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Newsletter #50: August 2004

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Secrets of Paris Newsletter #50: August 11, 2004


* From the Editor
* Nightlife: Bar du Plaza Athénée
* Dining: Lebanese Gourmet Delivery
* Culture: Couture Bread for a Cause
* Literary Paris: Classes and Calls for Submissions
* Entertainment: Disney Night Discount
* Sightseeing: Garden Townhouses of the 19th
* Outdoors: Threezing in Throgland
* Outdoors: Golfing around the Ile-de-France
* Accommodation: Two Budget Hotel Recommendations
* Accommodation: Sex & the City Package
* Shopping: Outlet Mall Shuttle
* Practical: Renting Wheels
* Armchair Travelers: Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette
* News: Royal Heart Finally Laid to Rest
* Update: Rivoli Artist Squat Closed to Visitors
* Advice: How to Look Parisian
* The Secrets of Paris Calendar of Events

* From the Editor *
Woo hoo! Welcome to the 50th Secrets of Paris newsletter! From its humble beginnings as a group e-mail to friends living in Paris back in January 2001, it evolved into a public list on Yahoo! Groups, then finally found a home at http://www.SecretsofParis.com. I’d like to extend a big group hug to all of you who have spread the word about this one-person show. You’ve helped raise the number of subscribers from 165 for Newsletter #25 to almost 1000 today! And that doesn’t even take into account all of the people who read the newsletter online or get it forwarded from their friends. In the coming months keep your eyes peeled for new changes on the website, including an easier way to sift through the archives. Your comments, suggestions, and encouragement are always appreciated (keep it clean) – don’t forget that this newsletter is for YOU! If you want to see more or less of something, let me know. Is the layout too hard to read? I can change that. Does the editor ramble on too much? Tough cookies! Nothing’s free, folks. 😉 – Heather

* Nightlife: Bar du Plaza Athénée *
Last week I got to check out the bar of the swanky Hôtel Plaza Athénée on Avenue Montaigne (8th). I had heard many good things in the past, so I shouldn’t have been surprised how cool it looked (a low-lit futuristic-Baroque mix by a Philippe Starck protégé) or how lovely the drinks were (such as the Rose Royal, a Champagne and freshly crushed raspberry cocktail, or the Flower Power, a non-alcoholic cocktail made with oxygenated water and flower essence syrup). What’s particularly nice is the service – not only do they know how to mix drinks, they’re actually friendly (not two qualities you always find in trendy bars). The best time to go is during Fashion Week (four times a year), when the star-spotting is at its best, or in August if you’re looking for a quiet night out! To avoid looking like a newbie: go straight through the lobby, turn right in the lounge, then right again into the bar. And try not to audibly gasp at the €24 price tag for the cocktails (they come with plenty of nibbles).

* Dining: Lebanese Gourmet Delivery *
Brian from Abbey Bookstore swears that this is the best food he’s ever eaten in his entire life (or something close to that). Man’Ouché specializes in traditional Lebanese “galettes” and gourmet sandwiches, delivered anywhere in Paris with accompanying hors d’oeuvres (taboulé, hummus), marinated olives, Backlawa pastries, and Lebanese beverages or wines. You can also stop by one of their take-away or eat-in points: 62 Rue Rambuteau, 3rd; 21 Rue St-Jacques, 5th; 79 Rue Crozatier, 12th. For delivery, check out their website. [Update: This has closed.]

* Culture: Couture Bread for a Cause *
Through October 12, the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain is hosting a fantastic exhibition called Pain Couture creations by Jean-Paul Gaultier made with …bread! See baguette dresses, breaded Kelly bag, and stilettos made from all typed of bread, prepared “sur place”. Not only can you actually buy some of the creations to take home for lunch, all of the proceeds are going to the Resto du Coeur, a French organization that distributes meals to the needy. Entrance is €6.50, and a tasty, JPG sailor t-shirt slice of striped bread costs €6. Open daily except Monday from noon-8pm at 261 Blvd Raspial, 14th.

* Literary Paris: Classes and Calls for Submissions *

Pharos Magazine is calling for submissions for their 10-year anniversary issue (coming out by late Dec 04/early Jan 05); send them to pharossubmissions@yahoo.com by October 15, 2004.

Jennifer Dick is hosting a novel/fiction writing workshop-intensive course beginning late August/early September through October on Thursday evenings. Space is limited to 10 writers already in the middle of or finishing written projects, either a novel (any style, age or subject market is acceptable to this group of readers!), collection of stories, nonfiction/memoir or collection of poems–or mixed genre work. Cost: 120 euros for 5 weeks. For more info, contact Jennifer by email at fragment78@aol.com

Jennifer is also hosting a one-afternoon “poetry and prose poem generating workshop” in September to generate poems, prose poems and flash fiction pieces. For both advanced writers of poetry or prose as well as beginners, these one afternoon sessions are to get yourself writing something different, sharing thoughts and getting out of your little box! When? Sept 18th and Sept 25th, from 1pm-4pm. Cost is 30 euros a session, 50 euros for the 2. Contact Jennifer at fragment78@aol.com to sign up or 01 40 27 99 80 for questions.

The Paris expat writing community is sadly losing one of its poets this month, as Ethan Gilsdorf heads back across the Atlantic. For those of you who never got to hear his work in Paris, you can catch him at upcoming readings in LA, NYC, and New Hampshire, or buy one of his poetry chapbooks – free shipping worldwide! (And for anyone currently in Paris, the contents of his flat are for sale until August 18 – contact Ethan for details).

* Entertainment: Disney Night Discount *
Entrance to Disneyland Paris is just €29 (discounted from €40) if you go from 6pm-11pm when, thankfully, most of the rugrats have fallen asleep or are busy watching the fireworks show (no lines at Space Mountain, woo hoo!). Good until August 29. Who cares? asks Mr. Heather. Well, humbug to anyone who thinks they’re too old for Disneyland!

* Sightseeing: Garden Townhouses of the 19th *
A few weeks ago the Paris Hash House Harriers did their run up and down (mostly up) the hills of Belleville in the 19th. Despite its somewhat scorned reputation, particularly by people who’ve never been there, the 19th has some gorgeous neighborhoods. We ran through the particularly lovely area above the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where narrow streets and pedestrian alleys are lined with little townhouses and their enviable, if tiny, gardens. Catch the last of the summer blooms with a Sunday stroll in the neighborhood between metros Danube, Botzaris, and Pré St-Gervais (and if you see one for rent, do e-mail me).

* Outdoors: Threezing in Throgland *
Speaking of Hashing, what better time to check us out than at the 3rd Annual Freezing in Frogland (aka Threezing in Throgland), a 3-day weekend of beer and debauchery (oh, and running) to celebrate the 600th Sans Clue Hash: January 21-23, 2005. Buy tickets ASAP for the super discount rate of €100 (includes budget accommodations and food) €50 for locals.

* Outdoors: Golfing around Ile-de-France *
Tiger Woods wanna-be’s have two more weeks to check out the Golf de Saint-Cloud, the exclusive golf course just to the southwest of Paris, which only opens to the general public in July and August (fees from €75; tel 01 47 01 01 85). If your handicap (or budget) isn’t up to par, then you can always putt around the Disneyland Resort’s three 9-hole courses in the eastern suburbs, or practice your swing at the Hippodrome d’Auteuil when there are no horse races, in the Bois de Boulogne.

* Accommodation: Two Budget Hotel Recommendations *
Price means very little when the service is crap, but these two hotels are run by some of the friendliest people in town!

The first is the Residence les Gobelins, a small hotel on a quiet, cobblestone street in the 13th run by Jennifer and Philippe Poirier. It has an adorable garden patio, elevator, and brightly-colored rooms (they’ve been redone since the website pics) with satellite TV, direct-dial phone (with no extra surcharge fees!), and tiled bathrooms. Rates are from €55 for a single, €75 for doubles, €89 for triples, and €99 for quads. Breakfast is €7, or you can wander up a block to the famous Rue Mouffetard market street.

The Hotel Louvre Sainte-Anne is centrally located near the Opéra and Louvre, with 20 air-conditioned rooms, decorated in peach and ivy green, with WiFi Internet access, TV, hair dryer, heated towel rack, safe, and double-glazed windows. There’s even a lift and room service (for breakfast). Rates are €96-€122 for a single, €111-€138 for a double, and top floor double (€138-€153) or triple (€168-€184) with balcony views of Sacré-Coeur. The friendly staff are happy to point out the best restaurants nearby.

* Accommodation: Sex & the City Package *
“Most people are coming to Paris to fall in love…” -Mr. Big. “I love Paris; you never know where the day leads you.” –Alexander. And if you’re as lucky as Carrie Bradshaw, it might even lead you to a suite at the Plaza Athénée, where the final two episodes of Sex in the City were filmed. The hotel is offering a special package which includes: Personalized welcome in room with the series soundtrack; a Cosmopolitan cocktail (Carrie’s drink; I’d recommend the Cosmopolitan Fashion Ice if it’s hot – cocktail on a stick!); a copy of the Sex in the City book “Kiss & Tell”; a gift from Christian Dior; and a red Plaza umbrella. Rates start at €680 for a deluxe room, €780 for a junior suite, up to €3600 for the Presidential Suite. If you’re broke like moi, you could skip the room and just get the Athénée signature red souvenirs: umbrella (€21), pompom keyring or travel bag (€30), scented candles (€35) or card holder (€40).

* Shopping: Outlet Mall Shuttle *
About 90 minutes outside Paris called Troyes (pronounced a bit like “twa” with phlegm in your throat, not like the Brad Pitt film), renowned for its high-end clothing outlets. It’s also, coincidentally, and adorable historic town full of half-timbered row houses. Power shoppers keen on joining the fray of bargain hunters can now take a special shuttle bus directly there from Paris (Place de la Bastille) every Saturday for €18 round-trip. It leaves at 10am and gets you back in time for dinner at 7:30pm. To reserve your spot look under “access” on the bilingual website.

* Practical: Renting Wheels *
Zoom around Paris traffic with some wheels rented from Motorail. Rates start at €29 for an annoying zippy scooter (no license necessary) up to €209 for the big f**k-off motorcycles. They even provide gloves, helmet, rain gear and lockable panniers for two people for free. If you’d rather just be the passenger, the Citybird motorcycle chauffeur service takes you around Paris, to the airport, or on a sightseeing trip. And the rates aren’t bad considering you’ll never be stuck in traffic!

* Armchair Travelers: Sofia Coppola’s Marie-Antoinette *
Keep your eyes peeled on your next visit to Versailles for film crews. Sofia Coppola will be adapting Antonia Fraser’s best-selling book, “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” to the big screen, with Kirsten Dunst slated to star as the much-maligned French monarch who lost her head at the guillotine.

* News: Royal Heart Finally Laid to Rest *
In more recent royal circles, the heart of Marie-Antoinette’s doomed son Louis XVII was finally buried in the St-Denis Basilica beside the remains of his parents more than two centuries after the young heir to the throne died from tuberculosis. Read the fascinating story of how DNA tests put to rest the myth that the boy had actually escaped from his prison during the French Revolution, and other news of France’s modern royal pretenders here: http://www.royalty.nu/Europe/France/

* Update: Rivoli Artist Squat Closed to Visitors *
The successful artists’ squat known as Chez Robert: Electrons Libre (Rue de Rivoli, 1st) has been forced to close its doors to the public after talks with Parisian authorities on the future of the squat have come to a dead end. The City would like to turn it into artists’ studios with only a small exhibition area open to the public. The artists, however, want it to remain an artists’ residence as well, and have more interaction with the public (they reportedly receive almost as many visitors as the city’s art museums). They’ve conceded to close the space to the public until a final decision has been made, for safety reasons.

* Advice: How to Look Parisian *
After seeing too many books on the topic and receiving countless e-mails (classics are: “Should my children also dress in all black when we come to Paris?” and “Which salon in Paris can give me a Parisian hair-cut?”), I’ve finally got to tell you all the truth. You can’t. Just forget it. Unless you’ve got the genes, the walk, the body posture, and that certain je ne sais quoi (if we knew what it was, this phrase wouldn’t be so popular), the Parisians will be able to spot you a mile away. So why bother trying? I saw one woman of a certain age last week in a chic hotel lobby, dressed absolutely spot-on from the ankles up, right hair and make-up, but wearing a pair of Timberland boots! In Paris! Oh la la… That doesn’t mean that you can’t look cool (and I’ve got American, Canadian and British friends who are oh so chic). It just means you won’t be mistaken for a Parisian. Get over it. Move on. And no more books that tell you how to tie a scarf, dammit.

* 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 La Parisienne 6.5k run for Breast Cancer, the Canadian Club’s monthly hike, the Rock en Seine festival and guided walking tours of Paris Gardens with yours truly.

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