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Newsletter #11: June 2001


***Secrets of Paris Newsletter #11: June 28, 2001***

* From the Home Office*
A propos this week’s question (see below), I’ve been pondering the Tour Eiffel (or Eiffel Tower, if you must). This symbol of 20th century Paris remains at the top of most visitors’ ‘to do’ lists, but from my first year in the city I wouldn’t even consider going up there, and I still regret the day I finally did. Call me an unromantic cynic, but I’ve got pretty good ‘pretending we’re having a blast’ radar, and I didn’t think anyone else really enjoyed it, either. First of all, unless you’re the first in line in the dead of January, you’re wait. And wait. And don’t think you’ll take the steps, because they only go up to the second floor, and you’ll still have to pay for the privilege. When you finally pay the $10 or so, and get in the elevator, you still have to switch elevators on the second floor before going to the top. More waiting, this time in cramped conditions. While in line with my guests from the States (who insisted I go up with them, after three years of holding out), we got wind of a particularly horrible piece of gossip: JFK Jr.’s plane had gone missing just hours before. Well, you all know how that sadly ended. But about the Tower. Finally up on the top, we were crammed in like the Metro during rush hour, trying to poke our cameras out from between the cage bars. On TV, there’s always a couple kissing romantically at the top of the Eiffel Tower. In reality there’s a cage surrounding the top, and it’s so crowded we couldn’t even get enough room to get a group shot of ourselves. The view? Not too bad, but it was already night time, and the bars prevented any good photo ops. The free views from Montmartre, the Pompidou Center, or atop the Samaritaine are much better. And then we had to wait in another cramped line for the two elevators down. Total time: 2.5 hours, with fifteen minutes actually at the top looking around. My advice? Go to the Trocadero, across the Seine, and get a wonderful photo of the Tower with Paris in the background. Or just stand under the Tower and get a photo of you touching a leg (avoiding the background of grumpy faces of people waiting in line). -H

* An Alternative to the Can Can *
Want to check out some entertaining theatre while in Paris, but don’t speak French? Try and get tickets for the one-woman show "If I were Me…" written by and starring Gay Marshall, creator of the hit "PIAF: La Vie l’Amour". The show centers on an expat artist’s life in Paris, and uses humour to illuminate the more frustrating aspects of the Parisian mindset. Through July 28th at the Sudden Theater, 14 bis rue Saint Isaure (18th arr). Read the review in Bonjour Paris:

* Resident Parisians: Escape to the Country! *
While everyone else may be pouring into Paris, sometimes it’s nice to escape the Metro, Boulot, Dodo routine and get a bit of fresh air and mud on the boots. Those of you without cars will welcome the Baladobus, (and the pooch is welcomed aboard as well) a special shuttle service that takes you (and even the pooch) to the bucolic Vallée de Chevreuse every Sunday from 10am until 7pm, through October for just 30ff maximum. The pick-up point is outside the Saint-Rémy RER B stop (get info and tickets at the tourist office across from the station), and makes multiple stops throughout the Chevreuse area, including the Château and the Gardens of Breteuil. So pack your picnique and don’t forget the corkscrew!

* Terror at the Pompidou *

What’s scarier, the new "Alfred Hitchcock: Fatal Coincidences" exhibition at the Pompidou Center, or the winding line to get in? If you plan it well, you can get tickets in advanced by phone, or just by stopping by (sneak in just before closing the night before you want to go for no waiting). There are plenty of great exhibits right now, in addition to the permanent collection, including a prolongation of the popular "Les Années Pop: 1956-1968" until July 2nd. You can catch the Hitchcock exhibit (exploring the relationship between his films and the art world) through September 24. I mentioned earlier the great view from atop the Pompidou, and when I was a student it used to be free. Since the renovations, now you have to pay a small fee just to ride the escalators to the top without seeing any of the exhibits or library. But there’s a sneaky way I discovered by accident. There’s a red elevator door to the right of the main entrance, and usually a guard standing in front. Look like you know where you’re going and if he stops you, tell him you’re going to see "Georges" the fashion-pack restaurant on the top floor. Once inside, just hop on the escalator to the top; you don’t have to actually go to the restaurant, but they’ve got nice views from the terrace. Just don’t rat on me if you’re snuffed out. For more info on the Pompidou in English:

* Terminus for the Fabled Bus Line 29 *
I didn’t just ride bus 29 because it stopped right in front of my old place in the center of Paris, or because it went to almost all of the interesting neighborhoods from the Bastille, through the Marais, Etienne-Marcel, Place des Victoires, and the Opera. Line 29 is one of the last old-fashioned Paris busses, with the great open-end in the back that allowed you to enjoy the open air of Paris (notice I didn’t say ‘fresh’ air), wink at the scooter drivers and pedestrians, and even smoke, if you’re that desperate. I always recommend it to visitors instead of those double-decker tour busses. Much to the horror of the regulars and visitors alike, the old Bus 29 is being retired at the end of the year, to be replaced by those new super-modern busses that have started infiltrating the city. Don’t get me wrong, the new ones are very, very nice. But nice isn’t always as much fun. All of you who live in Paris and those who are visiting this summer, don’t forget to take one last ‘adieu’ tour on good ol’ line 29.

* He’s Not Dead Yet! *
But wait: For those of you that are looking for original transportation for your wedding receptions and parties with friends, you can rent the Line 29 Bus with driver for the day, just 3500ff. Not a bad deal! You’ll have to wait until next year, but at that price, it will surely go fast. Call ‘Location Autobus 29’ at 01-49-28-48-97

* Heavenly Scents Update *
A few months ago I wrote about perfume shopping in Paris (http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/4820/66980). The newest bit of heaven for those who live by their noses: Balade au Coeur des Sens. Created by the famous ‘nose’ Jacques Vignaud (who will soon open Paris’ first perfume museum), it’s a place dedicated to engaging the sense of smell, using music, lighting, beautiful images…and scents (not just the perfumy kinds, either). From someone who stopped breathing through her nose when in the Metro, this is a welcomed field trip for the olfactory glands. Located at 40, rue des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais. Call for more info: 01-48-04-72-69.

* Q&A *
Question from Kx in London:
My fiancé and myself have decided to go to Paris for our honeymoon in early November. We want to plan ‘some’ of our time and was hoping that maybe you could point us in the right direction or suggest the best sort of romantic things to see and do in Paris at that time of year.

Heather’s Answer:
Paris in November can be a great time, just cool enough to chase away the hoards of tourists, and yet not full of cold, miserable Parisians like in January. Indoors: The old Opera Garnier is a great place no matter what’s on stage. I also like the less crowded classical concerts held in the churches and chapels (Saint Chapelle on Ile de la Cité is one of my favorites; always dress warm for church concerts, no heat!). Eat out in at least one really expensive restaurant and be sure to tell them it’s your honeymoon (hell, tell everyone, Parisians are still mushy romantics under those cranky faces). A less expensive option is to dress up and have an aperitif at any of the luxury lounge bars in the more expensive hotels (like the Hemmingway Bar at the Ritz or the newly restored Plaza Bar at the Plaza Athénée. Jazz bars are quite romatic, and since you’re not American, I don’t have to warn you there will be smokers. Sir Winston’s near the Etoile (Arc de Triomphe) usually has some live music at nights and for Sunday brunch, and the cosy private booths with fuzzy seat covers downstairs are famous for providing discreet privacy to snuggling couples. I really like the China Club (behind the opera Bastille) for its darkened Fumoir upstairs (cigars and whisky) and the Sing-Song piano bar downstairs (just don’t bother with the ground floor restaurant).

Outdoors: The canal boat rides with dinner are very romantic, even if there are no leaves left by November (you get a better view of the architecture), and are on much smaller, more intimate boats than those that tour along the Seine (the canal is quite narrow). Gardens, gardens, gardens. They’re all romantic. Parc Monceau is particularly nice. The gardens of the Musée Rodin are filled with sculptures of the artist. I like the greenhouses of the Jardin des Plantes and the cozy tea-room at the Mosquée next door.

For romantic museums, I recommend the Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet, Musée de la Vie Romantique, the Musée de l’Erotisme (open very late) if you’re appreciative of erotic art, and my favorite of all, the Musée Jaquemart-André (formerly the luxurious home of an art collector). I would just try to avoid too many touristy things (the Louvre, the Moulin Rouge) and take walks along the Seine, around the Left Bank, etc., with no map and no schedule. I always find the best stuff that way. And just a warning: November is a popular month for transport strikes, so try to stay in a centrally located hotel and don’t be surprised if you end up walking a lot!

If anyone else has suggestions for our couple, e-mail them to me and I’ll pass them on;

* Don’t Miss the Latest Article at Suite101.com Article *

July’s article, " East Side Story Part 2" describes the rest of the goings on around Bercy, the Biblitheque Nationale and the party barges on the Seine:

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