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Newsletter #48: June 2004


Secrets of Paris Newsletter #48: June 30, 2004


* From the Editor
* Sightseeing in Paris: Around the Jardin Atlantique
* Eating: Le Petit Baigneur
* Eating: Café Baci
* Entertainment: L’Entrepôt
* Entertainment: Dancing on the Quais
* Sightseeing in Ile-de-France: The Marne
* Shopping: D-Day Anniversary Souvenir Coins
* Practical Advice: PACS
* Recommended Summer Reading
* Cooking Classes and Cookbook Launch
* Autumn Gardening Classes in English
* Paris Q & A
* French Cinema: Summer Films
* The Secrets of Paris Calendar of Events

* From the Editor *
Aha, the June newsletter is here! But barely…your faithful editor has been out of town on a particularly long (14-day) tour this month, guiding 44 American high school students (and a handful of parents) from Rome to Paris via Florence, Nice, Avignon, Barcelona and a handful of hilltop villages too tiny to remember. These gigs are a blast, but I usually only get 4 hours of sleep per night! With just enough time back in Paris to catch the sales, I’m off again for July on a completely different tour, as a support driver for a Backroads tour following the Tour de France (I pick up the cyclists who can’t make it up the “cols”). I’ll be back in Paris in August, leading local tours and hopefully getting a chance to relax at Paris Plage! -H

* Sightseeing in Paris *
Yesterday I arrived at the Montparnasse station an hour early for a lunch meeting and decided to go check out the gardens upstairs. If you haven’t yet visited the Jardin Atlantique, opened in 1994, you don’t know what a lovely time you’re missing. There are two staircase entries direct from the station, or you can enter at street level from the courtyard of the office buildings along Place des 5 Martyrs (just off the circular Place de Catalogne). It’s really an oasis of green lawns, huge trees, and flower gardens, all with a maritime theme since the trains from Montparnasse go to the Brittany coast. Yesterday the purple lavender and pink Erica (Heather-like ground cover) were in bloom and locals were sun bathing on the grass. It’s hard to believe there’s a station underneath! If you’re interested in French Résistance history, you can check out the Musée Jean Moulin – Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc (entrance €4) at the northern end of the gardens.

If you’re curious to see more of the 14th arrondissement, follow the pedestrian-only Rue Vercingétorix from the Place de Catalogne, where you’ll see a large children’s playground and an average-looking church, Notre-Dame-du-Travail (Our Lady of Work). But this is no ordinary church: built during the height of the industrial revolution in 1900, the architect used iron girders riveted together to support the interior instead of stone pillars, so that the church resembles the inside of the factories where the most of the local congregation worked. It’s quite a rare sight and deserves a quick peek.

Finally, stroll over to the Rue Raymond Losserand, the artery of this authentic Parisian neighborhood full of cafés, bakeries, non-touristy boutiques and adorable, cobblestoned side streets full of flowering vines, such as the Rue des Thermopyles (just across from the Métro Pernety).

* Eating: Le Petit Baigneur *
While we’re in the 14th, I’d like to recommend Le Petit Baigneur, a typically old-fashioned Parisian restaurant with red-checker tablecloths, vintage prints from the Marché aux Puces on the walls, and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere. My friend Don Smith (of www.visitparis.com), has been going here all spring, and introduced me to the nice couple who run it. I tried the “lapin aux prunes” (rabbit stew cooked with plums and potatos) and tarte au citron (lemon meringue pie), and Don had duck paté and “Boeuf Bourguignon”. It was just €11.50 each, plus our “noisettes” (espresso with a dash of milk). I waddled home. The address is 10 Rue de la Sablière, 14th, tel: 01 45 45 47 12. Open weekdays for lunch and dinner, and Saturday for dinner only. They don’t take reservations, so just show up and do a bit of sightseeing if you have to wait!

* Eating: Café Baci *
I had never been to this sexy Italian restaurant before my friend Victoria invited us all here for her birthday dinner last month. Located at 36 Rue de Turenne (3rd), just around the corner from the Place des Vosges, Café Baci has white leather benches, baroque chandeliers and black walls covered in vintage architectural prints of Venice and Paris. Downstairs there’s bar seating and cozy corner tables; upstairs there’s often a live musician and dancing if the mood is right. Aside from having the right look for a diner-à-deux, the food is fabulous: try the seared tuna steak or the pasta with chocolate sauce for dessert if you’re brave! Reservations a must: tel 01 42 71 36 70.

* Entertainment: L’Entrepôt *
I’ve mentioned this former paper-factory-turned-cultural-center before, but I think it’s worth noting that the Entrepôt not only has a great cinema schedule (with independent as well as mainstream films), but also live events in the bar almost every night: jazz concerts (€8), improve theatre, literary readings and Sunday Brunch concerts (€22 for brunch). And their restaurant’s large garden terrace is one of the most peaceful places to eat in town! Check them out: 7-9 rue Francis de Pressensé, 14th, tel: 01 45 40 07 50. Open daily, from about 9am until midnight (bar open all day; restaurant open for lunch and dinner). For more info visit: http://www.lentrepot.fr/

* Entertainment: Dancing on the Quais *
Every night until September 30 you can dance under the stars next to the Seine in the Square Tino Rossi (Quai St-Bernard, 5th). Started informally almost ten years ago by a bunch of salsa dancers with a boom box, “Paris Danses en Seine” is now an official summer event, and lots of fun, with different dance areas for Argentinean tango, salsa, swing, Brazilian capoeira and Breton folk dancing. The music starts at about 6pm for beginners’ lessons, and then the experienced dancers arrive at 9pm for dancing until 1am, although on some summer nights it’s gone on well into dawn! (Note: be sure to check the weather reports, no dancing if it’s raining) For more info see the official website: http://www.parisdansesenseine.fr

* Sightseeing in Ile-de-France *
Escape the stifling summer heat of the city with a day cruise along the bucolic Marne River, home to the historic guinguette dance halls (where you can enjoy the white wine and “fritures”, or little fried fish). Canauxrama (www.canauxrama.com) departs every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 9am from the Porte de l’Arsenal (Metro Bastille), with a stop for lunch (bring a picnic or try one of the riverside cafés). €34 per person. To reserve a place call 01 42 39 15 00.

* Shopping: D-Day Anniversary Souvenir Coins *
My last tour group (from Las Vegas) were black-belts in shopping (how they got all of the extra luggage on their flight home I’ll never know), so I’ve become highly-tuned to the “must-have” souvenirs of the season. Aside from the all-purpose Eiffel Tower keychains (you get the best deal if you buy in bulk from the African street vendors who hang out around the Eiffel Tower and Carrousel du Louvre arch), this year’s big ticket item is a D-Day 60th Anniversary coin from the Paris Mint. The silver €1 coin (20,000 minted) costs €41, or €34.28 if you order it from outside the European Union (duty free!). The gold €20 coin (2,000 minted) is €527 within the EU, and €440.64 if you order from outside the EU. For more info, see their website: http://www.monnaiedeparis.fr, or stop by the Monnaie de Paris boutique at 11 Quai Conti (near St-Germain-des-Prés), 6th, open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm.

* Practical Advice: PACS *
Want to move in with your French (or European) boyfriend/girlfriend in France but don’t want to have to get married just to have permission to work? My American friend Amy Caplan recently told me about the little-known PACS, which is a legally-recognized relationship between two people allowing the non-French partner the right to live, work and get health care in France. Amy says it’s actually quite straightforward, for France! For more information, see these websites (in French): http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/etrangers/vivre/pacs/ or http://www.dossierfamilial.com/user/standard.php?idart=413, which gives side by side comparisons between the PACS, concubinage and marriage (click on the little purple magnifying glass on the right of the page for chart details).

* Recommended Summer Reading *
I picked up a few books at the airport last month, including “Once Upon A Time: The Story of Princess Grace, Prince Ranier and their Family” by J. Randy Taraborrelli. This is a fascinating book anyone who has ever visited the tiny Principality of Monaco (on the French Riviera) or has been fascinated by the Grimaldi Royal Family, which Philadelphia native and Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly married into in 1956. It’s a huge book, full of all the juicy secrets and stories that you don’t get to hear on the guided Palace tours.

A more disappointing book was “And What Do You Do?”, a fictional account of an English career-woman-turned-housewife to a French businessman who struggles with his infidelities and life as a “mama” in Paris. Written by Sarah Long, an Englishwoman married to a Frenchman who lived with her family in Paris for several years. Hmmmm. I’ve read a lot of books about expats in Paris, and this one is full of every stupid cliché and constant, obvious reminders that the author “knows Paris”. I can just hear my writing professor screaming “show, don’t tell!”

Finally, I must admit that Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” has made it into our house. I haven’t had time to read it yet (maybe on the train to Avignon this weekend), but Mr. Heather read it almost straight through in less than two days (it’s a large book, too), and I think he even missed a soccer match on the TV! There are several tours in Paris based on the book; I recommend the 2.5 hour tour from Paris Muse (http://www.parismuse.com/) called “Cracking the Da Vinci Code”.

* Cooking Classes and Cookbook Launch *
Those who have taken cooking cases at the Paris home of Samira Hradsky will be pleased to hear that her long-awaited cookbook, “Food Unites the World: A Gourmet’s Voyage”, is hot off the presses! The book is divided into ten chapters, each focusing on an ethnic specialty from a different country or region, with a menu that includes a special drink, a type of bread, a few appetizers, a few main dishes, and one or more desserts. There are plenty of photos, and special tips on food preparation, storage, and charts for both US and EU metric measurements. To order the book direct from Samira or find out more about her cooking classes, visit her website: http://www.foodunitestheworld.com/

* Autumn Gardening Classes in English *
It’s not too late to sign up for the Paris Garden Guild’s five-day class, “Be A Better Gardener”, October 25-29, in central Paris. The total cost is €985 (that includes €140 of textbooks and materials), but if you register before September 1 the price is just €837. The course is open to complete beginners or those who are interested in studying for the British Royal Horticultural Society’s qualification. For more information contact Robin Watson: parisgarden@free.fr or by telephone +33(0)1 47 41 21 59.

* Paris Q & A *
Sometimes I get very interesting questions from readers, so I thought I’d share some of them (and the answers, of course) with the rest of you:

Q: When can I see the fountains at Trocadéro (overlooking the Eiffel Tower) in action?
A: The fountains go off for the first 15 minutes of every hour and the spectacular water cannons for the last ten minutes of every hour between 10am-10pm on weekdays, and until midnight on weekends.

Q: My son is traveling to France with a school group. He is looking for advice on how to dress so as to be less conspicuous.
A: American teens don’t dress that much differently than French teens (Nikes, sports team jackets, and Levi’s are the norm), but the French kids tend to avoid shorts in the city and prefer the DJ/courier shoulder bags as opposed to big backpacks (easier to keep them in front of you on the Metro, too). The thing that makes American teens most conspicuous is how loudly they talk in public!

* French Cinema: Summer Films *
Looking for a good, French love story? Grab your extra-large bag of M&Ms and get cozy with “Clara et Moi”, starring Julie Gayet as Clara, an independent woman who dreams of writing romance novels, and the “et moi” is Julien Boisselier, a guy looking to finally settle down as soon as he finds the right girl. Very sweet, even if you can’t follow the dialogue in French.

On a more light-hearted subject, “Bienvenue en Suisse” (Welcome to Switzerland) is a comedy about a Swiss expat living in France for most of his life (Denis Podalydès) finds out that he’ll inherit a fortune from his Swiss relatives if he can prove he still has a “Swiss soul”. Of course, he can’t stand Switzerland anymore, but returns to relearn the culture from his extremely Swiss brother-in-law (played by
Vincent Perez of Crow II, Indochine). Nothing funnier than watching France make fun of a country other than the US (and, for once, actually laugh at itself in the process).

* The Secrets of Paris Calendar of Events *
Looking for something to do? Check out my calendar, a personal selection of fun stuff to do around town in the coming weeks such as the Open-air cinema festival, Paris Plage, Rock en Seine festival and Garden Guild walks.

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