About Secrets of Paris

American-born travel journalist and guidebook author Heather Stimmler-Hall created the Secrets of Paris in 1999 to share the hidden side of the City of Light. Discover what you've been missing:

* Custom Travel Content 
* Free Paris Resource Guide
* Calendar of interesting Paris events
* Private Tours
* Monthly Secrets of Paris newsletter
* Secrets of Paris Videos

Read more about the Secrets of Paris here


Calendar of Paris Events

March 10
Heather will be the featured guest speaker at Parler Paris Après Midi, discussing the topic "How Parisian Women Do It: Feminism & Femininity in the City of Light". Naughty Paris Guides will be available for €25 (cash only).  From 3-5pm, upstairs at Café de la Mairie, corner of Rue des Archives and Rue de Bretagne, 3rd. Free entry.

March 17
Sex & Booze: An Erotic Book Club at The Chamber, where we'll be reading Story of O by Anne Declos, drinking cocktails, and talking about...well, sex. Limited to 8 women only, 8-10pm in a private home; sign up while there's space!

March 20-21
You will have a rare chance  to hear Betthoven's towering masterpiece Missa Solemnis for a modest price at either Saint Eustache or the American Cathedral, and to see for yourself the high standard reached by the Paris Choral Society. Don't wait -- order your tickets online now at www.parischoralsociety.org

Click here to see the full calendar of events...

Secrets of Paris gives 10% of all tour fees
to the French food bank, Les Restos du Coeur

Friday
Mar132015

Renewing Your American Passport in Paris

Every ten years I have to renew my US passport. When you live in Paris, you do it through the US Embassy by mailing in your old one with the fee and photo and special forms you need to fill out and print. There are very specific directions on how to do this, so it's not a mystery, but it is time consuming and requires a bit of running around and QUITE a bit of cash. 

Passport Photo (only a few places in Paris will do the "approved" format) €9.95 + 60 minutes to get there, get photo and return home.

Mandat Cash (money order) €105 + fee €7 + 20 minutes at the Post Office banking counter getting the Mandat (you can't do it at the mailing counter).

2 Chronopost envelopes (one to mail my passport to the Embassy, one self addressed for them to send my new one) €50 + 20 minutes to get the envelopes and pay at the Post Office (including arguing with the clerk who wouldn't let me tear off and keep the top copy, as directed by the embassy).

Plus 20 minutes to find, read, fill out the online forms and print them at home. 

Total cost: €171.95

Total time: 2 hours (plus "4-6 weeks" to receive my new passport)

Annoyance level: High

The US Embassy is only 20 minutes from my flat, but they won't let you come to the Embassy in person to renew and pick up your passport, which would save on the Chronopost envelopes and cash mandat fees and the trips to La Poste (I'd rather wait in line at the awesome US Embassy than my boring neighborhood post office). The only time you can go to the Embassy is to get a new passport, if your name has legally changed, or to replace a stolen or damaged passport, and even then, if you live here (ie it's not urgent) you need an appointment. And taking a peek, I see the earliest one available is April 17th. 

So now I'm waiting to see if my new passport will arrive before my next trip to the US in June! 

As an aside, I'm also getting my first French passport. I currently have a French National ID card (issued free to all French citizens as proof of ID, and can be used traveling in Europe). My appointment for that is April 2nd, at the police station a block from my flat, and the cost is €86, which I can pay with Timbres Fiscaux (special stamps you can buy quickly with cash at any tabac; one is across the street from me). Official French passport photos can be purchased in any photomat in the Paris metro (usually €5 for 4). So why not just get a French passport and use that instead of my US one? Because it's illegal for me to enter the United States with a foreign passport (one of the rules of double nationality). Still, I think in a pinch it's nice to have both on hand. Plus I won't have to wait (or go in a roundabout way) to go to Cuba. :-) 

Wednesday
Mar042015

Newsletter #150

In this Issue:
* Heather’s Book Tour
* Where Did February Go
* Paris Travel Planning
* Discount Train Tickets
* Recommended Reading for March
* Dine with the Locals
* Paris Dining News
* Paris Nightlife
* Tech Help for Smartphones & Tablets
* Shopping for Photographic Prints
* Innovative Smoke Detectors
* French Knives
* March Events

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jan102015

Newsletter #149: January 9, 2015

In this Issue:

* I am Charlie
* Heather’s US Tour
* Plan Your Vacation without Going Crazy
* Travel Beyond Paris
* Prices Hikes in Metro, Post, Parking
* I Was Wrong: Don't Vandalize
* Anti-Café WiFi Lounges
* Recycled Moving Boxes
* Paris in the Press
* Secrets of Paris News & Calendar

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan092015

Je Suis Charlie

Updated on Friday, January 9, 2015 by Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall

Updated on Saturday, January 10, 2015 by Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall

Updated on Sunday, January 11, 2015 by Registered CommenterHeather Stimmler-Hall

What it's like for an American living in Paris during terrorist attacks. 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan062015

Christmas in France

A guest post by Sharon Autry (click on any photo to see the full size image).

Traveling to France is exciting anytime of the year, but going for Christmas is a vacation you won't soon forget. Paris and all of France dresses for the occasion with lights and decorations which transforms the cities and shopping areas into nothing short of a magical winter wonderland. Having just spent two weeks visiting Paris and Strasbourg, I can say my own decorating skills pale in comparison; the French know how to do it up big!

My Christmas journey began in Paris and took me through the decorated cobblestone streets where the shopkeepers put on their best look for the holiday. I visited several churches to see the Nativity scenes, and then strolled through Luxembourg Gardens. They’re sleeping until spring, but the Medici Fountain is a still beautiful even in the throes of winter.

I have been to Paris before and each time I stood UNDER the Eiffel Tower but never could convince myself to go up into it. This time I decided I would see what all the fuss was about. I highly recommend taking the elevator up because unless you carry an extra pair of legs with you, it will be a long way up and quite a muscle workout. The view from the tower – even just the second level -- cannot be beat: all of Paris is at your feet!

I took a daytrip one hour south of the city to the Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte, an absolute must see on your Christmas itinerary. There is nothing to compare the exquisite decorations in each and every room. If you're looking for inspirational holiday decorating ideas for your own home, this is the crème de la crème. The current owners live on the grounds in a different part of the château and as I toured the gardens and the rooms I couldn’t help but envy them for living in such a magical place.

There is a growing anticipation, I am told, every year when the private Musée des Arts Forains (aka Museum of Carnival Arts) opens to the public for the holidays. I was there when the doors opened and I can understand the enthusiastic crowds because this was one man's collection of antique carnival rides, memorabilia, statues and fun games of chance (which you can play).

The main draw of France for me was the idea of visiting the many Christmas markets that are everywhere, filled with regional foods, mulled wine, pastries and those coveted ornaments and decorations that you just can't find anywhere else. I browsed through quite a few in Paris, including the large one along the Champs Élyseés with its magical lights and people going about their gift shopping. But the ultimate destination was to Strasbourg for three days of shopping, sightseeing and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

Strasbourg is called the Capital of Christmas, and for good reason: the very first Christmas Market opened there in 1570. Today there are actually 11 markets spread out throughout the town, and in between them every single inch of the town is decorated with lights and ornaments, including the streets, alleyways and buildings. In the main square is the largest Christmas tree in all of Europe! Standing watch at the center of it all is the magnificent Strasbourg Cathedral. If you are a brave soul and want to experience the town and all the surrounding landscape, you can walk up the 333 steps to the top of the cathedral’s tower and enjoy the view.

While in Strasbourg, I visited the Strasbourg Historical Museum that told the story of the region from the Roman times through the Middle Ages and the French Revolution. A newly opened section highlights the struggle the Alsatians endured when they were annexed to Prussia in 1871 and then occupied in WWII by the German Army. I also visited the Alsatian Museum of Art and Folk Tradition, which shares the unique heritage of the Alsatian people. I highly recommend seeing both of these.

Even with the chilly, wet weather, both Paris and Strasbourg are worth a visit during the holidays when they’re full of Christmas cheer in every shop, restaurant, museum and outdoor market. Come with your warmest mittens and an appetite for mulled wine and foie gras!

Sharon Autry lives in Gettysburg, PA, where she takes photos of the historic battlefields for her website Gettysburg Beat

Saturday
Dec132014

Sexy Shows & Fabulous Giveaways at the Paris Burlesque Festival

This week is the 6th annual Paris Burlesque Festival, celebrating the theme "Burlesque & Politics: Pin-Ups Take Power!" at the new Centre Barbara (cultural center near metro Barbès, 18th). The opening night is the election of "Miss PBF 2014" followed by three nights of La Grande Revue performances (twice nightly). Get your tickets online in advance (seated "assis" spots go fast!). On the final evening there is an all-night dance party with live bands and burlesque performances at La Java (dance club near République).

Naughty Paris Will be There! 

The Naughty Guides will have a stand in the festival lounge to welcome guests between shows, with special pre-launch prices on the new edition of Naughty Paris and fun giveaway drawings each night for fabulously naughty prizes. On the final night Saturday the 20th I'll be there signing books before heading over to La Java to dance the night away at La Nuit Fatale...I hope you can join us for the fun!

For more information visit the Naughty Paris website.