Secrets of Paris 
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About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Secrets of Paris Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

June 12-14
The Salon du Vinatge is always a fun event in Paris, whether you're shopping for clothing, accessories, vinyls, and home decor, or just to hear the retro DJ tunes and the festive atmosphere. Free entry, at the Halle des Blancs Manteaux (48 rue Vieille du Temple, 3rd). 

June 12-14
The Portes d'Or is a chance for all the artistic workshops in the Goutte d'Or (18th arrondissement) to open their doors to the public. Over 80 painters, sculptors, jewelery-makers and many others who live and work in the Goutte d'Or wish to share their creativity. Please come support the community and experience these unique productions. 

June 13-14
The artists of the 5th (Mouffetard) and 13th (Butte aux Cailles/Gobelins) districts knows as Lézarts du Bièvre open their studios to the public for two days, 2-8pm. Free entry. Info points and maps here.

June 14
Get out your fancy hats and picnic baskets for the annual Prix de Diane races at Chantilly Hippodrome (just 45 minutes north of Paris from Gare du Nord). Read more about the event here. 

June 21
Celebrate Fête de la Musique in 17th-century aristocratic style at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte for their annual costumes dance event, La Journée Grand Siècle, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the original owner, Nicolas Fouquet. There will be an elegant picnic in the chateau gardens, live music and dancing, as well as carriage rides and sword-fighting shows. If you don't have a costume gown you can rent one on-site from €17. 

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

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to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Entries in Paris (266)

Tuesday
Jun302015

More Paris Street Art

Just when it seems like the street art in Paris gets old and familiar, new artists come onto the scene or I take a different route and discover hidden artworks. These are photos taken during my morning runs (mostly in the 13th arrondissement) and on my walking tours of Paris. I take them with Instagram and share them on Twitter

A large mural by the OnOff Crew at Docks-en-Seine (13th). This collaborative street art group is decoration the walls of the newly-renovated Bercy Stadium (formerly known as POPB). 

A mural on Rue Tolbiac (13th) dedicated to the artist Nikki de St-Phalle by Kashink1, for the 2015 Women's Forum in Paris.

This skull was next to Kashink1's mural, but not sure if it's also her work or another artist's. 

An Ingres portrait in street art/poster on the Rue St-Honoré (1st) as part of artist Julien de Casabianca's Outings project, bringing museum artworks to the streets around the world. 

This cute little train mural appeared last week in the Square René Le Gall (13th), on the wall of a small building being renovated across from the play area. I can't find any signature, so if anyone recognizes the artist let me know. 

The Space Invader needs no introduction...this discreet little guy on the turret of the Hôtel de Lamoignon (History of Paris Library, 4th) is easy to miss. 

Street artist Alice Pasquini's pretty painting on one of the electrical boxes of the 13th (near Place Jeanne d'Arc). 

A mural on the wall across from the metro station Bibliothèque (13th) by the street artist YZ, who participated in the Sur les Murs exposition (which ended today).

"You are Here" by the artist K-Bal, on the Rue St-André-des-Arts (6th). 

 

Sunday
Jun212015

Beta-Test CityScoot: Paris’ Electric Scooter Rental Program 

Photo courtesy CityScoot

First there was Velib’, the municipal bike-sharing program. Then came Autolib’ with its cute electric cars. Now the City of Paris is now beta-testing a new program called CityScoot, a self-service electric scooter rental program scheduled to roll out in 2016 as part of the Paris Climate Conference initiative to “go green”.

You can sign up to be one of the beta-testers if you live in Paris (and can fill out the French sign-up form). As these are small electric scooters, a driving license isn’t required if you’re born before 1988. You can read more about the program here

Thursday
Jun182015

Pétanque (or Boules) in Paris

Whether you call it pétanque or boules, the traditional French game with the shiny silvery balls has made a comeback. It used to be the only people you'd see playing in were old men in berets sipping pastis. Now everyone plays, particularly Parisian hipsters (les BoBo's) who don't have to worry about breaking a sweat. 

In the mood to try your hand? You can learn the rules of pétanque here, and find a great list of places to play here, but what about les boules? You can either buy inexpensive sets of balls at sporting goods store like Decathlon or from pro shops like Obut. You'll probably see another game with little wooden pins, almost like bowling. That Jeu de Quilles, a Finnish game that has become more popular around Paris, possibly because the equipment is lighter and less expensive, and little kids can play. Not sure where they rate on the cool-o-meter, though. Stick with boules unless you're devoid of hipster aspirations or immune to subtle Parisian mocking. 

Casual pétanque games in the Arènes de Lutèce, for all ages (click here to see a cheeky angle to this pic). 

If you're just passing through and don't need the extra kilos in your suitcase you can also rent them from Paris Ma Belle for just €10/person for the day, and they even deliver and pick-up the balls when you're done. Another option if you don't want to have to do anything yourself is to hire Paris Localers to take a Pétanque Tour including an apéritif and a match on the Place Dauphine. 

Note that many people say you can play in the dedicated pétanque courts in Luxembourg Gardens, but they are usually reserved (and obsessively raked like a zen garden) for the local pétanque club. So feel free to play elsewhere in the park, there is plenty of space, but don't play in the reserved areas unless you get permission. 

Serious pétanque player in the immaculate Jardin du Luxembourg.

 

Tuesday
Jun162015

Ticks in Paris

New signs have appeared in all of the parks and gardens of Paris warning visitors of ticks, or tiques. Paris isn't known for having ticks, but they have been found in its larger green spaces like the Bois de Vincennes and in the surrounding natural parks where Parisians go for their Sunday hikes, bike rides and picnics. As Lyme disease is a real risk with any tick bite, be sure to do a close inspection after any extended trips to the park with your family or pets, and if you do find one go to your nearest pharmacy to have it correctly removed (they sell the little tongs specially adapted for tick removal). If you see a round, red spot that might be a tick bite (it will look like a "target"), see your doctor. Lyme disease can be prevented if treated with antibiotics immediately. There is no reason to avoid going to the parks, but awareness is essential, so spread the word.  

Monday
Jun152015

How to Get Real Iced Tea in France

There's nothing like a refreshing glass of iced tea when the temperatures start rising. But if it's your first time in France, beware that the "iced tea" on the menu probably isn't what you think it is.

First, if it's a French menu and the beverage is listed as Ice Tea, it's probably Lipton or Nestea brand "Ice Tea" in a can or bottle. Industrial iced tea might not bother you (it can't be worse than carbonated soft drinks, right?)

But if you don't look closely at the label before taking a swig, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find that its peach flavored. No, you didn't ask for peach, and the menu didn't say peach. But in France pêche is the default flavor of iced tea. In the US -- unless maybe you're from the South -- it's usually lemon. And they have lemon (and raspberry and mango) flaor in France, but that's not necessarily what you'll get in a café. 

So how do you get actual iced tea? Look for "Thé glacé maison" and ask the server if it's from a bottle or made fresh. Then ask if it's nature (unflavored), citron (lemon) or pêche (peach), if you have a preference.

I've had real iced tea at Ladurée and Carette (pictured on the left), both which are tearooms, and both times they were unflavored and unsweetened. In this case they bring the sugar for you to sweeten it yourself. If you've never made your own iced tea, you might be a bit humbled to discover just how much sugar you have to put in there to get it to taste "normal". I just drink it without sugar, a perfect accompaniment to the rich chocolate pastries I can't resist!

Thursday
Jun112015

Vintage Toy Boats in Luxembourg Gardens

Most visitors strolling Luxembourg Gardens have seen kids pushing adorable little sailboats around the Grand Bassin duck pond, but perhaps you didn't know this is a tradition that's almost 90 years old. 

In 1927 Clément Paudeau, who had a passion for hand-made wooden boats (with the fabric sails hand-sewn by his wife), had the idea of renting them to children in Luxembourg Gardens for two sous. They became an instant hit. 

The tradition of the P'tits Voiliers continues today with the exact same antique boats from Padeau's era, repainted and given new sails, but otherwise unchanged. Each day when the weather is cooperative you'll find the little stand next to the Grand Bassin (opposite the Palais de Luxembourg) offering the sailboats for rent: €3.50 for 30 minutes (and, incredibly, it's all done on the honor system, no ID needed). 

Kids can choose boats with different national flags, or even a pirate flag, each unique so they can find theirs in the pond once they're sailing amongst the other boats. There are no batteries, no remote controls; each kid is given a long stick that, when his or her boat reaches the edge of the pond, is used to turn it around and give it a push to send the boat sailing back across the water. It keeps the children occupied chasing them around the pond while the parents lounge on the famous Luxembourg chairs

You can also bring your own boat if you don't want to risk waiting in line for an available one. The antique boats are never for sale (everyone has tried to buy them), but you can purchase the same style at many excellent toy shops in Paris such as NemiNemo (1 rue de Cassette, 6th, near the gardens), or Pain d'Epices in the Passage Jouffroy (Grands Boulevards, 9th). You can find more addresses in France and the US here

Note that on Sundays between 10am and 3pm the members of the Club Nautique du Luco (the Luxembourg Nautical Club) bring all of their sailboats, motor boats (only silent ones, no loud speed boats), and even submarines to the pond, so it can be a bit crowded, but fun to watch. 

There are many other kid-friendly activities in Luxembourg Gardens, including pony rides, marionettes, and one of the best playgrounds in Paris. You can read all about it at Haven in Paris blog