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Newsletter #46: April 2004

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Secrets of Paris Newsletter #46: April 19, 2004


* From the Editor
* Special Event: Contest Ends Thursday
* Event: Davis Byrne at the Bataclan
* Event: Funky Pub Crawl This Saturday
* Event: Concerts at Les Voûtes
* Event: Author & Poet Readings
* Eating & Drinking: Dinner and a Movie
* Eating & Drinking: Snacking on a Budget in Paris’s Posh Western Right Bank
* Eating & Drinking: American Brunch
* Sightseeing: Rare Exhibition of Chantilly’s 15th-century Illuminated Manuscript
* Sightseeing: The 16th Arrondissement
* Outdoor Adventures: Come Hashing with Us!
* Shopping: Discount Couture Clothing
* Nightlife: De La Ville Café
* Nightlife: Sunday Evenings at Le Triptyque
* Practical: WiFi Hot Spots in Paris

* From the Editor *
In this second – and therefore shorter — newsletter for April, I’ve focused on things to see and do for the rest of the month. The weather hasn’t been very cooperative leately, warm and sunny on Friday (when I was wearing a thick sweater) and wet and windy all weekend (when I was running at the Parc St-Cloud). If you’re planning on a Paris visit anytime soon, be sure to layer, layer, layer! I’ve been getting lots of e-mails from those of you planning your spring/summer trip…much more exciting than spam, but sometimes I can’t answer all of the questions in a timely manner, so don’t forget that your best resource for all of the necessities (lodging, sightseeing, formalities, etc.) is the Paris Tourism website. My publisher just told me my Paris guidebook has been delayed and won’t come out until June (sigh), even though Amazon.com seems to be more optimistic. Thanks to everyone who has expressed interest. I’ll keep y’all posted on the book launch in Paris. – H

* Special Event: Contest Ends Thursday! *
This week is your last chance to enter the Pro-France Slogan Contest (deadline Thursday the 22nd). So far I‘ve received 70 entries (most people send in more than one), not counting the ones sent to Ric. The judging will take place during the Cafe Metropole Club meeting next Thursday the 29th at 3pm, so all of you who are in Paris come along and help pick out the top slogan and the nine runners-up! Of course, the big mystery remains: what is the grand prize? Seems it will remain a mystery until the very end (exciting, eh?), since Ric and I are still working on it. Don’t worry; there definitely will be a prize (and a pretty cool one, no matter what), but we just might change it at the last minute, so it’s better to keep it a secret. Think of it like the surprise inside a Cracker-Jack box, only it definitely won’t be a plastic toy.

* Event: Davis Byrne at the Bataclan *
The multi-talented musician David Byrne is coming to Paris May 5th to promote his new solo album, Grown Backwards, with a concert at the Bataclan. This is a small venue, with just 1500 seats, so fans won’t need binoculars to see. Tickets are €35 (still some left). For more info, contact the Bataclan: 50, Boulevard Voltaire, 11th, tel: 01 43 14 35 35.

* Event: Funky Pub Crawl This Saturday *
For those looking to do some serious Irish pub crawling with a boisterous group of expats and visitors, join up with one of the Funky Pub Crawls, run by the Funky Maps people (free bar and nightlife guide-maps found free in most expat pubs around Paris). The next one is this coming Saturday night, starting 8pm at the Harp (118 Blvd de Clichy, 18th). The €10 fee will get you free shots at the five pubs on the crawl (all in the Montmartre area), drink discounts, lots of free giveaways, and free cover at a late-night dance club (if you can still stand). It’s perfect for solo travelers (and residents who have boring friends) who want to hang out with a fun gang of people. One warning: it’s just not cool to puke in Paris, so when you start feeling wobbly it may be time to switch to a virgin cocktail or a good ol’ Ginger Ale.

* Event: Concerts at Les Voûtes *
Although the historic meatlockers-turned-artist-studios know as Les Frigos are slowly being surrounded by the modern buildings popping up along the Rive Gauche, their cultural-artistic-performance center, Les Voûtes, is still a great place to check out the alternative arts and music scene. This month’s schedule includes a film short and concert by the rock group Paper Scissors on Thursday (April 22) at 8:30pm, a Soirée Purgatoire with jazz, videos, a dance performance, poetry and dancing late into the night on Saturday (24th) from 6pm, and a Soirée “Jazz les Mots Dits”, with live jazz and open-mic slams to music on Thursday the 29th from 8pm. Entrance is free after an initial €5 membership fee (Les Voûts is a non-profit cultural center). Find Les Voûtes at 91 Quai Panhard & Levassor, 13th, Métro Bibliothèque or Quai de la Gare (it’s located at the back of the garden, under the Rue de Tolbiac).

* Event: Author & Poet Readings *
The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore (22 Rue St Paul, 4th, Métro
St Paul or Sully Morland, Tel: 01 48 04 75 08) presents Heather Reyes, author of Zade (Saqi Books) on April 24 from 4pm-6pm, and poet Maria Kasia Greenwood translates Chaucer, Verlaine and Szymborsa into modern English on April 29 at 6pm. The prolific American writer and poet laureate Donald Hall will be reading in Paris for the first time on April 29 at7pm at the Village Voice Bookstore (6 Rue Princesse, 6th, Métro Odéon, tel: 01 46 33 36 47).

* Eating & Drinking: Dinner and a Movie *
Mr. Heather and I test-drove the “Formule Ciné” at the MK2 Bibliothèque cineplex last weekend. Just inside the cinéplex (located between the Avenue de France and the Bibliothèque Mitterrand in the 13th, Métro Bibliothèque or Quai de la Gare) is the Café M, a self-service cafeteria with a nice terrace. For €13, the “Formule Ciné” includes a main dish, dessert, soft drink, and entrance into any film. Considering the films cost €8.80-9.80 and a candy bar at the snack counter €2.50, this isn’t a bad deal. The food isn’t going to win any awards (I had pizza, Coke, and apple tart; Mr. Heather had a sandwich, Evian, and Brittany tart), but it’s not bad, either. Those with more upscale tastes can try the Café Bibliothèque, at the far end of the cineplex, which is a very nice café-restaurant with terrace, and a “Formule Ciné” for €23. When you’re done eating, you take your receipt to the ticket window and select which film you want to see. Another bonus: the armrests between every two seats in the theatre can be raised to make a “loveseat”.

* Eating & Drinking: Snacking on a Budget in Paris’s Posh Western Right Bank*
On Friday night Mr. Heather and I walked from our flat all the way up to Trocadéro (about an hours’ walk uphill), and were pretty darned hungry. I’m a big fan of Bert’s Café Contemporain at Place de l’Alma, a stylish French café and take-away soup/sandwich shop. It’s a cool place to hang out, grab a quick bite, or an afternoon coffee (and there are magazines for solo clients). Unfortunately, it was already 11:30pm, so Bert’s was out of the question. Instead we went to the Tokyo Idem self-service “cantine” (do we sense a trend here?) at the Palais de Tokyo Contemporary Art Center (13 Avenue Président Wilson, 16th, Métro Alma-Marceau). Open daily except Monday from noon until midnight, the cantine is cheap and cheerful, with fresh salads, sandwiches and pasta in plastic containers that you can eat in the paisley-floored dining area or out on the terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower when the weather’s nice. Tokyo Idem is to the left and downstairs when you enter Palais de Tokyo, not to be confused with the more trendy and pricey Tokyo Eat on the main floor.

* Eating & Drinking: American Brunch *
For residents and others who don’t get to the US very often, it can be hard to find a decent American-style brunch in Paris. I find it particularly annoying that almost every establishment (French or otherwise) serving brunch only has *one* option, the huge brunch “menu”, usually in the €25 range. For some this may be great, but I can’t eat that much food all at once, and prefer the option of ordering à la carte. So very happy I am to have found Percy’s Place (15 Rue d’Auteuil, 16th, Métro Michel-Ange Auteuil, tel: 01 42 88 53 02). Originally from Louisiana, Percy knows how to do a proper brunch, with two “menu” options (New Orleans style or Percy’s special) and classics à la carte such as pancakes or bagel with cream cheese. Open for brunch Sundays noon until 4pm – reserve a table if you don’t want to be disappointed!

* Sightseeing: Rare Exhibition of Chantilly’s 15th-century Illuminated Manuscript *
Created early in the 15th century for the art and book collector Duke de Berry, the illuminated manuscript known as Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry” is considered one of the finest in the world – and up until now, it has never been displayed in public. So catch the train or rent a car and head up to the beautiful historic town of Chantilly (45 minutes north of Paris) to the Musée Condé, located in the Chateau de Chantilly. The book will be on display, along with an exposition of other illuminated manuscripts, until August 2, 2004. Visit on a nice day, and enjoy the gardens designed by Le Nôtre, including the hamlet that inspired Marie-Antoinette’s Hameau at Versailles.

* Sightseeing: The 16th Arrondissement *
I’ve been taking advantage of my temporary home in the 16th arrondissement to check out this part of town. Although it’s quite popular with American expats (particularly those with kids or working in the diplomatic corps), tourists rarely venture into this very large district bordering the Bois de Boulogne. So far, it’s one of my favorite places to walk my dogs in Paris: wide sidewalks, plenty of parks, trees, and gardens, and some fascinating architecture, particularly around the Eglise d’Autueil (such as the Algerian and Vietnamese embassies on Rue Boileau, the Hector Guimard Art-Nouveau houses on Rue Chardon Lagache). Ric Erickson wrote a hilarious article on the neighborhood (which should make anyone think twice before trying to go sightseeing in a car in Paris), and Thirza Vallois has also written a step-by-step tour of the Art Nouveau monuments in the area. On a sunny day don’t miss the lovely – and well-hidden — Park Sainte-Périne (located behind the Hospital Ste-Périne, look for the entrance gate at 45 Rue Mirabeau or 114 Avenue de Versailles).

* Outdoor Adventures: Come Hashing with Us! *
Join any of the four Hash House Harrier “drinking clubs with a running problem” located in and around Paris for running (or walking, if you prefer) through Paris and the beautiful Ile-de-France countryside, socializing with English-speaking expats and French locals (and our doggies), and – of course – beer drinking. A sense of humor is more important than any athletic ability, visitors are always welcome. For more info, check out the article I wrote at Suite101.com.

* Shopping: Discount Couture Clothing *
Most large cities have second-hand and vintage clothing stores, but Paris is particularly gifted with many upscale dépôt-ventes (second-hand/consignment stores) where you can find Hermès scarves, Kelly bags, Chanel shoes, and Christian Lacroix suits for a fraction of their original cost. One of the best ones in terms of size, selection and quality (no mangy smell) is Reciproque, with multiple shops between 88 and 123 Rue de La Pompe, 16th (Métro Rue de La Pompe), with one shop for bags and luggage, another for jewelry, another for men’s clothes, and the largest, #93, for women’s clothing. Upstairs are the most beautiful pieces, evening gowns, and couture labels, while downstairs are racks and racks of dressy and casual clothing, almost all with designer labels, and shoes (also designer – most over €100 a pair, but there are exceptions). Happy hunting!

* Nightlife: De La Ville Café *
Last time I stopped into De La Ville Café (34-36 Blvd Bonne Nouvelle, 10th, Métro Bonne Nouvelle) during the summer, they were just finishing up the renovations on the new section, adjacent to the original De La Ville Café. Last weekend I went to see how Parisians liked the transformation, and considering that almost every table was taken by the beau monde, it seems to be a hit. Hard to see why it wouldn’t be. With its industrial-baroque décor (it used to be an upscale bordello during the Belle Epoch) on three levels, huge terrace, dining room, café and live DJs (with plenty of elbow room, too), it’s the kind of place you could drop by almost any time of the day or night. And would you believe the prices are below average and the servers are pleasant? That’s almost suspicious in a trendy Parisian nightspot! Only oddity: the Clockwork Orange-esque back lounge, which is funny (stuffed hunting trophies on the wall and futuristic orange bench seating) but very uncomfortable looking. Maybe it’s a temporary thing…certainly De La Ville’s popularity isn’t. Open daily from 11am-2am, until 4am on weekends.

* Nightlife: Sunday Evenings at Le Triptyque *
Just down the street from De La Ville is the new kid on the block, Le Triptyque (142 Rue Montmartre, 2nd, Métro Bourse or Grands-Boulevards), a sort of laid-back nightclub/multi-media arts center. Most nights it’s music and dancing, but on Sundays it’s “Playground of the Artists”, with independent cinema (from 3pm), slam tournament (from 6pm) and open-mic jam sessions (from 8pm). Open 3pm until midnight. Entry is €5, free before 5pm.

* Practical: WiFi Hot Spots in Paris*
For those of you with WiFi cars in your laptop, there are plenty of access points throughout Paris, not just in hotels, but also in cafés and public places. For a fairly exhaustive list of locations, check out this site.

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