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Newsletter #55: December 2004

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***Secrets of Paris Newsletter #55: December 13, 2004***

The alternative Paris newsletter of restaurant reviews, shopping tips, upcoming events, the latest night spots, and hotel recommendations, by local travel writer, Heather Stimmler-Hall.

* From the Editor
* Canadian Club Short Story Contest and Christmas Party
* Marguerite’s Elegant Cooking Classes
* Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse
* Last Chance to Visit the Glaz’Art
* Do-It-Yourself Classes in Paris
* Rue du Trésor
* Iyengar Yoga & Reiki
* Eiffel Tower News
* More Hotels in St-Germain-des-Prés
* Christmas Book Shopping?
* Are you on the list?

* From the Editor *
Woo hoo! The holidays are almost here, and Paris is looking gorgeous with its lights and shop windows all decorated. I haven’t had much time to do any shopping, just running to and fro checking out hotels, preparing for next spring’s garden tours with Paris Gardens, and, as some of you have probably noticed, playing with my website (big plans for 2005, hee hee!). I did get to escape last night to see the Académie du Jazz 2004 awards at the New Morning. Big congrats to Glenn Ferris’ Pentessence Quintet, whose album “Skin Me!” won Best Album of the Year. And before I forget, mark your calendars now for January 19th, when I’ll *finally* do the official launch for my book, the "Paris & Ile-de-France Adventure Guide" with a little shindig at the Abbey Bookshop. In closing for 2004, I’d like to thank everyone for the encouragement and support for the Secrets of Paris this year, and I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season! – Heather

* Canadian Club Short Story Contest and Christmas Party *
This Wednesday from 7:30pm, the Canadian Club is hosting the annual Short Story Competition and Christmas Party all in one night. The festivities will start off at the Abbey Bookshop (29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5th) for the apéro (please bring a little something to eat or drink to share with the group, thanks). Around 8:30, after some mingling and perhaps even a few Christmas carols, we will continue the party in the basement salon of the Sidi Bou North African restaurant (just around the corner from the Bookshop). At that time, a selection of the short stories from the contest will be read. The audience will have the chance to pick their favorite story, the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award. Vote for Heather! [Actually, I wrote under my pen name, so just vote for the one you like best.] Finally, the two judges of the contest will announce their winner, the Judges’ Award. Afterwards, those wishing to stay in good company for dinner can remain at the Sidi Bou for a delicious reasonably priced couscous. Hope to meet some of you there!

* Marguerite’s Elegant Cooking Classes *
I finally got to try one of Muriel-Marguerite’s cooking classes (we had met last month at an Ô Chateau wine tasting). She has a lovely house out in Suresnes, a suburb to the west of Paris, which has been converted from an old farmhouse and attic into her home and cooking school, complete with four cooking stations and plenty of space. I learned the three different ways to prepare foie gras (in the oven, in a pot, and in a frying pan), then sat down to eat some of our creations with a bottle of wine. Muriel-Marguerite is French, but speaks English perfectly, writing all of the recipes out in English with equivalent North American and British measurements and little tips (such as how to select a foie gras at the store). We also got a little history background, and chatted about different side dishes and the quality of ingredients. I even got to take my little terrine de foie gras home with me, and ate it all this weekend, yum! A relaxing way to spend a morning in a laid-back, friendly environment. €80 for just the class and lunch, or €100 for the market visit, cooking and lunch. For more info see her website at: www.elegantcooking.com

* Ecole de Cuisine Alain Ducasse *
Ducasse was called the Pope of French Cuisine in last week’s issue of A Nous Paris (the free metro magazine), and considering how widespread his influence has become, it’s easy to agree. Rarely cooking these day himself – he’s more of a “conceptual designer and consultant” for restaurants these days – those interested in learning his style can now take classes at his school in Paris (I suppose the school he had out in the ‘burbs didn’t work out too well). There are day and evening classes, with a maximum of eight people and different themes from Mediterranean or Vegetables and Rice. In French, but translators can be arranged. Expect a very formal atmosphere. After all, you’re in the Pope’s school. ๐Ÿ˜‰ From €125-290. 55 Blvd Malesherbes, 8th, tel 01 40 90 90 00.

* Last Chance to Visit the Glaz’Art *
Glaz’Art, the arts and concert venue up near Porte de la Villette (19th) will be closing its doors on January 1st, 2005 due to lack of funding. Sad, very sad, because they hosted many fine events, expositions, concerts, projections, etc. over the past 12 years. After the closure last year of La Fleche d’Or Café (20th) due to noise and funding issues, things don’t seem to be going well for the alternative art and music scene. Squats are being closed or commandeered for more “useful” purposes. The relatively new Twins club will soon close because the building was sold to a real estate developer. And the Ile Enchantée can no longer have live DJs on the upper floor because it doesn’t conform to security codes. Do visit the Glaz’Art this month while you have the chance, and don’t forget to support the alternative scene in Paris while it still exists!

* Do-It-Yourself Classes in Paris *
Looking to get creative this season? Try the free home improvement or Christmas decorating classes at BHV or the arts and crafts (elegant ones, quand-même) courses at the Bon Marché organized by Marie Claire Idées magazine. This is probably more interesting for those of you living here in Paris, since there aren’t too many tourists who have the time (or level of French), but you never know! They’re becoming very popular, so get on the list as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

* Rue du Trésor *
If you haven’t been back to this tiny street in the Marais for awhile, go and have a peek. The city has spruced up the once dreary cobblestoned dead-end with a u-shaped garden of trees and flowering plants (okay, not too many flowers now; use your imagination). As always there’s the Chaise au Plafond Café, Café des Philosophes, and the stylish Café du Trésor, but way at the back there’s also the most adorable women’s clothing boutique called “Trésor By” (#6), run by the friendly Brigitte Masson, which has some very colorful clothes and accessories from Northern Europe and Japan to brighten up these dreary winter days…

* Iyengar Yoga & Reiki *
Looking for a yoga class or reiki treatmeants in Paris? Try the Atelier Amala (7 rue Chaptal, 9th, metro St Georges or Blanche), which has classes – in French – from €18/class to €100/month unlimited or €750/year unlimited. For more info check out their website at www.amala.org.

* Eiffel Tower News *
I probably should have specified last month that even though the new ice rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower is free, you’ll still have to pay to get up the tower itself: €4 by elevator, €3.50 by stairwell. There’s a new year-round discount rate for anyone under 25 years: just €3 to take the stairs to the first or second levels. Also, if you’re looking for something cool to do for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, the Eiffel Tower is now hosting classical music concerts on the first level starting the 31st of December (also concerts on the 1st and 2nd January). Hurry and register before it fills up! Tickets €30.

* More Hotels in St-Germain-des-Prés *
Ah, the endless quest for the perfect budget hotel. Here are a few of my favorite around St-Germain-des-Prés:

Welcome Hotel
66 rue de Seine, 6th (on the corner of Boulevard St-Germain)
Tel 01 46 34 24 80
This small hotel has charming rooms, a bit on the tight side, but clean and decorated with a woman’s touch. The first floor has an open mezzanine with large wooden table where breakfast is served, and a small elevator. Rooms overlook the busy Boulevard St-Germain, but this isn’t a problem in winter because they’re well insulated (summer without the A/C is another story). Doubles are €103.

Hotel La Louisiane
60 rue de Seine, 6th
Tel 01 44 32 17 17.
This hotel hasn’t made it into any guidebooks that I know of, perhaps because they’ve never needed to advertise. Ever since Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir lived there from 1943-1946 (so they could be close to the Deux Magots and Café Flore), it has been a favorite with artists and writers. It’s not fancy or “charming”, but has cool artworks in the lobby, friendly staff, and larger-than average rooms decorated in brown (that particularly 70s shade of brown), with sparkling white bathrooms and little refrigerators so you can store all your goodies from the open market right outside. There are also three internet stations in the lobby. From €100 for doubles, elevator included. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Le Delhy’s Hotel
22 Rue de l’Hirondelle, 6th
Tel 01 43 26 58 25
A bit closer to St-Michel, this small hotel is located on a quiet pedestrian passage. The décor is not particularly noteworthy, although some rooms have exposed wooden-beam ceilings, and the bright breakfast room has an old-fashioned bistro feel. All 21 rooms have satellite TV, direct-dial telephones, and sinks. None of the rooms have their own toilet (there’s one on each floor in the hall – about three rooms on each floor share this). If you don’t want to share facilities be sure to reserve a room with en-suite shower well in advance (otherwise, the showers are on the ground floor, €4). For €83 including breakfast, for a double, it’s a darned good deal.

The Regents Hôtel
44 rue Madame, 6th
Tel 01 45 48 02 81
Closer to St-Sulpice, this is a surprisingly charming budget hotel with a cobblestone courtyard, a cheerful reception area decorated in French country-style blue and yellow fabrics, and 34 rooms with newly-remodelled bathrooms. Some rooms on the top floor even have their own little terrace balcony. Doubles are €80-€100. Reserve early!

Hotel St-André-des-Arts
66 rue St-André-des-Arts, 6th
Tel 01 43 26 96 16
My friend Cynthia absolutely loves this hotel, and it does have that certain “historic Paris” look with the exposed wooden beams and tiled floors. Bare bones budget means no elevator or A/C, but for €87 you get a room for two and breakfast. Located near the Odéon station, right at the end of the Passage St-André-des-Arts (and a block from an excellent Internet café).

Hotel Stella
41 rue Monsieur le Prince, 6th
Tel 01 40 51 00 25
My friends stayed at this hotel last winter after staying at two other places and being miserable. And they loved it. Huge rooms (one with a piano), no elevator, no phone or TV or internet or anything but old wooden beams, old granny furniture and tiled floors that look like they’ve been around for a few centuries. Breakfast served in the rooms only (no breakfast room). Doubles from €65, triples and quads available, too.

* Christmas Book Shopping? *
Introduce all of your friends and relatives to the Cult of Heather! Buy them a copy of my "Paris & Ile-de-France Adventure Guide"! Ask for it from your local bookstore in North America, in Paris’ English book shops such as Brentano’s and the Abbey Bookshop, or online direct from the publisher.

Or if they already have it, try “Americans in Paris, A Literary Anthology” edited by Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and briefly an expatriate himself. It includes a blue-ribbon selection of writers for 600-pages of Americans writing about, and from, Paris, from Jefferson to Hemingway, Stein and Thurber. A special publication of the Library of America.

* Are you on the list? *
If you’ve been getting this newsletter forwarded from a friend, please consider subscribing yourself. It’s free, and all you have to do is enter your e-mail address in the box here. The benefit? You’ll get your own copy sent directly to your inbox every month, and I’ll have a better idea of how many of you are actually reading. Thanks! –Heather


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