Coming to live in Paris I wanted to see, feel and get to know the “real” Paris; more than the pretty, romantic glimpse that is possible on a holiday trip. I’m glad to say that I am doing just that. We live in the 17th arondissement, tucked just inside the périphérique in the north east corner of the quartier des Epinettes. Turn left outside the front door and in less than 5 minutes walk I’m at the Port de Clichy Metro and RER train station. The périphérique overpass is just ahead. In the other direction I have the choice of a 7 minute walk to the village shops at Avenue St Ouen – where I can take the Metro at station Guy Moquet – or walk about the same distance to Metro Brochant and the Batignolle produce market and village shops on Rue des Moines. En route to St Ouen by the Velib station on Rue de la Jonquiere I can catch a peek of the top-knot of Sacré Cœur – it’s only a 25ish minute walk away.
Butchery shops, fishmongers, bakeries and patisseries, gourmet chocolates, flower sellers, and fruit and vegetable traders are plentiful at both these village shopping areas. There are also cheesemongers and delicatessens offering a mouth-watering array of specialties, like the trader who sells wonderful fresh Italian pastas (amongst other delectable treats). The butchery shops in particular are works of gastronomic art – the display of terrines, cooked dishes and cuts of meat is instantly tempting and inspiring for dinner chez moi. Before Christmas there were still-feathered pheasants hanging on display, and every imaginable poultry species, many still with head feathers and feet attached just to confirm their provenance.
It’s a multicultural, busy neighbourhood where ordinary people do everyday things. The atmosphere is friendly and very polite. Every transaction starts with a cherry Bonjour Madame, and finishes with Au revoir Madame, bonne journée. At Cannelle Patisserie, our favourite local bakery, I’m recognised as a local already and the greetings are warmly delivered like a friendly song.
That’s the positive spin. Its also real working class Paris, there’s not so much of the romantic Paris, city of light and love on show just here. The streets and their buildings are grimy; on the footpath litter accumulates between washes – there’s also beaucoup de dog poop, trickles of urine, and splats of spit and pigeon sh*t. Horrible yes – does it matter? – No. This is my slice of real Paris and it’s just what I wanted to experience. The positives far outweigh the negatives – you can even think of it as being microbiologically rich!
More on local activities and the rest of “The 17th” next time.