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Newsletter #35: April 2003

vintage Paris photo


  • From the Home Office
  • Summer Rentals in France
  • Hostel Living
  • Abbey Bookshop Hikes
  • Shopping Tours
  • Tallest Lemon Meringue in Paris
  • The Guide to Japanese Paris
  • Terraces of Paris
  • Die Club Med World, Die
  • Contemporary Art Tours
  • Lucernaire Cultural Center
  • Rolland Garros Tennis Museum
  • Choo Choo on the Champs-Elysées

* From the Home Office *

So I call my sister in Arizona last week and she says, “So what’s it like in France since everyone hates you over there?” I replied that only the Americans seem to “hate” the French, while it seems the Bush administration is having a bit of an international PR problem at the moment. But this isn’t going to be a political discussion, what most Americans want to know is whether they should come to France or not. Of course you should! The French have nothing personal against Americans, they simply disagree — and in a democracy people shouldn’t be punished for disagreeing, right? In case you’re worried about Anti-Americanism, go to Rick Steve’s bulletin board and hear what other American tourists throughout Europe have to say: www.ricksteves.com/or read the open letter from a Parisian hotel manager. If you have any other issues or worries, don’t hesitate to contact me, that’s what I’m here for (and no, I’m not on the French Tourism Board payroll…). Have a good weekend! -H

* Summer Rentals in France *

Think it’s impossible to find cheap summer housing? I’ll be in Paris and Ile-de-France for July and August to finish up my book research, and needed to find a furnished one-bedroom flat for my husband, two dogs and myself, preferably under €700/month. I asked around, got a few leads, but nothing really happened. So on my last day in Paris a few weeks ago, I checked the Particulier-à- Particulier website. The magazine comes out weekly, listing places for rent or sale all over France (mostly Paris), directly by the owners (which means no agency fees). I saw three that looked okay, made appointments that day with two and left a message for the third. The first one was fine, so I put down the deposit and cancelled the other visit (why waste time running all over the place?). I’m between the Marché aux Puces and Montmartre, next to a little market street, in a two-room flat with shower for €600/month. It has a TV/VCR, small kitchen and windows on a quiet inner courtyard. If anyone out there is looking to rent a place for the summer in France, go ahead and have a look at the website: www.pap.fr

* Hostel Living *

During my last trip to Paris I decided to test out one of the youth hostels, the Young & Happy on Rue Mouffetard, 5th. I picked this one because I used to live on this street and my friend Earl just opened his new bar (The Shebeen) just around the corner. The Y&H is €22 per night in a dorm, and you can rent sheets for €2.50. I arrived at breakfast, which is down in the vaulted stone cellar like most breakfast rooms in Paris hotels. There were a few shocked faces at the table when they realized breakfast consisted of coffee or tea, a slice of baguette with butter and choice of jams, and a glass of OJ. Welcome to France! But seriously, it’s included in the price and will hold you until lunch (or the nearest bakery). Rooms have private sink and shower and bunk beds, an outlet to charge my cell phone, and the lobby bar has daily papers and an Internet station. Of course I met some very nice people, there were two American women, a Canadian and a German student, and a Japanese shopaholic in my room. It was one girl’s birthday, so we went to the Shebeen and met the French rugby team and generally had a good time until curfew at 2am. There are some hostels in Paris that don’t have lock-out or curfew, some that are cheaper, some all the way out in the edge of the city. If you’re on your own they’re a pretty good deal, just don’t forget to pack the earplugs if you’re a light sleeper! www.youngandhappy.fr

* Abbey Bookshop Hikes *

There are a lot of English bookshops in Paris, but my favorite is the Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian-owned shop that specializes in used books from Canadian authors (both French and English language), as well as American, British and locally-written guides to Paris and France. It’s packed floor to ceiling on two floors, but the friendly owner Brian can help you find what you need right away, and offer up a nice cup of maple-syrup-sweetened coffee or tea (sounds odd, but tastes great, trust me). Brian also leads free monthly hikes into Ile-de-France, focusing on lovely countryside and historical monuments. The next one is tomorrow, April 27, and after that is Sunday May 18. Give Brian a call for more details: www.abbeybookshop.com 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th (between St-Michel and St-Jacques), tel 01 46 33 16 24.

* Shopping Tours *

If you only have a short time in Paris and want to shop like a local, try out the “Chic Shopping Paris” tours with David, Nicole and Rebecca. Reasonably-priced at €75 for 4.5 hours, €125 for two people, there are different themed tours, but any tour can be slightly altered to fit what your looking for, from clothing and accessories to home décor or quirky gifts found only in France. I went on one of David’s tours in the Marais, and even though I know the area very well, he still showed me a lot of places I’d never found on my own before. Also on our trip was the famous world-shopping author Kathy Borrus (“The Fearless Shopper”). She’s not the kind of shopper who’s easily impressed, yet still managed to find some great gifts to take home with her. At the end of the tour you get a special little shopping guide full of tips and discount certificates. Check out the Chic Shopping website and try one of their tours for yourself, you won’t be disappointed! www.chicshoppingparis.com

* Tallest Lemon Meringue in Paris *

Eating isn’t normally part of the Chic Shopping tour, but when we passed Le Loir dans la Theiere, David told us about they served the biggest and tallest slice of lemon meringue pie he’s ever seen. Of course we had to go in (it was also unseasonably cold that day, so we needed to thaw out). It’s a cozy tearoom that serves quiches, tartes and brunch on the weekends. We sat in the non-smoking section. Between three of us we ordered one slice of lemon meringue (I’m guessing 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide), a slice of chocolate fudge cake, and three cups of hot chocolate that would rival Angelina’s any day. As delicious as it all was, we barely made a dent in this sugary feast, so come with an empty stomach and a few friends!
3 rue des Rosiers, 4th (Marais) Open daily, tel 01 42 72 90 61.

* The Guide to Japanese Paris *

I had the worst sushi in my life with Claire at the Makoto restaurant in Club Med World (out of the fridge, some hard, overpriced). On the bright side, I picked up the new free magazine Jipango, a monthly guide written by Japanese expats in France (in French). Their March issue had an article on the top 100 Japanese restaurants in Paris, with prices, food descriptions, and closing days. You can read this on their website (for the restaurant guide click on “Journal” and scroll down to “Japon à Paris”). There’s also info on Japanese bookstores, art galleries, exhibitions, music concerts, shopping, and Japanese clubs in Paris. A great reference! www.jipango.com

* Terraces of Paris *

If you haven’t been to the Institute du Monde Arabe yet, you’re missing out of a great view of Paris. There’s no entry fee to visit the 9th floor (in a nifty glass elevator) where the outdoor terrace offers unimpeded views over the Seine. You can see the towers of Notre-Dame, the top of the Pompidou Center, and Sacré-Coeur if the smog isn’t too heavy. There’s a restaurant/tearoom called Le Ziryab, with seating inside or outside, open for lunch from noon-230pm and dinner by reservation from 730-930pm (open Tues-Sun lunch). You can just have coffee or lovely mint tea (€4) from 3-6pm.
1, rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard, 5th (on the Seine) Tel 01 53 10 10 16, www.imarabe.org

Another great café-terrace combo is on the 9th floor of the department store Printemps (there are actually three buildings, the terrace is on top of the Printemps de la Maison section). You’ll have to push through crowds to get up there, but the views are almost 360°, with really great angles on Sacré-Coeur and the Opéra Garnier as well as the Eiffel Tower. There are benches to sit on for free, or you can sit inside or outside at the café for lunch or coffee. 64 Blvd Haussmann, 9th, www.printemps.com

* Die Club Med World, Die *

That sounds pretty mean, but Claire and I are pretty peeved. I’ve been meaning to check out this Bercy Village entertainment center (brought to you by the folks from Club Med Vacations), and decided to go on a night when the boy band Blue were performing at the nightclub. First of all, the place is confusing. There are three restaurants (including the nasty sushi bar mentioned earlier), two bars, a nightclub, tourism office, and travel shop. There’s no clear directions on where everything is, and the staff seem to have been hired for their looks than their manners (strangely, the waitress at the sushi place was the only really helpful person). We first had our sushi, then bought tickets to the concert for €20 each. To check your coat you have to pay €2, and another €2 for a bag. Claire was still hungry and ordered some appetizers. You get a voucher for one €9 drink at the bar with entry to the concert, but Claire’s Jack & Coke was €14, and when she complained she couldn’t taste any Jack Daniel’s in the drink, we watched as the barman pulled a bottle from the rail (the generic liquor behind the bar) and topped her up. Whatever he added, it wasn’t anything resembling whisky. Blech. On a positive note, the group Blue were very good live (and I’m usually biased against these boy bands), even though their microphones kept cutting out and the crowd was so small that Claire and I easily wandered up to the stage with just two girls in front of us. Maybe it had something to do with the promo poster that described Blue as the group who sang the Elton John song “Sorry seems to be the hardest world”. Sigh. We didn’t stick around the nightclub after the concert because it was barely full (with teenage girls and sulky-looking adults). Unless your favorite group is playing (Atomic Kitten’s concert was cancelled this weekend, so I hope you didn’t have tickets), your money can be better spent elsewhere (try the good food and friendly service at the Frog Pub, also at Bercy Village).

* Contemporary Art Tours *

If you’re interested in cutting edge art and artists in Paris, either as a buyer or simply out of curiosity, try one of the WysiwygArt tours (What you see is what you get) by Art Process. For the past four years they’ve taken groups to see artist studios, unknown galleries, artist squats, and private shows all over Paris. They speak multiple languages, and can also be hired for private tours on request. Their monthly group tours take place the third Saturday and fill up quickly (next ones are May 17 and June 21), €50 per person. Contact Eric Mézan at Art Process, 52 rue Sedaine, 11th, tel 01 47 00 90 85, info@art-process.com

* Lucernaire Cultural Center *

The Lucernaire is located in the area between Montparnasse and Jardin du Luxembourg heavily populated with students from the Alliance Française, University of Paris II (Assas) and the historic art school Académie de la Grande Chaumière. I used to hang out here when I was a student, but never ventured into the Lucernaire until this month. Inside is a bar and canteen (with student-friendly pricing), a theatre, art gallery, cinema with films in their original version (not dubbed over in French), and a rare books market from 6-10pm. If you’re in the area, stop in for a coffee (they also have a little sidewalk terrace) and catch a movie cheaper than in most cinemas (€5.50 on Wednesday, €6.70 normally). This week Bowling for Colombine and Cypher are playing, as well as a few other international films from Brazil, Spain and China.
53 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, 6th, www.lucernaire.fr

* Rolland Garros Tennis Museum *

The hi-tech Tenniseum (Tennis Museum) opens this month on the occasion of the 2003 Rolland-Garros French Open Tournament. Tennis fans can check out the bilingual website for more information and ticket prices (click on Tenniseum on left sidebar): www.fft.fr

* Choo Choo on the Champs-Elysées *

Learn about the history of French rail travel at the open-air exhibit on the Champs-Elysées from May 17 – June 15, when some of the finest antique train specimens will be on display. There will also be guided tours by French rail employees and activities for children. For more info check out their website: www.letraincapitale.com/

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