Thursday, August 26, 2010

Something for the Weekend (27th - 29th August)

It's already the last weekend in August, and there are many signs that Paris is coming back to life after the summer break. Finding a baguette has become less of a challenge, as has finding some organised events in the city! Here's my selection for the weekend.

Rock en Seine
The last weekend in August is synonymous in the UK with both the Reading festival and the Notting Hill carnival, but in France there has been no similar event to mark the end of the summer. This may well be changing now though with the Rock en Seine festival in Saint Cloud which is now in its 5th year and which seems to get bigger and better each year. This year's bill includes Massive Attack and Arcade Fire, but there is one small problem - the event is sold out! However, if you are quick enough, you may be able to purchase one of the 200 tickets that will be put on sale each morning (27th, 28th, 29th) on the official website.

La Fête de Ganesh
The district around La Chapelle and the Faubourg Saint Denis is home to a sizeable Hindu community, and once a year they gather together to celebrate the god Ganesha. This year the event will take place on Sunday with celebrations first at the Temple de Sri Manicka Vinayakar Alayam, then will continue with a spectacular street parade.
For more details and the itinery, see

Le Grand Ramdam
Another community, another celebration. The end of the summer also coincides this year with ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As the sun goes down though, feasting can begin, perhaps also to the accompaniment of music. This is the goal of an event at the La Villette park this Saturday, which combines live Maghrebin music with free dates and mint tea!

The Festival Silhouette
Visiting the Buttes Chaumont park is always a good idea, but even more so when special events are organised. This weekend sees the beginning of the Festival Silhouette in the park, a series of concerts followed by projections of short films. The live music begins at 7.30pm and the films at 9pm each evening with the festival concluding on Sunday 5th September.
See for more details and the full programme of events.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Where to find decent vegetarian food in Paris

A few years ago I went to a restaurant in France with a vegetarian friend. After looking down a menu with few possibilities, we eventually decided that the Onion soup would be fine. That decision turned out to be a particularly bad one when she unearthed a large bone at the bottom of the dish. I had quite forgotten that a decent onion soup would be made with a beef stock!

I learned my lesson that day, and now when I have vegetarian visitors, I make sure we go to restaurants that cater specifically for them. Finding these establishments is easier said than done though, which is why I was particularly happy to come across this exhaustive list of vegetarian restaurants in Paris on the very useful Posted in Paris website.

One or two of these are of the fairly hardcore variety and quite joyless places to eat, but I can particularly recommend Le Potager du Marais. Business must be good there as they recently extended in neighbouring premises!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Something for the Weekend (20th - 22nd August)

Despite the predicted hot weather this weekend, there is definitely an end of the summer feel about it. Paris Plages ends on Friday and various other events will also be drawing to a close before Paris enters full 'rentrée' mode, so it will be your last chance to get some summer fun before the autumn arrives!

Outdoor cinema
The cinema en plein air at La Villette and the Cinema au clair de lune festivals both end this weekend. At La Villette you can cry during L'Enfant by the Dardennes brothers on Friday, or dance during Grease on Sunday night. If you are there on Sunday, why not also try the Boat Movie, a trip along the canal in the company of an actor who will play scenes from famous films and point out some film locations along the way?

The final films in the Clair de Lune season this weekend are Tombés du ciel at the Place des Fêtes on Friday, La vie de chateau at the Pelouse de Reuilly on Saturday, and finally La Science des rêves at Les Halles on Sunday.

Paris slide
A rather awkward use of English for an event in the Bois de Vincennes that groups together an artificial beach with skating and BMX tracks. All activities are free, and you can even borrow material ranging from bicycles to baseball bats and balls.
1pm - 7pm (ends Sunday)
Pelouse de Reuilly, M° Porte Dorée

Sweep me off my feet
A trip out to Vitry sur Seine might not be everyone's idea of a great weekend activity, especially one that entails both a Metro and bus journey. However, the Emporte moi/Sweep me off my feet exhibition at the Mac/Val arts centre will make you think that it was a worthwhile effort. Focussing on the eternal subject of how love is represented in art, the curators have brought together the works of around 40 artists, including Andy Warhol and Sophie Calle, to produce an amusing and original exhibition.
Full details on the exhbition and how to get to the Mac/Val can be found on the website - but beware, it's a fantastically unhelpful site!

Guingette Eiffel
If you are looking for somewhere original to eat, drink and dance this weekend, why not at the foot of the Eiffel tower? A temporary club with a 300m² terrace has been set up on the Quai alongside the Old lady, offering not only a bar and DJs, but also a restaurant. Entrance is normally 10 Euros, but is free all night if you sign up on the guest list beforehand.

Monday, August 16, 2010


(Post already published on Invisible Paris, October 4th 2009)
In Paris, an individual spends around 85 minutes travelling each day, with the majority of this time on passed on public transport. As around 25% of Parisians are single, these daily commutes would seem to offer an ideal opportunity for lonely hearts to meet. Fortunately, two young men are on hand to ensure that cupid travels with them.

Whenever we talk about the project, people always want to know two things; why we do it and whether it works” Timothée Peignier, co-founder of a website called tells me. The site gives individuals who caught a glimpse of a potential future love of their life on public transport the chance to find that person again. The result is a list of touching, but often sad messages from people now desperate to initiate communication but with little hope of succeeding. So does it work?

Honestly, we don’t know” replies Tristan Daeschner, the other co-founder. “In any case we consider this aspect to be part of people’s private lives. Our objective was just to give them the means and the opportunity to meet” he adds.

Je vous ai croisé dans le métro dimanche en fin de matinée. On s’est regardé dans le wagon, en descendant vous m’avez marché sur les pieds et vous m’avez souhaité “bonne chance”. On s’est regardé quand vous êtes descendu, mais moi je suis restée. Je le regrette aujourd’hui..

After placing a message on the website, the individual later receives any replies directly at their given e-mail address. Timothée and Tristan will know the number of replies an individual has received, but the contents of these messages remains a secret.

The service has now been running for a little over 6 months and has spread to other cities around France and Belgium. London and New York should follow soon – once the creators have found a suitable translation for the website name!* However, each time they launch a new city, there are a whole series of cultural and sociological questions to answer. Who takes public transport in these cities and how do people react to each other? As an example, Lyon has taken well to the service, but the inhabitants of Marseille still seem reluctant. “For New York, maybe we'll have to launch” wonders Timothée.

15h30/16h00. Nos regards se sont croisés. Tu as intercepté mon regard et tu m’as fixé droit dans les yeux. J’ai cru que mon coeur allait explosé…..J’aurais du te parler. J’espère te recroiser dans le métro et cette fois je viendrai te voir..

The question that springs to mind is why Parisians, notorious romantics and ‘dragueurs’ should need such a service. A false notion believe the two young men. “People in Paris are as timid as anyone else on public transport” says Tristan. Perhaps it is the fear of being rejected in front of a packed carriage of fellow commuters, or perhaps there is just a simple respect of distance in this crowded environment. Whatever the reason is, it is a service that seems to have found its place in this city.

Why did the two men start the service though? “Obviously we were inspired by other services such as the letters in the free Metro newspaper and the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. We felt though that there was no dedicated web service available for this subject, and as we both work in the internet industry, we thought that we’d launch something in our spare time”. Curiously, they have no plan to earn any money from their service beyond covering the expenses of the site. In fact, one could almost conclude that the two are romantics and are happy to act simply as a free dating agency. They are so inspired by the project that they constantly thinking of ways to improve the concept. A 'live' iPhone service has been postponed because the technology is not yet in place underground, but other spin-offs may soon appear. "We would like to print some of the messages on paper and hand them out on the Metro" says Tristan. "We also thought about getting an actor to read out some of the messages too" he adds.

Beyond the worthy intentions of the site creators, it is the messages themselves that have become the star of the show. They are a poetic account of life in today's big cities, providing a snapshot of brief encounters; two people who shared eye contact and exchanged smiles but who never quite managed to meet and talk. Sprinkled throughout the messages are words of regret, expressing how the scene could have played out differently, and a general despair that the tongue is more discreet than the eyes. However, there are some messages that simply celebrate the beauty of the moment, with the authors not even looking for any kind of follow-up.

Tu mangeais une barquette de mures avec un regard malicieux, cela m’a fait sourire. Tu m’as remarqué et m’as tendu la barquette… Jamais je n’aurais pensé accepter un fruit (defendu) d’une personne encore il y a si peu inconnue. Et pourtant… nous avons partagé cette barquette de mures, le temps d’un instant que j’aurais souhaité plus long. Puis je suis descendue de la rame, sans te donner mon nom, sans te demander le tien. Peut être est ce mieux de garder ce moment partagé si parfait..

For the two creators of, the quality of the messages was more of a pleasant surprise. "We didn't really expect the messages to be so poetic at first" explains Timothée, "but now we want it to be a mark of our service. Visitors to the site can now rate the quality of the messages, and we think that this will help us to encourage more people to use the site". By doing this, they also hope to avoid the slightly seedy side that could have crept in. A few dubious visitors have appeared, but they are quickly identified and warned away.

Nous sommes montés dans la même rame et déjà (un peu) inséparables nous nous sommes assis côte à côte. Je te sentais tout près et je ne pourrais expliquer la raison pour laquelle je me suis sentie si attirée et en sécurité. J’ai fermé les yeux, imaginé que je penchais ma tête pour la poser sur ton épaule, et que tu me disais “Pourquoi ne nous sommes pas rencontrés plus tôt?”… à moins que ce moment soit vraiment arrivé…Puis est venu le moment pour moi de descendre, j’espèrais que tu me suivrais… Mon regret est de ne pas m’être retournée pour croiser ton regard une dernière fois, pour te montrer que je n’avais pas réellement envie de m’éloigner.

So if you are looking for love, are there any particular parts of the city in which you should travel? "We haven't noticed any patterns so far" says Tristan Daeschner. "Of course, the Line 1 and Montparnasse and Saint Lazare, the busiest places, have seen the most encounters, but it seems that this kind of thing can happen anywhere at anytime". And is there any particular age or sex? "Not at all" says Timothée Peignier. "It can be man looking to contact a woman, a woman looking for a man, a man who wants to find another man he saw, and we even had quite a mature lady who was looking to contact a young girl she'd seen on the Metro. She said that it was a sentiment she'd never had before". Perhaps proof then that anything is possible on public transport in Paris!

*Literally ‘crossed in the metro’ as it stands. If you can think of a word that implies a fleeting, wordless encounter, make your suggestion in the comments below and I’ll pass it on to them!

Secondly, a quick mention about the the logo (see above) and website, excellent work by a young designer called Lorena Foucher. The logo was transformed into a sticker which the two site creators stuck to the end of the Metro maps in the carriages as a means of promoting their service. Many people noticed the stickers and several connected to the site specifically to request copies, which they then themselves later placed on their journeys. This communication is about the closest that the two co-founders have got to their users so far, but they are still hopeful that they will soon receive news of a happy reunion!

Tristan Daeschner and Timothée Peignier from

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Something for the Weekend (13th – 15th August)

It’s Friday the 13th, but there’s no need to be afraid. In fact, many people in France consider it to be a lucky day, and the numbers of people playing the weekly lottery shoots up! Try your luck at the following places this weekend.

Note: The 15th August (Sunday) is a Public Holiday in France. Municipal museums and swimming pools will be closed, and you may also find several extra shops and cafés with their shutters down.

A free Tricky concert

Tricky has had his ups and downs, but his live concerts are always an event, especially when they are free. The organisers of the Festival Fnac Indétendances have saved their biggest star until the final weekend, and you’ll be able to catch Tricky at the Hotel de Ville on Friday night – performing now in his new home town!

Hotel de Ville,75004

From 5pm

Classique au vert

After the early summer Jazz festival, the Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes opens its stage to a classical music festival until the beginning of Autumn. The site is magnificent, with the stage overlooking a small lake and landscaped gardens, and it is possible to enjoy a picnic whilst listening to the music. The rest of the park is also well worth a visit, especially if you have children.

Each Saturday and Sunday at 4pm until 26th September.

Parc Floral de Paris, M° : Château de Vincennes

Full programme:

Last Chance
This weekend gives you the last chance to visit two fascinating photography exhibitions.

Paris d'Amour : ‘Paris d'Amour’ can literally be translated in English into ‘gambles in love’, and here it applies to the act of getting married (or signing a civil contract !), which is always a leap into the unknown. The photographer Gérard Uféras spent two years taking pictures at 70 different marriage ou ‘pacs’ ceremonies, highlighting the many different cultures and lifestyles of the capital. The results are both amusing and touching.

Final day : Saturday 14th August.

Hotel de Ville

Willy Ronis: Although this exhibition continues for another week yet, what better moment to visit than the 14th August, the day when Willy Ronis would have celebrated his 100th birthday? This photography legend didn’t quite make it to his own centenary, but he did help to organise this wonderful retrospective of his career.

Monnaie de Paris

11 quai de Conti, 75006

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get on the Guestlist!

A new iPhone tool for Paris has been released which describes itself as “the essential app for the fashionable European jet-setter”, but what does this translate as exactly? Here’s a quick investigation for you.

The application is called Paris Guestlist and is geared towards both visitors to Paris and those living locally. The basic idea behind it is a simple one – to list parties and events taking place across the capital and to give you the possibility to add yourself to the guest lists.

It has the standard Google map in the centre of the screen, with the days of the week across the top. The locations of the events are plotted on the map, and colour coded according to the day of the week on which they are taking place. You can therefore search for an event by location or for the particular day you are planning to go out.

Looking at the application today though, it seems as if it is very much in soft launch mode. There are currently very few events listed, but there is the promise that many are on their way. What kinds of events will be featured? For the creators of the tool, the events should include “nightclubs, art-galleries, private parties, spring and summer picnics and outdoor festivals, black-tie galas and balls, private-sales, fashion shows, and sample sales”.

The idea is a very interesting one as it appeals to people’s desire to be ‘in the know’ and to feel special. It is impossible to say currently though whether it will offer truly exclusive events or whether it will simply be another means to promote happenings that are already amply promoted elsewhere.

The tool comes in two versions. A Lite version which is free to download, and a version to purchase which offers some additional features (share events on Facebook, sign up on guestlists via SMS or email…).

There is also a simplified internet version of the tool.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Something for the Weekend (6th - 8th August)

August in Paris is all about being outside - for as long as possible! Here are some suggestions for activities this weekend in the city of lights when the light begins to fade.

Les Nuit des Etoiles
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the nuits des étoiles, an event which aims to help people to observe and understand the sky above them. Clear skies are predicted this weekend, but with light pollution it is very difficult to observe stars above Paris, so to get the best from this event you'll need to head out to the suburbs. In the Paris region the two most interesting events would appear to be an observation of Saturn and the summer sky, and a midnight walk in the Parc du Vexin.

See for the full list of planned events across France.

Cinema au Clair de Lune
The Cinema au Clair de Lune season in August projects films outside in different parts of the city, if possible in places that have some relevance to the films concerned. Three films are programmed for this weekend:

Friday 6th, 9.30pm
Le Péril jeune (Cédric Klapisch)
Parc Montsouris
RER Cité-Universitaire

Saturday 7th, 9.30pm
La Bête humaine (Jean Renoir)
Parc André Citroën (why not at Saint Lazare ??)
M° Balard

Sunday 8th 9.30pm
Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix)
Jardins du Trocadéro

M° Trocadéro

Films also continue outside at La Villette this weekend:
Friday 6th
C.R.A.Z.Y (Jean-Marc Vallée)

Saturday 7th
Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Sunday 8th
Les Valseuses (Bertrand Blier) over 16s only!

"Breizh Touch" - a Fest Noz at the Hotel de Ville
As part of the music festival accompanying Paris Plages, a special Brittany-themed evening is programmed for Saturday night. Expect plenty of singing, dancing - and cider!
From 5pm
M° Hotel de Ville

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Replacing the Guide Book?

A new startup, yogoguide, based in Portland, Oregon, have launched a new web and smartphone based service that they believe will replace the traditional guide book in the traveller's luggage. The first city to be featured - and the company's flagship site - is Paris, so I gave it a go to see how well it does the job.

The website is built around a central map feature and functions in Flash. After connecting, first impressions are good. The site is attractive, and the colour-defined features
(sights, activities, maps) are very clear and simple to use. Perhaps most of important of all though, it is fast, quicker even than Google maps.

The smartphone version functions first with the list of sections, helping you to find for example bars, restaurants or hotels in a particular district, then provides a link to the exact spots on Google maps.

The company have clearly spent a lot of time on the design of the tool and it is a design that works. However, such services live and die by the quality of the spots that they suggest, and it is here that the yogoguide is still clearly a work in progress. For example, when searching for Chinese restaurants, there wasn't a single address from Belleville or the 13th arrondissement, the city's Chinese districts.

The company have assured me that they are constantly adding listings to their service and filling the gaps, and they also encourage users to suggest and rate spots. When this feature becomes a little more active, the yogoguide will become an excellent and practical tool. Whether this will eventually replace the guide book or not though is another matter!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Free Parking in Paris!

Ordinarily I would never recommend to people that they visit Paris by car, but in August the situation is different. Firstly the roads are quieter, and secondly - and perhaps more importantly - 87% of the parking spaces in the city are free of charge for the whole month.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises though, you need to know about the other 13%! Generally these are the parking spaces on the busiest roads and in the most touristic areas, but just to be sure, make sure you check this complete list. (a PDF document in French. Payant = with charge, Gratuit = without charge!)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Where to find a baguette in August

It is estimated that two-thirds of all Parisians take their holidays in August, and the boulangère is no exception. The result? It can seem almost impossible to find a decent baguette or croissant outside of the chain outlets and supermarkets in Paris during this month. Help is at hand though from the city of Paris and their list of all the establishments across the city that are open in August.

Their featured address for August? Le Grenier à Pain in the Rue des Abbesses, winner of this year's 'best baguette in Paris' competition!