company, Bilum, that specializes in recycling the PVC publicity posters from museums and monuments, boat sails, decorative flags, and even airbags into tote bags, laptop cases, travel bags and other unique accessories. One of their latest products to go on sale this week are bags made from the protective sheeting that was covering the chic Hôtel de Crillon façade during renovations.

It was screenprinted with an actual image of the 18th-century building on the Place de la Concorde, so the bags might feature a peek of a window cornice, a neo-classic column, the carved entryway, etc. There are also bags made from the New Year’s Eve flags that decorated the Champs Elysées, from publicity posters from the Monet exhibition, or reversible shopping bags made from the Toile de Jouy draperies from the Princes de Galles Hotel on the Avenue Georges V. Sure, these are not cheap (prices from €30 for a change purse, €65 for a tote bag), but you get a real piece of France, and can be guaranteed no one else will be carrying around the exact same thing.

Note: You can also buy the Crillon bags at the hotel’s boutique while supplies last…and until the Crillon closes its doors at the end of summer (like the Ritz) for two years of renovations and refurbishments.

Only in Paris Fashions

For real Parisian clothing and accessories, the best place to shop is the Galerie Vivienne. It’s not just one of the most adorable 19th-century covered passages, it’s also home to several uniquely Parisian designers whose wares are made in France and not found in the United States (yet). Check out dramatic designs by Nathalie Garçon, the colorful knits of Catherine André, the Romanian-born designer Rodika Zanian, or the creative cuts by Japanese-born designer Yuki Torii. You’ll also find hats by designer Céline Robert and funky eyewear made in the Jura region by Traction. And if you’d like to have your very own couture gown made to measure, visit the whimsical showroom of the designer Ana Quasoar. Then pop into Legrand’s superb wine bar for a glass of rosé and some gourmet munchies. Très Français.


Cara Black's Secrets of Paris

San Francisco-based mystery writer Cara Black is known for her “Aimée Leduc Investigation” series set in Paris, including Murder in the Marais, Murder in the Palais Royal, Murder in the Latin Quarter, Murder in Passy, and the latest release, Murder at the Lanterne Rouge. She’s become a veritable guide to murder in Paris! Since Cara spends a lot of time sniffing around the lesser-known areas of Paris for research, I asked if she could share her own favorite Secrets of Paris. Check them out on the website, Cara Black's Secrets of Paris.




Paris in the 21st Century

The City of Paris has been testing out some new urban furnishings: street lamps, benches, information signs, and even bus shelters. You can see a working demo of one model at the Place de la Bastille bus stop (in front of La Banque de France). It looks like it just stepped off the set of a Star Trek episode with its sleek lines, interactive touch screen and LED lighting. You can see a little slide show of some of the proposed gadgets in use on Challenges.fr website.


Hotel Discounts for French Voters

The InterContinentalHotelGroup (IHG) wants to encourage civic responsibility by offering 20% discount at their 21 Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza Hotels in France to anyone with a Carte d’Electeur showing stamps from both rounds of the upcoming French Presidential Elections. The discount applies to any weekend during the month of May (just present your card at check-in); reservations are being taken from April 15th, by phone only. Ask for the “élections 2012” promotion.


Compensation for Late Trains

Ever sit forever waiting for your train to leave the station? Assuming you don't have to be anywhere in a hurry, cross your fingers that it's 65 minutes late, because then you're riding for free. The new SNCF “Garantie Voyage” (PDF) has been introduced on all TGV and Grandes Lignes “Intercités” train trips (but not TER or RER trains), offering passengers a complete reimbursement, in cash, of their tickets if the train is delayed for more than an hour. They also help you find a seat if you don’t have an assigned one, and lodging if the train gets cancelled because of weather, etc. All this for…nothing extra.


Organic Food Basket Delivery

It’s getting easier and easier to find local, organic produce in French supermarkets and outdoor markets, no need to always go to the Marché Biologique Raspail. But for busy urbanites, sometimes even getting to the store isn’t always easy, and how many times do you get there only to find there’s nothing good left but a few scrawny potatoes?  Happily, there are many small producers and farmers’ co-ops that now make it easier than ever to get your locally-grown organic fruit and veg at pick-up points around town or delivered directly to your door. Most of them allow you to order by the week, some require a seasonal subscription but at very attractive prices. Some also include epicerie items like olive oil, honey, teas, beans or pastas, and Bio Culture even delivers organic meats. Check out these sites, you’re bound to find one that works for you:
 ** Note: This newsletter was emailed to subscribers on April 2nd, posted online a week later (a busy week of Easter tours!). If you'd like to get the newsletter emailed directly to you each month, sign up here. **

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Reader Comments (1)

Hi Heather,
Thank you for a really cool and eclectic newsletter this month!
I particularly enjoyed the part on running in Paris.
Have a good one!
April 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

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