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:
Read more about the Secrets of Paris here
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).
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.
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.
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.
After dealing with the annual cleanup of 315 tons of cigarette butts, aka mégots, the City of Paris has finally declared war on the ugly pollutants. Starting today they are installing 10,000 ashtrays and snuffers on Parisian poubelles (trash bins) to encourage smokers to put out their cigarettes and throw the butts in the trash, not just flick them onto the streets, sidewalks and parks like they do now. But that's not all...
It’s the beginning of an information campaign which will take place throughout the summer. Beginning in September they will start issuing fines of €68 (the same fine for not cleaning up after your dog, which, since it went into law in 2002, has VASTLY reduced the number of dog poop on the city streets, as anyone who lived here before that can confirm). In 2014 the City of Paris fined 25,000 people for littering, leaving garbage on the curb, dog poop, and public urination (of humans, not dogs). My local town hall in the 13th even distributed free pocket ashtrays this afternoon on the Butte aux Cailles to “encourage” smokers to stop being total butt heads.
Sometimes, to lock in a good rate for a hotel, you need to pre-pay your room, no cancellations or date changes possible. Now if your travel plans change (or you find somewhere better to stay), you can resell those booking to other travelers on the websites like Trocotel or RoomRoom. It’s a win-win: you recoup some of the costs and other travelers find great last-minute deals (and hotels have happy guests). One caveat: so far these new sites are only in French, and while they get going pickings are slim.
I rarely have tour clients who book rooms at the Best Western affiliated hotels in Paris. I think people are afraid it will be a generic chain hotel. But in fact the hotels are all independent. They are simply members of the Best Western marketing group that allows them (after passing certain standards, of course) to use the Best Western or Best Western Premier brand. Each one is completely different in style, atmosphere, size and of course location.
Some are recently renovated, stylish boutique hotels, some are rather old-fashioned and dated, but many of them are in the best neighborhoods in Paris and priced far below other hotels in the same area. Several located in the 6th district (around St-Germain-des-Prés and Luxembourg Gardens) are below €200/night, all of them are below €300. If you’ve got member points, you have a lot to choose from! If not, just keep in mind that you shouldn’t let the Best Western label scare you off, judge each hotel on its own merits (checking out the descriptions, photos, user reviews, etc). You may be happily surprised!
Visitors to Paris love taking photos of the large carriage doors that guard the entrance to the city’s historic apartment buildings, but they rarely venture beyond. But not all of them are locked. If you see a plaque at the entrance, there are likely offices and a few shops in the courtyards of these buildings, open to the public during opening hours. Two of my favorite French boutiques are hidden inside these courtyards.
On the Left Bank, I’ve become a total addict of La Compagnie du Kraft (LCK), which produce refillable Kraft paper notebooks with cardboard or leather covers right outside Paris (working by hand, they are proudly “The least productive producer of notebooks in the western world”). They are at the back of the courtyard Cour de Saxe at 12 Rue Jacob, 6th. Drop on by, they all speak English and include embossing of initials on your leather-bound notebooks.
On the Right Bank, Caroline De Marchi makes luxury leather goods, specifically purses, designed in Paris and handmade in Italy. Her boutique, at 217 rue Saint‐Honoré, 1st, is just a few steps from Colette, but once you step through the doors of the building and walk to the end of the second courtyard, you’ll feel miles from the crowds. My favorite bag this season is the adorable Cubo Zèbre & Jaune Citron, a bit out of my budget. No worries if the shop seems out of yours, the friendly staff at the boutique welcome anyone who is curious about the brand…word of mouth is always the best press!
Every ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it's not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash.
Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the "approved" format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.
Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can't do it at the mailing counter).
2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn't let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).
Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home.
Total cost: €171.95
Total time: 2 hours (plus "4-6 weeks" to receive my new passport)
Annoyance level: High
The US Embassy is only 20 minutes from my flat, but they won't let you come to the Embassy in person to renew and pick up your passport, which would save on the Chronopost envelopes and cash mandat fees and the trips to La Poste (I'd rather wait in line at the awesome US Embassy than my boring neighborhood post office). The only time you can go to the Embassy is to get a new passport, if your name has legally changed, or to replace a stolen or damaged passport, and even then, if you live here (ie it's not urgent) you need an appointment. And taking a peek, I see the earliest one available is April 17th.
So now I'm waiting to see if my new passport will arrive before my next trip to the US in June!
As an aside, I'm also getting my first French passport. I currently have a French National ID card (issued free to all French citizens as proof of ID, and can be used traveling in Europe). My appointment for that is April 2nd, at the police station a block from my flat, and the cost is €86, which I can pay with Timbres Fiscaux (special stamps you can buy quickly with cash at any tabac or even online). Official French passport photos can be purchased in any photomat in the Paris metro (usually €5 for 4). So why not just get a French passport and use that instead of my US one? Because it's illegal for me to enter the United States with a foreign passport (one of the rules of double nationality). Still, I think in a pinch it's nice to have both on hand. Plus I won't have to wait (or go in a roundabout way) to go to Cuba. :-)
And the Passports are in!!
The US passport arrived on March 30th (sent the renewal forms in on March 13th), and my new French passport arrived on April 20th (delivered the application forms on April 1st). So just 17 days to renew the US passport and 19 days for a new application for the French one. Not bad!
Now I'm ready to travel!