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Newsletter #149: January 9, 2015

In this Issue:

* I am Charlie
* Heather’s US Tour
* Plan Your Vacation without Going Crazy
* Travel Beyond Paris
* Prices Hikes in Metro, Post, Parking
* I Was Wrong: Don't Vandalize
* Anti-Café WiFi Lounges
* Recycled Moving Boxes
* Paris in the Press
* Secrets of Paris News & Calendar






* I am Charlie *

The past few days have been very surreal here in Paris. Every major news station and website has been covering the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo, but if you’re curious what it’s been like to live through it as a local you can read my article Je Suis Charlie, including Bryan Pirolli’s photos from the vigil at Place de la République and my recording of the mourning bells tolling at Notre Dame Cathedral. If you’re in Paris, there will be a silent march on Sunday at 3pm from Place de la République to Nation. Next Wednesday Charlie Hebdo’s surviving writers and cartoonists will publish a special edition of their magazine with one million copies available on newsstands throughout France. Help support freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press wherever you live in the world by subscribing to your favorite news or satire publication (yes folks, that means actually paying for it, online or in print). Not every journalist can afford to do their job as a hobby (ie on their free blog), and we can all agree we’re sick of pop-up ads and sponsored content. So suck it up and pay or stop complaining about the lack of “good journalism” these days.

* Heather’s US Tour *

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve confirmed Naughty Paris Book Tour events in New Orleans (Jan 25), Austin (Jan 29), San Diego (Feb 8) and San Francisco (Feb 13). We’re still working on figuring out the best day for an event in Scottsdale AZ, since I’ll be there visiting my hometown the first week of February…the same week as the Superbowl, oops! I may have a second event in SF (the one scheduled is at a private, members-only club) and in LA if I’m not burnt out by the time I get to California. I’m counting on the sunshine to keep me going (and where that fails, a steady diet of authentic Mexican food). I would love to meet as many of you as possible, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’re in any of these towns!

* Planning Your Vacation without Going Crazy *

I’ve received a few dozen tour requests for the spring, so I know many of you are already busy planning your vacations to Paris and other parts of France (and with the strong Dollar/Euro exchange rate at the moment, I don’t blame you!). But if you feel yourself already going a little crazy trying to organize flights, accommodations, sights, dining, getting around, shopping, understanding the language, and figuring out what to pack, perhaps you could use some help. While I enjoy showing visitors the secrets of Paris on my tours, what I really love is helping in the planning stage. A one-on-one phone or Skype session going over your ‘list’ (everyone has a list), helping you prioritize, organize, and optimize your time, money and energy levels during your time in Paris. I’ll make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew, wasting money on passes or other “tourist” services, and help you choose the best area of town and dining venues that fit your expectations. It starts with a pre-call questionnaire, then a one-on-one 45-minute phone or Skype call (I call you), and a follow-up email with additional suggestions and links. The fee for the Custom Travel Planning Session is €200 (20% VAT included), with the option to add on a 2-hour Welcome to Paris Orientation in person once you're in town. Note: I'm on the road until the end of February, so no sessions can be scheduled before March 1st. 

* Travel Beyond Paris *

If you’ve already “done” Paris or want to discover the real France and its villages, its food, and its (surprisingly friendly) people, I recommend using local tour planners who actually live here and specialize in a particular region. First, while there is a ton of information about Paris available online, there’s comparably very little for other towns in France, and it’s usually quickly out of date or written by someone who has visited once or twice, not a true local expert. Second, you’ll save a ton of money by booking locally. All of the package tours led by American companies and individuals who “bring you to France” with an all-inclusive price usually costs in the thousands because you are subsidizing the guide’s travel and accommodation, as well as the commissions on all of the local experts they hire to help with the planning. Cut out the middlemen and go straight to the source (just do your homework and make sure they are registered businesses in France and have permits to guide in museums or drive passenger vehicles). If you’re heading to the French Riviera (particularly Nice), contact Rosa Jackson of Les Petit Farcis. These are generally food tours and cooking classes, but you’ll learn more about the region through food than by hanging out at the beach. In the Loire Valley I recommend Le Tasting Room, which again is more concentrated on the vineyards than the Loire Valley chateaux, but you’ll get an excellent introduction to the region and a fabulous home cooked meal by Cathy and Nigel. In Normandy I’ve had many clients rave about their Overlord Tours of the D-Day battlefields. Julie Mauter of Provence Post Travel is the woman to contact if you want to know the secrets of Provence and get hooked up with the best local guides. Finally, I’ve recently met Fabrice Vignaud, a French art and antique expert with a shop at the illustrious Puces de St-Ouen in northern Paris who also does high-end, insider "Legendes" tours of his home region of Burgundy. All of them have a passion for authenticity, expertise, and service…like yours truly!

* Prices Hikes in the Metro, Trains, La Poste, & Parking *
On January 1st rates went up for a few municipal services and French trains:

- Metro tickets went from €1.70 to €1.80 and a carnet of 10 rose from €13.70 to €14.10 (however any tickets purchased before January 1st are still valid). Monthly Navigo passes are up 4.3% to €70. 
- Airport RER/bus tickets rose on the Orlyval (€9.30 euros), the Orlybus (€7.70), and Roissybus (€11). 
- The minimum taxi fare is now €7, no matter what it says on the meter.

- Regional train tickets (RER, TER, TGV) went up 2.1%.

- Parking in the 1st-11th arrondissements has gone from €2.50 to €4/hour for street parking (€2.40/hour in the 12th-20th arrondissements). It has been extended to 8pm and now includes Saturdays and August. And if you are a resident you now have to pay €45 for your annual street parking permit plus €1.50/day.  

- Postage stamps just went up a record 7% (wish I had bought a bunch last month!) so now a regular French stamp is €0.76, a Timbre Vert is €0.68, and to mail a letter internationally beyond Europe (ie US or Australia) will now cost a whopping €1.20 (it was €0.95 before…some of you may not get your new year’s cards). On the plus side, packages are up just 1%, and they have simplified the shipping rates, so now there are just 30 whereas before there were 200 (yes, 200; that’s not a typo) and now offer more pre-paid envelopes and boxes for small packages.  

* I Was Wrong About Oscar: Don’t Vandalize *

When the padlocks on the bridges of Paris began getting out of control last year, I began speaking out, and am now a big supporter of the No Love Locks Campaign. And it got me thinking about other instances of “publicly condoned” vandalism that has gotten out of control, such as the lipstick kisses covering the tomb of Oscar Wilde at Père Lachaise Cemetery. I myself smooched the statue back in my student days, because that’s what people did (I wasn’t even really a fan back then, just a silly 20 year old). Because everyone continued to ignore the signs pleading for people to stop defacing the writer’s grave, a Plexiglas box was erected around the tomb three years ago to protect it. I recently saw the neighboring tombstone collapsed and broken, obviously from someone standing on it to reach Oscar’s tomb, and thought it was a shame (not to mention dangerous). What I forgot about was a snarky little comment I left on my website in 2012 mocking the ugly Plexiglas, writing “I think Oscar would rather die smothered under kisses than die from embarrassment. Hmph!” Of course “snarky will always find a way back to you”, and I was finally called out in the comments section (by someone who works in cemetery preservation), who wisely pointed out that it’s not up to me to decide what Oscar would want (read her comment and my mea culpa in the post below). Vandalism is illegal, whether we agree with it or not, whether “everyone does it” or not. There is a reason graffiti artists still do their art in the dead of night: they can and often are arrested and fined. At least they know what they’re doing is a crime. How many people would padlock a bridge or deface a tomb if they knew they could be hauled off in handcuffs? Not quite so romantic now, is it?

* Anti-Café WiFi Lounges *

The Anti-Café now has three locations in Paris – Beaubourg (4th), Palais Royal (1st) and Les Olympiads (13th) – cozy lounges where you can meet, hang out, use Wifi, play board games, enjoy all-you-can-eat snacks and beverages (or bring your own food and drink), all for just €4/hour or €17 for the full day. There are tables, some sofas, rooms that can be reserved for groups, and even events for “community” members. Imagine an airline lounge (minus the CNN loop on the TV) and that’s the Anti-Café. Considering it usually costs €3-5 just for a tea in any café with wifi, this seems more than reasonable.
* Recycled Moving Boxes *

Carton Pleine is a Parisian company that collects, recycles and reconditions industrial boxes from local businesses into moving boxes in four sizes, paper “bubble” wrap and even eco-friendly packaging tape. They use electric bikes to collect and deliver their boxes and employ workers from Emmaüs and Secours Catholique reinsertion programs. Next time you need some moving or storage boxes, check them out.

* Paris in the Press *

Not Drinking Poison perfectly describes the absurd English translations in Le Fooding’s restaurant guide (note: even if you understand French, it’s not much better).

BBC News writes about Paris Cracking Down on Vacation Apartment Rentals(or “Holiday Lets”, in Brit-speak). It’s a shame that foreign investors can no longer legally make money off their property without rezoning for commercial use, but that’s the nature of investing, it’s not guaranteed. Maybe now they’ll sell to people who actually live here full time (or rent for long term occupants, which IS legal).

France takes on Silicon Valley – without the inequality. There’s very little commentary here, but I wonder how American techies process this highly unfamiliar concept.

In France is Crushing It at CES, French weight-loss gadgets are doing well at the consumer technology show in Las Vegas, including a self-adjusting belt and a fork that yells at you.

* 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 late February.
The Secrets of Paris Newsletter is a monthly newsletter started in 1999, with 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. 


Thanks for reading!
- Heather 

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Reader Comments (2)

I love Mohammad "P.B.U.H"
I hate terrorism.
I condemn insulting the holy prophets.
January 16, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteramir javadi
"Condeming" is fine. You are welcome to express your opinions in a free society. Murdering to express your feelings is not.
January 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
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