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Newsletter #37: June 2003

vintage Paris photo

***Secrets of Paris Newsletter #37: June 24, 2003***


* From the Home Office
* Summer Events
* Cool New Segway Tours
* Kong Happy Hour
* Crillon Flower Classes
* MK2 Bibliothèque
* Accessacademy.com
* Meet me at Ric’s
* Heather’s Paris News

The next two issues will be e-mailed only, not put up on the site until September. Only those who have signed up (subscribed) will receive the issues by email. If you’ve been reading from the website, sign up to stay up to date!

* From the Home Office *

I was up in Paris on June 11 trying to get to the Hotel Crillon on the Place de la Concorde for an appointment with the Ecole des Fleurs (mentioned in the newsletter this month), but unfortunately the French workers and teachers on strike decided to hold a big ol’ demonstration that day. I didn’t take the metro because there were only 1 in 3 running and it was rush hour, meaning that even if I had the time to wait, I would get squeezed into a sweaty metro car full of annoyed commuters. I got a taxi as far as the Pont de la Concorde but the French riot police were not letting cars or people pass over into the square. Apparently things got out of hand when a few anarchists decided to pull up the paving stones (to throw, I guess), and the police launched tear gas to disperse the crowds. When the police tried to make arrests, a few of them ran into the Opera Garnier in the middle of a performance and asked the audience to protect them. How did it end? I’m not sure, exactly. I myself ended up walking all the way to the next bridge and back to the side entrance of the Crillon, helping direct a lost Polish girl with her all of her luggage to the general direction of her hotel (no taxis could pick her up). And I was only 45 minutes late for my meeting. In an nutshell, you never know what may happen when you’re in Paris, but go with the flow and eventually you’ll get to where you’re going. I know Americans get pretty spooked when they hear about strikes, but in general, things are usually pretty civilized. Just wear good shoes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ –H

**This month’s newsletter starts off with a selection of summer events:

* Marche des Fiertés *

The March of the Proud (formerly known as Gay Pride Parade) takes place this Saturday the 28th of June from 3pm until 9pm. The techno-pop-rock parade of dancers and floats makes it way from the Place d’Italie, past the Place de la Bastille, and ends at the Place de la République. A helluva time whether you’re LGBT or not! www.fiertes-lgbt.org

* Time to Shop! *

Les Soldes, or summer sales (clothing, mostly), begin this week on June 25 and last until August 2. Shop early for the best selection or wait until the last two weeks for the best deals when the prices go down to 70% off the original price. For fun, have a wander down Avenue Montaigne the opening day of sales to see fashionistas claw over each other for Gucci shoes and Dior bathing suits.

* Solidays Outdoor Music Festival *

If you’re into the bohemian atmosphere of outdoor music festivals, hurry up and get the last tickets for the annual HIV/AIDS benefit festival, Solidays. They usually have an impressive lineup of musicians (40 concerts), over 100 stands to learn about the important issues and non-profit organizations, the tent camp for those who want to party 48 hours straight, and not to mention the entertainment provided by the crowd itself. This year’s theme is Jeunes en Colère (Angry Youths). At the Hippodrome de Longchamp July 5-6. Tickets available at FNAC or Virgin Megastores in Paris, from €24 for one day and €33.50 for the whole weekend. Or check out the website (in French): www.solidarite-sida.org

* Bastille Day Celebrations *

The country’s most celebrated nation holiday (to commemorate the storming of the Bastille prison during the French Revolution) begins on July 13th when fire stations (popiers) all over town hold Firemen’s Balls open to the general public. If you manage to get out of bed after that, the big military parade takes place on the Champs-Elysées on July 14th from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde starting at 10am. Get there early if you’re short, and plan on most of the metro stations under the parade route to be closed. Finally, the fireworks show begin that night at about 10:30pm above the gardens at Trocadero, so most people head to the Champ de Mars for the best view. There are many other little festivals going on throughout the two days, so just look out for the posters everywhere or stop by the Tourism Office on the Champs-Elysées to ask about the scheduled events.

* Tour de France Centennial *

If you’re a Tour de France fan, you probably already know this year makes it a century of spandex and thin tires. The finish the last leg of their grueling race July 27 on – where else? – the Champs-Elysées. The official site: www.letour.fr/

* Free Open-Air Cinema Festival *

Grab a blanket and pillow and head up to the Parc de la Villette for the annual free Open-Air Cinema Festival, Tuesday through Sunday from July 8 until August 24, at 10pm. Most films are classics or popular new releases in original version with subtitles. You can also rent a beach chair on site for €6. For the schedule (in French only) visit www.villette.com

* Paris Plage *

Last year’s artificial beach on the Seine, an expensive project by the mayor which was an unexpected success, will take place again this year from July 20th through mid-August between the Tuileries Gardens and the Pont Henri IV. Will the second year of Paris Plage be as popular as the first? I’ll sure be stopping by to find out. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

* Festival Classique au Vert *

The 10th annual Festival Classique au Vert features free world-class classical music concerts every Saturday and Sunday from 4:30pm at the Parc Floral (Bois de Vincennes) €3 park entry. Blankets and picnic baskets welcome.

* Event Listings *

To find more event listings on the Internet you can check www.whatsonwhen.com, searchable by month.

* Cool New Segway Tours *

If you’re in Paris for only a short time this summer, reserve your Paris Segway tour now, because they’ve been fully booked since they started earlier this month. I saw them silently zooming around town one evening as I walked past Notre-Dame and my friend Claire told me it was Mike’s Bike Tours who had them. Down at the Mike’s Bikes HQ near the Eiffel Tower, the owner David (from Texas), let me give it a try around the office. Very cool. You move forward by leaning forward, and stop or reverse by leaning back, and there’s a button on the handlebars which turns you left or right. Check out their website to read all about it and see the photos: www.parissegwaytours.com. Tell David I sent you (maybe then he’ll let me borrow one to walk the dogs, heh heh).

* Kong Happy Hour *

Linda, the guide from Paris Photo Tours told me to go see the new Kong bar and restaurant on top of the Kenzo store at 1, Rue Pont Neuf (1st). So when I was passing by with Paris Metropole editor Ric Erickson I made him come check it out with me. We took the elevator to the fifth floor and had a look around this pink and Plexiglas place (designed by Philippe Stark)with strange Japanese fashionista heads decorating the backs of the chairs. The view wasn’t too bad, but from the street we had seen a glass dome roof, nowhere in sight. Then I noticed the fluorescent green stairway going up. Same crazy décor, and a view over the Seine and Samaritaine department store. Ric tried to take a photo, but they wouldn’t let him, so he smuggled out a menu and we left. Later that night Claire and I returned for Happy Hour (6-8pm), wine for €3, Champagne for €6, not bad for Paris. Unfortunately the service is pathetic and even snotty (Claire dared to ask for the food menu from the drinks server), food not too bad for the price. Although they’ve only been open since early June, Thursday night is the big night when they’re open until dawn. Go check it out for the décor and the views, and don’t let the staff bother you too much.

* Floral Art School at the Crillon Hotel *

Whether you’re a beginner or think you’re pretty slick with a vase and a bunch of pansies, there’s something at the Ecole des Fleurs for everyone. Run by celebrity Parisian floral designer Christian Tortu (please, don’t call them florists) at the beautiful Hotel du Crillon, the school offers half-day and full-day classes for different levels and on different themes such as “The Hanging Garden” and “Fruits and Flowers for the Table”. Taught in French, English and Japanese by professional floral designers, prices start at €100 (and you get to take your bouquet with you). For more info check out their website: www.ecoledesfleurs.com

* MK2 Bibliothèque *

The area surrounding the new Bibliothèque National Françoise Mitterand (along the Seine in the 13th) has been a gigantic construction site for so long that most people avoid it unless they’re going to the new library, the Frigos art squat or the floating bars moored along the Seine. But when I was up there a few weeks ago to check out the Guinguette des Pirates’ Happy Hour on the quai I noticed a few newcomers on the scene. The Frog & British Library is the oldest kid on the block between the library and the train tracks, facing the newly-planted boulevard and bike path at Avenue de France. Just up the road a bit is the newest cinema complex MK2 Bibliothèque, with plenty of big screens and films in VO (original version with French subtitles), and inside is a music and DVD shop and the M Café, where you can get very good deals on the Formule Ciné: €13 for a salad, sandwich, dessert, drink and movie ticket. And there’s not a bad terrace. Open daily 10:30am-10:30pm. Of course, it’s cafeteria food. If you continue through the cinema complex there are three other places to eat or drink: Café Bibliothèque, with a very contemporary red décor, open daily 10am-midnight, menus from €25; Chez Jules & Jim, a restaurant upstairs from the café which was closed when I stopped by (about €40 à la carte per person); and the Limelight Lounge, which is trying to be a trendy lounge bar (drinks are €10-12), open Wed-Sun 6pm-2am.

* Access Academy Internet Café *

After the slow decline of the easyInternet cafés (having no staff around at all turned the places into hangouts for thugs, the computers never worked, and you could only access the web, no Office programs at all, no printing or saving), I’m happy to announce a new internet access center, Access Academy . They have 400 flat-screen computers with high-speed Internet access, printing, Microsoft Office Suite, and actual staff to help you when there’s a problem. Open daily 8am-2am at 60-62 Rue St-André-des-Arts, 6th (metro Odéon), prices start at €1 per 40 minutes, depending on how crowded it is (go early or ate for best deals).

* Meet me at Ric’s *

I’ll be up in Paris all summer finishing up the Adventure Guide to Paris, and invite all of you to join me and other Parisian residents and visitors at Ric’s Café Club, which meets every Thursday from 3-5pm at the Brasserie La Corona (just behind the Louvre). It’s a great way to meet other people and hang out and chat with a glass of wine or hot chocolate. For more info and a map, see Ric’s site: www.wfi.fr/metropole

* Heather’s Paris News *

If you’re in Paris you may have noticed the latest free monthly newsletter, Connexion , in the regular spots (English bookshops, food stores and bars). I’ve been writing the Out & About section, which focuses on Paris neighbourhoods (last month was Châtelet-Les Halles), with eating, shopping, sightseeing and nightlife ideas. Next month will be the Bercy district. The Connexion, run by my neighbors down here on the Riviera (they have a Côte d’Azur edition, too), has more of a British slant than other Paris publications, with articles, news and events. In any case, pick one up and tell me if you like it …or not. ๐Ÿ˜‰ As usual, you can see my Paris updates on the inflight magazine for easyJetand at Suite101.com .

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