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Newsletter #44: March 2004

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Secrets of Paris Newsletter #44: March 15, 2004


* From the Editor
* Enter the contest — everyone wins!
* Entertainment: Free Classical Music Concert
* Event: Wine & Spirits Auction in English
* Event: Pharos Literary Magazine
* Event: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong
* Eating & Drinking: Getting my Chocolate Fix
* Eating & Drinking: The Other Chinatown
* Sightseeing: Getting around Paris in style
* Cultural Adventures: Cooking classes
* Cultural Adventures: Free Fashion Lectures at the Louvre
* Recommended Reading: Versailles, by Kathryn Davis
* Shopping: Department store news
* Shopping: Essential oils boutique
* Shopping: Looking for men’s suits on sale?
* Practical: Parking in Paris
* News: American Extras Needed Next Week!
* News: Techie guru needed!
* News: Web Bar closed for good

* From the Editor *
After packing up the car during a rare snow fall on the French Riviera, Mr. Heather and I arrived in Paris in one piece on March 1 after driving all night. The last three hours were unfortunately done during the morning rush hour from Fontainebleau to the center of the wholesale district in the 3rd! We managed to get everything up to the studio without getting a parking ticket, and are now trying to settle back into hectic Parisian life. Pedro and Lena (the doggies) are enjoying the new smells, and even though it’s freezing outside (more snow flurries last week), I think they prefer it to the heat wave we had in Paris over the summer. One glitch so far: I’ve only got computer access through Internet cafés until next month, and it seems that my web server lost about two weeks worth of my e-mails. So if anyone has recently sent me a mail, resend it, I’m not ignoring you! -H

* Enter the contest — everyone wins!*
In partnership with Ric Erickson of Metropole Paris, the “France Don’t Suck” [sic] Slogan Contest is now officially open, so start sending in your witty pro-France or pro-Paris slogans. Enter as many times as you wish, just keep it short and snappy – think bumper-sticker size. There will be a Grand Prize for the winning slogan chosen by Ric and myself, nine runner-up prizes, and something cool for everyone who takes the time to enter – you can’t win if you don’t play! So what are the prizes? We’re not saying just yet, since we’re still working with some sponsors to get some tès, très grand prizes, but stay tuned. Since I’m offline, see all of the elaborate rules and fine print at Ric’s website, and send your entries before April 22 to me at heather@secretsofparis.com or to Ric at paris.ric@wanadoo.fr

* Entertainment: Free Classical Music Concert *
Attend a free classical music concert by the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris in the 2nd (in the Mairie’s Salle des Mariages) every first Tuesday at 12:30pm, 8 rue de la Banque, tel 01 53 29 75 02. The April 6th concert features works by Bach, and the May 4th concert features a Renaissance music ensemble.

* Event: Wine & Spirits Auction in English *
The American Women’s Group 14th annual Wine & Spirits Auction takes place this year on March 20 at 7pm at the très luxe Hotel Royal Monceau with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction of luxury items, and a live auction of wine and spirits headed by Christie’s Auction House. Entrance €50. Contact the AWG at 01 42 73 36 74 or e-mail awgwineauction@wanadoo.fr to reserve your spot.

* Event: Pharos Literary Magazine*
Pharos Literary Magazine is hosting a poetry and prose reading to celebrate its latest issue on March 23 at 7:30pm at the British Institute Library (9-11 Rue Constatine, 7th. M° Invalides).

* Event: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong *
The authors of the book “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong: What Makes the French so French” will be giving a reading and signing books at Brentano’s (37 Avenue de l’Opéra, 2nd) on March 25 at 7:30pm. Reserve your place by calling 01 42 61 52 50.

* Eating & Drinking: Chocolate Fix *
Getting a good chocolate fix in Pars is never too difficult, but there are so many choices that I’ve become quite demanding. Last weekend a friend and I tried the Gateau Chocolate (with a half bottle of red wine) at Le Fumoir, a very fashionable bar-restaurant at Metro Louvre-Rivoli (Rue de l’Amiral de Coligny). This chocolate cake looked like a huge slab of fudge (with a dollop of fresh cream on the side), but it was amazingly light and I almost managed to eat the whole thing myself. Drop in from 3-5pm for Afternoon Tea, which includes the cake and a coffee for 9€. Facing the Pompidou Center, the Café Beaubourg was very trendy in the mid-1990s, and has only just started to attract back the fickle fashionable crowd. I tried the house special: Double Chocolate Mousse (just €8), a huge bowl with half-chocolate and half-white chocolate mousse. Absolutely superb, I was practically licking the bowl.

* Eating & Drinking: The Other Chinatown *
Mr. Heather and I are currently renting a studio in the Arts & Métiers district of the 3rd arrondissement, just north of the Pompidou Center at the western end of the Marais. It’s one of the lesser-known Chinatown districts of Paris, possibly because the main streets of this community (Rue au Maire, Rue Volta, Rue des Gravilliers) are tucked away from view just off the Rue de Turbigo, Rue Beaubourg and Rue du Temple. Amongst the wholesale shops are quite a few Chinese restaurants, cafés, and food stores. We’ve tried quite a few of the restaurants, all authentic and inexpensive, but so far our favorite by far is the Salon du Thé Wen Zhou (18 Rue au Maire, 3rd, tel: 01 42 74 05 09). We had two Chinese beers, shared the pork ravioli “vapeur” (excellent!), the Bo Bun and fried noodles with smoked pork. Everything was perfect, the veggies fresh, the noodles cooked correctly, the sauces not too overpowering. The whole meal was just €16 and we were stuffed full…I think I could eat there every night!

* Sightseeing: Getting around Paris in style *
There are two ways to see Paris that your friends probably haven’t tried yet. The first is Boy-Scoot (a bit of an odd name), a luxury motor-scooter taxi (with driver) that costs just €15 to speedily take you anywhere you need to go in Paris (helmet, gloves and paniers provided), tel: 01 40 27 05 81. Those who want to have more of a sightseeing ride across town can hire a classic 2CV (with driver who provides commentary) for up to three passengers from €75-€150 depending on the length of the tour. For more info check out their website: www.4roues-sous-1parapluie.com

* Cultural Adventures: Cooking Classes
If you live in Paris and would like to have a professional French chef come to your home and give cooking classes for you and up to five friends, try Olivier Berté’s “cours de cuisine”. It costs €60 per person (the host/ess is free). More info on the website: www.cours-cuisine-o-berte.com. If you’re just visiting and your French is up to speed, cooking classes are available in a tiny, but beautifully decorated kitchen in the Arts-et-Métiers district for just €50 with Fred. Check out his site at www.latelierdefred.com. (both sites in French only)

* Cultural Adventures: Free Fashion Lectures at the Louvre
This season’s theme for the free lecture series at the Ecole du Louvre is La Mode: fashion from the 18th century to today (lecture with plenty of samples, photos and slides). If your French is good and you want to attend one of the lectures, try and show up 15-20 minutes in advance at the Amphithéâtre Rohan (in the Carrousel du Louvre, 99 Rue du Louvre), every Friday through May 14 from 6:30-7:30pm. It’s always packed!

* Recommended Reading: Versailles, by Kathryn Davis
I just finished reading an excellent novel, Versailles by Kathryn Davis (Back Bay Books, 2003). It’s a fictional book about the life of Marie Antoinette, the last real Queen of France, who lost her head during the French Revolution. It’s magically written, and is full of real facts about everyday life at the Palace of Versailles during the doomed reign of Louis XVI, cleverly blending Marie Antoinette’s fantasy life with the anger of the starving Parisians. You’ll love this book if you’ve ever been to Versailles and wondered what it was like to live in its gilded interior and vast gardens. The award-winning author has received the Kafka Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

* Shopping: Department Store News *
There’s enough press out there that it’s no secret that Galeries Lafayette at Boulevard Haussmann has opened a new Maison store across the street from the main store (where Marks & Spencer’s used to be), with everything beautiful and trendy for the home. Over on the Left Bank, the Le Bon Marché has finally re-opened the section above the Grande Epicerie, with young designers’ clothing and a chic new café-cum-snack bar.

* Shopping: Essential Oils Boutique *
Those of you who are always on the lookout for the best essential oils can find them at Codina (24 Rue Violet, 15th, tel: 01 45 78 88 88), a boutique formerly reserved for professionals only. Their oils are 100% organic and made on the oldest oil press in Paris.

* Shopping: Looking for men’s suits on sale? *
Shopping for a men’s suit at a discount? The very long Rue de Turenne and Rue Béranger in the 3rd are lined with men’s clothing stores (mostly suits, shirts and ties, but not exclusively) and wholesalers that sell to the public at almost 50% off the prices in the department stores for the same quality (on average from €200-€300 for a 2-piece suit – Mr. Heather looks very nice in his recent purchase for his new job).

* Practical: Parking in Paris *
Parking a car in Paris can get very expensive if you’re not a resident, but there are some ways to save a bit. Try parking your car in a secured garage outside the center of town, which are almost half the price. For example, to park our car at the parking garage under the Pompidou Center would have cost €230/month, but the parking garage at the Port Arsenal (Bastille) was only €130/month. Considering these are only five minutes’ apart by Metro, it doesn’t make sense to pay the more expensive rate. So if you’re planning on parking for a week or more, definitely shop around. Vinci runs most of the car parks in Ile-de-France, although there are many private ones. Be sure you know when you have access, since some private garages are closed at night or on weekends.

* News: American Extras Needed Next Week! *
Want to be an extra in a film set in Paris? The casting agent Nathalie Daniel needs a whole crowd of Americans who are available for a few days starting March 22 (paid work). Send her your photo and availability to Nathalie Daniel, 80 Blvd Ornano, 75018 Paris ASAP (don’t forget to put your name and telephone number on the back of the photo).

* News: Techie guru needed! *
WICE, the non-profit, volunteer-run cultural and educational center for Anglophones in Paris is in desperate need of an IT troubleshooter – everything from hardware to office networking to software and virus protection. Volunteer benefits include discounts on courses at WICE and the chance to meet people from all over the world. If you can help, contact WICE at 01 45 66 75 50 or e-mail wice@wice-paris.org

* News: Web Bar closed for good
The Web Bar internet café and restaurant is gone for good, replaced this month by Guillaume (32 Rue Picardie, 3rd, tel 01 44 59 70 92), a bar, restaurant and photo exposition center with very comfy club chairs. I’ll let you know if it attracts the same branché crowd as the Web Bar once did.

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