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Sunday
Dec072014

Newsletter #148: December 6, 2014

In this Issue:

* Naughty Paris Holiday Events
* Heather’s US Tour
* Paris for Christmas and New Year’s Eve
* Visit the Biggest Food Market 
* Local Craft Beer Breweries
* Sainte Chapelle & Conciergerie Tickets 
* Calendar of Strikes & Marches
* Eat, Drink and Sleep near Gare du Nord 
* Get Your Guilt-Free Christmas Trees
* For your Home Improvement Projects 
* Look Mom, I’m in the NY Times

 

 

 

  

 

* Naughty Paris Holiday Events & Heather’s US Tour *
Over the summer you might remember I did a crowd-funding campaign to be able to locally and ecologically print the second edition of my women’s travel guide“Naughty Paris: A Lady’s Guide to the Sexy City”. Thanks to over 200 supporters (including many of you!) the campaign was a success, and I’m now happy to announce the pre-launch events in December and the official launch tour in the US.
 
If you’re in Paris, there will be a press cocktail reception on December 15th at the showroom of couture designer Ana Quasoar’s (invitation on request) and then we will be at the Paris Burlesque Festival from December 17-20 (open to the public) with prize drawings and other fun treats. Books will be available at both events for a special pre-launch price of just €20.

Then I’ll be escaping the chilly Parisian winter in January and February for the US Book Launch Tour in New Orleans, Phoenix, San Francisco, LA and San Diego (and either Austin or Denver…votes?). I’m really looking forward to meeting many of you in person for the first time, so stay tuned for the exact schedule of events on our Facebook page or the Naughty Guides website (where you can sign up for the VIP list so you don’t miss any of the fun).

* Paris for Christmas and New Year’s Eve *

There is no shortage of websites telling you what to do in Paris for the holidays. Generally you will have a ton of Christmas markets scattered around town, some open until Christmas, some through the New Year, and the ones on the Champs-Elysées and La Défense (suburb on Line 1 metro) are by far the largest and have entertainment and rides in addition to toys, gifts, crafts and – most important – hot food and wine. There are free merry-go-rounds all over Paris, the giant Ferris wheel at Concorde, and ice skating at the Grand Palais (fanciest and indoors), Hôtel de Ville and Champs-Elysées. Everywhere you go that has shops will haveelaborate window decorations (especially department stores which are famous for it) and pretty holiday lights on all major streets. Almost all of the restaurants, museums, and shops are open every day but the 25th and the 1st (large stores are open exceptionally on Sundays in December). Some museums are open on one or both days, including Jacquemart-André, Centre Pompidou, Orangerie (open 1st), Quai Branly (open 1st), Espace Dali and Eiffel Tower. Expect crowdseverywhere and bundle up accordingly. Even Christmas Eve Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral is so crowded that most people can’t get in and have to watch from big screens placed outside. My mom is coming for Christmas, so we’ll be braving the crowds with a flask of something hot to visit Vaux-le-Vicomte and the Musée des Arts Forains, both totally worth the wait. There are no fireworks at the Eiffel Tower on New Year’s Eve, but many holiday parties in clubs and restaurants which are always quite expensive but worth it if you’re only visiting (most locals celebrate with friends in private homes). Check out the Secrets of Paris Calendar and the websites below for specific recommendations, and don’t forget to pack your wooly socks and mittens!

* Visit the Biggest Food Market in the World *
 
If you’re interested in tours of Rungis, the largest fresh food market in the world (despite the stupid article in the last newsletter’s “In the Press” section), there are guided tours on December 12 and January 9th, starting at 4:30am (that’s not a typo) with a bus pick-up at Place Denfert-Rochereau (14th), a 3-hour tour of the different sectors of the suburban food city, breakfast at one of the market cafés, and return to the Place Denfert-Rochereau around 9:30am. The cost is €80/person, limited spaces.
 
* Local Craft Beer Breweries *
 
Last month I trekked out to the gritty (okay, that’s code for ugly and covered in un-attractive-not-artsy graffiti) suburb of Montreuil by line 9 metro to pick up a fresh batch of “Jolly Roger” pumpkin beer (pic below) from the rather spiffy micro-brewery of Deck & Donohue, a young expat team from the US and Ireland who will give tastings of their wonderful beers every Saturday 11am-3pm. A neighboring craft beer brewery, La Montreuilloise, also does beer-making workshops every Saturday morning and afternoon (you have to wait 13 days for fermentation if you want to take home the beer you actually made), or you can simply stop by for tastings and beer shopping Saturdays 10am-noon. 
 

* Sainte Chapelle & Conciergerie Ticket Options *
 
Many visitors want to go to Sante Chapelle, the only chapel in Paris that you have to pay to enter (because it’s no longer used for religious services, as it’s inside the Palais de Justice (Supreme Court) walls. Lines are long because of the security measures to enter, so don’t end up having to queue TWICE because you also need to get into the ticket line once inside. There are three options to avoid this: buy any museum pass in advance (they all work here); buy your ticket online in advance that is good any day for a year (you’ll need to print it out); or go to the Conciergerie first and buy a €12.50 “jumélé” joint ticket for both that is – as a bonus – good for two consecutive days starting the day of purchase. The Conciergerie is also part of the Palais de Justice (the former royal palace before it moved into the Louvre), used as a banquet hall and then a prison, most famously during the French Revolution (Marie Antoinette spent the last months of her life here before the guillotine). In addition to the reconstituted prison cells is a temporary exhibit about the life of Louis IX, aka Saint Louis, who built Sainte Chapelle to hold the Crown of Thorns he acquired in the 13th century. I recommend the third option, as there is rarely (but not never) a line to get into the Conciergerie (and security check is a LOT faster). Also be aware the Sainte Chapelle is still 25% covered in scaffolding inside the top floor, so photo ops are a bit thwarted (the one below is from last year). Both are closed the 25th Dec and 1st Jan. Look for the “Buy Now” icons on the websites to get tickets online.
  

* Calendar of Strikes & Marches *
 
Strikes are normally announced in advance in France, so it’s surprising no one has done this before (or maybe I missed it): a calendar of strikes called C’est la Grève. It’s only in French but you can probably go some Google translation if you see an announcement for Paris. At the moment all of them seem to be elsewhere in France except for a potential Parisian taxi strike on December 9th to protest the planned removal of the “bornes de taxi” (nothing to do with Uber this time, ha!) There is also Démospère, a calendar of “alternative” events which mostly seem to be “manifestations” and “rassemblements” (protest marches and demonstrations), of which there are several every single day in Paris alone (not all of them involve closing the streets, many are just a small group in a square or in front of town hall), so it’s handy if you’re curious about the subject of the march outside your window. There are also concerts and fun events on this site, alas all in French only.

* Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep near Gare du Nord *
 
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Eurostar between Paris and London (and Brussels) the Guardian (UK) has created a series of articles about where to eat, sleep and drink in the neighborhoods around those train stations. I wrote the article Where to Eat, Drink & Sleep around Gare du Nord, which was a lot of fun because it gave me an excuse to wander around neighborhoods that are still full of surprises (not necessarily all good, but c’est la vie). If you’re already sick of the overcrowded Marché des Enfants Rouges on Sunday, I highly recommend a visit to the covered Marché Saint-Quentin (open daily except Monday, pic below). In case you’ve heard some negative press about the Gare du Nord (mostly coming from the Brits, who are smug about their spanking new train station), note that – after Gare St-Lazare’s transformation, the 19th-century Gare du Nord is undergoing serious renovations over the next two years (I’m hoping it won’t turn into yet another shopping-mall-Champagne-bar bonanza à la St-Pancras).
 

* Get Your Guilt-Free Christmas Trees *
 
If you’re planning on getting a Christmas tree in Paris but don’t want the hassle and feel guilty about killing a tree (and plastic isn’t an option), you can “adopt” a potted tree just for the holidays. Treezmas will deliver a potted tree from French nurseries (you choose delivery time, the size and an optional decoration kit) and then they pick it up after the holidays to be replanted (photo below). There’s even a page on their site where you can follow “your” tree  -- they all have a name -- after it leaves your house.

If you prefer to pick out your own cut tree, opt for the Vente de Sapin Solidaire, organized by Dessine-Moi Un Sourire, a non-profit charity that helps with social reintegration through sales of Christmas trees at Place de la Bourse (2nd) and outside the Eglise St-Eustache (1st) daily from 10am – 7:30pm (from 2:30pm on Sunday). They only sell trees grown in France, and they also have a hot chocolate stand, which is never a bad thing on cold winter days!

Be sure to pick up one of the biodegradable Sac à Sapin tree sacks to support Handicap International (sold where trees are sold and in grocery stores and in their Boutique Solidaire), then responsibly dispose of your tree at your local green space (95 locations in Paris) to be recycled as mulch (don’t forget to remove the décor; tinseled and flocked trees can’t be mulched, so don’t do that in the first place).
 

* For your Home Improvement Projects in Paris *
 
In the mood for some DIY projects or fancy building your own furniture but have neither the workspace nor the tools? L’Etablisienne near Nation in the 12th offers workshop rental with all sorts of tools as well as classes if you’d like to learn the tricks of the trade before handling a table saw. The site is in French or English, and you can even buy gift certificates if you’re looking for an original holiday gift idea. 

* Look Mom, I’m in the NY Times! *
 
I’ve written for many magazines and newspapers since I was a little sprout of a journalist, but I’ve only been in the New York Times as a reference, not a writer. Last month my article series on “Becoming French” was mentioned in an article about the comments on Pamela Druckerman’s article “How to be French” (yes, you read that right: they’re now writing articles on the comments on its own articles). And why – why?! – do we in the US media still portray French people smoking as attractive when we (rightly) portray it as a disgusting habit in the US? The French will keep smoking as long as everyone thinks they look chic doing it.

* Secrets of Paris News & Calendar *
 
Don’t forget to check out the latest events happening around town on the Secrets of Paris Calendar, or follow me on Twitter to get daily updates and blurry Instagram pics of Paris on my morning runs. The next newsletter will be sent in January. 
 
The Secrets of Paris Newsletter has been a monthly newsletter since 1999, but since this year is our 15th anniversary, sometimes I even do two newsletters each month. The newsletter usually includes tips for newcomers and visitors, as well as some that are more useful for Paris residents. If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter and would like to receive it directly in your email, just sign up here. 

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