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 Paris (345)

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. 

Tuesday
Mar292016

Visit a Historic Schooner on the Seine

Back in the fall Parisians welcomed a rather unique vessel on the Seine, the three-masted schooner La Boudeuse, constructed in Holland in 1916. The 46-meter ship with 13 sails has explored all seven of the world's seas and has a fascinating history:

"La Boudeuse » is one of the rare French three-masted schooners still in use and the only one to sail on long journeys on all the seas around the world. It is dedicated to the pursuit of discovery, adventure and science, in the spirit of the great maritime and land expeditions of the Enlightenment. For this reason, a certain number of writers, philosophers, painters, scientists and photographers are part of the crew.

The captain of « La Boudeuse » and the project initiator is Patrice Franceschi, sailor, writer, explorer, member of the French Society of the Philosophy of Science and Honorary President of the Society of French Explorers…"

Read more about the schooner and its world mission here

La Boudeuse was in Paris for the COP21 Climate Change conference, meant to leave in January for a new adventure. But for the moment it's still moored along Les Berges of the Rive Gauche in the Port du Gros Caillou (aka Quai d'Orsay, 7th), and the general public is welcome to visit for free every Saturday (unless noted on their website), hourly tours are conducted from 10am through 4pm.