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Newsletter #76: January 2007

vintage Paris photo

IN THIS ISSUE:

* Heather’s News
* Thanks for the Helping Hand!
* Cheapo Hotels
* Some Dining Recommendations
* Night Life: Closing, Closed, and Converted
* Nightlife: Cigars & Jazz at Duke’s Bar
* Food Shopping: Health Food Coop
* Metro Souvenirs
* Shopping: Limited Edition Chantal Thomass T-Shirts
* Ice is Nice: Maybe…
* Shopping: Le Nain Bleu Moves
* Camping on the Canal St-Martin
* And Totally Unrelated to Anything
* Heather’s Tours and Vacation Planning
* Are you on the list?
* STILL Want to Change Your Subscription Address? Read this…

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 * Heather’s News
 Before you all ask, there wasn’t a December issue, so you haven’t missed anything! Paris actually got cold – very cold! – for the week of Christmas, but alas no snow this year. For the past few days it has warmed up again and the days have been partially sunny and partially immersed in downpours. Now that the holidays are over, France is full speed ahead on the Presidential Elections, which take place April 22 (preliminary round) and May 6 (final round). But most visitors will be preoccupied with something far more important (to the wallet, anyway), with the start of the biannual clothing sales on January 10. If you just want to enjoy the winter weather peacefully, it’s still a great time to strap on a pair of ice skates (at the Hôtel de Ville), warm up with a sinful hot chocolate at Jean-Paul Hévin tearoom, or visit one of the excellent lesser-known museums such as the Marmottan-Monet or the Arts-et-Métiers. Bonne Année and best wishes for 2007! -Heather

* Thanks for the Helping Hand!

Thanks to everyone who volunteered to join me – despite the freezing and soggy weather – distributing food on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for the Restos du Coeur. Your donations and proceeds from the Secrets of Paris tours also helped raise over €1400 for this invaluable French charity that fed over 670,000 people in 2006. If anyone is interested in volunteering on a regular basis, don’t hesitate to contact me. And in case you didn’t see the blog, this year’s Menu for Hope campaign raised over $60k for the UN’s World Food Programme! If you bid on the Naughty Paris Tour, stay tuned – raffle winners will be announced January 15.

* Cheapo Hotels

Eurocheapo.com, my favorite discount hotel site (even before I convinced Tom to let me write for them), has a new look and new Paris content updated by yours truly. People always ask me how sites like this work, so here’s the short version: I have a list of hotels to check out, I visit unannounced and then write up a review. Not all of the hotels visited make my cut – they have to be a good deal, clean, friendly, and central. Only after I’ve sent in my reviews does Bossman Tom see which ones are listed in Venere’s hotel booking system, and adds the web link. Eurocheap gets a commission of you book a hotel this way. So how do they make money if the hotels I reviewed aren’t listed with Venere (and thus readers would book directly with the hotel)? I believe Tom and his crack team back in New York are working on that one! 😉 Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to send your feedback!

* Some Dining Recommendations

As most of you know, I’m not a food critic. I know hotels. I know museums. I know gardens. But I haven’t a clue about food. In a blind taste test I wouldn’t know what kind of vegetables were in my soup, what type of herb flavored the fish, or whether the cut of steak is sirloin or filet mignon (they might be the same, for all I know). But I know if it tastes good, if the restaurant atmosphere is nice, if the staff are competent, if the wine is the right temperature, and if the price is fair. So that’s how I decide whether I like a place or not. Oh, and bonus points if the waiters are cute and the bathrooms are pretty, LOL! Click on the links to find the full review.

Astier (44 rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 11th. Tel 01 43 57 16 35. M° Oberkampf.)

– Chez André (12 Rue Marbeuf, 8th. Tel 01 47 20 59 57. M° Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

– Le Costes (Hôtel Costes, 239 Rue St-Honoré, 1st. Tel 01 42 44 50 25. M° Concord)

– La Palette (43 Rue de Seine, 6th. Tel 01 43 26 68 15. M° Odéon)

– Le Caméléon (6, rue de Chevreuse, 6th. Tel 01 43 27 43 27. M° Vavin)

– Sinorama (135 Ave de Choisy, 13th. Tel 01 44 24 27 81. M° Tolbiac)

– Ma Bourgogne ( 19 Place des Vosges, 4th. Tel 01 42 78 44 64. M° Bastille)

– L’Esprit Tchaï (115 et 123 Rue Oberkampf, 11th. M° Parmentier or Ménilmontant)

* Night Life: Closing, Closed, and Converted

One of my favorite places to go out dancing until dawn, the lesbian club Le Pulp (, 25 blvdPoissonière, 2nd, M° Grands Boulevards) is closing it doors on March 31. The building has been sold and the new owners are going to turn it into luxury apartments with a parking garage…so no more night club. No word yet whether they’ll reopen in a new location. In the meantime, let’s keep warm these next two months at the Pulp’s fabulous soirées! Open Wednesday and Thursday for free, cover €10 on Friday and Saturday.

On a sad note, La Fontaine (rue des Granges aux Belles, 10th) stopped hosting their excellent FREE jazz series because of the required soundproofing that would have ruined the historic café interior. If the musicians find a new venue, I’ll let you know.

Finally, the tiny jazz bar Le Petit Opportune (15 Rue des Lavandières, 1st) closed about a year ago and reopened as an American evangelical ministry center called Genesis, attached to the Trinity International Church . They perform their own musical concerts to keep the spirit of the old club alive, but…well, it’s just not the same thing!

* Nightlife: Cigars & Jazz at Duke’s Bar

The cozy British-style Duke’s Bar
in the elegant Hôtel Westminster (13 rue de la Paix, 2nd. Tel 01 42 61 57 46) is a great place to catch some live jazz – piano and singing – every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night from 10pm . There are deep leather chairs, a coffered wooden ceiling, and a gothic fireplace – theonly surviving part of the original hotel frequented in the 19th century by the Duke of Westminster. They have a huge selection of cocktails and cigars, and you can even join the head barman’s (Gerard) cigar club which meets one Thursday per month for fine food, fine spirits and fine cigars (€40; call to reserve).

* Food Shopping: Health Food Coop

The Bio Coop is a health food store chain in Paris . They tend to have that 70s-style minimalist “health food coop” look, unlike the evolution of American Wild Oats type places (which look like regular stores to me now). However one of the Paris branches, called Lémo (33 bd Voltaire, 11th, right outside the metro Oberkampf), has a snazzy contemporary décor with lime green walls (it actually works). They have a loyalty program (which helps to cut down on the exorbitant prices) and even rent little lime green caddies for free to get your food home. Open Mon 2-8pm , Tue-Sat 10am-8pm .

The largest health food chain is Naturalia, which seems to open a new store every month (the SAAB dealership at 84 Rue Beaubourg, 3rd is now a Naturalia), but is still nowhere near the scale that you’ll find in North America . Not sure if that’s necessarily a bad thing. I mean, how many different types of tofu do I need to choose from? As long as they have my sprouted fig bread and the flax-seed muesli I’m happy. Yum!

* Metro Souvenirs

To celebrate 2007, the RATP (Paris transport authority) has created these adorable “cartes de voeux”, or holiday cards in the form of colorful metro tickets with special wishes for Serenity, Love, Friendship, Happiness, Passion, Generosity, Success, Humor and Health for 2007. Slightly larger than regular tickets (so people don’t try to use them in the turnstiles), the backs are blank so you can write your own messages (I looove the fact that the “humor” one has an image of a banana on it!). How to get one? Anytime you come into contact with an RATP staff member, they may give you one. So be extra nice next time you go to the window for directions! (or you can download the images here yourself.)

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If you miss these limited edition cards, you can always order your unique Paris Métropolitan souvenirs from the RATP online boutique. They have t-shirts, towels, key-chains, model metro cars, aprons, frames, pens, toys, baseball caps, pins, and just about everything with a metro map on it. Shipping within Europe isn’t too bad, but for the US it’s €30 for up to €300 of items, so maybe stop by the bricks-and-mortar boutique (open weekdays) in Châtelet-Les Halles station (near the RER exit for the Place Carré).

* Shopping: Limited Edition Chantal Thomass T-Shirts

For the 86th annual Prix d’Amérique Marionnaud (trotting races at the Hipodrome de Vincennes on January 28) the French lingerie designer Chantal Thomass has created a limited edition t-shirt (for men and women, €20), with proceeds benefiting Mécénat Chirugie Cardiaque Enfants du Monde. They’re quite spiffy looking, even if you’re not into horse racing.

* Ice is Nice: Maybe…

The chic Bar à Glace at the George V Four Seasons Hotel closed two weeks earlier than planned, the ice rink in the courtyard of the Plaza Athénée is for hotel guests only, and the Eiffel Tower decided not to do an ice rink this year, so where to go if you want to enjoy some chilly outdoor activity? The Hôtel de Ville and Montparnasse rinks stay open until March 4, and another rink opened on the Rue de France and Rue Charcot in the shadow of the Bibliothèque Mitterrand (13th), until January 21. All are free (skate rental €3-€5).

* Shopping: Le Nain Bleu Moves

Founded in 1836, the historic French toy store, Le Nain Bleu has moved from its longtime location at 406 Rue St-Honoré (since 1911) to 5 Boulevard Malesherbes (across from the Place de la Madeleine, 8th). Replacing the toy store will be a Max Mara boutique.

* Camping on the Canal St-Martin

If you happened to notice the 300 or so tents set up along the Canal St-Martin (10th), those aren’t Australian backpackers. They’re mostly SDF, “Sans Domicile Fixed”, a nice way of saying “homeless” in France, along with members of the association known as the Les Enfants de Don Quichotte who lobby for the rights of everyone to decent housing. It has attracted so much press, this being an election year, that all of the homeless who had been spread out around the city have all come into one place. Add to that the local supporters, volunteers from aid agencies, and the endless stream of curious onlookers, and the atmosphere is downright festive – except that since they’ve taken up the cause, the weather in Paris has been either freezing at 34°F or pouring rain. Here’s an interesting article about the campaign in English from last week.

* And Totally Unrelated to Anything

Being friends can be hard work. My friend and lingerie designer Gentry is always forcing me into these gorgeous creations of hers because I’m cheap labor (I’ll work for chocolate). I feel so exploited. Really, I do. I don’t feel at all giddy at the touch of cashmere, French silk and lace, nope. And tons of free stuff in return doesn’t make up for the fact that I had to sit perfectly still for, like, TEN whole minutes for her latest promo post card. (hee hee! Check it out, I’m famous!) I can now add “Lingerie Model” to my business card (right after “Pooper Scooper” and “Political Agitator”).

* Heather’s Tours and Vacation Planning *

Coming to Paris and want to make the most of your trip? Don’t have any friends here to show you around and give you the lowdown on all of the best places to eat, shop and go out at night? Read about my custom tours and vacation planning services on the Secrets of Paris website: http://www.secretsofparis.com/customtours/

* Are you on the list? *

If you’ve been getting this newsletter forwarded fro
m 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: http://www.secretsofparis.com/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

* STILL 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 http://www.secretsofparis.com/subscribe.htm to enter your new e-mail. I’m still getting emails from people asking me to do this for them. Or at least that’s what I hear, because it seems those emails get lost to the Spam Recycle Bin before I get a chance to do anything about it…. 😉

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Please send all comments and questions to: secretsofparis@gmail.com

Secrets of Paris Newsletter is written and maintained by Heather Stimmler-Hall , copyright 2007, and may only be reproduced with written permission.

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