Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Paris Nostalgia - Remembering the Minitel

When one is nostalgic about Paris, one thinks of Post WWII ballads like"La Vie en Rose, or the thriving cultural time between the Great Wars, or the boisterous and creative turn of the (last) century's Belle Epoque.

A sleek, well designed Minitel terminal for French homes
A sleek, well designed Minitel terminal for French homes
But being a gadget geek and early adopter of computers, BBS (ran one), internet, and tablets (long before iPad), some of my nostalgia lay with the French technology of the 80's: The Minitel!

Most people have never heard of it. But the Minitel, developed in the 70's, launched in 1982 in France as a way for people to be connected. The computer-like machine was given to people for free by the French telephone service.

Not only was it an electronic phone book, but you could do e-commerce, check your bank account, check stocks, and chat. Need to book a vacation? Minitel. Need to check flight or train schedules? Minitel!
An Ad for Minitel Rose
Ooh-la-la, La Vie en Rose indeed!

And the Minitel had chat rooms and services allowing people to be anonymous - thus developing into the "Minitel Rose" which allowed adult kinds of chats and services! Just as now on the web, this "Minitel Rose" earned LOTS of revenue!

Minitel was convenient to use, right there where ever your phone was
Minitel was convenient to use, right there where ever your phone was.

I remember, when I lived in Paris in 1986-87, that every ad announced their Minitel address. I also remember using it in my Uncle's office at his home outside of Paris. At it's height the during the mid 1990's, there were more than 25 million users able to connect to 23,000 services with their Minitel at home or the terminals in their local Poste!

People could access Minitels in the Post Office and kiosks
People could access Minitels in the Post Office and kiosks.
One of the really remarkable things about the Minitel is that this existed long before public access to the internet existed. AOL was launched along with Prodigy and CompuServe around 1991 but didn't take hold until around 1994 - 12 years after the launch of Minitel. 

Used up until 2012, you could Facebook and Tweet on your Minitel
Used up until 2012, you could Facebook and Tweet on your Minitel.

I had not thought about Minitel for a long time. And apparently, I completely missed the farewell to the service last year in 2012. 30 years is certainly a good run for anything cutting edge in the world of technology.

Looking to plan a trip to Paris but don't quite know where to start? Visit ParisMadeSimple and I'll help!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Visit The "Little Taj Mahal of France"

I learn something new about Paris nearly every day. It is an ever changing, steeped-in-history city.

An historical building in the Parisian suburb of Courbevoie, most recently used as a gardener's "shack", was nearly destroyed and sold in pieces. Fortunately, it was rescued and has now been restored to its former glory. It is referred to as the "Little Taj Mahal of France" but officially it is the Pavillon des Indes (Pavilion of India.)

The Pavilion of India
The Pavillion housed in the Exhibition hall in 1878
This "Pavilion of India" was originally housed in a huge exhibition hall as an attraction during the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1878. It stood where the Eiffel Tower is now.

The future King of England (King Edward VII) wanted to showcase the precious objects and jewels he'd brought back from a trip to India in 1876.
Pavilion of India
The Pavilion of India in the turn of the century neighborhood
Later it was bought and moved to Courbevoie by Prince Stirbey for his step-daughter, artist George Achille-Fould. It was put onto land adjacent to the Castle Becon (now the parc Becon.) He added a brick structure in the back for the artist to use as her workshop.

Now, this historical property has been renovated at a cost of 2.5 million Euros. The pavilion's director, Emanuelle Trief-Touchard explains “It’s a vision that we had of India, of the far-east, at that time. We’ve freely mixed the styles, forms and colour to give an idea of the exoticism at the end of the 19th century.”

The Pavilion of India
The Restored Pavilion of India 
The small building features beautiful carved wood, painted ceiling panels, amazing windows, colonial era paintings, and most noticeably domes covered with 10,000 gold foils. The brick addition once again houses an artist in residence and her works.

If you want to visit this piece of colonial history, you must reserve a place as only 15 people at a time are allowed to tour the building. To do this, call 01 71 05 77 92.

For more information, here is the official page (at the moment): It's in French so you may want to translate it.

You'll find the schedule for visits as well as amazing photos and a video (in French) about the renovation project.

Need more information about planning your trip to Paris, visit ParisMadeSimple.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Scam Free Paris

I love Paris almost more than my kids! OK, not quite that much, but I sure love it enough to go back there as often as possible. The minute I've said my thank you's to the apartment owner or manager and run over to the windows to listen to "my" city, I breath a sigh of relaxed contentment. It's the city that makes me feel, as the expression from French translates, "Comfortable in my own skin." That says a lot.

But it is a big city! And with an average of 70,000,000 visitors each year, there's bound to be people looking to profit from them - and not just from selling cheap souvenirs. Yes, there are people who attempt to make a living by scamming you.

I don't like to think about this side, but most big, bustling cities have the same issue. When I ran across this article yesterday (link below,) I thought it was a "cold sore" on my favorite city that I needed to share.

When I read the article, I realized I had seen some of these tricks, but my strict "city" policy of not speaking to people who approach me (except for directions) kept me un-scammed. Here's a quick summery of some that are used.

1. Sometimes, people approach you with a "petition" to sign. They always seem nice and the cause seems legit, but apparently the long text about the "cause" contains "agreements" that you will pay them a large sum of money - I presume to make them go away.

2. There are people who make a pretty friendship bracelet while you stand and watch them craft it for you. Unfortunately, they make it so tight that it cuts off your circulation and you are extorted to got to the ATM and give them your money to get the blood flowing again.

3. You look down and find a ring and being a good person, pick it up and try to find it's owner. Unfortunately, someone is there to tell you the ring is yours - for a price! They might also try to convince you it's a ring of good fortune.

4. Ooops, did you drop something? There's a sound like you've dropped something and when you look all around to see if you did, you are distracted enough for someone to snatch your wallet.

My advice is always to look as little like a tourist as you can. But this can be hard when you are speaking to your travel mates in your language and while you are awestruck by the monument or site that has just taken your breath away.

I'm thinking that the most likely spots for these people are:
  • Around the Eiffel Tower
  • Around the Arc de Triomphe
  • In the Latin Quarter, especially around Place Saint-Michel
  • On the Parvis de Notre-Dame (the cobbled stone area outside of the cathedral)
  • In front of the Louvre, especially in the Tuilleries Gardens
  • On the steps of Sacre Coeur where people hang out
  • The area around the Pompidou Center
This is in no way a complete list.

Nor is it a reason not to visit those areas.  Simply put off people who approach you - just walk on by, say "Non, merci," keep your attention on your wallet and bags, and enjoy!!

Looking for more advice on how to enjoy this great city? Please visit Paris Made Simple information about planning your perfect Paris Vacation!

Original Huffington Post Article

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tour 13 Paris: Cutting edge art - beautiful, raw, but fleeting.

Paris is always a jumble of preservation, tearing down, and building up. It is my most favorite thing about the city. It's what makes every trip different and exciting. The "Paris Tour 13" is an example. Cutting edge art - beautiful, raw, but fleeting.

The realities of large cities are that there are always less savory and romantic parts. Most people who visit Paris visit the key sites and leave with a glittering impression of a cosmopolitan city steeped in history - fancy buildings, glittering gold leaf, and polished parks.

But looking beyond the center of the city, you will find rich neighborhoods full of students, immigrants and people struggling to make it to next week. These are also Parisians living the reality of their lives on the edges of glitter.

For more information and pictures about this art "instillation" see:

Planning a trip to Paris? Let me help!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Favorite Movies About Paris - Part One

Frantic  1988 with Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner
Admittedly, this movie only gets mediocre ratings. But I love the interaction between the two main characters and that it shows a lot of Paris, including the gritty side. Paris seems more polished now than it was back in the mid '80s.

It also holds some definite fascination because it must have been filmed when I lived there. How did I miss running into Harrison Ford??? As I look at some facts from, I see it was filmed in areas of Paris I never went. Darn it!

The Da Vinci Code (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) 2006 with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou

Lots of people know this movie. Although only the beginning and end of the movie are actually in Paris, it does show some beautiful scenes in some of the most well known, glamorous areas of the city.

La Femme Nikita (Special Edition)  1990 with Anne Parillaud and Jean-Hugues Anglade

This is one of my absolute favorite movies ever. Besides being filmed in Paris, it's just a great story. I'm not sure the movie got a lot of publicity in the U.S. but it of course spawned an American version Point of No Return (of offense to Bridget Fonda, but after seeing the original, I hated this movie) and a TV series that I've never seen but made it 5 seasons.

This was the first time I ever saw Jean Reno, whom I love. His role wasn't big and was pretty gruesome, but I still think of him as "Victor - nettoyer (the cleaner)". I also love Tcheky Karyo whom you may know from Addicted to Love and GoldenEye.

The Ninth Gate 1999 with Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, and Emmanuelle

Seigner (see Frantic) I love this movie because, well, Johnny Depp and Emmanuelle Seigner are in it. It begins in NY, but moves to Paris and then to the countryside. The story is fascinating.

If you are planning a trip to Paris, or would like to, visit Paris Made Simple.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Celebrating France's National Holiday

Many people don't know that Bastille day, or "le quatorze Juillet" as it's more commonly called by the French, is their version of the American 4th of July. But what are they celebrating?

There were lots of events that lead into the French Revolution. But it's generally recognized that the events on the 14th of July 1789 was the beginning - and the reason for the celebration.

On that day, the revolutionary mob stormed the infamous Bastille prison where the kings had housed political prisoners for generations.

The interesting thing was, that Louis the XVI had only seven prisoners at the time, including the Marquis de Sade! They also lived in better conditions than most of the mob that freed the prisoners.

When we were in Paris last summer, we celebrated with the Parisians!

For more about our adventure, Celebrating Bastille Day.

Here's a video of the fireworks, disco style! Starts a bit slowly and is dark but works into a beautiful display, silhouetting the Eiffel Tower and the huge disco ball!

If you are planning a trip to Paris, or would like to, visit Paris Made Simple.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Visiting the Louvre Museum

 Last night I was watching my hero, Rick Steves, visit Paris. His tour of the Louvre got me thinking and wanting to share.

Although the Louvre Museum does not make my "Must-See"  list, many people consider it impossible to visit Paris and NOT visit the Louvre. The reason I don't include it in my list is simple because of the size and time it takes to visit. There are so many museums in Paris, many of which can be enjoyed in a half-day, leaving plenty of time for other enjoyments, that I prefer that approach. But that's my personal way of enjoying the city, and not right for everyone.

For those that want to see the Louvre, take Rick Steve's advice and don't try to see it all at once. With prior planning, you can choose the collections you want to see and leave others for another day. Visit the Louvre's official web site to help decide what you want to see. Then, I suggest you save LOTS of time by buying and picking up your tickets in advance - this allows you to skip to the front of the line, which can get very long indeed.

Here's a great teaser from one of Rick Steve's show:
If you'd like more information about enjoying your own trip to Paris, visit