Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Something for the Holidays

I will be away from Paris for around 10 days, but for those who will be in the city over the holiday period, here are a few suggestions of things to do. Consider it a kind of 'best of' of recent suggestions.

If you are in Paris on Christmas or New Year's Day, you will note that the city doesn't stop like certain other cities (London..). It is possible to take a Metro, go to restaurants, the cinema or the theatre and even visit the Eiffel tower. However, most of the large museums are closed on both days.

Musée des Arts Forains
A collection of 19th century fairground equipment you can actually play with and ride on. Open exceptionally until Jan 2nd

53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012, M° Bercy

Ice Skating
The main ice rink is situated in front of the Hotel de Ville, but note also that there are a free 'winter sports' activities organised at the Stade Charlety in the south of the city.

Everyday life in Paris during the Occupation

Not very festive perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless, this exhibition of photos and posters shows how the inhabitants of Paris lived when their city was occupied between
1940 and 1944.

Free entry
Réfectoire des Cordeliers
15, rue de l’Ecole-de-Médecine 75006

Brune, Blonde
Do gentlemen prefer blondes? This exhibition at the Cinemathèque Française investigates the subject of how the cinema (as well as painters, photographers and sculptures) has represented blondes, brunettes and redheads, and how hair has become a theme apart in film. Mixing film extracts, television clips, photographs and paintings, the exhibition is an aesthetic triumph.

the trailer for the exhibition.
the virtual exhibition!

Until January 16th 2011
Cinemathèque Française
Rue de Bercy, M° Bercy

La France vu par Raymond Depardon
Raymond Depardon, a film maker, photographer and documentary maker, has spent the last few years travelling round France taking photos of an 'ordinary France'. As he explains, "I visited very different places, with very different stories. I’ve made it a rule to keep a distance from the subject which allowed me to consider regionalistic specificities and try to tell our common story of everyday life." The result is a series of photos detailing an invisible(!) France populated with industrial estates, car parks and banal shops and houses. It's about as far from the touristic picture book cliché as you can get, but it is a real France and not without its own beauty.

Click here for a film of the exhibition.

Until January 9th, 2011 Bibliothèque nationale François Mitterrand
Tuesday - Saturday from de 10am to 7pm, Sunday from 1pm to 7pm 7€/5€

Winter in the city
During the snowiest winter I have ever known in Paris, what could be more seasonal than a selection of photos of cities in winter? Photographer Christophe Jacrot has chosen three cities, Paris, New York and Chicago, and snapped them in their coldest winter dress. The result is striking (see a sneak preview here).

"Hiver en villes"
Galerie de l'Europe, 55 rue de Seine, 75006

Until January 8th, 2011

Attraction at the 104
Ever since its creation in 2008, the 104 arts centre has struggled to find an identity and an audience. It hasn’t been helped by the fact that it is so large and therefore contains so much unused space, but this is slowly changing. Now that the inevitable cafes, restaurants and shops have been installed, all that has been needed is a significant event, and the
team at the centre hope that ‘Attraction’ will provide just that. Based around the creations of artists linked to the centre, it will feature circus, burlesque, visual art, music and even a giant merry go ‘square’! Only one significant problem remains though. With it being such a large open space, it tends to be rather cold there!

104 Rue d'Aubervilliers, M°Stalingrad

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The soundtrack of our lives at Le Royal Monceau

With a flurry of top class hotel openings currently taking place in Paris, each owner is looking for something a little bit different to help their establishment stand out from the crowd. At the newly redesigned (by the inevitable Philippe Starck) Royal Monceau hotel, the management have asked the sound designers at New York based Soundwalk to compose a 24-hour audio environment.

Soundwalk have created specific, exclusive soundtracks for Le Royal Monceau's different public spaces: Le Bar Long, Le Grand Salon, the Cinéma des Lumières (the first cinema ever installed in a Paris luxury hotel), the La Cuisine restaurant and the lifts.

Built around jazz and caberet music, snatches of sound interludes and clips from legendary French films, the creators have seemingly aimed for a 1920s and 30s vibe. According to Soundwalk, this is “in tune with the spirit of a hotel designed by Philippe Starck as a "mental space" conducive to fertile encounters and surprises”.

Will a carefully designed sound environment change the way that people interact with the hotel they are staying at or eating in? Perhaps the best people to ask would be the members of staff who will have to experience the recordings on loop day after day!

To listen to extracts of these environments, visit the Soundwalk website.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Something for the Weekend (17th – 19th December)

What’s planned in Paris the last weekend before Christmas?

Winter in the city
With more snow predicted this weekend, what could be more seasonal than a selection of photos of cities in winter? Photographer Christophe Jacrot has chosen three cities,
Paris, New York and Chicago, and snapped them in their coldest winter dress. The result is striking (see a sneak preview here).

"Hiver en villes"
Galerie de l'Europe, 55 rue de Seine, 75006

Until January
8th, 2011

Christmas Shopping
If you still have some Christmas shopping to do, try these suggestions:
Christmas Parties
Christmas is also party time. Try these festive events:
  • Grand bal de noël des filles de joie: A christmas special edition and a hommage to the universe of Tim Burton. Snow, glamorous elves, sexy fairies, insolent goblins, magic and good humour are all promised, as well as the traditional burlesque pin-ups and cabaret divas! Sunday 19th December, 6pm, La Bellevilloise, 19-21 Rue Boyer, 75020.
  • Les 10 ans des Mains d'Oeuvres: Saint Ouen is not just home to Les Puces, but also an innovative and influential art venue. This Saturday night it will be celebrating its 10th birthday with over 90 artists from a wide range of disciplines. Full details here:
  • Fargo Records - un goûter de noël: Saturday is also a day of festivities at Fargo records. At 3pm, Patricia De Gorostarzu will be dedicating copies of her book 'Vintage America'. At 5.30pm, the shop will be offering a festive 'goûter', with a Christmas music quiz being held afterwards at the American Bistro next door. La Boutique Fargo, 42 rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011.
  • Belleville Mon Amour: Celebrating the 150th birthday of the 20th arrondissement of Paris, and the annexing of the town of Belleville into Paris. Walks, photography, music and a giant birthday cake!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Musée des Arts Forains: open exceptionally for the holidays

The musée des Arts Forains is a collection of 19th century fairground equipment, and a museum more in name than in practice. Housed in an old wine storage facility, it is a privately owned establishment which is used almost exclusively as an exotic backdrop to corporate events. Exceptionally though this Christmas, it will be open for two weeks, from December 20th to January 2nd.

The museum is organised in a similar manner to a fairground, but it is also part of a larger site known as the Pavillons de Bercy, which also includes two private streets and a salon venetien. Over the festive period, organisers also promise that it will all be dressed up in a suitable manner!

53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something for the Weekend (10th – 12th December)

Magnum Days

Magnum Days is a three-day event organised by the mythical photographic agency at their offices in Paris, featuring not only sales of collector and signed editions, exhibition posters and postcards, but also the chance to meet - and even discuss your portfolios - with photographers from the institution. All in all, a unique opportunity to have a behind the scenes look at how they operate.

Magnum Photos Paris

December 9 - 11, 2010, 12pm-9pm

19, Rue Hégésippe Moreau, 75018

Attraction at the 104
Ever since its creation in 2008, the 104 arts centre has struggled to find an identity and an audience. It hasn’t been helped by the fact that it is so large and therefore contains so much unused space, but this is slowly changing. Now that the inevitable cafes, restaurants and shops have been installed, all that has been needed is a significant event, and the team at the centre hope that ‘Attraction’ will provide just that. Based around the creations of artists linked to the centre, it will feature circus, burlesque, visual art, music and even a giant merry go ‘square’!

Attraction begins this Friday with a giant (free!) party, and will be a kind of rolling event with no defined end date. As the organisers point out, ‘on sait quand ça commence, mais on ne sait pas où ça s’arrête’.
Only one significant problem remains though. With it being such a large open space, it will probably be rather cold there this weekend!

104 Rue d'Aubervilliers, M°Stalingrad

Promenade hollandais (a Dutch walk !)

With the Piet Mondrian exhibition currently running at the Centre Pompidou, now is the time to revisit the lives of some famous Dutch expatriates in Paris. This 7-hour (!) walk on Saturday will cover Mondrian’s atelier as well as the Dutch pavillion in the Cité Université and Théo Van Doesburg’s house in Meudon.

For full details, see the Promenades Urbaines website.

This weekend’s Christmas events

Three different christmas markets, all promising young designers, ethical gifts and a friendly atmosphere. Choose your favourite or try all three!

9O years of the French Communist Party
Finally, for those of you who are interested in less material matters, the French Communist Party is celebrating its 90th birthday this weekend with a series of events at their Oscar Niemeyer designed HQ. Full details can be found here.

If you have any other suggestions, don't forget to add them to the comments below!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Something for the Weekend (3rd – 5th December)

Skating, shopping, soccer and saveurs this weekend. More details below...

Des Monstres Aux Skates

The Rubis bar which I wrote about just after it opened is getting more and more interesting. As well as regular concerts, they are now hosting an art exhibition called Des Monstres Aux Skates. Mini-interview with Paul Guidal, organiser of the event:

Can you describe the exhibition in a few words?

A group of artists using a skateboard as a support and monsters as a theme!

Why this theme and this support?

The idea came to me during the making of an animated film that I was directing. I thought it would be a good idea to reproduce the experience, and to bring together a group of artists, suggest a subject and a format, but without any particular graphic style imposed on them.

Who is taking part?

At first I thought that maybe there would be ten skateboards, but the idea proved to be a popular one, so I added ten more artists, and then another two that will be coming from New Zealand for the final exhibition (note: the boards will be displayed in three groups). Most of the artists come from the world of animation, but there are are also graphic artists, printers and illustrators.

Le Rubis
Launch party Saturday 4th, from 7pm (with DJ, happy hour until 8pm)
140 rue Saint-Maur 75011

Le PSG a 40 ans

Without giving too many secrets away, the leading football club in Paris was born in the same year as me, so it’s only natural that I should want to share in their party. The city of Paris is also getting involved with a selection of 40 iconic photos (Weah, Ginola, Ronaldhino) in the Hotel de Ville.

Until January 29th, 2011
Salon d'accueil de l'Hôtel de Ville 29, rue de Rivoli, 75001
Free entry

Braderie des Editeurs d'Art
Around 40 publishers will be selling some of their stock (books, DVDs, lithographs, post cards) at heavily discounted prices, in the pleasant setting of the Ecole nationale superieure des beaux-arts.

Saturday 4th/Sunday 5th, 10am - 7pm
Ecole nationale superieure des beaux-arts, 14 Rue Bonaparte, 75006

Arty Xmas
Taking place in a converted cardboard factory, this event promises unique, original and affordable gifts from the artists and artisans of Belleville, in a warm and welcoming environment.

Saturday 4th/Sunday 5th
La Cartonnerie, 12, rue Deguerry, 75011 Paris, M° Goncourt

May also of interest this weekend
A few more ideas - if you have any others, please let me (and other readers) know in the comments.

  • Ed Banger on Ice. The first Friday of the month in winter means ice-skating parties at the Pailleron rink. For those who want to continue the party later on, an after is planned at the Point Ephemere.
  • The first weekend of the month also means free museums on Sunday. Click here for the full list of museums taking part.
  • With Christmas nearly upon us, now is the time to stock up on food and wine. The huge annual December Salon Saveurs event gives us the opportunity. Tickets are normally 8 Euros, but you can normally find free passes in the magazine of the same name.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where to find the real Christmas spirit in Paris - part 2

Continued from yesterday, a few suggestions for a few places to soak up an authentic festive atmosphere in the city.

The Jardins du Palais Royal
After visiting the Galerie Vivienne, cross over the Rue des Petits Champs and take a stroll in the gardens of the Palais Royal, especially if night has already fallen. In the early evening darkness, the shops and cafes under the arcades become even more inviting.

The Bon Marché and the Grande Epicerie

I never normally go to the Bon Marché, and indeed start to get panic attacks when I leave the right-bank, but this grand magasin just seems to be the one that does Christmas best. It's most definitely haughty and snobbish, but that also means that it is more restrained and an altogether calmer experience than the other large department stores. Christmas to the French means food and drink above all else, so where better to get a French flavour of Christmas than in the food hall of the Bon Marché, the Grande Epicerie?

La Madeleine
Like most people who celebrate Christmas, I am not a religious person, and yet I am still a sucker for the atmosphere of a church, the candles and incense and the atmospheric music. This year, the best place to find that ambience will be at the Madeleine church. As it has been the year of Russia in France, the church will be presenting a Russian themed 'creche' this Christmas, and to continue the exotic theme, the Christmas concert on Saturday 11th December will be given by a young choir from Bratislavia in Slovakia.

Do you have any other suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where to find the real Christmas spirit in Paris - part 1

December is upon us again, and that means only one thing. Cheap wooden huts displaying goods that nobody wants or needs, dressed up as a Marché de Noël. Don't despair though if you are looking for a little Christmas magic in Paris - away from the crowds and from people selling flashing Santa hats - here are a few suggestions for a few places to soak up an authentic festive atmosphere in the city.

The Rue de Belleville

The area around the Jourdain Metro stop has the real feel of a village, and at no time is that more true than at Christmas. The decorations are abundant, with seemingly all of the buildings and shops getting involved - including the Metro entrances! The decorations continue down the hill to the Pyrenees Metro station, and en route you'll find a selection of cosy bars to stop in. For shopping, try the Rue de la Villette on the right-hand side where several artists and designers have opened units. If you have kids in toe, you'll also appreciate the 400 Coups cafe/restaurant which has been designed for young families!

The Galerie Vivienne

Photo: Jerome S

Surely the most attractive of the covered arcades in Paris, at Christmas the Galerie Vivienne is simply magical. Although the shops - which include a Jean-Paul Gaultier boutique - can be a little chic and upmarket, it is just a pleasure to window shop through the curtains of light. A great place for gifts is Legrand Filles et Fils, one of the oldest épiceries in France. You'll find not only a wide selection of wines, but also handmade sweets and regional specialities. A Priori Thé is also a great place for lunch - or just tea!

More selections tomorrow.

If you have any favourite Christmas spots in Paris, please recommend them in the comments section below!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Something for the Weekend (26th – 28th November)

There’s a strong probability of snow this weekend, and with Christmas lights now on and windows dressed, there should be quite festive atmosphere. So grab a grog and warm up with this list of selections below.

Portraits d'écrivains de 1850 à nos jours
As part of the Mois de la photo, the Maison Victor Hugo has organised an exhibition celebrating the links between writers and photography. Featuring selections from three different collections, the exhibition of course features a selection of portraits of Victor Hugo, but also other iconic names (and faces!) including George Sand, Alexandre Dumas, Samuel Beckett and Jack Kerouac.

For more details on the exhibition, see this informative video

Until February 20th 2011
Maison Victor Hugo
6, place des Vosges, 75004, M°
Bastille, Saint-Paul or Chemin-vert

International Environmental film festival
This week-long environmental film festival features documentaries from around the world. Entrance to all film showings is free, and as many films are in English, and the screenings are also held in the beautiful Pagode cinema, what excuse do you have for not going?

Full details on the festival can be found here:

Monuments, stars du 7eme art

The monuments of France have long inspired film makers, from Georges Méliès to Walt Disney and Sofia Coppola. La Conciergerie in Paris is celebrating this fact by transforming the space into a giant film set. Featuring a collection of 500 items, including film decors, models, costumes, drawings, photos and film clips, visitors will be able to see exactly how the castles and cathedrals of France have inspired the film industry worldwide.

Until February 13th 2011.

La Conciergerie - more details can be found here:

Celebrate the life of Richard Wright

This Sunday (November 28th) is the 50th anniversary of the writer Richard Wright's death in Paris. Don’t forget to mark the occasion by sending photos of your visit to his 'haunts' for the planned collage tribute.
More details can be found here on Invisible Paris.

Two interesting exhibitions you may like
Both in small galleries, both ending this weekend.
  • Burning Hearts: The first exhibition in France of the work of New York graffiti legend Cope2. At the In My Room gallery, 32, rue Rodier , 75009, from 2pm – 7pm
  • Light Painting Xperience: Thomas Canto also comes from the world of street art, but has branched out into my different forms and formats, notably light painting. At the Galerie Ligne 13, 13 rue La Condamine, 75017, until Saturday only.

May also be of interest
Other events taking place this weekend.

  • Une promesse de vin: Signing by George Bardawil of his book on the wine growers of France, at Spring, Sunday 28th, 12pm - 6pm.
  • Les Lundis de Lutèce: This month, Sylvanie de Lutèce will be telling us all about the Knights Templers. At the Baron Samedi, Rue des Goncourt, Monday 8pm.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

EnjoYourParis - Creators of shared experiences in Paris

EnjoYourParis is a web-based service that enables individuals to sign up for activities or even to organise events themselves. Here I ask co-founder Guillaume Giler (with Rémi Brichant) why he launched the concept, and how he thinks the service helps people to get the best out of the city.

Can you tell us a little bit more about EnjoYourParis?

EnjoYourParis is a website that allows people to find and reserve activities in Paris. We try to offer a wide variety of activities such as original guided walks, with amusing anecdotes and the chance to meet inhabitants and artists. We also provide cheese and wine tastings, romantic cruises down the Seine and much more! We think that Paris shouldn't be limited to the Eiffel tower and the Louvre, and that there is so much more to see and do. We also think Parisians are not as bad as they are said to be, so we try to focus on conviviality and participative tourism in Paris!

What inspired you to create the website?
Originally it was an idea I had during a one year trip to Sydney in Australia. At the University I studied at we had a buddy who showed us around and introduced us to his/her friends, so that we wouldn't feel totally lost in a city we didn't know. I found this idea really interesting and wanted to do it in Paris, but on a wilder scale.

Initially the website was all about meeting people from all around the world during activities giving foreigners and Parisians the chance to meet and have fun together! This still happens and any member can advertise for something he'd like to do in Paris and invite people to join, and we ourselves try to continue organising entertaining and free events. We also suggest venues to go to, but over the months, we have also added a new dimension with some more touristic activities giving another perspective on Paris.

What can visitors find on the website?
Pretty much anything, considering anyone can join for free and post his or her event on the website, although of course there are moderators! Mainly users will find a selection of activities including art exhibitions, tastings, macaroon workshops, walks and sport activities. We try to find things to do that anyone can enjoy, and try to have activities for any age and any budget, even though this is not always easy.

The community aspect of the website is important. Can you explain how this works?
The community aspect was vital, as it's all about people meeting and spending time together, so it's important people who meet can find each other and stay in touch through the website. You can add people as friends and follow what they are subscribing to, you can send private messages and also find people who have the same likes as you do, or come from your country as you. However, we're not aiming to become the new Facebook, and we simply want people to use the website before or after meeting in real life. It's not meant to be a dating agency, and we want the events to have as many people taking part as possible.

Is EnjoYourParis a service that could be used by people only coming to Paris for a few days?
Absolutely. Because events are often planned in advance, people can reserve on the website before coming to Paris and do the activities once they are here. It can be a nice way to organise one or two activities on a short trip, and also to discover the bars, restaurant or night clubs you might want to go to. The website can suit people coming for the first time but also people coming back to Paris, who have already visited the main attractions and who want to explore a bit further.

What plans do you have for the future?
We are always trying to improve the website, but currently we are also thinking about extending it to other cities across Europe. We think this will make the community more active and mean nice things to do all over the continent! We are also trying to take advantage of smart phones by developing geo localised apps which will help any traveller or local to find activities in their part of the city. So, as you can see, still lots of things to do, and lots of ideas, and hopefully they'll work!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Something for the Weekend (19th – 21st November)

Wet, wet, wet – a pop group we’d all like to forget and a description of the weather we can expect in Paris this weekend. However, if it is music you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. The city is staying up late this weekend and tuning up for a weekend of song and dance!

Les Nuits Capitales

Les Nuits Capitales is a new festival, running from the 17th to the 21st November, which is designed to persuade both residents and visitors that the city still offers entertainment after dark. Based around live music and clubbing, it is sometimes difficult to spot what is actually special about the festival at all, as most events are the same as those planned each weekend anyway.

The official site offers full details on the events taking place -

There are two curiosities that I have spotted however. Firstly the Glazart venue near La Villette will be letting the London-based Vibe Bar programme the event, and entry is free for UK nationals – if they can show an original identity card!

Secondly, a series of night-time walking tours is also taking place over the weekend, several of which will be organised for English speakers. See this link for more details. -

Music & You

Music & You, being held in the Grande Halle de La Villette this weekend, is an exhibition geared towards musicians and lovers of music. Focussing mainly on manufacturers of instruments and equipment, it will also feature a whole series of concerts as well as masterclass sessions from musicians such as Jean-Michel Jarre (Friday 2pm).

The full programme can be found here.

Thos Henley showcase

Thos Henley is a young Paris-based British singer-songwriter who is beginning to make a real name for himself in France. After recently releasing the “Golden Europe” EP, he has picked up a whole series of glowing reviews and is surely a name we will hear a lot more of soon. Catch him for free in an intimate setting (well, the basement of a record shop) whilst you still can!

Thos Henley in showcase at Gibert Joseph

Friday 19th November, 5pm

26-34, Boulevard Saint-Michel 75006

Portes ouvertes Anvers à Abesses
This weekend sees the artists of yet another district open the doors of their studios and ateliers to the general public. Another excuse to wander around areas that are normally inaccessible, but this district is also Montmartre, so that has to promise something a bit special doesn’t it?

The full programme and a downloadable map can be found here:

Charity run in Buttes Chaumont
If you’re the kind of person who goes for an early morning run on Sundays, why not take the opportunity this weekend to do it for a good cause? From 9am on the 21st, a series of runs will take place in the city’s most interesting park, the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, with money raised going to Amnesty International. Taking part costs 6 Euros for adults, but as well as doing some good for mind, body and spirit, there is also the chance to win cups, medals and t-shirts!

Click here for more details.

Also worth investigating
  • Photo Off: A 'young and upcoming photographers art fair' at the Bellevilloise (
  • Braderie de Noël for kids: Bubblemag is organising a charity fair featuring children's clothes, toys, books, DVDs, etc. At the Musée en Herbe, Saturday from 5pm - 8pm. Also, two 'treasure hunts' are available for free download to be completed 'en famille', offering an investigation of the centre of Paris from Chatelet or Palais Royal to the Musée.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Beaujolais in Spring

It’s Beaujolais Nouveau day on Thursday 18th, and although this generally means over-priced wines drunk half-heartedly whilst discussing whether this year’s cru tastes more like pear drops, bananas or petrol, it does seem like there will be a genuinely interesting event this time around.

The Rue de l’Arbre Sec is a grey and rather depressing back street, which is entirely suitable for a road that got its name from the gallows that used to stand here, but it does have the advantage of providing a home to both the new Spring restaurant and a wine retailer called Le Garde Robe. The two will be combining their skills this Thursday, with Le Garde Robe selling wine direct from the barrel, and the Spring team providing onion soup and saucisson. It should be fun!

Le Fooding: more than a feeling

In the same week that French cuisine was named by UNESCO as an intangible world heritage (along with Flamenco dancing), it seems somehow appropriate that the Fooding movement should also celebrate its 10th anniversary with its annual award ceremony.

More than just a crime against the English language (Fooding = Food + feeling), the movement has also done much to shake up the French food scene, providing an invaluable antipole to the often stiff and sober traditional French gastronomic experience. Through their promptings (a website, various actions throughout the year, a guide and the yearly awards), they have shown that eating in Paris can also be fun and relaxing.

It’s easy to imagine the people behind the Fooding movement sniggering about the rather pompous UNESCO award (they make no mention of it on their website naturally enough). They set up the movement to counter the conservative attitudes of other guides, and promote all forms of cuisine rather than just French gastronomy, but are they too now slipping into facile predictability?

The awards were handed out to many familiar faces, such as Daniel Rose at Spring, and most curiously of all, to Inaki Aizpitarte’s new venture – which hasn’t even opened yet (Meilleur décor for Le Dauphin). Deserving winners perhaps, but also almost ‘safe’ choices that simply reflect the buzz of the city critics.

It is interesting to note though how the centre of this new form of dining seems to have gravitated to the east of Paris. Four of the winners are in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, which is perhaps not a sign that restaurants in Paris are becoming less exclusive, but rather that these districts are becoming more and more bourgeois!

To make up your own mind on the movement, make sure you get a copy of Le Guide Fooding 2011 - their selection of the best places to eat and drink in Paris - which is available in the kiosks tomorrow (18th November). Don't worry if your French is a little shaky - much of the guide is translated into English.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Perfect Paris Weekend

In this new series of guest posts, contributors will reveal the places that make a Perfect Paris Weekend for them. Here Sandrine de Paris reveals her favourite (winter) spots in Paris.

A winter weekend in Paris
Since I no longer live in Paris, I like reconnecting with the city and the
people by going to all my favorite spots and taking my favorite walks.

Le Marais

I enjoy a walk in the Marais, stopping for falafel, coffee/drinks (Le Pik Clops, le Fer à cheval). There are lots of boutiques to visit –I like fine paper stores. If I’m in the mood for a museum, I make my way to Musée Carnavalet or Musée de la Photographie. A visit to Centre Pompidou is always a treat, followed by apéro or coffee at the Georges, to enjoy the view from the roof. If it’s really chilly out, I meet with an old friend at Le Quincampe, rue Quincampoix, where you can warm up your soul in front of a real fireplace while drinking fragrant teas and coffee.

The 10th arrondissement

Another favourite part of the city for me is the 10th arrondissement. On the Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis, I have lunch at one of the Pakistani or Sri Lankan
“cantines”: warm, copious, unbeatably cheap, which also accommodates my vegetarian tastes! My old neighborhood hang-out was Chez Jeannette café, a classic Parisian café; even now I am pretty sure I can run into some of my friends there.

From Canal Saint Martin to the Heights of Belleville

A flânerie along Canal Saint Martin is so pleasant: paved streets, metal
bridges, locks, and a plethora of cafés, wine bars, restaurants. I love walking from there all the way to my old neighborhood: Belleville!


My walk up rue de Belleville starts with a grog (a hot toddy made with rum) at Aux Folies (Alternately, I also have grogs at Cannibale Café if I’m in the mood for nicer décor) Once re-energized I take a peak at the Rue Denoyez (for the beautiful street art - see above) and keep going up the Rue de Belleville. I make a right rue de Tourtille for a compulsory pit stop at number 42, i.e. le Rouleau de Printemps, which offers family-style Chinese/Vietnamese cooking, fresh and tasty, with lots of healthy, vegetarian options and a friendly atmosphere. I keep going up rue de Belleville and turn right onto Rue Piat, where, at the corner of the Rue des Envierges is the top of the adorable Parc de Belleville where one can admire a beautiful (and little known) view over Paris.

For breakfast, I simply go to La Cagnotte (corner of rue Jean Baptiste
Dumay). I purchase a delicious viennoiserie or fancy bread from the boulangerie a couple of doors down (you can’t miss it: there’s almost always a line). I sit and enjoy a good read: le Monde Diplomatique or L’Histoire.

One thing I miss in California is North African food: so I will make sure
my week-end includes couscous (le restaurant préféré de mon ami Peter: Chez Kiki - Aux Bons Amis rue de l’Atlas) and pâtisseries orientales (Doigts de fée, 356, rue des Pyrénées, 75020 Paris) with thé à la menthe, to be shared with old friends, of course.

Sandrine de Paris

Although Sandrine now lives in San Francisco, she keeps in touch with France by running a very useful blog for those looking to learn French!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something for the Weekend (12th – 14th November)

A long weekend for many in France this weekend following a public holiday on the 11th, but also one that promises to be cold and wet. Perfect then for a weekend of crime novels, film noir, prisons and science fiction!

Paris Noir

A new event - Paris Noir: Festival Europeen du Roman et du Film Noir - is taking place at the Maison des Métallos this weekend, celebrating the world of crime in fiction and film. Despite being a 'European' festival (with the invited country of honour being Greece) all events are
seemingly in French, including a conference on 'les Américains à Paris'. Nevertheless, even for non-francophones there should be plenty to see and do, with various happenings, award ceremonies, conferences, chats with authors and illustrators, film projections, and photo exhibitions. A crime scene has also been created in front of the building which acts as the point of depart for a Maigret walk, and there is even a competition offering the chance to win a trip to Greece! Best of all, the whole event is free.

The full programme can be found here :

La bastille ou 'l’enfer des vivants'
Starting this weekend at the 'bibliothèque de l'arsenal' (one of the three national library buildings in Paris), an exhibition on the
Bastille prison, known during its existence as a 'Hell for the living'. The show features a wide selection of pieces from the archives, including models of the prison and shirts worn by prisoners, but also many written documents incluidng a letter written by a prisoner using his own blood (ink was in short supply!).

Click here for full details of the exhibition, including opening times and how to get there.

Click here for a video presentation of the exhibition.

Quand la science rencontre la fiction

Another new exhibition can be found at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie at La Villette, focussing this time on the links between science and science fiction. Included in the show are many of the original objects that have featured in cult SF films, and many pieces that have come from the French national library. Organised on two levels, it offers a tour through space and time, across planets and inside many different alternative
societies, each time seeking out the realities of what has been previously imagined.

Full details and much more besides can be found on the excellent exhibition website.

May also be of interest - Grande braderie pour enfants

Sol en Si, an HIV/AIDS charity is marking 20 years of existence with a first charity fair of goods exclusively for children. Including clothes, toys and books donated by many leading brands, it could be an excellent opportunity to get some Christmas presents.

Until November 14th
Au Comptoir Général
80, quai de Jemmapes, 75010

Entrance : 2 euros

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paris looks to reclaim the night with new festival

In October last year, a group of artists and nightlife professionals launched a petition entitled Paris: Quand la nuit meurt en silence, claiming that "the general law of silence which strikes our events and places of social gathering is about to turn 'the City of Light' into the European capital city of sleep".

A year later, the response has come in the form of a new festival called "Les nuits capitales" which will run from the 17th to the 21st November. The festival is five nights dedicated to live music and clubbing in what is left of the Paris night scene, with a whole series of special prices and other advantages exclusively available online on the official site.

The event, which focusses on upcoming French acts rather than international stars, seems to offer some interesting possibilities, but will it solve the general problem? By institutionalising the night in Paris, will this initiative erase a little more the spontaneity and organic movements that are necessary in creating a scene and a movement?

As Paris becomes ever-more bourgeois, perhaps the problem is more that the residents have simply become tired of the night. It would be a shame if this were true, so let's hope that this festival can inspire a little more energy in the city post sundown!

For more information, see:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something for the Weekend (5th – 7th November)

November is the ‘Mois de la Photo’ in Paris which means a whole host of exhibitions as well as the large ‘Salon de la Photo’ which is being held this weekend at the Porte de Versailles. Also listed below are a few other events to keep you warm as the days get shorter.

Reminder – free entrance to certain museums and galleries

It’s the first Sunday of the month, so that means many state museums and galleries will be opening their doors without charge. A list of the participating museums can be found here.

The Salon de la Photo

This large-scale photography fair combines art and equipment, giving you the chance to see a retrospective of the work of Willy Rizzo and check out some of the latest photography technology. Entrance tickets normally cost 11 Euros, but you can free invitations are available if you visit and click on the link alongside Amateur. Type FOPA when asked for a code.

November 4th - 8th
Porte de Versailles

The Mois de la Photo

The mois de la photo covers the whole of November and includes literally hundreds of events. For example, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie has made its entire collection available to venues (20,000 pictures) and many of these will be shown at 58 different exhibitions across the city.

For more details, see

Of course, as with all good festivals, there is also an 'off' circuit:

Le FOU (Festival des Ouvertures Utiles)
The alternative event of the moment is the Paris 'inter-squat' festival otherwise known as Le Fou (Festival des Ouvertures Utiles). The festival includes exhibitions, concerts, shows and even workshops for children across 14 squats in the city. 16 were scheduled to join in, but two have since been shut down.

For more details on participating squats and the events taking place see

Born Bad on Ice

You know winter is on its way when ice skating comes back on to the scene. Starting a new season of monthly rendezvous, the Patinoire (ice rink) Pailleron hands over the rink this Friday evening to Born Bad Records who have put together a roster that includes a live set from the rockabilly group Les Cavaliers (click here to see what last year's set looked like) and DJs JBWizzz and Iwan le Terrible

Friday 5th November, 8.30pm – 11.30pm

10 euros (hire of skates included)

Patinoire Pailleron, 32 rue Pailleron, 75019

Festival Inrocks

For those who prefer to watch bands perform whilst wearing more comfortable footwear though, the annual Inrocks festival is also taking place this weekend.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Something for the Week (22nd – 31st October)

It’s the half-term holidays and, strikes permitting, I’ll be away for the week. For this reason, I’ve left you not with a weekend selection, but with some suggestions for two weekends and the week in between.

Unquestionably the biggest event of the weekend, but questionable in its positioning. Here’s why the event makes me squirm a little, but as a counter-balance, here’s someone who is enjoying it.

The FIAC also features a number of ‘off’ events, and you’ll find a useful list of those here. Not mentioned here though is the YIA Artfair (Young International Artists), a new event that aims to promote the work of a dozen or so artists under the age of 40. Once again though, its reserved only for collectioners, the press and cultural institutions, but if this describes you, drop them a mail.

Fete de la Science

Far more open and completely free is the Fête de la Science this weekend. See for a list of the events taking place around the Paris region, but highlights include a series of films at the Grand Rex cinema, a look at robots, including an artificial rat at the Institut des Systèmes Intelligents et Robotique (ISIR), and free entrance to the Musée des Arts et Métiers and the Cité de la Science at La Villette.

Paris 1950: The Golden Age of the Building
Another interesting exhibition at the excellent Pavillon de l’Arsenal, this time on the subject of constructions in Paris in the 1950s. The exhibition (photo above) examines a unique period largely ignored in the history of Paris architecture despite a remarkable inventivenes with new urban forms and new usages and an unparalleled affection for domestic arts.

Until Novemver 7th

Pavillon de l’Arsenal
21 Boulevard Morland , M° Sully-Morland

Brune, Blonde

Do gentlemen prefer blondes? This exhibition at the Cinemathèque Française investigates the subject of how the cinema (as well as painters, photographers and sculptures) has represented blondes, brunettes and redheads, and how hair has become a theme apart in film. Mixing film extracts, television clips, photographs and paintings, the exhibition is an aesthetic triumph.

Until January 16th 2011
Cinemathèque Française
Rue de Bercy, M° Bercy

Weekend de Lutèce
DJ by night, keen Paris history investigator by day, Sylvanie de Lutèce will be organising her monthly events this weekend. On Sunday, a visit to the remains of Roman Paris, and on Monday evening, a discussion on the subject in a friendly neighbourhood bar - with perhaps the visit of a couple of gladiators!

Halloween is something of an outdated event in France, celebrated mostly only in theme parks such as Disneyland and the Parc Asterix. However, as it once again falls on a weekend, with a public holiday the next day, expect several bars and clubs to use the theme to attempt to attract a few extra punters!

A good list of the currently organised events can be found here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The FIAC, or art as a commodity

A week or so after the end of the Paris Fashion Week and the Mondial de l’Automobile, another important business fair is coming to the city this Thursday (until Sunday 24th), but this time the commodity is art. The annual FIAC (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain) event in Paris has become something of a circus, but there is no denying its rising importance in the art world.

Based largely in the Grand Palais and in the gardens of the Louvre, the event attracts a large portion of the world’s most prestigious private art galleries who come to display their offerings to potential clients. The fact that one of the prizes being awarded at the event is the Prix Artfloor Platinum Mastercard should tell you all you need to know about the key resource required for visitors.

The FIAC is not just one event though, but also a series of smaller off events. A useful list of these can be found on the Vingt Paris website,
who also point out helpfully that “unlike the fashion world’s week of exclusive velvet rope spectacles, FIAC is open to the public”. Well, yes, this is true, but only if you have a spare 28 Euros to spend.

Hardly an inclusive event then, but one that instead seems to perpetuate the conception of modern art as play thing of the rich. In times of recession though, is art, like gold, a safe haven for battered capital? The Art Newspaper seemed to suggest otherwise in April of this year, but that shouldn’t stop investors from flocking to Paris this weekend. Let’s just hope they look at the works on display as artistic creations and not as a commodity with the potential to realise a substantial future increase in value.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Something for the Weekend (15th – 17th October)

A bric a brac of events this weekend, which is apt, as two of my recommendations concern outdoor markets!

L’Objet du Cœur at the Puces de Vanves

Another excuse to visit the Puces de Vanves flea market this weekend as many of the stall-holders will be displaying an ‘objet du cœur’, or something that has particular significance for them. These objects, which may be precious or modest, rare or seemingly banal, will generally not be for sale, but will instead give visitors the chance to strike up a conversation with the traders.

Puces de Vanves, M° Porte de Vanves

Saturday 16th /Sunday 17th, 7am – 5pm

Vide Grenier de la Folie Méricourt

On Sunday, a vide grenier (attic clearance sale) will be held in the Folie Méricourt district of the city, a zone between République and Bastille which is moving dynamically upwards. Although between 150-200 stalls are expected, it will also give visitors the chance to discover some of the interesting shops that have recently opened in the area. Several have promised to join in with the event including the Fargo record shop which will be selling second-hand/vintage music, clothes and books, and the Atelier Nadja Carlotti which will be handing out cake and tea to shoppers from 3pm!

Rue Folie Méricourt/Rue Ternaux, 9am – 7pm


Basing itself on the very influential South by Southwest music event in Austin, Texas, the MaMA (Marché des Musiques Actuelles) is comprised of 60 concerts in 18 different venues over 48 hours! As this is France, it will also include conferences and debates, but the principal goal is to help the French artists featured (most of whom sing in English) to sell as widely as possible. To this end, several of the concerts are reserved for music professionals only, but the spirit of the event should spill out into the surrounding bars.

Full details:

La BnF à l'heure anglaise
A very British weekend at the Bibliothèque nationale du France, where readings, projections and discussions will all be centred on British culture. Organised in association with Shakespeare and Co and Thé des écrivains, the event will feature literature – naturally – but also music, television, theatre and football!

Full details of the event can be found here.


Finally, this is the last weekend to see one of the strangest exhibitions in Paris at the moment. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the SIIAP water sanitisation company has organised a photo exhibition on the theme of toilets around the world. Held outside on the Boulevard de la Bastille, the event features 46 large-scale photos of toilets from 31 different countries.

More details:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Strikes in Paris

If you are planning to come to Paris this weekend, here are a few websites you may want to keep an eye on:

The Metro: (only available in French - the English section of the site contains no information about the strikes.

SNCF: (including Eurostar, Thalys...): (again, no English version, but just know that 'supprimé' is bad news!).

The airports:

Currently Eurostar trains are unaffected by the strike and the Metro is running almost as normal, but delays can be expected at airports and on the trains and buses between the airports and Paris.

You should also be aware that another day of protest has been organised for this Saturday (16th) which will mean many people in the streets, but also the possibility of some sites and museums being closed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finding a hotel with a heart in Paris

Finding the right hotel for a trip away is never an easy task. Although online searches can reveal the best prices, it is more difficult to be assured of reliable quality control. To fill this gap, Thierry Leclercq and his brother Jérôme left their jobs to set up Heart of Paris Hotels, a hotel reservation website featuring only establishments that they have personally visited and approved. Here I talk to Thierry about his motivations and about how you can get the best from a visit to Paris.

Why did you create Heart of Paris Hotels?
Both my brother and I have a long experience in online hotel reservations, but after working for hundreds of hotels located in 40 countries, we decided to concentrate on the place that we know the best - Paris. We also decided that we should not take all hotels, but only the ones which are well located and will in our mind give entire satisfaction to travellers.

How do you differ from other hotel reservation sites?
Above all I would say our hotel selection. When we visit hotels before featuring them, we put ourselves in the position of the traveller and ask "would I like to stay in this hotel?". Most hotel search websites take hotel information from databases provided by other companies and the information is not checked, meaning travellers can have bad surprises.

Some hoteliers are very surprised when I say we can't accept their hotel without visiting it first. They are even more surprised if we finally refuse their hotel. Since March 2010, we have refused an average of 2 out of 3 hotels.

How do you select the hotels?
First we check the location of a hotel which is very important to us. We won't send a customer to an area where we would not stay ourselves. Secondly, we look at the hotel website, and check forums and customers reviews. If a problem appears several times on an important point such as cleanliness or staff behavior, we immediately refuse the hotel. If we are satisfied by the information we read, we visit the hotel, meet the owner or a manager and take a decision. The manager must be motivated by the partnership with Heart of Paris Hotels. If we can't feel it, the best thing to do is to refuse the hotel because we are quite sure problems will happen with travelers even if the hotel is a good one.

What should people look for when booking a hotel?
Location, description, facilities, services and traveller reviews. However, you need to be very careful with reviews as some are written by the hotel itself and some by its competitors! The reviews on our site though are only written by genuine customers!

Of course the price is very important for many guests but you should also be wary of the discounts offered by the hotels. Discounts are calculated on the public rate basis, and some hotels use a high public rate that it is only ever charged for a few days per year, so it looks as if they are offering really great discounts. For similar hotels and rooms in the same location, I suggest travellers compare the room rates and not the discounts.

Is it still possible to find reasonable hotels and good service in Paris?
If you visit during high season, especially when there is a major exhibition, it is very difficult to find low rates, good service and great locations. During low seasons in winter and in August, you can find good prices in very charming and well located hotels. Weekends are often cheaper though and you can find very interesting rates.

Finally, what are your recommendations for the ideal Paris weekend?
Paris has so much to offer and it would be stupid to have a weekend ruined by a poor choice of hotel. I would suggest choosing a lively area as it is always more convenient in the evening to go back to the hotel without taking a taxi or public transport. Hotels are soundproofed so you don't need to worry about noise from the street.

Each traveller has different desires and expectations, which is why we offer hotels with such different atmospheres. We know that the atmosphere of the hotel very much contributes to a successful stay. Romantics will prefer hotels such as Les Grands Hommes, Hotel de Latour Maubourg, and L'Horset Opera. If you are more trendy, The Five, The Seven and Le Fabe, with their colours and light effects will be up your street. If you a fan of design and technology, I am sure the Design Sorbonne, equipped with a large screen IMac in all rooms, will delight you. There are also boutique hotels where you will feel at home, such as Villa Madame or Hotel du Bois.