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Friday
Jul052013

Newsletter #128: July 2013

In this Issue:

No June Newsletter
Paris Public Transport News
Summer in Open-Air Paris
Seine Cruises by Electric Boat
Made in France
Paris Pastry Guide Updates
Cycling in Paris
Summer Reading for Francophiles
Exchange Sites and Parties
Pyramid Scheme Coming to Paris
Send Complaints to the Mairie
Help the Pet Refuge 
Protect Your Flat While Away

 

** No June Newsletter **
Yeah, I missed a month. June is high season for tour guides (and huge apologies to all of you who couldn’t fit into the June tour schedule). This summer we’ve stopped giving “Highlights of Paris” style tours because any tour company can do those, and generally it means we end up spending the entire tour in places overrun by other tourists (and pickpockets, ugh). Because even if we can “skip the line”, there is no skipping the crowds once inside. The only solution is to explore the lesser-known-yet-equally-interesting places of historical, culinary and aesthetic interest. And this being Paris, there is no shortage! I’ll be on the road most of September, but I’m here all July and August with the Secrets of Paris team (Jean-Manuel, Bryan, Edward and Claire) giving tours and enjoying the many open-air activities around town (assuming it doesn’t rain all summer, again). And if you’re feeling sporty, Bryan and I will be training for September’s Marathon du Médoc, come join us for a run around Paris!

** Paris Public Transport News **

- Free App in English
The RATP has just a launched a free app for navigating the Paris metro, tram, bus and RER system. “Visit Paris by Metro” is available for iOS and Android in seven languages, and as long as you download the maps while you have an internet connection, you can use most of the functions in Paris even when you’re offline. It also helps you choose which tickets (although it seems to encourage the Paris Visit passes, which I think are overpriced). Still a handy app I’ll probably use myself when looking for the most efficient route across the city. 

- Construction Closures
Summertime equals “travaux” time in Paris, with many lines partially or completely closed around town, including: Line 1 on Sunday mornings until 10am in July (except Bastille Day, but metros are usually closed around the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysées for the parades and fireworks, so be prepared); Line 5 from Bastille to Place d’Italie through end of August; RER C between Gare d’Austerlitz and Invalides from July 15-August 17 (if you’re going to Versailles, get the RER at one of the stations west of Musée d’Orsay). If you’re going outside Paris to the suburbs, do check on “travaux”, some lines close at night and you’ll get stranded.

- NAVIGO Zone-free Summer (for residents)
In a previous newsletter I mentioned how anyone with a monthly or annual NAVIGO pass can travel through any zone on the weekends and holidays. Well now it is being extended for the summer, July 13 through August 18. So you can travel to both airports, Versailles, Disneyland Paris, Chantilly, Fontainebleau, and other towns outside Paris even if you’ve only subscribed to Zones 1-2.

** Summer in Open-Air Paris **
If it’s not raining (and that’s a big if considering the current trend), forget about museums and shops and instead enjoy the many free summer activities “en pleine-air”:

- Berges de Seine: The newly-opened quays of the Seine along the Left Bank of the 7th from the Musée d’Orsay (Pont Royal) to the Musée Quai Branly (Pont Alma) have replaced a noisy speedway with floating gardens, a climbing wall, picnic spots, cafés, bars, kids activities (tipis for birthday parties), open-air concerts, yoga sessions, and many other things to keep pedestrians entertained (the evening seems livelier than daytime, at the moment). Open year-round. 

- Paris Plage: The Paris “Beach” opens July 20-August 18 on the Right Bank of the Seine from Hôtel de Ville to the Pont de Sully (4th arrondissement) and at the Bassin de la Villette (19th), with sand, beach chairs, parasols, misters, kiddie pools, live concerts, drink and food stands, and activities like Tai Chi, sand volleyball, dancing, or paddle boats (at the Bassin de la Villette). Open daily 9am-midnight. The full schedule can be found online.

- Tuileries: The Paris Fun Fair (Fête Foraine) is open in the Tuileries Gardens (1st) through August 21st, daily 11am-11:45pm (until 12:45am on Friday and Saturday). Free entrance, but you’ll need to buy tickets for each ride on the usual carnival attractions, or have cash for cotton candy and the games where you can win prizes. The Ferris Wheel has excellent views over Paris! 

- Parc de La Villette: Despite its location on the outer northeast edge of Paris (19th), this park hosts some of the best summer activities, including: the best outdoor film festival (July 24th-August 28th, free entry); the Scènes d’Eté international cultural festival of concerts and classes in dance, cooking, music, and singing (July 7-August 25, participation fees vary); and the “Wu-Wei” show combining Chinese theatre and circus performance (July 2-13, €26). There are also huge playgrounds for the kids, and if it rains you have the Cité de la Musique, La Géode cinema, and the Cité des Enfants for cultural escapes.

- Festival du Canal de l’Ourq: This section of the canal running through the Parc de la Villette (19th) all the way into the suburbs is hosting a summer festival through August 25 with boat rides, paddle oat and canoe rental, Zodiac rides, and “bals dansants” for dancing along the water. The black and white portraits hanging along the Ourq are of anonymous people who work on or along the canal. This is also a great place to go running if you like urban landscapes and graffiti spotting. 

- Bercy Village: This charming pedestrian village (shops, cafés, movie theatre, and a big park) in the 12th is hosting free live music concerts every Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm through August 29th. The program is eclectic, with a mix of pop, jazz, punk, blues, folk, soul and rock music performers from around the world. 

- Parc Floral: The bandstand of the botanical gardens in the Bois de Vincennes (12th) hosts several music festivals this summer, including the Paris Jazz Festival (every Saturday and Sunday through July 28th, entry to the gardens €5.50) and the Festival Classique au Vert  (every Saturday and Sunday August 3rd through September 15th, entry to the gardens €5.50). The Parc Floral botanical gardens also has playgrounds, a butterfly house, and gorgeous floral displays, of course!

- Paris Rive Gauche: There is always something going on along the stretch of the Left Bank quays, from open-air dancing every evening in the Square Tino Rossi (Quai St Bernard, 5th) to the nightclub péniches moored along the Quai de la Gare and Quai François Mauriac (13th) such as Le Batofar, La Dame du Canton, and Le Petit Bain. Most of the boats have set up summer terraces on the quays with music, drinking and dining from lunch through the night (especially on weekends). This stretch of the Seine is also home the Josephine Baker floating swimming pool and the club-bar-restaurant-cinema-etc. new hotspot, Wanderlust, on the Quai d’Austerlitz (aka “Le Truc Vert”). Bercy Village and the MK2 Bibliothèque are nearby.

** New Seine Cruises by Electric Boat **
In June the new electric boat company called Batostar started conducting 45-minute Seine River cruises for just €10. Unlike traditional tourist cruises, this one is supposed to appeal to Parisians, as well, since the almost silent boats will have mood music instead of commentary (which usually is worthless on other river cruises anyway). There is also a lounge bar Le Mellow Bar, where you can purchase drinks or simply hang out and enjoy the view of the city from their mooring at the foot of the Pont Marie (Port de l’Hôtel de Ville), open this summer daily 11am-midnight. 

** Gifts, Accessories and Souvenirs Made in France **

- TAJ Boutique (13 Rue de l’Echelle, 1st, on the corner of Avenue de l’Opéra) : This small shop between the Opéra Garnier and the Louvre is exclusively devoted to artisan items made in France, including beauty products, home décor, accessories, wine and food products. Some fun things include Paris-themed umbrellas, chocolate bars with illustrated scenes of Paris on the wrappers, non-toxic nail polish, hand-made jewelry, silk scarves, artisan ice cream, silk scarves, tea, table linens, baby gifts, stationary, leather purses, and adorable scented sachets for your lingerie drawer that keep smelling good for two years -- I have some! Prices are surprisingly reasonable because the shop buys directly from the individuals and small companies producing the items. 

- Kiosques des Ateliers de Paris (on the corner of Rue St-Honoré and Rue de Valois at Place du Palais Royal, 1st, and at the corner of Rue de Rivoli and Rue St-Denis, 1st): They look like little newsstands, but these kiosks sell hand-made crafts and fashion accessories by local artisans, which rotate every 15 days. Open daily 1-7pm. If you’re a resident of Paris and would like to sell your crafts here, sign up for a chance to get your 15 days of fame here. The Ateliers de Paris is a small business incubator and artisan showroom at 30 rue du Faubourg St Antoine, 12th.

- L’Art de Vivre aux Caraïbes (20, rue de l’Abbé Grégoire, corner of Rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th) is a two-floor air-conditioned boutique specializing in all delights from the Caribbean, especially the French “departments-outre-mer” Guadéloupe and Martinique, with the largest rum cellar in Paris (over 700 varieties), infused punches and liqueurs, exotic foods and cooking ingredients (including all sorts of hot sauces the French never seem to stock), and upstairs are beauty products, books and home décor. The friendly owner Christian de Montaguère is more than happy to explain the different products and help you choose the perfect bottle of rare rum. Did I mention it’s air-conditioned?

** Paris Pastry Guide Updates **
Whether you’re looking for a cool scoop of gelato when Paris gets hot (it happens!), a cup of steaming hot chocolate when it’s a bit chilly (sadly, even in July), or just want to taste the latest and greatest pastries of Paris, check out the latest updates to David Lebovitz’s “Paris Pastry Guide”, for iPhone, Kindle and eBook readers. We spent this week adding new locations and testing new boutiques, for a current total of 353 sweet addresses (it would’ve been 354 if a certain boutique in the 6th would bother posting opening hours, grrrr). And as we love your feedback, do connect with Paris Pastry on FB and Twitter, or leave a review in iTunes. Merci! 

** Cycling in Paris **

- New Rules for Certain Intersections: Now that it’s not raining every day, you may be tempted to get out on your bike or rent a Vélib’. To help improve the flow of traffic for cars and cyclists, the City of Paris has introduced new rules at certain intersections. Normally cyclists are NOT allowed to turn right on red (same rules as cars) nor go straight through a red light even when there’s no traffic. Now if you see the signs below posted next to a traffic signal in Paris, it means that cyclists may proceed with caution after yielding to traffic and pedestrians. So far it’s still in Beta mode, with only 15 intersections carrying the signs, but if it goes well, expect more!

- Autolib’ App for All: The Velib’ App is now finally available for Blackberry users, as well as iPhone and Android Smartphone owners. 

- Cyclofficine Bike Atelier and Shop: A group of cycling fans hoping to convince more Parisians to use bikes on a regular basis have opened a cooperative studio called Cyclofficine in the 20th (and in Ivry-sur-Seine and Pantin suburbs) where the public can take classes on bike repair, recycle old bikes, buy reconditioned bikes, and generally learn more about being a good, safe, happy cyclists in the city. Check out their site (in French only) or stop by one of the studios.

** Summer Reading for Francophiles: Mystery, Romance, & Poetry **
Looking for some fun summer reading while lounging at the park, enjoying a sunny terrace, or taking an open-air lunch break along the Seine? Check out Keith Spicer’s latest mystery thriller “Murder by Champagne”, a fascinating story set within the prestigious and secretive world of France’s Champagne industry. If you’re looking for something fun and naughty, don’t miss Lily Heise’s mostly-autobiographical “Je t’Aime, Me Neither”, about her dating adventures in Paris (you can also win a free copy of this book next week on the Naughty Paris website). And for a quick fix of contemporary poetry and short prose, pick up a copy of the twice-monthly Belleville Park Pages for just €2 (they’re also currently accepting contributions). Note that all of these (and more fabulous books in English) can be found at the Abbey Bookshop (29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th).

** News and Tips Specifically for Residents **

** Clothing Exchange Sites and Parties **
Do you have a wardrobe full of fabulous clothing you never wear but don’t want to give away? Can’t be bothered with trying to sell it? Why not try exchanging? There are now websites and special events where you can trade your designer or high quality clothing, shoes, accessories, home décor, furniture, even unused (unopened) beauty products with other Parisians. Note that you’ll need to know French if you wantto trade with the locals!

- Troc’ Party

- Prête-à-Changer

- Comptoir du Chic 

- Chacun sa Tribu 

** Pyramid Scheme Coming to Paris **
An acquaintance recently emailed me to ask if I could spread the word about an American company that is looking for sales reps for their expansion into France. Since I had never heard of this company, I did a bit of research first. And without naming names, let’s just say it’s a slick, Fortune 500 direct sales company where women (called “Stylists” instead of sales reps) sell jewelry to friends, family and colleagues through “Trunk Sales” (because that is so much cooler than calling it a “home sales party”). I grew up in the Tupperware/Avon generation, but multi-level-marketing (aka Network Marketing, aka Pyramid Schemes) where the emphasis is on recruiting new sales people and “investing” in stock, has always left a bad taste in my mouth. And now a female-owned company with a huge media presence and savvy marketing tools is coming to France to convince the ladies that they can work from home and make “extra spending money or up to six-figures annually”. Except that even a quick investigation into these practices shows that almost no one besides the 1% at the top of the pyramid ever make any money, and most end up losing it (along with their friends, family and co-workers who are sick of being harassed to buy stuff or become sales reps). The US Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Awareness Institute have issued several damning reports, and there are entire websites set up where former sales reps share horror stories. This article sums it up nicely: “The Truth About Mary Kay, Stella & Dot, Scentsy, and Other Female-Oriented ‘Home Business’ Schemes”. In addition to these issues, there’s also the one of French tax laws which would require these companies to keep an even higher percentage of the sales rep’s earnings for social charges than they do in the US, so even a “profitable” sales rep won’t be seeing much of a profit. As there are many expats in France looking for freelance work or part-time jobs, I wanted to make sure we spread the word so that people can educate themselves before signing any contracts. Forewarned is forearmed, mes amis.

** Send Complaints Directly to the Mairie ** 
The Mairie de Paris has developed an experimental new Smartphone application and website DansMaRue, where residents of Paris can send in photos of public nuisances in their neighborhood that their local municipal workers may have overlooked. For example, a street sign that is missing, ugly graffiti that needs to be removed, roadkill that has been overlooked by street cleaners, an overflowing dumpster, a dangerous pothole, a fallen tree branch blocking a bike path, etc. You can simply send a photo or fill out the form and it gets sent to the department in charge of taking care of it. Well, we’ll see how it goes! The free app is available for iPhone and Android, and for those sans Smartphone you can use the online form.

** Help the Pet Refuge before the August Deluge **
I’ve written before about the sad problem of pet abandonment during the summer vacation period in France, with thousands left to fend for themselves when owners leave them on the side of the road instead of finding someone to take care of them in their absence. Unfortunately, the local animal refuges are already overfilled and desperate for assistance. You may not be able to adopt a refuge pet yourself, but there many other ways you can help:

- If you’re staying in Paris for all or part of the summer, consider offering to feed and walk your neighbors’ pets (put a sign in the lobby of your building or on the bulletin board of your local vet office), or sign up to be a summer pet-sitter in your own home through one of the many services that manage home stays (do a web search for “garde d'animaux à domicile Paris”, and avoid using unverified sites like CraigsList).

- Sign up with local refuges to be a foster home for pets awaiting adoption (this is kinder to the pets, who are happier in homes than in cages, and frees up space at the refuges). This is especially important for fragile, older pets, who are harder to place through adoption than puppies. www.alertesos.com

- Become a volunteer at a refuge, they’re always in need. www.spa.asso.fr

- Donate money or “sponsor” a pet’s care and feeding if you can’t take it home. www.30millionsdamis.fr

- Shop at the SPA’s “Boutique Solidaire” with gifts for pets and humans (I quite like the all-weather, fleece-lined rain cape, just €39). They’re also having Les Soldes! 

- And spread the word to your entourage, Merci!

** Protect Your Flat While You’re Away **
 One of my French friends just told me he’s not going away in August because his entire building empties out and his flat always ends up getting burgled. It’s yet another downside of the mass exodus that takes place every summer in Paris, where almost empty apartment building become choice targets for thieves. If you can’t afford an expensive security system, consider the FREE services of your local Prefecture de Police, “Opération Tranquillité Vacances 2013”. By filling out a simple request form and sending it in to your local prefecture at least 48 hours before your departure, the local police will regularly check on your home while you’re away. If you’re staying in Paris, once again you can take the opportunity to be a Good Samaritan and keep an eye on things while everyone else is gone. You can even offer plant-watering, mail-gathering, and parcel-signing services while everyone including the concierge is gone; it never hurts to get on your neighbors’ good side in Paris!

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Reader Comments (1)

Nice information!! Thanks for sharing with all.
July 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRon Katz

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