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

Through August 21
The 30th annual Fête des Tuileries funfair with carnival rides at Tuileries Gardens starts today, free entry, rides with individual tickets. Plenty of food stands, too!

Through August 27
La Nuit aux Invalides is an impressive sound and light show in the courtyard of Invalides highlighting the monument's history (Louis XIV, Napoléon, Charles De Gaulle), in English on Monday and Thursday nights. Tickets €18 (adult price). See the teaser video.

Through September 4
Paris Plages: sand, beach trees, volley balls and bikinis -- on the Seine! Fun activities and plenty of space for lounging along the Right Bank quays and Hôtel de Ville extended this year through September 4th. Free entry, 10am-midnight. 

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 France (47)

Monday
Jul252016

Insider Tips for Attending the Annual Ball of Versailles 

Many visitors to the Château de Versailles learn about the extravagant parties and masquerade balls hosted by the Sun King Louis XIV. But did you know you can actually attend one yourself? 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun092016

Almost Back to Normal: Sunshine and the Seine in Paris

It has been gorgeous and sunny in Paris since Monday. I went out for a morning run in the Jardin des Plantes Wednesday morning and thought I'd have a look at the level of the Seine along my usual running route on the quays, and was surprised to find cyclists and pedestrians already enjoying the Quai Saint-Bernard (5th arrondissement). 

On the Quai St-Bernard near the Batobus stop for Jardin des Plantes. 

The Resto du Coeur (soup kitchen) boat along the Quai St-Bernard back in service.

A bit of gravel and mud along the lower end of the quay.

The little amphitheatres where people dance on summer nights are still underwater. Click for the Instagram video I filmed here.

Quite a bit of mud here, but most of the flowering shrubs on the right seem to have weathered the submersion without problem.

Municipal gardeners are out planting the summer annuals now that the rain has stopped. 

Closer to Notre Dame Cathedral, the water is still above the lowest paths along the quays. 


You can see here on the right the benches peeking out from the water, which is still knee-high here across from the Ile-St-Louis. Note that the only roads that flooded in Paris were these auxiliary quays along the water. The Seine never rose above that wall on the left. Click the photo for the second video from Instagram.

This photo taken from the Théâtre du Châtelet Sunday night shows the first rays of sun shining on Notre Dame in the early evening. You can see more clearly here the pedestrian path along the river is still flooded, but the water, even at its highest level, never got close to the top of the main wall protecting the city (where you see all of the cars, buses, pedestrians).

Some cellars and the RER C, which runs rights along the river, were infiltrated by water, but the museums didn't suffer any flooding, even though as a precaution they closed for the weekend while moving crates of art works from lower level storage into the upper galleries. Sunshine predicted in Paris through Saturday, we should be back to normal in no time! 

Saturday
Mar192016

Technology and Expat Life in France: We've Come a Long Way

It’s hard for today’s American expatriates to fathom the lives of our forbearers who lived in France before the internet, commercial airlines, the telephone, or even the telegraph, completely cut off from their homeland for months at a time. When I first arrived in Paris as a student in 1995, France’s communications industry was suffering from a full blown identity crisis. They seemed both behind and ahead of the US, determined to modernize but only on their own Gallic terms.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb122016

The Forgotten Black Heroes of D-Day

"They stormed Omaha and Utah Beaches early on June 6, 1944. They've been written out of history. Movies don't show them. Most books don't mention them. But they were there." Watch the video to learn more about the men of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. 

Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War is the riveting story about the African-American soldiers who landed on the beaches of France on D-Day, virtually written out of history, their faces missing from iconic WWII films such as Saving Private Ryan. This well-researched book not only covers the military history, it also takes a hard look at race relations in the Jim Crow South and the sad lack of recognition these brave men were denied when they returned home. 

American journalist and author Linda Hervieux, former editor of the New York Daily News now living in France, first learned about the 320th in 2009 when she attended a ceremony in Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day awarding one of the soldiers from that African-American unit the Legion of Honor, France's highest honor. This began Hervieux's long and detailed research into the other men of the 320th that would eventually become the book Forgotten, published in fall of 2015 to much critical acclaim.

"Forgotten is an utterly compelling account of the African Americans who played a crucial and dangerous role in the invasion of Europe. ... The story of their heroic duty is long overdue." – Tom Brokaw, best-selling author of The Greatest Generation

"Hard to believe this story hasn’t been written before. Linda Hervieux’s Forgotten is essential, fiercely dramatic, and ultimately inspiring. All Americans should read this World War II history, which doubles as a civil rights primer, to learn the true cost of freedom." – Douglas Brinkley, best-selling author of Cronkite

I joined a fully-packed audience for the presentation of her book at the American Library of Paris earlier this month, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the room after she shared their stories with us. One of the most inspiring was about Corporal Waverly B. Woodson Jr. of West Philadelphia, a medic with the 320th.

You can read an excerpt from the book about his heroism and the many lives he saved on the beach that fateful day despite his own injuries, heavy firing from the Germans, and the slowly rising tide. But although Woodson was nominated America's Congressional Medal of Honor, no African-Americans would receive their own nation's highest honor in WWII. There is now an online petition to award Woodson the honor posthumously (he died in 2005).

Another fascinating part of her presentation were the stories of how kindly the African-American soldiers were treated in the small Welsh town where they were stationed before the invasions, and the friendships they formed with the locals who welcomed them into their community. Linda is currently touring the US for the book this February and March (including Washington, DC; the National D-Day Memorial in Virginia; Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; and Harvard Law School in Massachusetts). 

The publisher is also offering the Kindle eBook version of Forgotten for just $1.99 during Black History Month (February). For more information about the men of the 320th, progress on the Medal of Honor petition, author appearances and news about the book, sign up for Linda Hervieux's free mailing list here.

Wednesday
Feb102016

Parisians Get a Citizenship Card

The Mairie de Paris (City Hall) just announced a new “Carte Citoyenne-Citoyen de Paris” or a Paris Citizenship Card, free for any resident of Paris – of any nationality and at least 7 years old – “to promote civic pride and reaffirm adherence to the values of the French Republic”.

Some people may think it’s little more than a feel-good publicity stunt aimed at making the city’s multicultural kids feel more a part of the community, but I think it never hurts to err on the side of inclusion from an early age.

So what does this card actually do? It allows access to a diverse schedule of special events hosted by the City of Paris such as concerts, guided visits of municipal services and sights such as the Hôtel de Ville, official launches and sporting events, educational workshops and other interesting ways of making Parisians feel like they’re a part of the local community, and of course it’s also a way for City Hall to show off all the ways they’re working for the people of Paris (the entire spring schedule is already posted online).

The cards will be given automatically to school kids, but you can get yours by simply filling out the form online. Note: this card has nothing to do with the French naturalization process and has no legal value. 

Monday
Dec212015

French Firemen's Calender Heats Things Up

Every December in France you'll see the French firemen, or pompiers, selling their annual calendar to raise money for their non-profit association, ADOSSPP (Association pour le développement des œuvres sociales des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris), which provides assistance to injured fire fighters, as well as their families in case of death. As the French fire fighters are part of the French military, the calendars are rather...professional. You will see images of the fire fighters at work, putting out the flames, saving lives, in training exercises, etc.

I've seen two different covers, not sure if they're the same inside. 

I like to follow the Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris on Facebook because they always post photos and videos of their work. I should warn you the remains of burn-out houses and apartments are depressing, but you also get some pretty cool stuff, like this amazing rescue of an injured tourist in the dome at Sacré Coeur Basilica and needed to be taken out through the windows in a stretcher. You can watch one of their training videos to see what kind of physical strength and endurance is required of all fire fighters (note: they're not all firemen; women make up 8% of the French fire brigade, or about 14,000 total). 

If you would like your own 2016 Calendrier des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris, and you haven't run into any firemen selling them at the market, you can simply stop by any caserne in Paris to buy them direct. Here is a map of all of the fire stations in Paris and immediate suburbs. 

It should be said that the French buy these calendars to support the fire fighters, not because they're very interesting calendars. Or rather, not very exciting. But now there is a new calendar by Pompiers sans Frontiers (Fire Fighters without Borders), a French NGO that responds to humanitarian crises around the world as well as working with at-risk and vulnerable populations in France. To raise money and awareness for their work, they have come out with a très chaud calendar featuring the sexiest firemen photographed by Fred Goudon and published by Flammarion.

See some of the sexy "making of" videos here (not particularly suitable for work). You can find these calendars at FNAC in Paris, or order your copy online here (worldwide shipping available).