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

September 9-11
Les Traversées du Marais is a three-day music festival with a "Carnival!" theme taking place throughout the historic courtyards of the Marais district, see the map here

September 16-18
You'll find food specialities from Southwestern France at the 17th annual open-air food market on the Seine, Les Marchés Flottants du Sud-Ouest, for three days along the Quai Montebello (on the Left Bank, facing Notre Dame Cathedral, M° St Michel). Free entry. Open 10am-10pm (Sunday until 7pm).

September 24-25
Celebrate the Fête des Jardins in gardens throughout Paris (many normally closed to the public). This year's theme is urban gardening. Check the full schedule online

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 Paris (346)

Tuesday
May312016

Scared of coming to Paris this Spring? Some perspective...

France has had a tough spring for tourism. The terror attacks in Brussels spooked people into cancelling their visit, strikes and protest marches in response to the new employment law reforms have slowed train service and blocked gas stations, and record-breaking rainfall has caused flooding and the delay of the French Open. From afar, Paris must look like a total mess. There are some serious problems that I don’t mean to minimize, but for visitors to Paris there’s no reason to be unduly alarmed. In fact, within Paris you wouldn’t even know anything is out of the ordinary if you didn’t watch the news. Okay, the rain is hard to miss this week, but public transportation in the city is working normally, and the protest marches are contained within specific designated areas (usually far from anywhere tourists would go anyway).

Wednesday the 25th May, with the Travel Writing Workshop participants at the Marché d'Aligre. 

In fact, I’ve had a half-dozen tours and a week-long travel-writer’s workshop over the past two weeks, and none of my clients was inconvenienced by the events (again, except for the rain if they only packed summer clothes). The protest marches get the most press because they look scary and exciting with riot cops throwing tear gas and masked protesters throwing Molotov cocktails. But most Parisians just roll their eyes and go back to smoking on a café terrace; they’ve seen this before, and it always blows over.

Capturing the absurdity of the situation perfectly, freeze this news video below of the protests at 1:46 and you’ll see a colorfully-dressed man on the right of the screen who’s obviously having a good time posing for the cameras (although I now realize he was just trying to warn us all of the coming floods).

You can watch a longer video here showing that same protest march, in the 6th arrondissement, where for over an hour the riot police and the workers’ union protesters (the ones with red flags and armbands) are throwing tear gas canisters, fireworks and flares back and forth. For you Americans out there, keep in mind that despite the scary-looking mob, ONLY the police have guns. No one else has guns. That’s probably why you’ll also notice in every shot there are spectators watching from the sidelines, more excited to record the “action” on their smartphones than worried about actually getting hurt. At 4:08 you see tourists inside La Rotonde taking photos from the windows (until the waiters wisely move them away). 

Usually protests marches are a noisy but harmless way for the French to let off some steam. But the police, who make all public protest marches possible by blocking traffic and maintaining order, have been getting so annoyed at the “casseurs” (basically the trouble-makers who show up to any protest march just to pick fights and break stuff, as well as the growing violence of the union protesters) that they held their own protest the next day. In this Associated Press video below note how the cop whose car has been attacked and set on fire with two officers inside doesn’t even bother to un-holster his gun in the face of the idiot who’s still swinging a metal rod at him (five protesters have been identified and arrested since then).

To sum it up, as I wrote in Newsletter #68 during the “riots” of 2006, “Don’t worry about canceling your trip to Paris until you see me posting photos of my airlift to safety from the roof of the American Embassy.” 

Sunday
May292016

Do You Know the French Phrase for “Stroke”? 

The Protection Civile de Paris, or PCP, is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization of first-aid responders in Paris. You might notice their presence in the blue and orange uniforms manning first-aid posts at public events like music festivals or sporting events. They also reinforce fire department paramedics and SAMU ambulances by acting as first-responders for emergency medical calls, natural disasters, and first-aid assistance for the homeless. There are over 600 volunteers of all ages and professions currently serving in the PCP.

They also educate the public by offering beginner and advanced first-aid certification courses (including PSC1, PSE1 and PSE2). I took the PSC1 (Prévention Secours Civiques) last weekend in my neighborhood and not only learned about how to use the emergency heart defibrillators found in most public building in Paris, but also how to assist the most common medical emergencies, including how to properly make an emergency call.

For example, 18 will get you the fire department paramedics (they can stabilize someone and get them to a hospital), while 15 will get you the SAMU, which sends the doctor directly to you (with an ambulance if needed). All numbers, including 17 for the police, go to the same central switchboard, so it’s not actually a big deal if you can’t recall which number to dial or aren’t sure, but it’s faster if you do. Don’t speak French? Dial 112 anywhere within Europe and you’ll get an emergency switchboard available in every EU language (including English). Best of all, these numbers work for free on any phone, even if they’re locked or out of network range (the emergency network is separate).

I highly recommend taking a class to brush up on your Heimlich maneuver and CPR skills, and also to learn some very important vocabulary you’ll never need until you really need it: a stroke in French is an “accident vasculaire cérébral” (or AVC). 

Sunday
May082016

Will.i.am Sings in the Louvre: Mona Lisa Smile  


Will.i.am - Mona Lisa Smile with Nicole Scherzinger by Louvre

On April 12th the American singer Will.i.am (one of the founding members of the Black Eyed Peas) released this music video reinterpreting his song "Mona Lisa Smile" from his album #Willpower. Set in the Louvre, it features the singer Nicole Scherzinger as La Jaconde, and Will.i.am in over a dozen of the museum's most famous paintings. How many can you identify?

And for those of you who know the Louvre well, you'll quickly realize the wall with the Mona Lisa on it (which should be in Salle 6), is actually superimposed into another gallery of paintings with red walls. Can you guess which one? (hint: look at the ceiling)

This video isn't just a one-off gimmick by the singer, he's actually been planning this for several years. According to the Louvre website:

"This remarkable and unprecedented collaboration is the fruit of many years of work. In 2010, the Louvre welcomed a production team from New York to film a documentary that was part of the “Visionaries” series. This episode was devoted to will.i.am and used to launch Oprah Winfrey’s TV channel, OWN. Deeply inspired by his visit to the world’s largest museum, will.i.am tapped into the experience to create a video for the song “Mona Lisa Smile.” But the creative juices didn’t stop there: the artist sought to perpetuate, and especially share with others, his great appreciation for the museum by producing a documentary on the newly renovated rooms of the Department of Decorative Arts and the surrounding galleries."

After this Will.i.am was inspired to film a 12-minute documentary called "Will.i.am at the Louvre", a sort of "Highlights of the Louvre" tour with the editor of Wired UK and the curator of the Decorative Arts department (where he falls in love with an elaborate 18th-century clock). This is a great little video to watch if you're hesitant to visit the Louvre, because it shows how it's so much more than just paintings and the Mona Lisa. 


will.i.am at the Louvre by Off

The funniest quote is when he's in the stunning (and highly gilded) Napoléon III Apartments, and his guide infers that it must look like the interior of many hip-hop moguls houses, and Will.i.am responds, "Oh no, we don't do it like this. They put the gold in their teeth." But generally it's a great documentary about how art is still important to today's culture. You'll also learn the meaning of the fabulous French phrase, l'esprit de l'escalier.

You can follow Will.i.am's Louvre tour yourself here.

Monday
Apr252016

Viator Promoting Vandalism Tours of Paris 

UPDATE April 26th: Thanks to the public outcry and many of your emails, Viator has removed the "Love Lock" tour from its website! The FB page remains active, but hopefully not for long. Thank you to everyone who took the time to share this article and to speak out against the destruction of Paris's beautiful bridges, it makes a difference! 

In the latest episode of heartbreak and disgust, the world's largest reseller of tours is promoting vandalism tours, and the beautiful bridge overlooking the 863-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral is completely covered in ugly scaffolding after its railing were destroyed by the rusting padlocks known as "Love Locks". 

Le Pont de l'Archevêché behind Notre Dame, behind scaffolding until late summer 2016 because of the rusting padlocks.

Are you as sick of reading about the destructive "love locks" as I am writing about them? Unfortunately until tourists stop attaching padlocks to the city's historic bridges and monuments, I'm going to keep reminding you (and I'm hoping you'll pass it on to your friends and family and colleagues when they travel to Paris). 

Despite the massive, ongoing efforts of the Mayor of Paris and citizen campaigns like No Love Locks, there are still idiots attaching padlocks anywhere they feel like it. Yesterday I discovered by chance that Viator is now marketing a vandalism tour where couples pay €120 per person for the "Love Locks Workshop while Drinking Champagne". On this "tour" they get to choose and customize a padlock while drinking Champagne, then "when your Love Lock is ready your guides will conduct you to hang it up on the poetic Pont de l'Archevêché, where there's a great view of Notre Dame." I almost threw up reading this. Viator, owned by TripAdvisor, is the largest reseller of tours in the world. As I mentioned in my article What You Don’t Know about TripAdvisor (which now has 80k views!), Viator lets anyone post any tour at all without verifying legality, let alone legitimacy. There is no way to flag the tour, nor a "contact" link to ask Viator to remove it. The "guide" Eléonore Chevallier and her husband also have a Facebook page promoting the destructive tours.

View of the Pont de l'Archevêché from the Left Bank, covered in scaffolding.

The little red heart up at the top of this sign says "Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. No more love locks!"

The most distressing thing is that the railings of the specific bridge they mention has been completely ripped out because of the damage and are now under scaffolding. The pictures above are from this weekend, and the ones below from last summer.

The Pont de l'Archevêché covered in rusting padlocks and graffiti, from summer 2015.

Unfortunately each time the City of Paris finds a way to prevent padlocks from being attached to a bridge, the vandals just find a new place to attach them: I noticed there are now padlocks being attached to the fencing in front of the Cathedral. Disgusting!

Speak out against this horrific practice, and please tell your friends visiting Paris not to participate in the destruction of this beautiful city! 

Tuesday
Apr052016

Another Parisian Bridge Liberated from Destructive Padlocks

This morning on my run I was thrilled to see a dozen municipal workers removing padlocks one by one from the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, formerly known as Passerelle Solférino (the pedestrian bridge connecting the Tuileries Gardens to the Musée d'Orsay).

You can see sky through the finished section on the left. They still had the other side of the bridge to liberate...but how to keep idiot vandals from adding more locks all over again? Unlike the Pont des Arts, the architecture of thin metal wires on the Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor doesn't allow for the Plexiglas panels that prevent padlocks from being attached. 

If you're interested in more news about the destructive "Love Locks" that are ruining the beautiful historical bridges of Paris, check out the No Love Locks website. 

Saturday
Apr022016

The Golden Hershey Kiss at Pont de l'Alma

I was with some tour clients last week, and as we crossed from the Avenue George V and across the Place de l'Alma to drive along the Right Bank, one of the kids asks, "What's that golden Hershey Kiss?" "Oh, that's a replica of the Statue of Liberty Flame," I reply, explaining how it was a gift from the International Herald Tribune to Paris for its 150th anniversary back in the 1980s. "It's become a sort of memorial spot because Princess Diana's car crashed in the tunnel beneath it." 

Not this one, a replica of the Statue of Liberty flame seen peeking out over the Pont de l'Alma on the Right Bank.

The girl's grandfather then says, "Not that one, the big thing that looks like a gold dome across the other side of the bridge?" I turn around to see what they're talking about, and suddenly remember talk of the new Russian Orthodox Cathedral being built there. It has been an enormous construction site for the past few years, but last month they placed the first of five golden onion-style domes -- typical of Russian Orthodox churches -- that will grace the final monument housing a bilingual school, church and cultural center. As it's just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, it will be hard to miss this gilded addition to the Parisian skyline. And yes, before they added the cross it did indeed look like a giant golden Hershey Kiss. 

From the architect's website Wilmotte & Associés; the Russian Orthodox cathedral being built on the Left Bank. Only the largest dome is currently in place. 

You can see more images here on the architect's website.