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

November 5-13
The 41st annual Salon Marjolaine, the largest organic fair in Paris, takes place this week at the Parc Floral (Bois de Vincennes) with 550 stands selling everything organic you could imagine. There are also plenty of food stands for lunch onsite, a vestiaire, and a little shuttle from the metro Château de Vincennes to the entrance of the Parc Floral. Open 10:30am-7pm. Entry €10, but you can get a €3 discount voucher on the website to print out in advance. You can also see my article and video from my visit in 2010.  

Marchés de Noël - Christmas Markets are Here! 
Am I the only one who thinks it's wrong that the Christmas Market opens on the Champas-Elysées before Beaujolais Nouveau?  The two largest are opening mid-month this year.
- November 11-January 8 on the Avenue des Champs Elysées
- November 17-December 27 at the Esplanade de La Défense
Other Christmas Markets will be opening around Paris in December, see the full list (en françaishere.   

November 17 
Although it's rather low-key in France compared to the hype it gets in America, the annual Beaujolais Nouveau festival takes place in wine bars throughout Paris today. Read all about the history and the different varieties (good, bad, ugly) and where to celebrate in Paris in this excellent article by Aaron Ayscough, The Redemption of Beaujolais Nouveau (read the 2014 update here and his current on-location exploration of the Beaujolais region here). And for fun, here's a link to the little video I made at the Beaujolais dinner I attended in 2010 with Meg Zimbeck of Paris by Mouth and Bryan Pirolli.  

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

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Monday
Sep132010

The French Version of Starbucks

A good decade before Starbucks came to France, there was Columbus Café. You may have seen one of the dozen locations around central Paris with their window of muffins and posters advertising free WiFi. They might look like a North American chain, but aside from the inspiration of American espresso bars, Columbus Café is a French company, opened in 1994 by Ralph Hababou and Philippe Bloch. They chose the name "Columbus" for Christopher Columbus and his representation of the New World's coffee and Italian savoir-faire of coffee-making. The bear in the logo...no idea where that comes from. In any case, the brand has positioned itself as a very "multicultural" one, and even the slogan on their site "Take time for yourself" is in English.

It took a few years for the idea to take off. I the beginning there were china coffee cups and more espresso drinks than coffee drinks. Now there are only paper cups (5 ounce, 8 ounce and 12 ounce cups, and recently a 16 ounce cup added), and well more coffee drinks than espresso drinks. The number of muffins has also expanded over the years to about two dozen flavors, and I'll admit it's hard to resist them when walking by the café in the Marais (at rue Vielle du Temple). You can add caramel or vanilla flavor, substitute soy for regular milk, and yes, hang out in the café to check your email on the free Wifi network. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but I do like their soy chai lattes, and you can get fresh squeezed orange juice (which is still not the case in all Parisian cafés).

Not that I'm encouraging everyone to go to Columbus Café. At the end of the day, a chain is a chain, and encouraging people to eat mass-made muffins and drink from disposable coffee cups isn't exactly healthy or ecologically sound. But if you're dying for a Starbucks fix, at least at Columbus Café you can support a French company instead of a foreign one (and if you're really gung ho, you can even open your own Columbus Café franchise). Who ever said the French don't have a word for entrepreneur? ;-)

Main Paris locations:

12 rue Brise Miche, 4th
Open daily 10am-10pm.

4 bis place Sainte-Opportune, 1st
Open Mon-Sat 9am-8:30pm

25 rue Vielle du Temple, 4th
Open daily 8am-7pm

21 rue Soufflot, 5th
Open weekdays 7:30am-7:30pm, weekends 9am-8pm.

81 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th
Open daily 8am-7:30pm

74 avenue des Champs-Elysées, Galerie du Clarigde, 8th
Open Mon-Sat 10am-midnight, Sun noon-midnight.

Also at Gare de Lyon, Gare du Montparnasse, and Italie 2 Centre Commerciale. Other locations throughout France, Belgium, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Quatar.

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Reader Comments (5)

Oh, you liked their chai lattes?? I just got one for the first time at Montparnasse last week and thought "beurk"! Maybe my mistake was not getting soy....he just steamed regular milk and then poured a chai-flavored syrup into the cup and mixed it together - it was way too sweet for me, and there was no tea in sight! So I'll at least have to keep going to Starbucks to get my chai latte fix. :)
September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha
The bear was chosen, as far as we learned in a business case analysis of the firm, exactly because it does not ring a bell at all. It'd have been all too easy to choose a mug, a tea-pot or a muffin as a logo, but that would make the firm hard to distinguish among competitors.
September 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterP.Boot
Malongo is another great coffee shop that is, in essence, similar to Starbucks. There is one on Rue St Andre des Arts that I always loved to go to - and so did plenty of french.
September 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
Very interesting. I agree, I wouldn't want to necessarily encourage anyone to go to Columbus but it's certainly a less globalised alternative to Starbucks. Thanks for putting it on my radar - will come in handy when I have people visiting in dire need of a mocha latte fix!
September 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim
I remember living for a while in the 7eme and having to get my Sunday coffee at the rue St. Dominique location because my favorite haunt..Cafe Malar was closed. The coffee was okay, but Peets in San Francisco cannot be beat! I liked the fact that I could get a "large' coffee, but the "muffins" were a bit earthy for me and I felt that most Parisians in that quartier felt the same.
September 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertonton_flaneur

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