Paris attractions: Top 5 free events in June
The only thing better than visiting Paris is being able to enjoy free events in Paris. Here's a round-up of activities for the lovely month of June.
La Foire Saint-Germain (May 22–July 5) This six-week neighborhood fair includes an antiques sale from June 4–15, a night of contemporary photography on June 22, and a book sale on June 26–28. Details, here. Almost all events take place in the postcard-charming place Saint Sulpice (6th arrondissement).
Paris Jazz Festival (June 6–July 26) This annual Jazz Festival provides a great excuse to laze about in the Parc Floral, part of the sprawling Bois de Vincennes. During two summer months, free concerts are held on the grand scène (big stage) every Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 and 4:30 p.m. Highlights in June include Robin Verheyen this Saturday, Cheick Tidiane Seck on June 14, Rita Marcotulli on June 20, and Joe Louis Walker on June 27 (check the full program here). Food and drinks are on sale inside the park, but most people bring their own stock of nibbles and wine. Entry to the Parc Floral is €2.50, but the concerts are all free. Take the Metro line 1 to Château de Vincennes and follow the crowds (Parc Floral, Esplanade de Chateau de Vincennes, 12th arrondissement).
Entrez dans la Danse (June 7) The sixth annual "come into the dance" festival will be putting on more than 75 free performances across the city, plus participatory dance workshops. Check out the online program here, or just stumble into any of the following locations from 11am to midnight and see what's shaking: le Centre d'Animation des Halles du Marais (6–8 place Carrée, Forum des Halles, 1st arrondissement), le Centre de Danse du Marais (41 rue du Temple, 4th arrondissement), Bercy Village (28 rue François Truffaut, 12th arrondissement), la Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir (bridge over the Seine in the 13th arrondissement), le Parc des Buttes Chaumont (19th arrondissement), Le Centquatre (104 rue d'Aubervilliers, 19th arrondissement) and the Parc de Belleville (20th arrondissement).
Fête de la Musique (June 21) Launched in 1982 by the French Ministry for culture, this festival now takes place in more than 110 countries each year on the day of the summer solstice. In Paris, you'll find free concerts in parks, bars, restaurants, hospitals, and street corners… just about any sort of place you can imagine. Performances range in quality from pro to super-amateur—last year I was charmed by a group of 14 year-old French boys playing Pixies covers outside my local subway stop. There's a constantly-changing program online here, but my preferred strategy is just to wander and follow the noise.
La Defense Jazz Festival (June 12–28) Suburbanites will be flocking to these free concerts at la Defense, the futuristic commercial center just west of Paris (a few stops on the RER A). Luminaries include Eric Truffaz (electro jazz) on June 12, Beat Assailant (hip hop jazz) on the 24th, and Goran Bregovic (Balkan music) on the 28th. Most concerts take place outdoors on the Esplanade de la Defense, but consult the program online here.
Brussels attractions: The Magritte Museum opens
Musée Magritte Museum, dedicated to the works of René Magritte, debuted today in Brussels, Belgium. Magritte was a leading surrealist painter who created art that was both thought-provoking and whimsical. He seems to have delighted in juxtapositions like the one seen in "Le Domaine d'Arnheim." His best-known work is probably "The Treachery of Images"—a painting of a pipe with the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe") written under it. It was Magritte's way of trying to force people to focus on the fact that a painting of a thing is a painting, not the thing itself. Magritte is reported to have said about the painting, "Just try filling it with tobacco." The new museum has five exhibition levels with more than 26,000 square feet of space and 250 artworks and other pieces. It is intended to be the leading center for research into Magritte's life and works, but of course you don't need to worry about that to enjoy the great art. While in Brussels, you can also visit 135 rue Esseghem, the house where Magritte lived and worked for 24 years; it's now the René Magritte Museum. And you could follow the advice of Tomme Arthur and visit Brasserie Cantillon for a tasty Belgian beer. Musée Magritte Museum. The entry fee is €8 ($11.25), and the museum is closed on Mondays. EARLIER Belgium, the Capital of the Comic Strip honors its animated heritage with a new museum and a walking tour.
Worth reading: Denmark, the world's happiest country
For your Monday reading: interesting stories we spotted from around the blogosphere. Six reasons to visit Denmark, the world's happiest country. [4 Hour Workweek] EuroCheapo's upgraded hotel search engine—now with more CheapoFactor. [EuroCheapo] Prescription sunglasses for about $40, just in time for your trip. [Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools] Why do airfares change so much? An explanation from a former price setter at US Airways. [The Cranky Flier] Bing, Microsoft's new search engine, has "instant answers," like cheap tickets for various destinations. [Dennis Schaal Blog] Are you an introvert? Six tips for shy travelers. [WorldHum] Amsterdam's Hans Brinker is the worst hotel in the world…and proud of it. [Gulliver] The Art Institute of Chicago's recently opened Modern Wing was designed by lauded architect Renzo Piano and houses works by the likes of Pablo Picasso. [AP via Yahoo! News] Beautiful fountains around the world—Europe's got the market cornered on this one. [Kathika] For more travel blogs, go to Alltop.
Pet-friendly hotel chains: 5 that love Fido
Traveling with your pet this summer? Get a leg up with Petside.com's top five pet-friendly hotel chains. Coming in first is Motel 6, followed by La Quinta Inns & Suites and Red Roof Inn. These chains don't charge extra fees or require deposits for Fido, meaning more money in your pocket (or for doggie treats). There are 900 Motel 6 properties nationwide—the chain recently opened properties in El Paso, Fresno, and D.C., where we spotted a $99 rate in June. See all of Petside's recommendations here.
Paris attractions: Learn to cook with Alain Ducasse
Alain Ducasse has just opened a school for non-professional cooks in Paris. The dripping-with-stars chef, who directs restaurants in the Plaza Athénée, the Eiffel Tower, and the luxurious tax haven of Monaco, is now willing to share his secrets with any rube who's ready to pay. "And pay they will," was my first thought upon learning about these classes. I assumed that the good chef would be funding his pension with this Ecole de Cuisine. In reality, the tuition is hardly stratospheric—€165 ($231) for a half-day and €280 ($392) for a full day. I'm not saying that's cheap, but three hours with one of the world's top chefs (or his underlings) will cost you less than what some expats charge to march you around their neighborhood. Those who want (and are willing to pay more for) a course in English should consider the Promenades Gourmandes. For ten years, Paule Caillat has been teaching French cooking to English-speakers. Half-day classes include a market tour, hands-on instruction, and a three course lunch for €260 ($364). Warning: the tricked-out kitchen of her new Marais apartment will make you seethe with jealousy, and she may have to forcibly remove you from the shiny red Lacanche stove. If you can understand a little French, some of the most affordable classes are offered by the Atelier des Chefs. A wide variety of courses are put on every day in locations across the city. Prices are a steal: €72 ($101) for two hours and €36 ($50) for one hour. Their best buy is the 'formule dejeuner'—a lunchtime special that teaches you how to cook (and eat!) something in less than thirty minutes for €17 ($24). These classes are very popular with locals, but you can reserve your place online up to four weeks in advance. On the other end of the price scale, David Lebovitz is organizing a week-long Gastronomic Adventure that's making me wish I had an extra "five large" lying around. His week includes a class and market tour with Paule Caillat, dinner with Alex Lobrano and a signed copy of his excellent book Hungry for Paris, a day-trip to the chocolate mecca of Bernachon in Lyon, dinner at the underground restaurant Hidden Kitchen, a multi-course wine tasting lesson, and more. It's hardly cheap—€3,450 ($4,835) for seven days—but that price includes six nights in a four-star Paris hotel with all breakfasts, five lunches, four dinners, first-class train travel, plus guides and local transit. Compare that with the five day course from fellow foodie Patricia Wells—$5,000 with no accommodation included—and it seems like good value for the money. (Hey, David: Do you need any dishwashers?) MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Gourmet's Paris correspondent dishes on Paris's best restaurants (50+ comments) The Michelin Guide picks Paris's best affordable eateries in 2009 Destination: Food (2009) We asked the world's best chefs, food writers, cooking-show hosts, and specialty-food purveyors where they love to eat. The answers are all over the map (literally!), and each is worth a trip. Our Affordable Paris blog series