Entries in Paris (362)


Some Tips on Using Vélib City Bikes in Paris

I love using the Vélib to get around Paris, especially now that it’s so nice outside (read: between sudden thunder showers it’s actually sunny and gorgeous). It looks a lot scarier to ride a bike in Paris than it feels when you’re actually on the bike. Maybe it’s the high of cruising through the capital with the wind in your hair, but it’s very quickly addictive.

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Summer Food & Fun at Grand Train 

One of the most interesting Paris events of the summer is Grand Train. Opened within a disused SNCF train depot in late April, Grand Train features 2000m² of covered halls, courtyards and outdoor space filled with over a dozen bars and eateries, lounge chairs and picnic tables, pétanque courts, a food garden and chicken house, vintage locomotives and different exhibitions about the history of the SNCF (French National Railway, a partner of the event), fuss ball tables, big screens showing fils and even Euro matches, a children's playpen, and daily events such as live music, a craft market, epicerie, yoga sessions, tattoo and barber shop, kids' activities, massage booth, gardening courses, book readings, etc.

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wonder.land: Musical in English at the Théâtre du Châtelet

Photo Brinkhoff and Mgenburg

Another world-class musical in English is playing at the Théâtre du Châtelet this month, wonder.land: the edgy modern-day take on Alice in Wonderland "that explores the blurred boundaries between our online and offline lives." Commissioned in partnership with the Manchester International Festival and the National Theatre, wonder.land uses a combination of live theatre and digital sets, as well as a score is by Damon Albarn (of the British group Blur), to create a very contemporary look at coming-of-age in the 21st century.

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

Aly is a modern British girl from a broken home being bullied at school who escapes her difficult life into a virtual world as her avatar, Alice. Here, where suddenly there is color, she meets an entire cast of misfit friends. Until a cruiel teacher confiscates her smartphone...and steals her identity. "Who are you?" the Caterpillar asks, underlining the theme of the story. 

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

After seeing Sondheim's Passion and then Carmen La Cubana, which I both loved, I didn't think I'd actually like this contemporary "audio-visual" show, but it was surprisingly fun and touching (not sure why I'm still surprised, but my "I don't like musicals" bias is stubbornly hard to kill).

Photo Brinkhoff Mgenburg

Throughout the show I kept changing my mind about who was my favorite character. Aly (Lois Chimimba) and Alice (Carly Bawden) are the stars, but her mother's voice is stunning (Golda Rosheuvel), Mrs. Manxome's evil glee is contagious (Anna Francolini), the and the White Rabbit (Joshua Lacey)...well, who wouldn't want to follow him? Hal Fowler's character actually morphs throughout the show from the MC to the Cheshire Cat to the Caterpillar, with an entire choir for a body. 

Photo Marie-Noëlle Robert

Through June 16th, in English with French surtitles. Tickets from €10 to €55. 


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! 


French Film Extras Needed July 25-August 31

The Academy Award-winning director of L'Artiste, Michel Hazanavicius, is looking for extras  for an upcoming film Le Redoutable about the love story between Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky during the Mai 1968 events in France, starring Bérénice Bejo, Stacy Martin and Louis Garrel. 

They are looking for extras available for 1-10 days of filming between July 25th through August 31st, with at least one half day available for wardrobe between July 4th and July 22nd. Payment follows standard French film industry rates for extras. The following profiles are needed:

  • hommes et femmes "profils étudiants" de 18 à 30 ans
  • hommes et femmes italiens de 16 à 80 ans
  • hommes et femmes de 16 à 80 ans

You need to be legally able to work in France (ie you need a French Social Secutiry number) and fluent enough in French to read and fill out the application...and obviously follow directions. 

Click here to apply 


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.” 

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