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Calendar of Paris Events

Through February 19
Skate on the Eiffel Tower! This year the ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is back, free for those who already have a ticket for the Tower, open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Skip the line by taking the stairs, it will help you warm up, too! Skates size 25-47 (EU), sleds and scooters for kids, gloves are required. This year's theme is Ice Hockey, though it will be less brutal than the NHL!

January 11 - February 21
The annual winter sales, aka Les Soldes. Honestly, the rules about when and how sales can take place in France since the economic crise have essentially made the sales irrelevant. There are sales all of the time now (often called "promotion" or "7 Jours BHV" or something like that). 

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

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Newsletter #117: May 10, 2012

In this issue:

Hobnobs and Kraft Mac’n’Cheese
Portes Ouvertes: Artists Ateliers
Bercy Village Evolves
Docks en Seine Finally Opening
Eating in Paris
The Mayors’ Bathrooms
File your US Taxes. Yes, I’m talking to YOU!
Mont St Michel Closes the Bridge
Swim in the Seine
ParisSharing: Connect with the Locals
Running with Heather & Bryan



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Hobnobs and Kraft Mac’n’Cheese

There seems to be a wave of American and British food taking over Paris. Burger trucks, NY-style steak houses, and bagel bars are opening all over the place. Carrot cake, pancakes and fish’n’chips are no longer exotic foods. I was at the MK2 Bibliothèque Cineplex last week and found a little American (junk) food market had opened up next to the music store. Pretzel M&Ms, Jack Daniels BBQ sauce, three different kinds of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and even Duncan Hines Devil Food cake mix. The prices were as heart-attack-inducing as the food itself, of course. Most of the shops selling American food in Paris seem to add an extra zero to any product they sell. At Thanksgiving (on the Rue St Paul in the Marais), a box of Lucky Charms is €12.50. When I do get a hankering for junk food, I head over to WH Smith’s book shop (248 Rue de Rivoli, 1st). The small food section upstairs keeps growing, and now includes not only my beloved Border Dark Chocolate Gingers (cookies from Scotland), Hobnobs and instant cake mix, they also have authentic rolled oats, British cheeses, and even Cheerios (for €6). Of course, many British and American food items can now be found at your local French grocery store. Philadelphia cream cheese, Oreos, and peanut butter are easy to find. My Carrefour has a whole “exotic food” section with separate sections for American and British foods. We might all groan at the proliferation of Subway and Starbucks in Paris, but sometimes it’s nice to find a few of our favorite foods “from home” without making our friends and family smuggle them over in their suitcases like contraband. ;-)


Portes Ouvertes: Artists Ateliers

Today is the opening day of one of my favorite annual events, the Portes Ouvertes des Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville. Friday through Monday May 14th, over 220 artists open their studios to the public. The theme for this 23rd edition is “Cash-Cache”. It’s a great way to discover the adorable, hidden corners of Belleville and purchase some amazing paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artworks direct from the artists themselves. Start your exploration at the Galerie des AAB (1 rue Francis Picabia, 20th, Métro Couronnes), where you’ll find free maps and some of the artworks for sale that help fund the artists’ association. The ateliers are open 2-9pm. You can read my article from last year’s open house here.

Another great annual artist open house is at Les Frigos, the former squat in an old meat-packing warehouse in the 13th (near the Bibliothèque Mitterrand, just off Rue de Tolbiac). This year’s Portes Ouvertes is June 2nd (2-10pm) and 3rd (2-8pm).

Bercy Village Evolves

Bercy Village, the pedestrian shopping, dining and entertainment village in the former wine bottling district of Bercy (12th) used to be full of ho-hum chains. But they’re getting better!  In the past year several new places have opened, including a Daily Monop' (great for picnic supplies to eat in the park), Illy Esspressamente Cafe, an Eric Kayser boulangerie, and Dammann Freres tea shop. As usual, you'll also find the Bercy Ciné Cité cineplex, the Frog Pub (for micro-brews and burgers) and the many wine bars including Chai 33 and Nicolas. Every Sunday in May there will be live musical performances at 3pm and 4:30pm. This weekend, in the Place des Vins de France (just behind Bercy Village) there’s also a free retro-design furniture market, Les Puces du Design (May 10-13).

Docks en Seine Finally Opening

The Cité de la Mode, aka Docks en Seine, aka "Ce truc vert" on the Quai d'Austerlitz is finally coming to life after a four-year delay. The fashion business school is all settled in, and a few design shops (PGL by Pigalle concept store, Le Pop-Up Store, Silvera Outdoor) and Café Prliné tearoom have opened. There are two temporary exhibits on Rei Kawakubo and Cristóbal Balenciaga as part of the "hors murs" series by the Musée Galliera. The rooftop garden isn't quite ready (supposedly opens May 30th), but word on the street is that the nightclub Le Baron will be hosting “avant garde” parties up there, and the guys behind the Social Club and Silencio are opening an experimental restaurant/cultural space called “Wanderlust”. Go have a peek if you're in the 'hood. It's right next to the Jardin des Plantes, which is hosting a garden festival this weekend.

Eating in Paris

Last month I tested the organic burger bar, Bio Burger, in the Passage Choiseul (2nd, metro Quatre Septembre). They have a great selection of gourmet burgers (with fries and a drink or dessert for just €10) to go or to eat in one of the two upper level dining rooms. I'll definitely be going back. And when I'm feeling flush with cash I'll be going back to the Beef Club (rue JJ Rousseau, 1st) for their excellent steaks (several cuts available, all from grass-fed British beef). Expect to pay about €50/person with one glass of wine. The cocktails at the (somewhat hidden) lounge bar downstairs are just as fabulous as the ones at Prescription Cocktail Club (no surprise, same owners). Closer to home, I've had a few chances to try the French bistro Verse Toujours (at 3 avenue des Gobelins, right at the bottom of rue Mouffetard), and each time I'm happily surprised at how they manage to give a creative twist to all of the French classics. Their frites are perfect, the duck cooked to perfection. Had an amazing Oeufs Bourgignone, and at least three (lost count) of their award-winning house aperitif, Le Birlou (a kir made with apple and chestnut liqueur). Their prices are reasonable, plats du jour under €15, and there's a huge terrace (I prefer the booth in the back by the kitchen). Finally, I discovered during one of my morning runs a vegan pastry shop at 53 Rue Mouffetard, called Vegan Folies. They have some interesting flavors in their savory cupcakes like curry (L’Indien) and sun dried tomato (L’Italien), and a tasty-looking orange and passion fruit cupcake. I say “looking” because I haven’t managed to run by when they’re actually open, but I’m planning on it. Have to see if it will make a good addition to our Paris Pastry app (and eBook)!

The Mayors’ Bathrooms

Any self-respecting Parisian has his or her own secret list of places to use a restroom in a pinch. As a tour guide, there’s at least one person in my group who needs to go at any given time. All that espresso has to go somewhere! So I’ve got quite an extensive list of museums, department stores, public restrooms and not so public restrooms on file in my head. One of my favorite places to check out the restrooms are the Mairies, or Town Halls. Each arrondissement has its own town hall (and local mayor), usually built in the 19th century in grand style (and as weddings must be performed at the town hall first, before the church, they are all equipped with quite grand Salles de Mariage). As these are public buildings, they don’t restrict access. A short wander around (and possibly asking at the info desk) will soon reveal les toilettes. My favorite is in the 5th arrondissement, facing the Panthéon. There are gorgeous impressionist frescos on the walls with scenes from Luxembourg Gardens, and Lalique glass doors leading to the restrooms at the top of a winding staircase with decorative wrought-iron railings. This is what makes me happy to pay French taxes.

File your US Taxes. Yes, I’m talking to YOU!

Ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to the IRS, it’s also expensive. Like most Americans living abroad, I don’t always file my taxes when I don’t owe anything (after the foreign earned income tax credit, anyway). It seems like a hassle, and when you’re not living nor working in the US, it seems unnecessary. But it’s the law to file, even if you don’t owe anything. And as dumb as that law is to me, even dumber would be to end up paying fines when I didn’t even owe anything, just because I’m too lazy to file. What a lot of people don’t realize, is that they also have to declare any and all foreign bank accounts, investments, trust funds, property, etc. The fine for not declaring these accounts is 25% of the aggregate value of those accounts since 2004. All US citizens living abroad also have to declare their foreign-owned companies if they control at least 51%. The fine for not declaring these businesses? A whopping $10k. And this is applicable even if you don’t actually owe any money. They just want to know what you’re up to and where your money is located. If that doesn’t feel all Big Brotherly, it might come as a shock to many US citizens married to foreign nationals that they also have to declare the accounts of their spouse and children. According to the IRS, if you have US citizenship, or are married to a US citizen, you have a tax obligation to the US. Even if you don’t live nor work in the US. This has gotten a lot of pres recently because for some Americans abroad they’ve been forced to renounce US citizenship (or get divorced) because they either can’t afford to be double taxed (those who make over $90k/year pay taxes in both countries), or their spouse refuses to give up their information to the IRS. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but if you’re not sure about your situation, see a American tax specialist in France (don’t rely on any tax preparer who doesn’t specialize in this, as the rules are complex and change often). Claiming “I didn’t know” isn’t going to fly with the US Tax Man! Read more here.

Mont St Michel Closes the Bridge

The famous Mont St Michel, a tiny island on the border of Normandy and Brittany topped by the imposing medieval abbey, is no longer accessible by car. For 40 years, you could drive along a man-made road and park right at the foot of the Mont St Michel. Now, to return the island to its “island” status (and reduce the impact on the bay’s natural environment, which is home to a large variety of wildlife), the road is being removed to be replaced by an elevated bridge accessible by foot or by special shuttles from the mainland. Which aren’t quite running at full capacity yet, even though the road was closed April 28th. It wasn’t easy getting to this beautiful site before, and now it will be even harder. But for those of you considering the trip, it’s still worth it! Try staying overnight, to experience the island without the crowds. Read my article (with plenty of pics) from my trip last year.

Swim in the Seine

Dreaming of swimming in the Seine River? If you hurry and sign up now, you can join in the Traversée de Paris à la Nage on September 2nd. Inscriptions are being accepted (but almost full!) to swim either 10k or 2.5k in the Seine past all of the glorious monuments of the city. There’s also a possibility of doing it relay-style with three friends. To read more about it and register, check out http://www.parisalanage.com.

ParisSharing B&Bs and Private Apartment Rentals

Looking for a real Parisian experience on your next vacation? Why not stay with a Parisian? ParisSharing is an agency that specializes in placing visitors with locals in Bed & Breakfast or furnished rental accommodations. There are many agencies in Paris that do this, but I really liked the community focus of ParisSharing. And now all Secrets of Paris tour clients ge a special discount and welcome gifts when booking with ParisSharing. Read more about it at the end of my interview with the company’s founder, the American expat Carsten Sprotte.

Running with Heather & Bryan

Fresh from our 18k run in the Parc de St Cloud, my young colleague Bryan and I went a little crazy and signed up for famous Medoc Marathon in September. It’s the one in Bordeaux where participants dress in themed costumes and are served wine at the rest stops. As we’re still newbies, we’re doing a lot of running to prepare. And with Paris as our training course, we’d love to have any of you locals or visitors join us for a run (just don’t expect as much commentary as you’d get on a walking guided tour). Just drop me an email (tours@secretsofparis.com) no more than a week in advance (can’t plan that far ahead!) and I’ll let you know where to meet up!

Secrets of Paris Calendar and Twitter Feed

Don’t forget to have a peek at the Secrets of Paris calendar for upcoming events. If you’d like to see the Instagram pics I’ve been taking around town during my morning runs, check out my Twitter feed, twitter.com/ParisHeather

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