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Newsletter #64: September 2005

vintage Paris photo

Secrets of Paris Newsletter #64: September 28, 2005

* From the Editor
* Practical: New Night Bus Service!
* For Residents: Figuring Out Cheap Phone Service
* Cultural Adventure: Olivier Opens the Wine Loft
* Shopping: Sherry’s Groovy Tees
* And Human Black Jack
* On the Nightstand: Heather’s Book Selection
* Bye Bye Café Banal
* Drinking: La Grimace
* Practical: The New Paris Times
* Cultural Adventure: Learn to be a Star!
* Food: Issues with Coconut
* Fashion & Beauty: French Manners
* History: Paris at the Time of Philippe Auguste
* For Residents: What to do with your Old Portable Phone
* Books and Wine and Chocolate Cake
* Heather’s Tours
* Are you on the list?
* Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…

* From the Editor
Yay! It’s fall! And it actually feels like a good one, not too hot, not too cold, not too wet. But just enough that it feels like the fun of the summer is over. I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but time has escaped me again and the new website format *still* isn’t finished! I’m currently updating guidebooks for three different publishers. One for the French Riviera, so I’m taking a little “break” and heading down south for a week to do a bit of fact-checking, a bit of hotel inspecting, and a lot of parking place hunting. I’ll be taking my new toy, I mean laptop, to see if this whole WiFi thing works or not. I figured I’d better finish this newsletter first! Don’t forget to check on upcoming events in the Calendar.
– À la prochaine, Heather

PS Thanks for all of the great feedback on the last issue! More photos on the website edition!

* Practical: New Night Bus Service! *
The most exciting news of La Rentrée is definitely the new night bus service, Le Noctilien. Yes, you may have remembered the Noctambus that came once an hour packed like a sweaty sardine can, or the short-lived Bus de Nuit that could get you to the airport at 5am if you didn’t mind standing in the dark at 3am waiting for it. The new system works more like the regular bus line, with 35 numbered routes that circle and crisscross the city and suburbs when the metro closes down (about 12:30am – 5:30am).Best of all, the busses supposedly come every 10 minutes on the weekend (every 17 on weekdays) for the main lines, (up to 60 for the suburban lines), and take regular RATP metro/bus/tram tickets. The cute little owl signs have been replaced with easy-to-read signs at relevant bus stops, with huge route maps and an info kiosk at Châtelet (comme d’habtude). You can also print off route maps on their website (French only): http://www.noctilien.fr

* For Residents: Figuring Out Cheap Phone Service *
For those of you living in Paris , telephone costs can get out of control. There are all of the calls “back home”, to friends in other countries, to your ISP in China to ask why your server keeps going down…even if you just call within France it can get pretty pricey, with different rates for daytime and weekends, for calls within Ile-de-France and to the other départements , and for all of those “extra fee” calls where you get put on hold for an hour at €0.34/minute. Then there’s the cell phone and its many different subscriptions, and internet-based phone service like Skype and LiveBox. There are many discount programs, from Les Minutes to 3U and OneTel. But how do you figure out which is the best for you? I found this very helpful website last week, Comparatel. You just type in the time of day and location you’re calling and it will show you a list comparing the different operators, either landline or mobile phone (this is in French, BTW). If you’re *really* lazy, or just too busy, there’s an excellent service they have for 10€/month where, no matter where or when you call, they automatically route the call through the cheapest service for that moment. Could save you tons of money if you make lots of calls. Look for the “Easy” link on their site. A new feature they just added also compares Internet access prices. Now if I can just figure out how to break my 12-month Wanadoo subscription…

* Cultural Adventure: Olivier Opens the Wine Loft *

Olivier’s English wine-tasting company Ô-Chateau has finally found a permanent home after schlepping around the city’s cafés and caves. The new Wine Loft is a very cool place in East Paris (near République and Oberkampf) where you can spend a morning or an afternoon learning about (and drinking) some excellent, lesser-known wines, both red and white (and even some Champagne). Classes are from €20 to €65, and although he doesn’t mention it too loudly (luckily these French haven’t learned the “hard sell” yet), all of the wines you taste can be purchased directly from him for much less than you’d find in a wine shop. Check out the website for more info.

* Shopping: Sherry’s Groovy Tees *
Sherry Smith drug herself away from New York City to come hang out in Paris for awhile, and keeps herself busy (no sitting around on terraces for New Yorkers, nope)with her company Saints & Sinners Design, a collection hand-painted tee-shirts, purses, and home décor. The tee-shirts have hilarious Paris-inspired designs like “J’aime mon quartier” with the image of the stick figure picking up after his stick dog, the electrocuted stick figure from the “Danger de Mort” signs in the metro, and even a silver glitter guillotine. Check out the designs at her website,

* And Human Black Jack *
Sherry is also working on a project to play human black jack on the square in front of the Centre Pompidou. “Paris is a great city for art, yet I haven’t found any of the outrageous, large scale, for-the-hell-of-it variety I had come to know and love in NYC”. She needs a core of volunteers who are willing to spend a day painting cards and can persuade friends/neighbours/acquaintances/good looking strangers to take part. She adds, “It would be tragic if there weren’t enough bodies for a full deck”. Contact her at sherry@blast.net

* On the Nightstand: Heather’s Book Selection *
One of my favorite fictional books about Paris is Stephen Clarke’s “A Year in the Merde” the urban antidote to the cheesy “Year in Provence” written by another British expat, Peter Mayle (which, unlike Stephen’s book, was actually written about his real life and neighbors, much to their dismay). So I’m very happy to announce the hilarious sequel, “Merde, Actually” is now available in Paris at most English bookshops like the Abbey Bookstore or the Red Wheelbarrow. If you’re in Australia , Stephen is currently there on tour, so keep a lookout for him at local shops (or on the beach turning into a lovely shade of tomato, as the Brits do).

I’ve also been reading a copy of the illustrated book, “Tea with Sister Anna: A Paris Journal”, which is artist Susan Gilbert Harvey’s visit of 1898 Paris pensions and art studios through the journals of her great aunt, Anna McNulty Lester. It’s a wonderful intertwining of her own story with that of her aunt’s, two women artists living alone in Paris in two different centuries.

Finally, I’ve just started reading an older book, a biography of Sara and Gerald Murphy, “Everybody Was So Young: A Lost Generation Love Story” by Amanda Vaill. It’s about the lives of these two illustrious American expats who lived in Paris and the French Riviera in the 1920s, entertaining friends such as Hemingway, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. So far a fascinating read (like learning that in the 1920s it took all day to get to the Loire Valley from Paris by car).

* Bye Bye Café Banal *
Okay, sometimes I’m the last one to learn about great addresses in Paris ; locals love to guard the good places for themselves, and wouldn’t you? But I lived in the immediate vicinity of Café Banal (corner of Blvd Port Royal and Rue Glacière in the 13 th ) in three out of my seven Paris residences, and never knew about it. Famous for it’s €1.50 for everything policy (from beer or shots of vodka to salads and tarts), everyone wondered how they managed to stay open. Well, they haven’t. The Café Banal is now sadly closing, only a week after I found it and decided to eat lunch every day there! Supposedly they’re hoping to reopen somewhere else (somewhere cheaper?). You’ve got a few days left (no food though) to enjoy cheap drinks. Address: 39 Blvd Port Royal , M° Gobelins, open from 6pm .


* Drinking: La Grimace *
Not that there aren’t other fun places to drink in Paris . Those of you who have been suppressing the urge to steal a few sucks from a baby’s bottle (it’s the nipple, hard to resist), there’s a place for you in the world: La Grimace isn’t a bizarre fetish club, just a cool little hole-in-the-wall (right next to the trendy Alcazar/Mezzanine/WAGG complex) with a penchant for 80s rock tunes and cocktails with rude names (Ejac-Face is particularly tasty, if hard to order with a straight face) served in baby’s bottles. It’s actually harder than it looks. There’s an art to sucking on a bottle. So they tell me. I had a Cosmopolitan. Boring, maybe, but easier to drink without feeling stupid (luckily none of my friends have these issues). Address: 60 rue Mazarine, 6 th . Open from 9pm , its tiny room fills up quickly!

* Practical: The New Paris Times *
There’s nothing like a new English publication to get everyone excited in Paris . The Paris Times is a particularly nice one because it’s more serious than some of tourist-target newspaper/magazines, and not just pages full of ads and classifieds. I picked up a copy of the first issue at the Abbey Bookshop last week and it had some great articles, including one on the history and future of Les Halles, a short fiction story, and an interview with Stephen Clarke (see above). It’s set to be a weekly, but I think at the moment they’re starting with a twice-monthly printing. The website isn’t quite ready yet, but bookmark this link for future reference: http://www.theparistimes.com

* Cultural Adventure: Learn to be a Star!*

Okay, they probably wouldn’t want me to put that headline, but I have two very musically talented friends who are giving lessons this fall (they’re also très cool dudes!):

Learn to sing in Paris with an internationally recognized singer: increase your vocal range, vocal power and your confidence in your singing voice. Bremner Duthie has been teaching voice for over 15 years and he also has an international career on stage and as a recording artist. He teaches private classes and group workshops from his home in the 18th arrondisement. This fall he has openings for singers of all levels, and all styles, who want to work seriously on their voice. Bremner says: ‘I work with students on their voice through breathing, vocal production and the use and engagement of the body and emotions. I want my students to discover what it feels like to sing without any physical or emotional blocks. I make my lessons exciting and engaging and I want my students to attain the most they can with their voice.’ To learn more about his work please go to http://www.bremnerduthie.com, or contact him at bremner@bremnerduthie.com

And if you can’t sing, you can always try the drums! Drumming lessons from Alex (en français, but he’s in Canada right now so his English should be great when he returns!): La batterie vous intérèsse ? Je vous enseigne les bases, et je vous aide à développer votre propre technique de jeu. Ces leçons non pas pour but d’être longues. J’enseigne aux élèves la maîtrise de leurs points faibles, et à reproduire ce qu’ils entendent. J’utilise plusieurs références de livres pour créer une méthode personnalisée. Ces leçons sont individualisées, et sont adaptées à chaque élève. Chaque cours est divisée en exercices hebdomadaires et vous pratiquerez chez vous 15 minutes par jour de travail personnel (ce travail vous permettra d’améliorer votre dextérité). Je vous enseigne à écouter et à appliquer des exercices qui vous permettront de jouer vos disques favoris. Les cours sont de 20 Euros de l’heure et se paient pour quatre leçons 4 x 20 = 80 Euros (payable à la première leçon). Si vous êtes intéressés, appelez-moi au ou envoyez un email à : alexcohen1@free.fr .

* Food: Issues with Coconut *
I can’t stand coconut. I just bought a darned case of coconut yogurt by accident (noix de coco), and couldn’t even find any friends who would take it. My coconut aversion is probably what kept me away from macarons for so long. But French macarons are not macaroons (coconut cookies), even if they’re sometimes translates that way. They’re delicious soft pastry cookies with creamy filling in the middle, and they come in many different colors and flavors. Ladurée and Pierre Hermé are considered two of the best macaron makers in France , with some crazy new flavors that come out each season like fashion shows. But almost every pastry shop in Paris has a collection of them, often in classic flavors like chocolate, coffee, pistachio, and raspberry. I was looking around on David Lebovitz’s food blog for something I remember he’d written about macarons, but I got distracted by his hilarious Culinary Confessions entry. In addition to coconut, I hate hand-washing silverware, too. Which is a tad inconvenient when one doesn’t have a dishwasher. ๐Ÿ˜‰

* Fashion & Beauty: French Manners *
Jacqueline Sablayrolles, Director of La Mode Le Club, is offering in November a two day program for men and women called “A World of Elegance” in association with their partner, Minding Manners, the renowned international etiquette consultant. “A World of Elegance has been designed to enable you to master all these important soft skills which are essential in one’s career, especially in the international environment, such as protocol and etiquette concerns as well as all image related aspects, from successful wardrobe building to jewelry, from hair to perfume, to position yourself as a leading person with a positive first and lasting impression every time.” Sound interesting? Contact Jacqueline at: jsablayrolles@lamode-leclub.com

* History: Paris at the Time of Philippe Auguste *
I stumbled onto this cute website the other day and spent some (too much) time reading about the kingdom of France during the 12th and 13th centuries, and the king known for expanding the size of Paris during his reign (some bits of his fortifications still exist). That image on the home page was what the Louvre used to look like, if you can believe…

* For Residents: What to do with your Old Portable Phone *
Do you have an old portable telephone that’s just sitting in a drawer collecting dust? You can save it for when your newer one gets stolen (although your friends will pretend they don’t know youif you’re carrying around a phone like this). O you can donate it to the Association des Accidentés de la Vie (FNATH), who get €4 for each phone collected to aid men and women suffering from life debilitating accidents. There are several drop-off places around Paris , such as your local Mairie or medical clinique. Check here for the complete list under “Opération FNATH mobile”: http://perso.wanadoo.fr/fnath75/

* Books and Wine and Chocolate Cake *
No, this isn’t heaven, but it’s as close as you can get without having to be dead first. Le Fumoir is an excellent little bar – restaurant behind the Louvre with its own little library in the back where you can sit and read in peace with your glass of wine or cup of Chocolate Viennoise. And a slice of their gateau chocolat. Mmmm… They even let you exchange your own books for the ones in their library (in the afternoons) perfect for travelers trying to get rid of stuff you’ve already read without having to buy more. Check out their Happy Hour cocktail menu — a whole page dedicated to Martinis!


* Heather’s Tours *
Rather than having pre-set tour itineraries for people to choose, I design each tour individually with my “guidees”. This is a bit more work, but I never get bored! This month’s tours included: a “Paris of Tomorrow” tour of the new Rive Gauche neighborhood straddling the Seine between Bercy and the new Mitterrand National Library; a “Great Women of French History” tour following the trail of the Medici queens, society dame Madame de Sevigné, and the controversial writer George Sand; a day trip to the medieval town of Troyes in the Champagne region, with a tasting at an adorable family-run Champagne vineyard right in the middle of the harvest. I’ve also done the traditional Batobus orientation tours for Context Paris and a walking tour of the 10th arrondissement, with its three different “up and coming” areas of Paris. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a “local friend in Paris ”, especially if you want to attend one of the city’s many events like Nuite Blanche or Portes Ouvertes with someone who can explain, interpret, and save you the trouble of navigating the city’s winding streets. And I know where to find all of the free restrooms in town. ๐Ÿ˜‰ E-mail me for more info on these specialized tours: heather@secretsofparis.com.

* 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 at: /subscribe.htm . 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

* Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this… *
This is an opt-in and opt-out newsletter managed by YourMailingListProvider.com ( www.YMLP.com ). If you want to change the address that this newsletter is sent to, then you need to click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the newsletter, the go to the subscription page /subscribe.htm to enter your new e-mail. Please do not e-mail me and ask me to do this for you because I can’t (well, I *can*, but it takes me a lot longer because I have to go through the managing website, and you’ll still have to confirm your subscription). Clear as mud? Read it again when you’re done the wine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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