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Newsletter #45: April 2004

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Secrets of Paris Newsletter #45: April 3, 2004


* From the Editor
* Entertainment: Stand-Up Comedy at the Hôtel du Nord
* Special Event: 60th D-Day Anniversary
* Event: Jim Hightower Speaks His Mind in Paris
* Event: Gaîté Lyrique’s Digital Culture Festival
* Event: American Club of Paris 100th Anniversary Symposium
* Event: Poetry & Prose Readings
* Event: Women’s Music Festival
* Event: 100th Annual Paris Fair
* Eating & Drinking: Lenôtre & the Pullman Orient Express
* Eating & Drinking: Gourmet Snacking on a Budget
* Sightseeing: Dolls in Art and Culture
* Sightseeing: Architecture in the 14th
* Outdoor Adventures: Cycling Around Paris
* Cultural Adventures: Sketching Paris
* Shopping: Rue Tiquetonne
* Practical: Internet Café
* Practical: French Drivers’ License
* News: More American Extras Needed!

* From the Editor *
Hooray, I’m back online! Five weeks of internet cafés is a bit much for those of us used to being online 24/7! I’ve received a whole bunch of wonderful entries for the Pro-France Slogan Contest, it’s going to be hard to pick the winners! Y’all still have a few weeks to send in your slogans – think witty and short (bumper-sticker size). In the last newsletter I wrote about a film company in Paris looking for American extras to act like journalists. I didn’t think that would be too much of a stretch for me and signed up. The filming was in a convention center 45-minutes outside Paris (and not in a particularly nice area), but I got to meet Nicole, a Secrets of Paris reader from Canada, Christine, who volunteers with me at WICE, and Gina, who used to work with me at ELLE.com. The film, Sometimes in April is an HBO film about the Rwanda crisis of 1994 by the Haitian-born director Raoul Peck (most of the filming is in Rwanda). When it comes out, look for the back of my head as one of the journalists in a scene with Deborah Winger at the White House Press Corps (I’m behind the guy in the bowtie who asks about the “Hootsies and Tutus”). It was so much fun that I’ve signed up to be an extra in a few more films…maybe a new career for me? Hope to run into more of you at events I mention in this newsletter! –H

* Entertainment: Stand-Up Comedy at the Hôtel du Nord *
Laughing Matters presents regular stand-up comedy acts (in English) at the historic hôtel du Nord (on the Canal St-Martin). Check the schedule at Anything Matters or call 01 53 19 98 88. Get on the mailing list by e-mailing karel@anythingmatters.com. Bonus: certain nights are designated non-smoking, for those of us who don’t want to wake up the next morning smelling like an ashtray.

* Special Event: 60th D-Day Anniversary *
I know it’s a bit of a hike from Paris, but many of you may be interested in the 60th anniversary of the World War II D-Day Landing in Normandy. Despite recent animosity between the French and US governments, the French still plan on extending a warm welcome US war veterans who helped liberate Europe in 1944. Official ceremonies take place on June 5-6, with other commemorative events over the following 80 days. According to the French Tourism Office, American Airlines is offering discounted round-trip airfare to France from the US for passengers born before January 1, 1930 (from $504 from the East Coast to $704 from the West Coast). Tickets need to be ordered before April 15, and are valid through September 15. Contact American Airlines (800-433-1790) to book the special fare with the reference: STAARfile 2664AZ. Those in Paris who can’t get to Normandy can also pay respects at the American Military Cemetery in Suresnes, located 5 miles west of Paris at the foot of Mont Valérin.

* Event: Jim Hightower Speaks His Mind in Paris *
Former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, Jim Hightower, known as one of the most outspoken, entertaining and popular figures on talk radio in the US, will be speaking in Paris on April 25th, sponsored by the Democrats Abroad. From the Houston Chronicle: "Hightower is the card-carrying comedian of farmer-labor bedrock progressivism. As commentator, columnist and public speaker, he’s mad — and funny — as hell, battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought to Be: consumers, environmentalists, small-business owners, family farmers." To sign up for a spot, RSVP at Demsabroad@noos.fr and send a €20 check (made out to Democrats Abroad) to Jason Levin,15-17 rue des Mathurins, 75009 Paris. The talk takes place at 6:45pm at the home of John Morris: 56 rue des Tournelles, 75003.

* Event: Gaîté Lyrique’s Digital Culture Festival *
Those with a taste for contemporary digital music should reserve a spot at the Gaïté Lyrique’s “Festival Culture Numérique”. Artists from around the world will be giving concerts from April 8th through April 24th, from €6-€12. The opening night on the 8th at 8pm is free, RSVP at electrophonic@confluences.net (190, Blvd de Charonne, 20th; tel: 01 40 24 16 34).

* Event: American Club of Paris 100th Anniversary Symposium *
The American Club of Paris is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary with a symposium titled: “France & the United States – Past, Present, Future”, and featuring a long list of illustrious speakers such as US Ambassador to France, the French minister of Foreign Affairs, the former French Ambassador to the US, the deputy editor of Le Figaro, and professors from Harvard and Princeton. The symposium takes place on May 14th from 9:15am-5pm, at the Maison du Barreau, 2-4 rue Harlay, 1st. Reservations are necessary (there’s a fee to attend): americanclubparis@wanadoo.fr

* Event: Poetry & Prose Readings *
Support the Parisian literary scene with your presence at these upcoming readings: The literary and arts journal Upstairs at Duroc presents visiting and resident Anglophone poets Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, Ethan Gilsdorf and Hai-Dang Phan, and prose writer Joanne Proulx on April 7 (Wednesday) at Le Caveau des Oubliettes (52 rue Galande, 5th) at 6:45pm (free entry). On April 19 (Monday) the Live Poets Society hosts a multi-lingual reading at the Highlander Pub (8 rue de Nevers, 6th) at 8pm (last time I went there was a €4 donation request…don’t quote me on that, though).

* Event: Women’s Music Festival *
Check out “Les Femmes s’en Mêlent”, an international female music festival coming to Paris April 23-May 4th, featuring musicians such as Neneh Cherry, Holly Golightly, Laetitia Sheriff, The Launderettes and Shannon Wright. Venues are throughout Paris including the Elysée Montmartre and Café de la Danse. For more info go to http://www.lfsm.net (bilingual site). Or any FNAC ticket office.

* Event: 100th Annual Paris Fair *
The Foire de Paris celebrates its 100th anniversary April 29-May 9 at the Porte de Versailles Exposition Center (Metro line 12), with over 3000 exhibitors selling everything from French regional foods and wines (lots of yummy samples) to arts and crafts and beauty products. It’s a great place to wander for the day (especially if the weather isn’t very nice). Non-stop entertainment is provided by the hundreds of jazz concerts taking place throughout the fair. Entrance is €10. For more info see www.foiredeparis.fr.

* Eating & Drinking: Lenôtre & the Pullman Orient Express *
Looking for something very unique? You can enjoy the luxurious historic setting of the Pullman Orient Express Trains without actually leaving Paris. They’re offering special dinners catered by Lenôtre while the train cruises around, leaving from one Paris train station and arriving (if I understand this correctly) in another. The whole thing lasts about three hours and starts at €275. I would love to test this out for y’all. I’ll start playing the lotto tomorrow. 😉 Get the full details at their bilingual website: www.pullmanorientexpress.com

* Eating & Drinking: Gourmet Snacking on a Budget *
Of course, there are also the little luxuries for everyone to enjoy…foodies should stop into the Duc de Montmorency (46 Rue de Montmorency, 3rd, Metro Rambuteau, tel: 01 42 72 18 10), an organic, gourmet deli open throughout the day. It’s owned by the medieval Nicolas Flamel restaurant across the street, and sells simple, inexpensive dishes (quiches, open sandwiches on Poilâne bread, soups, etc.) and light wines to go or eat “sur place” on tiny tables that fill up quickly at lunch.

* Sightseeing: Dolls in Art and Culture *
Interesting exhibition going on at the Halle Saint-Pierre, the little-known “naïf” museum at the foot of Montmartre, called “Poupées” (Dolls). It explores the role of fetish dolls in art and culture. Through July 25th at Halle St-Pierre (2 rue Ronsard, 18th; tel: 01 42 58 72 89). Don’t miss the adorable little café in the museum with views of Sacré Coeur from the big windows.

* Sightseeing: Architecture in the 14th *
Mr. Heather and I had a nice stroll around the huge Park Montsouris, at the bottom of the 14th (RER B: Cité Universitaire) with our doggies last month. It’s a nice park, with lots of lawn for lounging, a lakeside café, and plenty of playgrounds for the tots. Then we explored some of the tiny cobblestoned streets around the park lined with magnificent houses built in the early 1900s, many with their own gardens – a rarity in Paris! Many of these houses were once lived in by artists and writers that frequented Montparnasse in the 1920s. The best streets are Rue du Parc de Montsouris, Rue Square du Montsouris (both west of the park), Aenue Reille (with a Le Corbusier house at #53) and then, a bit to the north, the street Villa Seurat. You can read more info about the architecture of the neighborhood (in French) at: www.parisbalades.com

* Outdoor Adventures: Cycling Around Paris *
Okay folks, time to get off your behinds and enjoy the spring air (and give your shoes a break). The Parisians are becoming quite sporty, so visitors have a wide variety of options: For the newcomers who want commentary in English of all the major Paris sights, sign up for Fat Tire Bike Tours (formerly Mike’s Bike Tours), with day or night tours, and excursions to Versailles and Giverny. Those who want to ride around without the commentary can join Paris Rando Vélo, a free ride every Friday night at 9:30pm from the Hôtel de Ville (there should be a Roue Libre Cyclobus renting bikes on location for those without their own) for a three-hour tour around town in a huge group (no sign-up necessary). They also do a day ride every third Sunday from the Hôtel de Ville at 10:30am, rent bikes from the Roue Libre shop at the Forum des Halles down the street. Finally, if your French is up to speed and you want to try something different, take a bike tour of the Guignets along the Marne River southeast of Paris, including tours of the vineyards, every first Sunday of the month through October, just €32 (plus bike rental). Contact France Randonnée (francerandonnee@wanadoo.fr, tel: 02 99 67 42 21) or In Vélo Veritas (info@in-velo-veritas.com; tel: 01 34 62 50 80) for more info.

* Cultural Adventures: Sketching Paris *
I’ve written about the RandoCroquis group before, but just recently got a chance to meet Bruno, the RandoCroquis journal editor and one of the artist-guides, at the Salon du Randonnée (Hiking Fair) last weekend. The concept is quite simple: a combination of hiking and sketching, with an experienced artist who leads the groups and gives advice and commentary on your finished works (all levels welcome, even beginners). Cyrille leads the Paris group for a bit of urban scenery (and he speaks English pretty well), the next outings are April 25 and May 9th, 10am-2pm (€23). To reserve your spot, call Cyrille Monday or Tuesday from 10am-2pm at 01 47 07 50 54 or e-mail paris-centre@randocroquis.com. For more info, see their French website at www.randocroquis.com

* Shopping: Rue Tiquetonne *
I quite like this area of Paris, just above Etienne Marcel and east of the Montorgueil neighborhood in the 2nd. This white-cobblestoned street, mostly pedestrian-only, starts off at the British Frog & Rosbif Pub, and extends all the way to the chic Etienne Marcel Café. In between you’ll find hip streetwear boutiques, a Chinese tattoo parlor, many tiny restaurants specializing in French (including Le Dénicheur), Thai, Chinese, French Caribbean, and Indian cuisine, vintage clothing shops (including Kiliwatch), the sexy Patrick Cox shoe store, and G. Détou baking supplies. Running parallel just above the eastern part of the street is the Passage de la Grand Cerf, full of independent clothing, jewelry and home décor boutiques (and a cute Brazilian deli).

* Practical: Internet Café *
Oh, there are so many internet cafés these days, all with their pros and cons. For the past five weeks I’ve used at least four, and my favorite is the Baguenaude Café (30 rue de la Grande Truanderie, 1st, Metro Etienne-Marcel or Les Halles). It’s a small place, clean and efficient, with someone always available if you have problems, and you can use your own floppy disk if you need to. They’ve got all the major programs, and headphones if you need sound. Rates aren’t bad either, €3.80 per hour, €6.10 for two hours, or €1.50 if you just need 10 minutes to check your e-mail. Open weekdays 11am-8pm and Saturday 2-8pm.

* Practical: French Drivers’ License*
You’ll be fine with you native driver’s license if you’re just renting a car in Paris, but if you live in France and want to buy a car, you’ll need a French driver’s license (permis B) to get insured. Those of you who don’t speak French very well (or at all) can take the classes and tests in English through the Fehrenbach Driving School. Having gone through the whole painful experience myself (even though I already had a US license for ten years), I can say that the prices are about the same that you’ll pay if you did it in French, and you’re less likely to fail due to a misunderstanding – I’ve heard 60% of the French fail it the first time, so it’s pretty damned hard! Get all the details at www.frenchlicense.com

* News: More American Extras Needed!
American extras are needed for a Claude Berri film starring Nathalie Baye, Daniel Auteuil, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. They are in particular need of men between 35 and 70 to play distinguished art buyers for an art gallery scene. If you’re free for a few days in April and May, and have French working papars (very important), send a snapshot of yourself with phone, address and birth date to: Hirsch Casting, “Gallerie d’Art”, 6 rue Lincoln, 75008 Paris. Good luck!

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