*** Secrets of Paris Newsletter #69: April 30, 2006 ***
IN THIS ISSUE:
* News from the Home Office
* Closure: Jo Goldenberg
* Closure: Antoine & Lili Cantine
* Still closed: Musée de l’Orangerie
* Sightseeing: A Day at Disneyland Paris
* Dining Hits & Misses
* Other Dining News
* Accommodations: Cheap Sleeps
* Accommodations: Hidden Luxury Hotel
* Nightlife: Le Queen
* Sightseeing: Contemporary Art for Dummies
* Sightseeing: New Cycling & Pedestrian Map of Paris
* Sightseeing: Chateau Gardens of the Loire Valley
* Practical: Cheap Rental Car
* Shopping: Hédiard Boutique at the Gare de Lyon
* Shopping: Indie DVD Store
* Are you on the list?
* STILL Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…
* News from the Home Office *
Thanks to everyone who has visited the new Secrets of Paris website, your comments and constructive criticism have been invaluable. I finally moved the Blog onto the site as well, where I’ll be posting the photos that go along with this newsletter. The blog is also the best place to check for the most recent additions to the Resource Guide, which is going slowly, but steady. Carolyn Heinze and I have been so busy with research for the Naughty Paris Guide that we’ve decided to take a mini-vacation/business trip (ha!) to New York in May to meet our agent, shop, and checkout the Stateside party scene. Stay posted on our adventures in the Naughty Paris Blog. See y’all around town! -Heather
* Closure: Jo Goldenberg *
Things are always opening and closing in Paris, but it was still a bit sad to see that the Marais landmark Jo Goldenberg was closed down in January by health inspectors (a fish past its “sell by” date is cited as the culprit). Not that anyone who lives in Paris wasn’t aware that the Jewish deli had a few hygiene issues. It had been fined for the same reason a few years ago, but managed to stay open. Open since 1950, the establishment certainly had staying power, even surviving the horrible terrorism attack in 1982 that killed 6 and injured 22. But the French press seems to think the cost of renovations to bring the deli up to health codes will be too much for the tiny business, finally forcing them to sell. Will it be replaced by yet another trendy clothing boutique? Another gay café? Stay tuned…
* Closure: Antoine & Lili Cantine *
Total bummer! This place was adorable, a kitsch little tea room attached to the colorful Antoine & Lili boutiques overlooking the Canal St-Martin. Now it’s been replaced with the décor section of the boutique (the other two addresses sell adults clothing and children’s toys and clothing). I’ll be on the lookout for another cute canal-side tearoom. So far all I’ve found are restaurants and crowded bars…not quite the same thing. Sigh…
* Still closed: Musée de l’Orangerie *
Yeah, they were supposed to be opened by now (“Spring 2006), but things always seem to take longer in France. To account for this delay, they’ve announced the first exhibition for November 2006. To find out about other renovation works or newly opened museums (like the Quai Branly), visit the Secrets of Paris Resource Guide section on Museum Openings and Closures. L’Orangerie’s official site.
* Sightseeing: A Day at Disneyland Paris *
Disneyland Paris just opened a new ride in April, Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast, so I decided to go check it out this week. Most of you might remember I’m a bit of a fan, so of course I’m going to recommend a visit, especially if you live here; if you’re just visiting…maybe wait until you’ve seen a bit of Paris, ha! But a day at Disneyland isn’t cheap, so be sure to plan well to avoid disappointment.
A few things I noted on this trip:
– The spring weekday opening hours (10am-8pm) hardly give you enough time to go on every ride, let alone see the shows, eat and shop. Make sure you prioritize what you want to see!
– Disney Studios is next door (you can get a combined entrance ticket, worth it for the Aerosmith Rockin’ Rollercoaster alone), but note that it closes earlier (usually 6pm), so it may be better if you have a two-day pass.
– Tickets are cheaper if you reserve 30 days in advance at their website (€25-€35 instead of €43-€53).
– You can avoid lines for tickets by purchasing your Disneyland ticket at the same time as your RER train ticket (any RER station in Paris; ask for the Disney Passport, RER ticket sold separately; buy the round-trip ticket so you don’t have to wait in line on the way back to Paris).
– The park is less crowded on weekdays, but not all of the attractions are open off-season (many of the restaurants were closed, some of the shows are only weekends, and the Riverboat Cruise was closed when I went).
– To avoid waiting in hour-long (or longer) lines for the popular rides — Space Mountain, Star Tours, Peter Pan’s Flight, Indiana Jones, and Big Thunder Mountain, the new Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast – you must get something called a Fast Pass (available outside each ride).Collect them all as soon as you arrive; they’re all gone by lunch!
– Every restaurant is jam-packed from noon-2:30pm, so eat before or after – there are no Fast Passes for lunch! (it helps to reserve a table at the sit-down restaurants like the Blue Lagoon or the Silver Spur Steakhouse)
– Finally, no need to waste time shopping for souvenirs at the park, because Disney Village (the huge entertainment complex just outside the park) is open free to the public until late in the evening (midnight), with several excellent boutiques selling Disney clothing, toys, and other souvenirs.
See my Disney photos on my blog.
* Dining Hits & Misses *
In the past month I’ve had a few good meals and a few disappointing ones. Mostly disappointing when it’s a place I used to like!
– Chartier (7 rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 9th) I uses to live round the corner when I was just out of college and bartending for a living (read: broke), so I ate here a lot. It’s historic, fun atmosphere, totally French in terms of the menu (eggs mayonnaise, beet root and shaved carrot salad, snails, steak-frites), and cheap, cheap, cheap. But I have to say, the food was particularly disgusting on my last pass. The steak was ropey and the marinated mushrooms were inedible (they tasted like they were marinated in dirty dish water). But hey, the wine is decent (by the bottle, anyway – smart enough to avoid their house wine) and if you just want to fill your stomach on a few euros (€8-€15), it can’t be beat.
– De la Ville Café (34 Boulevard Bonne Nouvelles, 10th) I came to this former Belle Epoch “house of ill repute” for brunch with three youngish tour clients last Sunday. It was Easter, by the way, but most places were open like normal. For €22 (normal brunch price in Paris) you get to select a starter, main dish and dessert from the menu, plus a hot drink, choice of juice, yogurts in little crockery pots, and mini muffins. I can’t recall what I ate, I just remember it was good and I didn’t have enough room to finish it all. Trendy bar-club by night, calm and peaceful during the day (and lovely on the terrace when it’s sunny), the average lunch at De la Ville costs about €15-20 without drinks.
– Père Fouettard (9 Rue Pierre Lescot, 1st) I used to really like this old fashioned wine bistro just outside Les Halles. The lunch menu of €13 (including a glass of wine) is excellent value. But the last few times I’ve eaten here, I’ve found the food really a let down. Weird desserts (a jello parfait?), cold duck breast (I suspected it was pulled out of a fridge and heated up), and overdone vegetables. My vegetarian companions liked their quiches. In the past I’ve enjoyed the Pot au Feu and the foie gras with toasts. Hit and miss, that’s for sure, but still a great mood and a huge terrace on the pedestrian-street for some good people-watching.
– Café de l’Industrie (16 Rue St-Sabin, 11th) There are two next door to each other, same food, different décor. I ate here yesterday with the ladies (Carolyn and Brenna) after checking out the café’s new lingerie boutique across the street (with the original name of L’Industrie Lingerie). There are two well-separated rooms for smoking and non-smoking, so there’s no drifting smell of smoke while you eat. I liked my Supreme de Courgette à la Ricotte (zucchini and ricotta cheese) starter, but the snails must have been marinating in the same thing as those mushrooms at Chartier, and I only could manage to swallow two before I gave up. The ladies went with the carpaccio salad, which came with green salad and roasted potatoes, no complaints there. BTW, you get 5% off at the lingerie boutique if you eat at the café!
– L’Eté en Pente Douce (23 Rue Muller, 18th) I stopped here for lunch with two chocolate-makers visiting from the US (they were taking a class at Valrhona Chocolate). It’s a cute little café and tea room with a menu that has something for almost everyone — meat, fish, pasta, quiches, salads and even vegetarian dishes like tofu lasagna, which I tried for the hell of it (thumbs up). The best thing about this place, though, is the terrace: located on a cobblestoned, tree-shaded corner facing the gardens at the foot of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica at Montmartre. Get there early-ish if you want a place in the sun! Open daily, noon-midnight.
– L’Altro (16 Rue du Dragon, 6th) This is my new favorite place, an Italian bistro with a New York loft decor (the owner used to work at his uncle’s restaurant in New York). Big windows let you see the chefs cooking in the kitchen. The crowd is very “St-Germain-des-Prés”. Reserve a table downstairs with the cool kids. Don’t order the pesto linguini, so order the pasta with snow peas and bacon. Don’t order vodka-OJ (“we don’t do that” said the Italian waitress. I point it out on the menu; “We’re out of vodka,” she replies”), do order the house aperitif (no idea, but it was lovely, not too sweet). The crème du citron dessert was heavenly. I was supposed to share…I don’t remember anyone else’s spoon getting past mine.
* Other Dining News *
The American diner “Breakfast in America” has a second location at #4 Rue Mahler, 4th (Marais).
The latest über-trendy-bordering-on-absurd place to eat is Black Calvados (40 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, 8th), offering the Golden Triangle pack a black and silver decorated dining room with mini burgers and truffle mac & cheese. There used to be a place nearby, Korova, that also served weird American food (like the Coca-Cola Roast Chicken), and we all know what happened to Korova, don’t we?
* Accommodations: Cheap Sleeps *
The 20-something’s on my last tour stayed at Le Village Hostel (20 rue d’Orsel, 18th), a block and a half from Métro Anvers, at the foot of Montmartre. There’s no curfew (there is lock-out during the day to clean), and some rooms are accessible by a garden terrace with views of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. The five friends stayed in a room with four bunks, meaning only one person in the room was someone they didn’t know. They had their own bathroom with shower and separate toilet. “The water gets very hot,” was the only complaint I heard. Prices €20-€27, basic breakfast included, depending on when you go and how many people you share with (double, triple, or six-person dorm). The hostel is on line 2, not very convenient for getting around without having to change lines, but the Pigalle station (line 12) is only a few blocks away.
The two American chocolate-makers I met stayed a few nights at the Hotel Lyon Bastille (3 Rue Parrot, 12th, Métro Gare de Lyon, 01 43 43 41 52) “so we could spend more money on wine”. It’s a basic hotel between the Place de la Bastille and the Gare de Lyon train station (métro lines 1 and 14, very good lines). They’re only complaint was that the room was stuffy (ah, spring), but that it was too noisy on the street to leave the window open. Remember this when you’re booking: nice view of city = noisy streets; view of inner courtyard/airshaft = quiet night’s rest. BTW, the hotel’s website says they’re “in” the train station, but that’s just a bad translation; they’re about a block and a half from the station. Rates from €90 – €110 for a double.
* Accommodations: Hidden Luxury Hotel *
I first visited the Hotel Jolly Lotti (7 Rue Castiglione, 1st, Métro Tuilleries, tel 0 1 42 60 60 62) in 2001,and liked it immediately. It’s the only Paris location of an Italian hotel chain, and seems to have remained under the radar of North American travelers. Yet it’s right in plain sight between the Westin (formerly Le InterContinental) and the Paris Ritz on the Place Vendôme. The décor is classic Italian in the public areas. Potted palms, oil paintings and mosaic floor tiling decorate the Dolce Vita bar beneath a stained glass skylight. The rooms are more contemporary classic, elegant without being fussy. I just went back to see the renovations, which include parquet flooring, new fabrics, broadband and WiFi. The baths are all Italian marble, of course, most have natural light. The Superior Rooms are the size of my apartment (“spacious” for a hotel room, “bijou” for an apartment) and cost €195-€300.
* Nightlife: Le Queen *
Le Queen was one of the Big Three nightclubs on the 1990s (along with Les Bains Douches and La Palace, rest in peace), fabulously gay and located on the Champs-Elysées. They occasionally let women in for special nights, put usually it was “pas possible, les filles” (back when I was a student I bought a lavender-colored stretch-satin sleeveless pants-suit for one of the disco parties). Today Le Queen is still there at #102, but its gay heyday seems to have come to an end, probably for economic reasons. Now anyone can get in, and the dress code is pretty laid-back (lots of jeans, t-shirts and sneaker). Wednesday night is even *free* for the ladies now! I went last week on a Disco Monday night (ah, nostalgie). There were only a few people there when we arrived at 11pm, so we hung out at the bar until 12:45am (the last métro into Paris), when the dance floor was suddenly so full it was hard to move. Some of the crowd are very stylish, some aren’t. There are a lot of foreigners and youngun’s (20-somethings). But I have to admit the atmosphere is still great, a fun place to boogie ‘till dawn – if you can last that long. Entrance €15-€20 (includes one drink; coat check €2).
* Sightseeing: Contemporary Art for Dummies *
The contemporary art would be the “Notre Histoire” exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo, and the dummy would be me. Sometimes I open my mouth and strange things come out. “I don’t like contemporary art,” I heard myself say to someone at a lunch party last week. And not just any “someone”, but my gracious host’s partner and, of course, a contemporary artist. D’oh! He’s French, though, so didn’t let me off the hook so easily, and we finally agree that what I meant to say is “Contemporary art doesn’t interest me.” I saw the Los Angeles exhibit at the Centre Pompidou and, aside from Steven Arnold’s photos and the aerial shots of parking lots that made me oddly homesick, I wasn’t really moved. I like to be moved by art. But I’ve always liked the unique setting at the Palais de Tokyo, so when the Context Paris docent Martin Keifer, an assistant curator for the exhibition, was leading a tour, I didn’t pass it up. I tagged along with other Context docents, David, Michael, Alberto, and the Boss Lady, Brenna. It was fun! Probably too much fun. (I really was listening, Martin!) The “Notre Histoire” exhibition features about three dozen French or France-based artists “of the moment”. If I had walked through on my own, I would have thought it was funny but not very interesting. But with a guide you get all of the inside dirt and background so it means so much more (like why one of the pieces has no description at all: “The artists refuses to give us one…we don’t know what it is.”) Well now, I don’t feel as stupid anymore…
Read about other Context Tours.
“Notre Histoire” at the Palais de Tokyo.
* Sightseeing: New Cycling & Pedestrian Map of Paris *
A good map is essential in Paris, especially when it comes to navigating all of the new cycling lanes and pedestrian-only districts. The best map I’ve found so far is the Paris in Your Pocket for Cyclists & Walkers, available online (along with other great city maps, in French and English). The site also lists the boutiques around Paris where you can purchase the maps.
* Sightseeing: Chateau Gardens of the Loire Valley *
The first day I arrived in France, the summer of 1995, I only saw Paris from the window of the bus taking me from Charles De Gaulle airport to Tours, the Loire Valley town where I lived for a month of “orientation” before my studies at the University of Paris began in the fall. We visited all of the big Loire Valley châteaux like Azay-les-Rideaux, Chenonceau, and Cheverny. Like most of that bewildering month (“What happened to those eight years of French I studied?!”), the châteaux were all a blur. But after almost a decade, I’ve had the chance to revisit the region several times in the past year. Last week I drove down to the Château de la Bourdaisière, near Amboise, for their annual Fête des Plantes et des Jardins de Touraine. I was there specifically to interview the owner, Prince Louis-Albert de Broglie, aka Le Prince Jardinier (the Gardener Prince). The château-hotel, of course, is gorgeous without being overwhelming. But it’s the Prince’s amazing Tomato Conservatory that’s worth the visit, with over 650 types of tomatoes. There were seed packets and young plants for sale, but the tomatoes won’t be ripe until the Fête de la Tomate in September. In the meantime, there are many other fabulous garden festivals taking place at the historic châteaux of the region. Today is the first day of the “Jouer au Jardin (Playing in the Garden)” Festival at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire (coincidentally, this château also used to be in the Broglie family until 1938). There are 26 separate gardens on display from various designers, which will grow and evolve throughout the summer until the end of the festival on October 15. It’s just over two hours’ drive from Paris, or take the train towards Tours and get off at Onzain (then taxi to the domain). Take advantage of the many reasonably-priced Loire Valley hotels (less than Paris!) and make a weekend of it.
Jardins en Touraine (French only)
* Practical: Cheap Rental Car *
Speaking of driving, there’s a new budget car rental company that has rates as low at €10/day (although I’ve only been able to find one for €14/day so far on the site…have to surf around a bit). There’s not much selection (three cars: VW Gold, Kia Picanto, or Smart Forfour), and only six locations within Paris (none at the airports), but what do you expect for €10? For more info, check out InterRent.
* Shopping: Hédiard Boutique at the Gare de Lyon *
The Gare de Lyon just got cooler. It already had the historic clock tower and beautiful Train Bleu haute-cuisine restaurant, and as of April it has a Hédiard boutique (in the Salle des Fresques) selling their signature gourmet goodies, teas, candies, oils, condiments, cookies, and wines. And don’t just thinkof it as a nice place to visit on your way to Provence on the TGV…with opening hours 8am-8pm, it’s one of the few places where East Parisians can pick up a last-minute gift or bottle of wine without having to resort to the corner convenience store. And BTW: The original location at Place de la Madeleine is open Mon-Sat 9am-8pm, and the weekday buffet breakfast menu is just €22, almost half the price of many four-star hotel breakfast menus!
* Shopping: Indie DVD Store *
Looking for a rare, obscure, or cult DVD? Forget the Virgin Megasore or FNAC. Head over to Canal St-Martin end of town to Potemkine (30 Rue Baurepaire, 10th, Métro Jacques-Bonsergent). Mainstream classics are found alongside experimental films from around the world, Spielberg next to the Belgian director Raoul Servais. You can even watch the DVDs on little screens before purchasing. Come tobrowse, see what catches your eye. From €9-€40. Open Tues-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 2:30pm-8pm. Tel 01 40 180 181.
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Secrets of Paris Newsletter is written and maintained by Heather Stimmler-Hall , copyright 2006, and may only be reproduced with written permission.