There’s a new guide to Paris available in bookshops and online, and not just any guide, but ‘The 500 Hidden Secrets of Paris’: an affectionate guide to the city with 500 good-to-know addresses, tips and places to visit, brought to you in the form of 100 interesting, practical, fun, intriguing and unexpected lists, such as ‘5 bars to see and to be seen’ or ‘5 old street advertisements you can’t afford to miss’. It’s written by a true Parisienne, Marie Farman, and we asked her some questions about how and why she composed this book. Here goes:
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and especially about your bond with Paris?
I was born and bred in Paris; I’ve been living there for 32 years now. I’ve lived close to the centre Georges Pompidou for quite some time, but a while ago I moved to the 20th arrondissement, not far from the Père Lachaise cemetery, together with my partner and our 2-year old son. I didn’t know the neighbourhood that well before I came to live there, but I’ve come to appreciate it and I do so more and more every day. I work in the 11th arrondissement, where I share an office with some friends who work freelance. I myself am a freelance journalist; I write for several French magazines, mostly about design. Our office used to be an artist’s workplace, and it lies on a beautiful little square, named La cour de l’étoile d’or (The square of the golden star).
What is your favourite neighbourhood or arrondissement in Paris, and why?
I don’t really have a favourite; I feel that every quartier is interesting and surprising in it’s own way. There are hidden secrets everywhere; you can discover unknown historical or unusual places all over town, or bump into a nice café when you least expect it. You just have to put aside some pre-made assumptions and be willing to explore a new neighbourhood once in a while.
What do you love most about the city?
I especially love Paris in the morning. The city is calm then and the light is beautiful. I feel it’s the best time of day to go out and get comfortable on the terrace of a nice café with some newspapers, or just to sit and watch the people passing by.
Do you think there are still a lot of ‘hidden’ places left in Paris?
Yes, I think there are still plenty of places to discover. Of course, it all depends on what you’re interested in, but personally I still learn about new places every month, like shops, restaurants and so on that look very tempting…
The rooftop of the Printemps departement store; photo Joram Van Holen
Did you enjoy writing The 500 Hidden Secrets of Paris? What was the most challenging part?
Composing this guide wasn’t easy! It’s not that hard per se to find 500 addresses, but I really wanted every address in the book to have some added value. I also felt it was important to select places that could appeal to different kinds of people and to all ages. I hope I did a good job… and of course this type of city guide would benefit from regular updates and additions.
How did you do your research for the book?
The research process came about rather instinctively I guess. Of course I selected my own favourite addresses and places, but I also asked around among my friends, my family, co-workers and so on. Making this book took about 5 months of research, during which I ventured out in the streets of Paris during one whole day every week. Sometimes I brought along a list of particular addresses I wanted to check out, other times I just wandered around and allowed myself to get lost in the city, open to new discoveries.
You’re also the author of Paris designers and their interiors. Did this book inspire you while writing The 500 Hidden Secrets?
Yes, it sure did, because when I went to visit the designers I discovered streets I never had been before. Also some of the designers that I interviewed told me about their favourite places in their neighbourhood; I’ve included a lot of those tips in The 500 Hidden Secrets.
Did you discover new places you didn’t know about before?
Of course – out of a total of 500 addresses there are places I had never been.
Ex Nihilo; photo Joram Van Holen
What is your favourite list in the book?
What speaks most to me are the lists about artists and their workplaces, antiques and collectibles and art galleries, because according to me that’s what makes Paris this exceptional city; it’s what defines its soul. I also like the lists with bakeries, pâtisseries, and chocolatiers: these things are very important to Parisians as well.
A typical Parisian Confiserie; photo Joram Van Holen
If our readers would plan a day weekend in Paris in the near future, what would an ideal day for them look like?
For me a perfect day would start with breakfast at Moulin de la vierge (Place des petits pères), a place with a very Parisian atmosphere. Then I would go and run some errands at the marché d’Aligre, and would by flowers at Arôm. At lunchtime I would meet up with a friend at the Italian restaurant Caffé dei Cioppi; when the weather is nice we like to sit on the small terrace there. In the afternoon a visit to a small museum would be perfect, to see an exhibition. I like places where you don’t have to stand in line to get in and where it’s never too crowded, like the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (the museum for hunting and nature) or the Musée Bourdelle. After that I would go shopping, for whatever I may need or want at that time; that could be candles in all kinds of colours from Cire Trudon, Sicilian olive oil from La tête dans les olives or a design lamp from FR 66. In the late afternoon I would take my son for an afternoon snack in the gardens of the Musée Rodin; we would also go and pay a short visit to his grandfather at his antiques shop Bac Antiquités (he’s specialized in everything that has to do with aviation). At the close of this beautiful day I would go out and have dinner with my boyfriend in the Chinese quarter of Paris, at Thaï Royal – we’re regular customers at this great Thai restaurant. Of course, in real life I would never find the time to all my favourite things in one day… That’s why it must be lovely to visit Paris as a tourist!
Musée Bourdelle; photo Joram Van Holen
All photos, except the photo of Marie, are by Joram Van Holen for Luster.