Saturday, 10 March 2007
Paris: Actually interesting and cool stuff
You know how you always pictured Paris: the cultural-melting pot? The interesting fashions? The amazing food? the beautiful scenery? Yuh well, are you in for a shock. Most of it is fairly monotonous grey buildings with fairly monotonous Parisians grumpily going about their mundane lives, and even the teenagers wear unbelievably conservative clothes - but wait! There are two areas where all your dreams come to life: Belleville and Goutte d'or. My recommendation: Stay in Belleville, hang in Goutte d'or.
Belleville: A place for anything North African: Couscous restaurants, amazing Algerian cakes, North African goods: food, slippers, carpets. Things are livelier when the market's on but there's nothing you'd actually want to buy there (unless cheap plastic shoes and clothes are a fetish). And it's pretty lively at any daytime hour.
Funky bars down the sidestreets, High-density chinese street up one end.
Goutte d'or: Senegalese and other West African stuff happens here. If you're whitey and you forgot for a moment, you'll remember here. Rue Leon has got a very cool bar in it called Olympic cafe where we saw an amazing Senegalese band. The best chip-butty/omelette roll is to be found nearby on Rue Leon too. They get a baguette, smear it with Moroccan style tomato sauce meets harissa and fry egg with chips on the grill. Feed 2 for 3.50! Locals are friendly, but you might feel a bit conspicuous walking around late at night, if you forgot.
Rue leon is so cool it even has it's own website:
There are heaps of shops piled high with 6 meter lengths of very colourful patterned batik fabrics. Assuming these were african imports, I expected them to be very cheap, but they are all made in Holland (and claim this proudly 'guaranteed real dutch wax') and seem to be made for export - perhaps people take them back home to Africa as presents? Didn't see that many people in Goutte d'or actually wearing this kind of thing. I bought a beautiful red and blue piece with fish on it for 12 euros (see photo). There were also ones with messages marking different historical events which were cool.
Strasbourg-St. Denis: a more mixed multicultural street (go through the fake-roman arch), between the two other areas, not as fun if you ask me.