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Newsletter #72: July 2006

vintage Paris photo

*** Secrets of Paris Newsletter #72: July 31, 2006 ***


* Heather’s News *
* Free Kids Adventure Park at Les Halles
* Gregorian Chant at Eglise de la Trinité
* Paris Plage at Night
* It’s Festival Time!
* Storm Topples Open-Air Movie Screen
* Gourmet and Organic Produce
* Christmas (ornaments) in July
* New Vintage Boutique
* French Garden Website
* Tourism Info
* Gay Tourism Info
* Lazy Ass Bike Tours
* Tuileries Garden Open until 11pm
* Sightseeing: Secret Churches
* Summertime is Construction Time!
* Useless information: Royal and Imperial Burials
* Dining: Juice Bars
* Dining: Terraces

Heather’s News

Comme d’habitude, I’m slipping this July newsletter into your email at the latest possible moment (writers are experts in procrastination). July has been toasty, with the word “canicule” (heatwave) scaring everyone into buying up all of the city’s fans. It has finally cooled down to a respectable 75°F and sunny. Aside from the summer tours around Paris , Versailles and the Loire Valley , I’ve also been busy updating the English version of Michelin’s Green Guide Paris. Naughty Paris is on break since Carolyn and I are never both in the city at the same time in summer. Check back in September. In the meantime, there are some events listed in the Secrets of Paris Calendar (www.secretsofparis.com/calendar) and photos from around town in my Blog (www.secretsofparis.com/blog). The Resource Guide is slowly taking shape, with the museums and monuments section almost finished. Those of you looking for some new hotel recommendations should check out David Lebovitz ’s blog, www.davidlebovitz.com . Hard to believe summer is already half over! Bon vacances, Heather


* Free Kids Adventure Park at Les Halles *

The Jardin des Enfants, aka Jardin d’Aventure, may be one of those secrets of Paris that only parents know about. Maybe even only French parents. I’ve always known there was a children’s play park at Les Halles because I’d cut through the gardens on the way to work every day and see the kids lined up at the gates. But I had no idea what a great place it was until I found the website set up to save the park from being destroyed with the renovations of Les Halles. Have a look at this amazing slide show (click on “diaporama”): jardindaventure.free.fr

Not only does it look better than mostof the play areas at Disneyland , since February 2006 it’s also FREE. Every hour during opening hours (in August: Tue-Thur, Sat 10am-6pm , Fri 2-6pm , Sun 1-6pm) up to 60 kids at a time can go in for an hour of playtime, organized by municipal childcare professionals (aka free babysitters). Parents aren’t allowed in (I guess you’ll have to go shopping!) except on Sundays 10am-1pm , when parents with children of all ages are welcome. If any of you have taken your kids, I’d love to hear what you think. It sounds like great fun to me. If I was a kid, I’d want to go!

* Gregorian Chant at Eglise de la Trinité *

Starting September 3, the 9am Sunday mass at the Eglise de la Trinité (Place d’Estienne d’Orves, 9th, M° Trinité) will be accompanied by Gregorian chant. If you’ve ever attended one of the organ concerts here, you know the church has excellent acoustics, so don’t miss this opportunity to listen for free (and this is a religious service, so no photos, recording, wearing hats, or otherwise looking like a tourist, please). Also, if you live in Paris and would like to join the choir, call Brigitte at 06 63 05 10 48. www.latriniteparis.com

* Paris Plage at Night *

Maybe you’ve already sunbathed on a lounge chair or played sand volleyball at Paris Plage (www.paris.fr) during the day, but did you know there’s still plenty to do at night? On the Right Bank (by the Pont de Sully) you can catch a free Indie music concert (the Festival Fnac IndéTendances) every Friday and Saturday night from 10pm through August 19. It’s a bit less crowded on the new Rive Gauche, where the newest stretch of Paris Plage incorporates the new Simone de Beauvoir footbridge and the Josephine Baker swimming pool (note: banana skirts not allowed in the pool for hygiene reasons). At night the terraces of the peniches (boat bar/clubs moored to the quai) are the place to hang out: Le Guinguette Pirate, Le Batofar, and many others have huge lounge/eating areas and live music until the wee hours. Did you know: all of the lighting for Paris Plage is solar powered? See the photos on the Secrets of Paris Blog. www.secretsofparis.com/paris-plage-after-dark

* It’s Festival Time! *

Say you’re in Paris and want to go to a festival in another city, or you live in another city and want to come to Paris for a festival or major music concert? You can go through all of the pain of arranging transportation and tickets on your own, or you can leave it to New East’s “Planète Festival” service, a travel company specializing in major events. For example, you can get R/T bus transportation + festival pass + camping spot at Rock-en-Seine (Paris/St-Cloud) from €130 (cities still open include Brussels ( Belgium ), Grenoble , Lille , Lyon and Tours ). Keeping in mind that one of the days at Rock-en-Seine have already sold out, this is a great alternative service. Other festivals include the Munich Beer Festival (23-24 September), Wacken Metal Festival in Germany (August 3-4), the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland (August 13-19), La Route du Rock in St-Malo (August 11-13), and the Rock Oz-Arènes festival in Switzerland (August 15). For more info: http://www.neweastfestival.com/

* Storm Topples Open-Air Movie Screen *

On Wednesday night a huge storm came through Paris, finally chasing away the horrid 95°F weather and 110% humidity. Unfortunately, the die-hards at the Parc de la Villette’s open-air cinema festival who didn’t pack it in when the rain started coming down got a big surprise when a huge gust of wind blew the inflated screen right over! No one was hurt, but it did mean that there was no film on Thursday night while they did repairs. According to the officials, it’s back up and running. Check out the website for the program, www.villette.com or check out the Secrets of Paris calendar for alternative open-air cinema screenings around town. www.secretsofparis.com/calendar/


* Gourmet and Organic Produce *

Not all busy Parisians have time to go to the organic produce market at Raspail or Batignolles. Or maybe you just don’t like having to think that hard about what to buy each week. Well if time is money and you have beaucoup of the latter, try one of these produce delivery companies.

Le Campanier (www.campanier.com) charges €7 for a small sac of organic veggies, €11 for a large one, and €9 for a sac of fruits. You pre-order and pay for them at distribution points around the city, then pick up your order (they don’t deliver to your house) at a specified time in the same place. You can see the “menu” each week online, and recipes are included for the lesser known specimens. (no deliveries between Aug 4-Sept 4).

Le Haut du Panier (www.lehautdupanier.com/) is a more upscale produce delivery service, with gourmet (but not officially organic) veggies by Joël Thiébault and cheeses by Philippe Alléosse. Prices start at €38 for the veggies, and €20 for the cheeses. All orders are delivered in Paris and he suburbs on Friday morning.

* Christmas (ornaments) in July *

Someone recently asked me where they could get Christmas decorations in Paris . In July. The French aren’t as into decorating their homes for Christmas as much as they’re into cooking the best Christmas dinner, so I’ve never seen a Christmas store, or even decorations, outside the holiday season. But yesterday during a huge downpour I took refuge with my group in a souvenir boutique next to Notre-Dame, on the Rue du Cloître Notre-Dame, and on the wall by the magnets were a few Christmas bulbs with a “ Paris ” theme. I didn’t think to grab a card (I was trying to get my plastic poncho on), but I believe it was at #8 (in any case, it’s the one *next to* the shop on the corner of Rue Massillon). Outside they have a bunch of Paris t-shirts and baseball caps (PS all of the shops sell rain ponchos for about €4; handy to have one in your pocket for these random storms).

* New Vintage Boutique *

The fashion district continues to encroach on the Jewish quarter. A new vintage clothing shop called, originally, Vintage, just opened at 32 Rue des Rosiers, 4th. It’s small, but has a good selection of clothing, shoes, hats, purses, etc. Open daily 11am-10pm. FYI: for those who asked about the fate of Jo Goldenberg’s restaurant, it’s still closed up, with no news about whether it will reopen or be sold.

* French Garden Website *

I love anything related to gardens and gardening, especially in France , where it seems that gardening and cooking and art are so naturally intertwined. I recently discovered a lovely website, L’Atelier Vert (http://frenchgardening.com) written by an American expat living and gardening in Paris and Normandy . More than just a site selling French garden accessories, it’s also full of garden stories, tips, travel articles, recipes, and Barb’s own take on life in France. I could wander around on this site all day!

Tourism Info

The Paris Tourism Office (www.parisinfo.com/) has set up some information kiosks for the summer, staffed by Welcome Ambassadors, at the Hôtel de Ville, Notre-Dame, Place de la Bastille, and outside the Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau metro station. They’re handy for grabbing free maps and a brochure of summer events called “I love Summer in Paris ”. Look for the little coupon booklets “7 Sensational Offers!” for discounts on the Bateaux Parisiens, Atelier Renault café, Rolan Garros Tenniseum, Lunch cruises, Printemps department store, and the Lido. See a photo here: /tourism-kiosks/

Interestingly (for me, anyway, who’s always curious why this government agency charges for information), they also have brochures for a new “Tourist Information” number, 118 247. If you’ve been paying attention, for years you only had to dial “12” for directory assistance calls. Now it’s deregulated and many companies offer this service, so 12 was replaces by about two dozen companies using six-digit number, starting with 118, like 118 008 or 118 012. This new tourist info number is 118 247. They charge €1.35 for the connection and €0.34/minuteafter that. They claim to be able to answer all of your Paris questions. This is run by the Paris-Ile-de-France Regional Tourism Board (http://www.pidf.com). Calling the Paris Tourism Office direct still costs €0.34/minute, but without the connection charge. But every time I’ve called they couldn’t answer my question, so I don’t bother anymore. So how does one get free info? In person. Stand in line at the Tourism Office or try one of the summer kiosks around town. www.118247.fr

* Gay Tourism Info *
Gay and lesbian travelers now have their own welcome service, Paris Gai Village . They arrange tours and have a weekly English information table at Blue Book Paris (61 Rue Quincampoix, 4th, M°Rambuteau or Chatelet-Les Halles) every Saturday from 6pm – 8pm. Check out their multilingual website for more information: http://www.parisgaivillage.com


* Lazy Ass Bike Tours *

Want to go on a bike tour of Paris but don’t want to actually have to pedal? A company called “Paris Charms & Secrets” gives 4-hour electric bike tours from the Place Vendôme to the Eiffel Tower , Montmartre (big hills!), Champs-Elysées, Panthéon (smaller hills), and Notre-Dame. They take place daily at 9:30am , 2:30pm and 8pm (the night tour is only 3 hours). The price is just €36 per person, baby seats available. The guides supposedly speak French and English. To reserve, call 01 40 29 00 00 or visit their site, www.parischarmssecrets.com

* Tuileries Garden Open until 11pm *

For the first time, the Tuileries Garden will remain open until 11pm for the month of August. That means parents can relax under the trees with views of the statues and Place de la Cncorde while the kids amuse themselves on the fair rides at the north end of the gardens.

* Sightseeing: Secret Churches *

For those who love poking around in old, forgotten churches, there’s a great website run by the Commission d’Art Sacré du Diocèse de Paris,with a section (in French only) about “Lieux Méconnus du Paris Chrétien,” or Unknown Places of Christian Paris. It includes commentary and photos for places such as Saint Rita’s Chapel, the Baby Jesus Chapel in Set-Clotilde Basilica, and the Picpus private chapel and cemetery.catholique-paris.cef.fr

* Summertime is Construction Time!

I had several tours during the hottest two weeks in July, and it seems that everywhere we went was either under construction or affected by it. Here’s a short list; let me know if I should add any others:

– Château de Versailles: The central courtyard at the entrance of Versailles has been completely dug up. They’re going to put back the old wrought iron gates that used to stand there. At the moment it doesn’t seem to affect the visits too much. The main entrance is still to the far right (A), and museum pass holders enter at door B2, between door A and the construction site. Tours and Passport purchases are still done at door C, to the left of the construction. On the plus side, the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette is now completely open. www.secretsofparis.com/marie-antoinette/

– Château de Vincennes: The renovation work on the tower (donjon) is still ongoing, so you can’t go inside until it’s finished (supposedly by January 2007). The only way to get into the buildings surrounding the tower, including the dry moat and the king’s chapel, is to take one of the guided tours. The chapel will soon be closed for renovations as well. www.secretsofparis.com/vincennes-chateau/

– Jardin des Plantes: after the heatwave of August 2003 killed off many Parisian trees (many gardens are watered by hand, and many gardeners were on vacation), the 400 year old Jardin des Plantes is finally installing automatic watering. But that means that most of the central alleys are dug up for the summer. You can still go in, but there’s less to see than usual. Supposedly work will be finished by the fall (work will continue on the greenhouses, though).

– Rue des Rosiers: this street is almost done being re-cobbled…it looks as if they’re going to do the side streets now. In any case, don’t try driving down here.

– Musée d’Orsay Restaurant: the elaborate walls and ceilings of the restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay are being restored throughout the summer. Until it reopens in September, the restaurant is serving healthy sandwiches and salads (in plastic containers) in the main hall.

– Musée de l’Armée: The Ancien Regime and Empire sections of the Army Museum (at Invalides) is closed for renovations. Some of Napoléon’s personal items are on display, in the mean time, in the Eglise du Dôme, near the Emperor’s tomb. www.secretsofparis.com/army-museum/

– Public Transport: Line 6 is closed all summer from Place d’Italie to Bercy. RER C is closed until August 26 between Invalides and Gare d’Austerlitz. There are replacement buses for both.


Useless information (unless perhaps you’re trying to woo a royalist)

There were two emperors and three restoration kings of France in the 19th century. Napoléon I was originally buried in exile at St-Helena (1821), his remains brought back to Paris in 1840 to be entombed under the Eglise du Dôme at Les Invalides. Louis XVIII was the last French king to be buried at the St-Denis Basilica in 1824. His brother Charles X (the last of the Bourbon kings) was buried in exile in the Church of Saint Mary of the Annunciation on Kostanjevica Hill, on what is now the Slovenian side of the border in Nova Gorica. The last French king, Louis-Philippe of Orléans, died in self-exile in England in 1850, and is buried at the Chapelle Royale in Dreux , France , the family necropolis he had built in 1816.


* Dining: Juice Bars *

The French caught onto to juice bars a bit later than the Americans. But let’s forget all about that and rejoice the fact that they’re here! Nothing better for a hangover in this summer heat than a nice, fresh, smoothie…

– Wanna Juice: 65 rue Saint-André des Arts, 6th, M° Odéon and 7 rue de la Roquette, 11th. Open daily 8:30am until sunset, they have a huge selection of fruit and veggie smoothies (one for jetlag, one for the morning after he night before, one for losing “drainage”, the French version of weight loss) as well as healthy salads, soups and wraps (the Brasilan one had mangos, carrots, and mint in it…yum!). There’s a little counter, otherwise all’s to go. I got a juice and wrap for €8.50. http://www.wannajuice.com

– Litchi: 4-8 rue Lobineau, 6th, M° St-Germain-des-Prés. Open Tues-Sat 9am-3pm and 4pm-8pm; Sun 9am-1:30pm. Small juice bar in the Marché St-Germain.

– La Ferme Opéra: 57 Rue St-Roch, 1st, M° Louvre-Rivoli. A health food deli with very healthy smoothies with all sorts of barley, spelt wheat, kamut, and some crazy Brazilian fruits.

– Lood: 79 rue de Richelieu, 2nd, M° Bourse. Open Mon-Sat 9am-5:30pm. Lood = Liquid Food. Hmmmm. Smoothies, salads, tartes, sandwiches, and soups. www.lood.com

– Bob’s Juice Bar: 15 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 10th, M° Jacques Bonsargent. An American (Bob?) recently opened this tiny juice bar near the Canal St-Martin. There are cocktails, like apple-carrot-ginger, and smoothie, like yogurt-melon-banana.

– Foody’s: 26 rue Montorgueil, 1st, M° Etienne Marcel. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-5pm. This is actually a salad bar, but they also do fresh juice mixes for eat-in or take-away (nice-sized dining room here). http://www.chezfoodys.com/

* Dining: Terraces *

When it’s just too nice to eat inside, the hunt begins for a terrace. But forget about those “terraces” that only consist of dragging some tables out onto the sidewalk. Some car exhaust with your salad? Here are some hidden garden terraces far from the noisy traffic:

– Andy Wahloo: 69 Rue des Gravilliers, 3rd, M° Arts-et-Metiers, tel 01 42 71 20 38. The bar has been around for a few years, but they finally got permission to open the large terrace in the back. And thank god! It’s usually so smoky in the small bar that no one could possibly eat anything. The lunch and Sunday brunch food comes from the kitchens of the 404 (North African) restaurant next door. The bar opens 4pm-2am , and stays open all summer. At night there’s a tapas menu. *The* place for the cool cats of August to lounge. http://www.myspace.com/andywahloo

– Les Sept Lézards: 10 Rue des Rosiers, 4th, M° St-Paul or Hôtel de Ville. Open daily 6pm – midnight , there’s jazz downstairs and a tiny garden terrace for dinner on the patio (traditional French food, about €30/person à la carte). See my blog on the jazz club: www.secretsofparis.com/jazz-7-lezards/

– Cristal Room Baccarat: 11 Place des Etats-Unis, 16th. M°Iéna. Usually closed to the public, the garden of the former private mansion of Marie-Laure de Noailles (which is now home to the Baccarat museum), is open for the summer (through Sept 15). It’s decorated with adorable paper pagoda cutouts by the artists Marianne Gély. Food is light, like grilled tuna, fresh berry salads, etc.Count on about €40 for lunch. Reservations: 01 40 22 11 10.www.baccarat.fr

* Check out the Calendar *

Updated weekly, the calendar currently has listings for a cinema festival, the World Press Photo competition, music festivals, a unique cabaret show, writing workshops, horse racing events, the Fireman’s Ball, and soirées on the Seine. www.secretsofparis.com/calendar/

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