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Newsletter #133: January 2, 2014

* Live Your Legend Meetup
* Elope in Paris
* Paris Dining Challenges
* Paris Dining Recommendations
* Sports Bars in Paris
* Shoes, Clothing for Dancers
* Shopping Mayhem January 8th
* Survival Packs for the Homeless
* Eco-Friendly Kitchen Store
* Running in Paris…& Beyond!
* Taxis to/from Train Stations
* Consumer Prices Up for 2014
* Secrets of Paris Internships

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* Live Your Legend International Meetup January 7th
About a year ago I started following the website “Live Your Legend: Change the World by Doing the Work you Love” created a young Californian, Scott Dinsmore. It’s a site I recommend to a lot of friends who are looking for inspiration to quit jobs they hate and pursue their passions. It has become such a popular site with people around the world that on January 7th there will be a “Live Your Legend Local Meetup” in 138 cities in 44 countries. I volunteered to help organize the Paris LYL Meetup because I think it’s a great opportunity to bring together some of the amazing small business owners, entrepreneurs, and other expats and locals who are (or would like to be) doing something new and different in Paris. Many of us work independently, sometimes in solitude, often without any kind of supportive network. So ideally a Meetup like this would be a cynicism-free environment to exchange ideas, advice and encouragement for 2014. We’ll be meeting from 6-8pm at Le Foodist in the Latin Quarter (right outside M° Cardinal Lemoine);please RSVP so we can get a headcount for the wine and cheese (donations welcome, but not required to attend). Hope to meet some of you there to kick off the New Year on an optimistic note!
* Elope in Paris
Have you been dreaming of running away to Paris to get married but don’t know where to start or find the cost of wedding planners too intimidating? American photographer Stephen Zezza offers a simple, affordable service for couples choosing to elope in Paris, arranging all of the details including hair and make-up, ceremony officiant, and a custom photo tour in a chauffeured vintage Citroën 2CV. You’ll come away with a portfolio of gorgeous destination photos of you and your spouse with the City of Light as the backdrop. For details and links to Stephen’s wedding photography portfolio contact him directly at stephenzezza@gmail.com.

* Paris Dining Challenges
Quality food, nice dining room, good service, and reasonable prices. Ideally every restaurant would have tasty, well-priced food served by a professional staff in a pleasing setting. But when I’m recommending restaurants to clients (or trying to choose one for myself) it’s often impossible to fulfill all four requirements. Costes’ establishments tend to be in beautiful settings with great views, but fail miserably on the other three criteria. So many of my favorite bistros have delicious, inexpensive food and friendly (if sometimes overstretched) service, but are usually too noisy and cramped for a romantic meal (or even to hear your dining companions without practically yelling at each other). Then there are the ones that have truly excellent cuisine but are in such small venues that it’s difficult to get a table without reserving weeks or months in advance. If I was Boss of the World I’d magically switch their venues. Give the pretty, historic, stylish dining rooms with views to the restaurateurs dedicated to good food and professional service. I’d let the ones more interested in the “M’as-tu vu?” scene open up nightclubs or fashion boutiques instead. Despite the popularity of crowd-sourced sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp, I’d still recommend using verified sources for recommendations like Paris By Mouth (and their stable of professional writers) or reliable guides like the Michelin (for their “Best Value” ratings, not the heavily-publicized “starred” venues).

* Paris Dining Recommendations
That rant being done, here are a few of my recent dining excursions and their relative strengths and weaknesses:
La Dame du Canton, the peniche formerly known as the Guinguette Pirate in the 13th, is usually known for its live music concerts, but below deck is a nice little restaurant serving French cuisine with a creative twist. If you’re a group of four you can reserve the little niche in the back, very cozy like a pirate’s lair. Service was friendly and the food was good, but I think it’s more “convivial” than romantic. The menus (€29 and €36) include entrance to the concert afterwards.

The Bistrologist, the restaurant-bar formerly known as Le Secret near the Arc de Triomphe, is a beautiful Art Deco venue with high ceilings, plush carpeting and velour armchairs. I would go more for the extensive cocktail menu than the food itself (gourmet bar food, burgers, ceviche, etc). The prices are high as expected for this part of town and the service is more hipster than attentive, but if you get a table up in the mezzanine it’s a great place for an intimate meal.

- I’ve been to Verjus’ wine bar many times for drinks, bar snacks, and lunch sandwiches, but in November I finally got to eat at their proper restaurant upstairs. Not cheap, but possibly one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time for the super-reasonable €60 tasting menu (and the excellent wine pairings). The location at Palais Royale is superb, but the tiny dining room with wooden floors can get a bit noisy. Great for a lively meal, less ideal for a quiet tête-à-tête.
Le Goust near Place Vendôme is one of my favorite new places, particularly for all of the couples who ask me to recommend a romantic place for a special meal in Paris. The Italian owner won a World’s Best Sommelier award in 2004, so the wines are all carefully paired with the Mediterranean-inspired menus (€35/lunch, €75-€130/tasting), and the service is discreet, professional, and attentive. Finally, the setting is a comfortable and elegant dining room on the first floor of a restored Second Empire townhouse, which is also home to the edgy new Eléphant Paname Art & Dance Center.

* Sports Bars in Paris
Many travelers over the years have asked me the best place in Paris to catch a televised sports match of their team “back home”. There are quite a few “sports bars” in Paris, but usually you have to call every single one in advance to find out if they’re broadcasting the one you want to watch. To help save you the trouble, check out the bilingual website AlloMatch.com, which tracks which ones have the license to show US football matches (college and pro), searchable by several criteria including whether the sound will be ON, which isn’t always a given. Do be sure to call ahead once you have this narrowed list, just to be sure, and ask to reserve a table where you can see the screen if necessary (especially on weekend nights).
* Shoes, Clothing & Accessories for Dancers
Although many people are familiar with Repetto, the historic purveyors of toe shoes and tutus for the Opéra de Paris Ballet, there’s another store in the 17th, FAME: La Maison de la Danse, which caters to the wider dance community including tap, ballroom, ballet, jazz, most Latin dances including flamenco, urban and modern dance including Hip Hop, and Zumba. They carry shoes, tights, bodysuits, tutus, bun holders, seamless underwear, clothing and dance dresses for warm-up, practice and performance, and even ballet barres and mirrors for home use. The entire catalog available online so you can see the prices (quite reasonable!) and sizes before deciding to visit the store at Porte Maillot.

* Shopping Mayhem Begins January 8th
The once famous winter sales, aka Les Soldes, start on January 8th. These used to be a big deal when there were really ONLY two sales a year in French clothing stores, but since La Crise in 2008 there are sales all of the time and the locals have also simply cut back on unnecessary purchases. If you’re visiting Paris, I suggest taking advantage of the sales to get something special, something you’re going to keep for a long time, preferably from a local designer. It’s also a great time to embrace the Reduce-ReUse-Recycle spirit by checking out the many excellent consignment, thrift and vintage shops in Paris. And if you’re living in Paris, this is a great time to clean out your closets and donate your used-but-cleanwinter shoes and clothing to the local Croix Rouge or Emmaüs before buying anything new.

* Survival Packs for the Homeless
Another great idea during Les Soldes is to use your extra buying power to purchase essential items for the homeless. Consider donating a small but sturdy backpack full of clean socks, travel size toiletries, gloves, hat, rain poncho, hand warmers, lip balm, non-perishable snacks and even some nice extras like playing cards, small paperbacks, or gift cards for supermarkets or coffee shops. The non-profit group Sakado has a website dedicated to this concept, including suggestions of what to put in the backpacks.  There are no drop-off points listed for Paris, but you can usually just donate the backpacks to any Parisian branch of Croix Rouge, Enfants du Canal, Resto du Coeur, La Mie de Pain, l’Armée du Salut, Soupe Ste Eustache, Secours Catholique, or Secours Populaire (the Mairie de Paris has links here). If you live in Paris you can also (discreetly) give the backpacks directly to any homeless “regulars” you may recognize in your neighborhood.

* Eco-Friendly Kitchen Store
Considering how sacred food and all things food-related are so sacred in France, you’d think there’d be more stores like this. But while quality cooking and kitchen items may be appreciated, Vidélicein the Butte aux Cailles is the only store I know of that specifically aims to sell only healthy, well-made kitchen supplies meant to last. Alongside cast iron pots and olive wood cutting boards made in France are conservation containers sans BPAs, professional-quality Japanese knives, and brightly colored silicone cake molds. They even do periodic trade-ins of old Teflon-covered pans and rusted utensils for store credits. Note: They’re exceptionally closed this week for the holidays.

* Running in Paris…& Beyond!
Let’s not call it a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s not even pretend you’re trying to lose the extra pounds gained feasting over the holidays. Running is just darned fun, especially when you do it with someone else. If you haven’t yet heard of Jogg.in, it’s a combination of Facebook and Meet Up just for runners, a way to post your own runs or join others on theirs, totally free of charge. And although the founders are based here in Paris, you can use it no matter where you live (the site is in French and English). It’s a bit quiet this week, but my running cohort Bryan Pirolli and I will be posting our races and long runs on the site over the winter, so stay tuned!  You can also follow the news on their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/jogginfr 

* Fixed-rate Taxis to/from Train Stations
It’s hard not to like taking the train in France when SNCF keeps improving its services. One of the newer ones is the Porte-à-Porte taxi service called StarCab to and from certain train stations (currently Paris Gare de Lyon, Paris Montparnasse, Paris Gare de l'Est, Paris Austerlitz, Paris Bercy, Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Massy, Nantes, Rennes and Strasbourg; more stations being added soon) for a pre-paid, fixed price starting at €9.90 for up to 4 people including bags. You just fill out the form online with your address and train info and it gives you the price (click on Nos Tarifs to get a quote without train info). The driver will send you an SMS just before your pick-up, and they will even wait if your train is delayed. As it’s a fixed rate and pre-paid, it seems like a no-brainer whether you’re coming or going, both to avoid waiting in line or getting overcharged. Book the day before your trip no later than 8pm. Note: this service only seems to exist on the French website, not on the English SNCF site. http://www.pap.sncf.com/starcab/
* Consumer Prices Up for 2014
With the new year comes new (higher) prices in France on everything from cigarettes and newspapers to electricity bills and public transport. Stamps for letters in France have gone up to €0.66 for Priority Mail (1 day), €0.61 for a Lettre Vert (2 days), and €0.59 for an Eco-Pli (4 days). Stamps without actual prices on them (like the Marianne stamps) are always good. For letters sent within the EU the price is €0.83, and for the rest of the world (US and Canada included) it’s now €0.98 (which means you have to add €0.03. stamps to your unused €0.95 international stamps). If your letter has the wrong postage, the recipient will be charged a €1.10 fee. Luckily for the French workers the minimum wage (aka SMIC) has also gone up from €9.43 to €9.53/hour.
* Secrets of Paris Travel Journalism Internships
We’re currently accepting applications for winter journalism internships with Secrets of Paris. Applicants should be native English-speakers with conversational and academic French (able to conduct phone interviews or do library research), current students or recent graduates (qualifying for the convention de stage), and available for a minimum of 20 hours per week in Paris from February through April. Interns will learn the difference between professional travel journalism and travel “blogging”, gain valuable experience writing articles and contributing to travel guides, and enjoy access to exclusive Paris press events. If you have excellent general writing skills, are deadline-oriented, possess initiative, like small dogs, and have a willingness to learn through constructive criticism and re-writes, then send us a short introductory message with links to your resume and/or writing samples. 
* Paris News & Events
Don't forget to check out the current events going on in Paris on theSecrets of Paris Calendar, or follow us on Twitter to get last-minute news and events and photos of Paris on Heather's morning runs. 


Thanks for reading! 

- Heather

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