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Paris: What’s hot (and what’s not) in 2012

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Paris Moulin Rouge
A view of the Moulin Rouge from, gulp!, Starbucks. Photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack—

I’ve decided to kick-off the grand New Year with another shot of what’s red-hot and what’s not in Paris. I’ll also include a few cool tips. So grab a chair and a spiked cuppa because it’s about to get real in the City of Light!

1. Je ne regrette rien—NOT.

Dear Musée Edith Piaf, You broke my heart. Was it really necessary to slam the door in my face back in November when I arrived at your doorstep without a set rendezvous? I’ve loved you since my first visit back in 1998, and every visit since. So what gives? Do the math. For over a decade, I’ve been sending folks your way. In this easy, breezy social media world, perhaps a new system is needed? Just asking.

Anna's music box shop Paris

Regrette rien at Anna's music box shop.

If operations get switched up for the better, do let me know. Nothing in this world would give me more pleasure than happily spreading the word about the “little sparrow” and your collection once more. (5 Rue Crespin du Gast, 75011)

Happy alternative plays on

Yearning for a little “La Vie en Rose” to take home with you? Then trek it to Boîtes à Musique Anna Joliet. Located at the northern end of the Jardin du Palais Royal, Anna and her collection of hand-cranked music boxes have held court here for three decades. Prices start at only €8.

Looking for a specific tune? Just ask. Listen for Debussy, Chopin, and Charles Trénet, along with Mozart, Beethoven and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yes, fellow felines, “Memory” is always in stock.

Paris Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou. All that plumbing... and not one decent toilet.

2. Skip the loo—entirely.

Dear Centre Pompidou, I love you, but it’s time to clean up your act, as my grandmother Helen would quip. I’m no restroom diva, but golly gee wham—I nearly fainted during a recent visit. All that piping on the outside of the building and there’s still a problem? It makes the mind reel! Perhaps it’s time to get Point WC on the horn. After all, their restrooms at the Louvre and Printemps are state of the art and consistently spotless. It’s just a thought.

By the way, the Point WC washrooms are pretty hot. One euro gets you private seating in a water closet lit by rose-colored lights, and stocked with fluorescent toilet paper in blues, pinks, and greens. Just don’t leave your soda pop bottle behind. They will hunt you down, and give you a scolding at sink side! My-O-My, bad.

Alternative pit stop

Cheapos, if you plan to visit the Centre Pompidou, pick your potty spot prior to your arrival. Or run nearby to the grand washrooms at the BHV department store (Bazaar de l’Hotel de Ville), which also boasts one of my pet views of Paris. It’s a straight shot down rue du Renard. Make a left at rue Rivoli. It’s also definitely worth the wait (or trot)!

So what’s red hot? Follow my lead!

Farewell, Sympa.

1. Sympa

Due to a recent fire, two of my favorite Sympa shops have closed. Located at the historic “Bal de l’Elysée Montmartre,” this is where Can Can starlet (and muse of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) La Goulue got her start before joining the Moulin Rouge.

I nearly cried when I spotted the damage. Confession: I did cry. Its façade is still a beauty, on the outside at least. I’ll keep you posted on any future reconstruction work.

In the meantime, the Sympa bargain bins on rue Steinkerque and along Boulevard de Rochechouart are still overflowing with tremendous deals.

Starbucks Paris Moulin Rouge

Wendy at the Starbucks kitty-corner to the Moulin Rouge.

2. Starbucks

Café Royalists, look away because you’re going to hate this tip. During my sister Wen’s recent trip to Paris, the Starbucks at Place Blanche is where she picked up her morning coffee.

Located kitty-corner to the Moulin Rouge, the place was bustling, but by the end of her week-long visit, the amiable staff not only knew her name, but also her standard “Café Latte skim” order. Did they make fun of her French? I don’t think so!

Inside and out, the jaunty joint was packed with locals, not tourists, by the way. Don’t hate me because I’m truthful.

Pumped and ready at Minutit moins 7.

3. Minuit moins 7

And speaking of red hot steals, I recently scored a pair of Christian Louboutin kitten heels at a flea market for just €15. They’re real and they’re spectacular. Except for the soles, the black leather shoes were in perfect condition.

So what to do? I took them to the Minuit moins 7 for a much-needed official red resoling. Located in the historic passage Véro-Dodat, the repair will cost just €20. Also, this is where Monsieur Louboutin takes his very own shoes. Ask about their signature homemade (and affordable) shoe polish.

Bibliotheque Forney Paris

"Gaz à les étages around 1880" at the Bibliothèque Forney

4. Bibliothèque Forney

While strolling about in the Marais, I stumbled upon the “Gaz à tous les étages” exhibition at the Bibliothèque Forney in the Hotel de Sens (1 rue du Figuier, 75004). It’s definitely worth a pop in. Named as a nod to the little blue enamel signs that can still be spotted on buildings throughout the City of Light (“All floors have gas”—a 19th century boasting), the exhibit recounts the brilliant history of gas in Paris.

Highlights include antique lighting and cooking equipment, gas company uniforms, and a stellar collection of advertising posters along with a 1920s kitchen and hair salon, an Art Nouveau bathroom, and Frédéric Kastner’s weirdly entrancing gas organ. It’s a looker, and one of only two in the world. “Gaz à tous” will stay on through January 28, 2012.

Happy New Year, Cheapos!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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3 thoughts on “Paris: What’s hot (and what’s not) in 2012”

  1. Hi Theodora – I love your blog. Can you tell me how long it took for Minuit Moins 7 to resole your shoes? I am going to Paris in May for 3 days and am wondering if they can do that while I’m there. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Do Better than Starbucks

    To drink your morning coffee from a cardboard throwaway cup is absolutely appalling. And to buy the coffee (and the cardboard disposable cup) from Starbucks is even worse. Come on people, travel is about sinking into the spirit of a country, about taking time to learn and enjoy. Europe bristles with fine coffee shops. Long may real coffee prevail. And real cups. Coffee drinkers of the world unite!

    Reply
  3. The views from grand washrooms at the BHV department store sounds very interesting. Could you explain a bit more about this site…which floor, what can we see, … thanks!

    Reply

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