Welcome to my new weekly blog series, Passionate About Paris. Maybe you’re a first time visitor, or like me a can’t-get-enough-of-Paris devotee. Perhaps you’re mildly curious about the City of Light. Whatever your feelings about Paris, I hope you’ll find in these posts some ideas to inspire, hints to help and a sense of sharing what’s great about this awesome city.
I’m going to start with some advice on finding out what’s on and where (but not the tourist guide) and how to get there.
One of the first things I do on arrival in Paris is pick up a copy of Pariscope from the Maison de la Presse news kiosks which you’ll find on many streets and all the main boulevards. Published every Wednesday it’s an inexpensive ‘What’s On’ listings magazine with all you’ll need to know about music, museums, clubs, dining and entertainment.
Don’t be dissuaded if your French skills are rusty (or non-existent). The index showing restaurants, cinemas, museums and so on uses words that very similar in English and the listings themselves are easy to understand once you have the tools. If you don’t speak French an entry such as ‘tlj sauf mar’ may seem totally incomprehensible, but with some basic tools at hand all will become clear:
Days of the week
Dim/Dimanche:Sunday; Lun/Lundi: Monday; Mar/Mardi: Tuesday; Mer/Mercredi: Wednesday; Jeu/Jeudi: Thursday; Ven/Vendredi:Friday Sam/Samedi: Saturday
tlj : tous les jours – every day; sauf : except; v.o. : version originale – original version
So a museum listing which reads: ‘tlj sauf mar’, means ‘open every day except Tuesday’.
Missed a much-anticipated film on the cinema circuit at home or want to try the French cinema experience? ‘I’d like to’, you say to yourself, ‘but it’ll be dubbed in French’. Once again Pariscope comes to the rescue. Any film whose original soundtrack is in English will have ‘v.o’, meaning version originale, or original version in brackets beside the title. Yes, there’ll be French subtitles, but the soundtrack will be just the same as at home. Take the opportunity to try out the little arthouse cinemas dotted all over the city.
Other information will include opening times, prices and the nearest Métro station. Armed with Pariscope and the street map and rail guide called ‘Paris Pratique’ (details below), which is available from bookshops and tourist offices you’re armed with all the information to go where the Parisians go.
‘Paris Pratique’ is another indispensable and inexpensive guide with detailed street maps, as well as maps for the Métro (underground) and RER rail lines. The Métro system covers the city, extending just beyond the Boulevard Peripherique, the dual carriageway which encircles the city. The RER trains serve the suburbs and intersect with the Métro at a number of stations. Lightweight and small enough to slip into a pocket, these maps are perfect for planning your day over a cafe crème in a pavement cafe, while indulging in that most Parisian of pastimes, people-watching.
Districts in Paris are divided into arrondissements. The 4th arrondissement, for example, is usually written as 4me. Arrt. If an address is shown as as Paris 75004, the last number determines which arrondissement it’s in – in this case it’s the 4th.
Here’s some ideas for those travelling to Paris this month:
Chocolate lovers travelling to Paris in the next day or two will find themselves in chocolate heaven. The chocolate fair Chocorama is being held on November 11,12 & 13 from 1100-2000 daily at the Espace des Blancs Manteaux, 48 rue Vielle du Temple in the Marais district (Métro: Hotel de Ville). Admission is free, with music, dancing and sculptures forming part of the show. Among the speakers will be Dr Herve Robert, author of books on the health benefits of chocolate, along with tastings, demonstrations and workshops. For more details go to the ChocoParis website.
The Festival D’Automne runs from September to December each year and showcases contemporary arts at various venues throughout the city. More details are on their website, or call into the festival organisers’ office at 156 rue de Rivoli, Paris 75001.
The third Thursday in November each year is when the whole of France celebrates the release of the new Beaujolais Nouveau wine. Uncorked at midnight, restaurants and bistros host Beaujolais Nouveau parties and it’s particularly popular in the Latin Quarter (5th arrt). For more about Beaujolais Nouveau go to the Wine Weekly website.
And finally…..Happy Birthday to the Louvre, which opened on November 8th, a mere 218 years ago.