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: http://www.iledefrance.fr/fife-english/

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: http://conciergerie.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/

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 - http://nuitscapitales.com/en/

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. - http://paris-insolite.curiocites.com/2010/10/nuits-capitales/

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: http://www.anversauxabbesses.fr/

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 (http://www.photooff.com/PHOTO_OFF.html)
  • 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! http://sandrinedeparis.blogspot.com/

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 : http://www.parisnoir.fr/

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: http://nuitscapitales.com/

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 http://www.invitationphoto.com/ 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 http://www.mep-fr.org/moisdelaphoto2010/en/

Of course, as with all good festivals, there is also an 'off' circuit: http://www.moisdelaphoto-off.org/

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.