Saturday, July 31, 2010

A night at the airport

One man, Mehran Karimi Nasseri, famously lived in the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for 18 years, but for most people, the most pressing urge is to get into and out of the place as quickly as possible.

popular only with the group U2, it is nevertheless a place where you may find yourself needing to spend a night on a trip to Paris. You could sleep on a bench, but you should perhaps note that the ‘Guide to sleeping in airports’ judged Charles de Gaulle to be the world’s worst, and to be frank, this really doesn’t surprise me!

With this in mind, you may begin to think about reserving a hotel nearby. An English company, Airport, has had the same line of thought and has developed an airport hotel price comparison and booking service that helps people to find the best and cheapest accommodation offerings within the vicinity of over 100 airports across Europe, including Charles de Gaulle (and Orly...but not Beauvais yet!).

The technology behind the service is just a standard XML tool which compares results from 10 leading hotel reservation websites (eBookers,, but results seem interesting - with prices for a night near Orly starting at €38 for example.

Photo taken from

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Something for the Weekend (30th July – 1st August)

July slides into August, and already the shops are filling their shelves with back to school promotions. Don’t worry though, the summer is far from finished in Paris, and there is still plenty to do. As a special theme this week, all activities listed here are completely free!

Free drinks and a free game
Fargo is not just a Coen brothers’ film, but also the name of a Paris-based record company and shop. To celebrate the first year of the shop’s existence - and just before locking it up for the holidays - the Fargo team will be offering free drinks and snacks this Saturday at 6pm. It will give you an excellent opportunity to meet staff and to discover the best selection of Alternative rock music in Paris.
The fun continues into the evening at the new American Bistrot restaurant next door. Form a team to compete in a music quiz organised by Fargo, and enjoy one of the restaurant’s excellent hamburgers! La Boutique Fargo 42 rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 M° Oberkampf / Saint Ambroise / Parmentier

Free films
The La Villette outdoor cinema screenings continue this weekend, with three films firmly reflecting this year’s
Avoir 20 anstheme . Watching the films won’t cost you a centime unless you choose to rent a deck chair (€7). Films start at around 10.30pm.
  • Friday: L'Auberge espagnole - Cédric Klapisch
  • Saturday: A Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick
  • Sunday: Mauvais sang - Leos Carax
Prairie du Triangle
Parc de la Villette
M°Porte de Pantin

Free museums
It’s the first Sunday of the month, so several state-run museums will be offering free access to their collections. A list of the participating museums can be found here.

Free music
The FNAC Indétendances festival, which accompanies Paris Plages, features up and coming French artists alongside a few more well-known international performers each Friday and Saturday evening. This weekend on stage in front of the Hotel de Ville, you'll be able to see eight groups, including Nada Surf.
From 5pm

An All Seasons bargain this summer

The All Seasons chain of hotels (part of the Accor group) is running a special promotion this summer covering the whole of France (and including Paris!). Rooms in these modern 3* hotels, including breakfast and free wi-fi connections are available at €69 for one person or €85 for two. I just checked and there are even availabilities this weekend, including at the Tolbiac hotel which only opened two weeks ago!

Click here for more information.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A personal shopping assistant for hotels

Hotel bookings company Gekko have invented a tool that they hope will change the way you reserve hotel rooms online. Operating under the rather unusual name of save@gekko, the system works as a four-step procedure:

- First you find the hotels you like the sound of on any hotel site (TripAdvisor, Expedia, Venere…).
- After creating a list, copy the URL links into an email and send it to
- A few minutes later you receive a list of the supposedly guaranteed best available prices on these or similar hotels.

- Finally, you choose the best deal available and book through them!

This is the theory anyway. Complicated algorhythms in the back office rarely manage to reproduce the human touch, but the idea is certainly a seductive one. To see how it works, I gave it a quick 5 minutes test.

Firstly, they announce partnerships with the principal hotel booking websites, so I decided to take links from outside that group. For a weekend in Paris, I chose a 2* hotel from HRS, a 3* hotel from and a 4* hotel from I sent the mail and…it only recognised the link from Accor, but recommended something apparently unrelated!

Whilst my test was only a very quick one, I can draw two immediate conclusions. It’s not that simple to find the correct URL to paste into the mails, and not all hotel search sites seem to be recognised. Gekko have though promised to fix any gaps in their system, and ask users to report any problems they may find.

See for more details and to test out the system.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Tour de France in Paris

If you are thinking of watching the arrival of the 2010 Tour de France in Paris on Sunday, here is the route map from the departure in Longjumeau to the finishing line on the Champs Elysées, and here are the times the riders are expected to pass the key points along the route.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Enjoy Spring this Summer

The ultra-hype Spring restaurant run by American chef Daniel Rose reopened last week (with a slightly adapted style and in a new, larger location), and the food critics are already filing their reports. On her website, Meg Zimbeck writes a nice summary of the hype surrounding the (re)opening and provides a brief look at the first reviews.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Something for the Weekend (23rd – 25th July)

The long-term residents may have left Paris for their summer holidays, but there is still plenty to do for those visiting and those left behind. Here is my selection of the best and most interesting events this weekend.

Histoires de Paris
Sylvanie de Lutece runs a monthly history discussion in a Belleville bar for most of the year, but during the summer she gets everyone outside. This Sunday she will be leading a tour (in French) around a particular place and theme, but first you have to work out where to meet her from a clue she sends by e-mail. If you want more information, drop me a line.

The Tour de France arrives in Paris
This Sunday sees the traditional final stage of the world's most prestigious cycle race, a cruise around the streets of Paris. As everyone knows who the winner of the Tour
will be before the start of the stage, the atmosphere is festive for the first of the ten laps of the city, but by the end it always turns into a mass sprint up the Champs Elysées. Expect big crowds, and lots of noise and colour.
The tour should arrive in Paris at around 3pm.

Cinema in the Buttes Chaumont
Each summer the La Villette park is home to an outdoor cinema festival, but many other locations around the city also hold screenings under the stars. This Saturday night, the wonderful Buttes Chaumont park will be showing 'Porte des Lilas', a French classic from 1956, to mark 150 years of the 19th arrondissement - the location for both the film and the park.
Saturday 24th, from 10.30pm
Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 75019

An Open Day at the Ecole Normale Supérieure
School may well be out for summer, but that also gives us the opportunity to go and have a look inside! As part of a science festival, doors to the École normale supérieure
will be opened to the general public on Saturday afternoon. I previously wrote about the exterior of the school on Invisible Paris, and so will surely take this opportunity to see the interiors!
École normale supérieure,
45 rue d’Ulm, 75005
Saturday 24th, 2pm - 6pm

Museogames @ Arts et Metiers
The last thing you might think about doing on a hot summer’s day is stay inside and play computer games, and yet for some of you (myself included) it may remind you of your youth! Over the summer and autumn months in Paris, the Musée des Arts et Metiers (a museum of technology) is running a temporary exhibition detailing the history of video games, and – most importantly – they let you get your hands on the equipment! If it rains, or if you have pacman withdrawal symptoms, why not give it a go? The museum also does a very good brunch on a Sunday.

Musée des Arts et Metiers

Tues-Sun, 10am – 6pm, until November 7th

Lounge on the beach
See my previous posts on the Paris Plages and the other Paris beaches.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Parisians are leaving - but will the tourists come?

The true Parisian will always leave the city for at least a couple of weeks in July or August, but it would seem elsewhere in the world that staycations are becoming more and more popular. Will this hurt Paris's position as one of the world's top tourist destinations?

Travel Onion, citing research by
StrategyOne, is reporting that only 28% of Americans are planning to take a vacation this year, a figure which should ensure that the streets and restaurants of Paris are a little quieter this summer. The good news for those catering for tourists in Paris is that the survey also found that those who will be travelling are planning to spend more than they did last year!

With similarly difficult situations in the other countries, such as the UK and Italy, which send large quantities of visitors to Paris, the city may experience its lowest number of tourists for many years. However, Paris has seen a growth in the number of visitors from growing markets such as China and the Middle East, which may just compensate. One thing is clear though - the city will seemingly always keep its appeal, ensuring that it will be well placed when holiday budgets pick up again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Other Paris Plages

It is difficult to miss the artificial beach alongside the Seine during July and August, but the other beaches dotted around the city are sometimes more difficult to find. Spotlight here on places to swim and places to just chill out!

Puteaux en Plage

Paris Plages is an admirable annual event, with an impressive range of activities, but most people will tell you that there are two things wrong with it. Firstly the beaches are filled with too many people, and secondly it’s frustrating to not be able to cool off and have a swim. There is a ‘beach’ though on the outskirts of the city where both of these problems are addressed. The “île de Puteaux” near La Defense will host Puteaux en Plage from July 3rd to August 8th, with the now traditional imported sand and rows of sun loungers, but it will also offer two additional features; a bit of extra space and an Olympic sized swimming pool!

More information here:

Beaches in the evening – and at night!

Several bars around Paris have created temporary ‘beach’ installations to celebrate summer in the city. Perhaps the most impressive is La Plage which is situated alongside the Glaz'Art venue in the 19th arrondissement near La Villette. Open until September 27th, the beach is the perfect weekend destination offering concerts and DJs until 1am from Wednesday to Saturday, with a capacity for up to 1500 people!

Another venue to try out is the Quais by the Batofar alongside the Seine near the Bibliothèque nationale. This 'beach' may lack sand, but the relaxed environment, deckchairs and umbrellas, as well as the riverside setting will make you feel like you are by the sea when the sun goes down! Expect live concerts and DJs most nights as well as a restaurant which has had very good reviews recently.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tous à la Plage!

From Tuesday 20th July until Friday 20th August, parts of Paris will once again be transformed into a beach. Trucks and barges have brought the 2000 tonnes of sand in from a quarry in the Paris suburbs, and deckchairs and umbrellas have come out of storage, been dusted down and are now in place!

At weekends expect large crowds along the Seine, but a more relaxed atmosphere on the Quai de Loire near La Villette. At this site you will also be able to get out onto the water too on canoes, pedaloes and even giant floating balls!

Weekends however will also see a series of free concerts in front of the Hotel de Ville organised by the FNAC chain of shops. A full listing of the concerts, including sets from Tricky and Nada Surf can be found here.

For practical information on where the Paris Plages are, opening times and what to expect, click here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

La Fourchette helps cut bills in half

Restaurants are often the hardest hit in a recession, with many struggling to make it through the difficult times. How can they continue to attract clients through the door when people have less money to spend? Simple - make prices 50% cheaper!

La Fourchette provides a list of restaurants in France and helps you to make direct online reservations, but crucially it also displays those offering special offers, which often go as far as a 50% reduction on the total bill.

I have personally tried the service on two occasions and found it simple and efficient. Choose the restaurant, then the day and the time, and a few seconds later you will receive a confirmation by e-mail and text message. However, when turning up at the restaurant, things are sometimes far more discrete. The waiter makes no mention of the service, and you are left wondering whether there will be the promised reduction or not.

The reason for this is obvious. Alongisde, other diners will be paying the full prices, and it would hurt business if everybody eating in the restaurant knew about the reductions!

Don’t expect to find any Michelin starred establishments on the La Fourchette list, but the two restaurants I ate at were perfectly acceptable (particularly L’Entre Deux on the Rue de Belleville). Note also that reductions normally don’t cover drinks, but this is perhaps part of the gamble for certain restaurant owners who hope that clients will spend some of their savings on wine, where margins are much higher.

A win/win initiative for everybody!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Welcome to Paris Weekends

Welcome to Paris Weekends, an official Invisible Paris spin-off! Why have I decided to create another blog though and what do I hope to achieve with it? The first question is a simple one to answer. This new blog stems from the ‘Something for the Weekend’ series of posts on my Invisible Paris blog, where I make suggestions for more offbeat weekend activities for both visitors and locals in Paris. I have been running this series for over a year now, and feel that it has now outgrown its spot on Invisible Paris, and deserves a place of its own!

What do I hope to achieve with it? Well, my objectives have always been to share my fascination with Paris, and to try and point out things that people may otherwise overlook. I will run the Something for the Weekend posts here, but I will also blog on anything else I come across that I think will help people to get the most from their time in Paris, even people who have lived here all their lives!

I have also seperated these subjects from my Invisible Paris themes because I have been getting large quantities of press releases that I simply could not use on that blog, as well as more and more offers for collaborations that I felt unable to honour. With this blog, I will be able to share more information with you, and hopefully pass on details of interesting offers and projects.

Hasn't this all been done before though? Most probably, but not that I'm aware of! I have nothing to sell here, and am just interested in being an independant source, passing on useful information about Paris in a blog format. Of course there will be posts about commercial offers, but if I don't think that they are of interest, I won't publish them!

Invisible Paris will therefore revert back to its obscure origins, and Paris Weekends will be its noisy younger brother! I will be relying on interaction from as many people as possible for this new project though, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if any of the following apply to you:

  • You want advice on getting the best out of your time in Paris.
  • You have a service related to Paris that you would like me to promote.
  • You have a Paris related blog or website, and you’d like to exchange links.
  • You have suggestions about how I could improve the blog!

Hope to hear from you soon!