About Secrets of Paris

Created in 1999, the Secrets of Paris is the oldest independent and locally-owned website about Paris in English, for both visitors and residents. Discover what you've been missing:

* Free Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events 
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Tours & Travel Planning

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here





Calendar of Paris Events

November 5-13
The 41st annual Salon Marjolaine, the largest organic fair in Paris, takes place this week at the Parc Floral (Bois de Vincennes) with 550 stands selling everything organic you could imagine. There are also plenty of food stands for lunch onsite, a vestiaire, and a little shuttle from the metro Château de Vincennes to the entrance of the Parc Floral. Open 10:30am-7pm. Entry €10, but you can get a €3 discount voucher on the website to print out in advance. You can also see my article and video from my visit in 2010.  

Marchés de Noël - Christmas Markets are Here! 
Am I the only one who thinks it's wrong that the Christmas Market opens on the Champas-Elysées before Beaujolais Nouveau?  The two largest are opening mid-month this year.
- November 11-January 8 on the Avenue des Champs Elysées
- November 17-December 27 at the Esplanade de La Défense
Other Christmas Markets will be opening around Paris in December, see the full list (en françaishere.   

November 17 
Although it's rather low-key in France compared to the hype it gets in America, the annual Beaujolais Nouveau festival takes place in wine bars throughout Paris today. Read all about the history and the different varieties (good, bad, ugly) and where to celebrate in Paris in this excellent article by Aaron Ayscough, The Redemption of Beaujolais Nouveau (read the 2014 update here and his current on-location exploration of the Beaujolais region here). And for fun, here's a link to the little video I made at the Beaujolais dinner I attended in 2010 with Meg Zimbeck of Paris by Mouth and Bryan Pirolli.  

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

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Entries in beach (3)


Relaxing at Paris Plage while Gearing up for the Rentrée

August is a famously sleepy month in Paris, the time when the juilletistes (those French who take their summer holidays in July) switch places with the aoûtiens (pronounced “ah-oo-sien”, who prefer their vacation in August). Small shops may close for the month, and bakeries go on rotation. Even some cultural institutions go into standby mode. For those stranded in the city, there’s always “Paris Plage,” that bizarrely agreeable transformation of the banks of the Seine into a stretch of the Côte d’Azur. Anyone not familiar with it should go. On the right bank, stretching from the Louvre to Bastille, you’ll find more than artificial beach (5000 metric tons of sand) available for lounging and tanning, but also tai chi, games for kids, an open air library, space for playing boules, and more. (A similar installation runs along the Bassin de la Villette, which you can access near the Métro station Stalingrad.) This year Paris Plage runs through September 4th, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy it.

For all its laziness, August is also a kind of countdown. While the calendar insists that New Year’s Day falls on January 1, the cultural beginning of the year is September. This is known as la rentrée, or “re-entry,” a word that evokes the fiery return of a space capsule aiming for splashdown.

The rentrée has many variations. Preparations for la rentrée scolaire (return to school) become evident late in August as parents show up in stationery shops with long lists of required school supplies. French teachers are famously finicky, specifying how many notebooks of how many pages covered with what kind of lines each student should have—usually one per subject. Add to this the colored pencils, the plastic protectors, the markers, the erasers, and you can see why each year there’s a national debate about the weight of the cartable—the rectangular school bag students carry strapped parachute-style to their back. (Last year the average weight of a sixth-grader’s cartable was twenty-two pounds, or about one third the weight of the kid. French schoolchildren are thus a little like Sisyphus, except that Sisyphus didn’t have to carry his boulder on his back.)

 September also brings the rentrée littéraire, the annual release of hundreds of new titles in all genres that begin to flood the bookstores. Newspapers and magazines will soon be abuzz about this year’s newest novel by Amélie Nothomb or Laurent Mauvignier. As Paris is the capital of publishing in France, it’s also the center for author appearances. Visitors interested in catching a glimpse of their favorite living writer should watch for notices in their local bookstore. (For the dead ones, be sure to check out the Père-Lachaise and Montparnasse cemeteries.)

Finally, autumn marks the rentrée culturelle—the new season of cultural events. Theaters, concert halls, dance stages all start to come to life. The offerings of Paris are dizzying, so it’s helpful to narrow one’s focus. One of my own favorites is the Studio Théâtre, a small space run by the Comédie Française for the production of short plays (usually just an hour), which tend to be brilliantly staged. (Go to the CF website and click on the calendar.) Another reliable address is the Théâtre du Chatelet, which will stage Pina Bausch’s Viktor and Georg Büchner’s Faust in September. And if you’re looking for the cutting edge music or dance, it would be hard to do better than the Cent Quatre. This giant cultural center (built in the macabre old premises of the city’s undertakers) offers some of the most astonishing work in the capital.

The rentrée is the turning point, the kick-off. It’s a fresh start. And after the events of 2016 (terrorism, manhunts, floods, demonstrations, strikes—just for openers), who isn’t ready for that? Of course, in some cases it just means the bell for Round Two: some of the unions have promised a rentrée chaude, keeping the heat on the government. Then we’ll just drag ourselves forward until Paris Plage of 2017!

Scott Dominic Carpenter is Secrets of Paris' new Contributing Editor. You can read about his background and published works here


Newsletter #109: August 6, 2011

In this issue:

Do-Gooder Shopping Fix #1: Retro Glasses
Free Museums This Sunday
Paris Airport Lounges
Do-Gooder Shopping Fix #2: Books & CDs
Restaurants Open in August
Paris Beach Atmosphere
Buy Your Tickets Now for Fall Shows
Get Someone Else to Pay Your Parking Tix
Back in the USA: Heather's Fall Tour
The Secrets of Chantilly & Disneyland Paris
FDR Metro Station gets a Face Lift

Click to read more ...


Paris Plage

Paris Plage along the Voie Georges Pompidou (Right Bank)
Photo by Anne THOMES / Mairie de Paris

The "beaches" of Paris Plage opened on a particularly hot and sunny day last week, with the usual chaise lounges, sand boxes, water misters, ice cream stands, free live concerts (at Pont Sully), and organized activities like volleyball and boules and even swimming (not in the river, of course).

This year there are two main sites, the historic Right Bank (central Paris, from Quai du Louvre to Quai Henri IV) and the eastern Parisian Bassin de la Villette (19th arrondissement, metro Jaurès, Crimée or Laumière). The central Paris Plage is good for lounging, live music and beautiful views of Paris (although it's a bit more crowded), and the Bassin de la Villette is good if you want to get out onto the water, dance at one of the nightly "bals" (swing, salsa and musette music), or just avoid the largest crowds.

Bassin de la Villette
Photo by Anne THOMES / Mairie de Paris

Some fun facts:

  • 3.7 kilometers of "beach" over two locations
  • 4 sand beaches with 2500 tons of sand
  • 300 chaise lounges, 450  reclining beach chairs, 250 parasols, 26 hammocks
  • 33 palm trees
  • 30 rowboats, 10 sailboats, 12 canoes, 8 kayaks, 25 pedal boats (all in the Bassin de la Villette)
  • 640 lifeguards
  • 1200 security guards
  • 8 snack bars and 4 ice cream stands

Some things to note (buzz kill alert): No topless bathing or g-string bikinis allowed, be careful of pickpockets, and get there early if you want a hammock!

Open daily 8am-midnght in central Paris, 9am-11pm at La Villette, until August 21. Free entry. Don't forget your sunglasses.