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.


esther said...

no no don't stop blogging! i like it. heaps. xxx

Ray said...

Any suggestions on where to stay in Belleville?

Intrepidexpat said...

No sorry I don't. I was staying in Republique, which is handy to Belleville and has a lot of hotels. There are hotels in Belleville but they are unlikely to be in guidebooks or advertised online as they are mostly fairly small and cheap and catering to North Africans.