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Belleville

B intro

 

This week we slip back within the périphérique to explore a neighbourhood called Belleville. But only just. Located mainly in the 20th Arrondissement, Belleville began life as a wine-making village well outside the city walls. It was only in the 1860s that it was dragged kicking and screaming into Paris.

Since then various waves of immigrants have kept changing the face of Belleville, the latest being the Chinese. In some parts it feels distinctly like we never left Hong Kong, with Asian shops, restaurants and residents dominating the landscape.

But it’s more than just another Chinatown. On top of the Asian vibe is a cosmopolitan, arty feel, something close to New York’s East Village.

Nearby is also the world’s most visited cemetery, Père Lachaise, where anyone who was anyone is buried, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Jim Morrison. Knowing I would encounter le touriste there, in droves, I ventured not.

Anyway, enough chit chat. Let’s go Belleville!

 

Part 1: Asia in Paris

As I said, Belleville houses one of Paris’s Chinatowns (the other is in the 13th). By the way, if you’re wondering why there are no images of any Chinese people, it’s because they were extremely reluctant to be photographed. It was even touch and go there for a while with the dumplings.

 

Asiatique indeed

Asiatique indeed

 

 

 

when Camille was tired, all she wanted to eat were dumplings

when Camille was tired, all she wanted to eat were dumplings

 

 

 

whereas the ladies could eat them anytime, especially after a rigorous morning of tai chi - or is that Qi Gong?

whereas the ladies ate them anytime, especially after a rigorous morning of tai chi - or is that Qi Gong?

 

 

 

Mr Wu yearned to be out there on a bicyclette

Mr Wu yearned to be out there on a bicyclette

 

 

 

Belleville, located somewhere between Manhattan and China

Belleville, located somewhere between Manhattan and China

 

 

 

Part 2: The bar scene of Belleville

Well, the bar scene before dark anyway. You know I don’t do dark. Like to but the logistics of organising babysitters etc etc … Anyway, Belleville and nearby Menilmontant offer everything from the quiet, shady to the hip and loud.

I spent most of my time at one cafe-bar called Aux Folies. This was where Edith Piaf, who was born in Belleville, used to sing when the place was a cabaret theater back in the 1950s.

 

and so are tattoos

and so are tattoos

 

 

 

he's straight out of Edith's day

he's straight out of Edith's day

 

 

 

off to le café

off to le café

 

 

 

mint tea and her messages

mint tea and her messages

 

 

 

love that look

love that look

 

 

 

Aux Folies is the sort of place you can’t fail to meet someone interesting. Like Luna and her dad, Pat. He runs a rock n roll bar in nearby Menilmontant and told me that I should come that evening as there was an excellent singer on. I mumbled something lame about babysitters, all the while thinking, damn, I’d so love to go.

 

Luna and her rock n roll dad :: 1

Luna and her rock n roll dad :: 1

 

 

 

Luna and her rock n roll dad :: 2

Luna and her rock n roll dad :: 2

 

 

 

Right now, the various bars in Belleville are filled with people studying the papers – the Presidential elections are on this Sunday.

 

all eyes are on the news as France prepares to vote this weekend

all eyes are on the news as France prepares to vote this weekend

 

 

 

politics goes better with beer

politics goes better with beer

 

 

 

no papers, just his thoughts to keep him company

no papers, just his thoughts to keep him company

 

 

 

Part 3: Spring has sprung

Well, sort of. When we arrived almost five weeks ago it was unseasonably warm and sunny. Not a glove or hat to be seen. Spring, I thought. But no. In the last week the real Spring has reared its head apparently, which pretty much means rain, wind and cold with occasional sunny bits. Gloves and hat back on. Maybe even thermals.

Still, the gardens and flowers of Paris could care less. They’re out and proud, holding their pretty little heads high despite the chilly drenchings. All except for the cherry blossoms, which seem to have peaked and are now busy forming pink carpets all over Paris.

Belleville has le Parc de Belleville. Not only filled with fleurs but also offering an excellent view over all of Paris – Montmartre without the crowds. The first time I looked out over the view I couldn’t believe I could see the Eiffel Tower as well as the twin steam stacks of Ivry-sur-Seine, a suburb just outside Paris where some friends of ours live. Paris proper really is very small.

 

flowers are springing up everywhere

flowers are springing up everywhere

 

 

 

Anna and her purple fleurs

Anna and her purple fleurs

 

 

 

ring may have sprung but it still sprinkles

Spring may have sprung but it still sprinkles

 

 

 

their best days are behind them

their best days are behind them

 

 

 

and Pauline

and Pauline

 

 

 

his days of chasing women in the springtime are fini

his days of chasing women in the springtime are fini

 

 

 

and look, there's the Eiffel Tower!

and look, there's the Eiffel Tower!

 

 

 

Part 4: To Gambetta

It’s quite tricky knowing when you’ve left one neighbourhood and entered another in Paris. So I decided to just wander and not worry too much if I strayed out of Belleville. Which I did, quite convincingly, into nearby Menilmontant and Gambetta.

Gambetta in particular has some interesting pockets. Still in the 20th, the area around rue Saint Blaise is one of the oldest in Paris, with the original cobblestone street still intact.

 

I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah

I'm still standing, yeah, yeah, yeah

 

 

 

It was on rue Saint Blaise that I met Florence, a proud African woman who was somewhat bemused by my desire to take a picture of her dress. But come on, great frock.

 

the times they are a changin'

the times they are a changin'

 

 

 

 

Just around the corner from Florence I met this lovely lady. I can’t remember her name but I loved her ‘do.

 

as she was then and now

as she was then and now

 

 

 

Gambetta is home to Mama Shelter, a hip hotel designed by Philippe Starck, located alongside an abandoned railway, le Petite Ceinture, which I think once defined the boundary of Paris.

 

next to le Petite Ceinture, now abandoned

next to le Petite Ceinture, now abandoned

 

 

 

blue eye shadow - Mama and Lena

blue eye shadow - Mama and Lena

 

 

 

(And yes, you have seen Lena before, in the first Paris post. I met her in the 20th when we first arrived and I was nosing around the area. I mistakenly put her in the Faubourg Saint Denis post. She’s so radiant I thought she deserved a second appearance.)

 

 

 

Sarah, so Paris

Sarah, so Paris

 

 

 

Gambetta is also home to La Fleche d’Or, a famous music scene that operates out of an old railway station.

 

maybe scooter girl is off to La Flèche d'Or tonight

maybe scooter girl is off to La Fleche d'Or tonight

 

 

 

Part 5: Yes Coco, by law French people must eat a baguette every day

It could almost be true. What else can explain the fact that every French man and woman seems to end up with a baguette under their arm at some point during the day, if not at numerous times.

 

baguette before church

baguette before church

 

 

 

baguette after bar

baguette after bar

 

 

 

The queues outside the Patisseries also make me wonder if every Parisian eats cake every day. It would make sense – they need the calories to fuel all the walking they do, especially the near vertical variety.

 

walking shoes, Paris style

walking shoes, Paris style

 

 

 

Parisians walk, in rain or shine

Parisians walk, in rain or shine

 

 

 

and délicieux

and delicieux

 

 

 

Part 6: Chiens and chats

Hate to end on a sad note but one of our cats, Jinx, is still missing in action in Sydney. It’s been weeks now but I still haven’t told Coco as I keep waiting, hoping to hear news. As a result, I seem to have noticed more ‘Lost Cat’ posters than ever in my life as well as wanting desperately to stop and pat every single four legged creature that comes my way.

 

Arty, the camera shy chien

Arty, the camera shy chien

 

 

 

cat flying up stairs

cat flying up stairs

 

 

 

how do you tell a child her favourite animal may be no more?

how do you tell a child her favourite animal may be no more?

 

 

 

The Wrap

I don’t think I’ve done Belleville and its surrounding areas full justice – blame it on the rain, as well as the fact that I suspect I missed a lot by not being there at night when the place apparently really swings. But from what I did see, I can understand why those that live there are fiercely proud of it and consider it the best in all of Paree. Diverse, down to earth and not trop cher to live in. Vive le 20e arrondissement!

 

 

Coco and her Montessori mates

Coco and her Montessori mates

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco loved her kid time at the local bilingual Montessori school. She finished up there a week ago when the school broke for holidays. But she may be going back – because guess what? We’re staying longer in Paris. After booking flights to Berlin and arranging accommodation from next weekend onwards, I suddenly realised that I really wasn’t ready to leave. As excited as I am about Berlin, I’m just not done with Paris. (Okay, you may as well know, I love the place. Somewhere between the 4th arrondissement and the 20th, I got Paris. It happens.)

Who would have thought it from just two posts ago?

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Berice Dudley and her grandchildren

See you next Friday.

 

  1. Stephen says:

    I don’t think you’re doing YOURSELF justice – this is one of my favourite suburbs so far!

  2. Fay Thomson says:

    Hello Louise, I liked this one very much. I suppose because I just love France.
    You could take a look at the project ART TOPPLING tobacco so in need of photography entries- free to submit too. You could compare the mess from butts around the world or ? so many ideas. Fay
    http://www.arttopplingtobacco.com.au

  3. Sue says:

    We are on a roll now. These are gorgeous, just gorgeous.

  4. indiana says:

    oh that was a good wander, thanks

  5. Wendy says:

    Louise, another beautiful post, and you write so lightly and happily in it. It seems you are in love with the city now, just by your tone. The photos are beautiful in their warmth and clarity and very engaging. Coco looks fantastic.

  6. Bron E says:

    Wonderful as usual Louise. I especially loved this take on Paris!

  7. Audrey says:

    I love the post!! Now all I want is walk around the 20th with my camera!
    It was so lovely meeting you and Coco yesterday, I’m happy you’re staying longer in my town :)

  8. Kylie says:

    wonderful post Louise. Coco looks like she is having a ball!

  9. Wayne says:

    Another fabulous, photographic adventure.
    Congratulations Louise!

  10. Evan says:

    I like these shots the best, so far.

  11. Yeliz says:

    My phenomenal inspiration space.
    This was incredible, one of my favourite places in Paris and surely sounds like it was for you also.
    Beautiful!
    Although my heart is stuck in Istanbul, as it always will be, Paris is still another world.
    Always in awe of the photographs and constantly inspired. thank you so much!
    BIG HI TO COCO SHE LOOKS SOO RADIANT AND HAPPY! Xx

  12. Aimée says:

    I think it was just a matter of time until Paris entranced you :) Bons souhaits for your extended stay…and happy us, with more pix of Parisian suburbs.

  13. ellen says:

    hope staying longer doesnt throw u off scedule for you other suburbs

  14. Toni Mostyn says:

    Wow, what a great post! I just loved the shallow depth of field shots and Sarah, fantastic. It brings back my memories of cycling in France and all those wonderful baguettes, yes, every day. So glad that you are deferring your departure :)

  15. Andrew says:

    Hi Louise
    As a Australian living in Paris, I’m glad that it finally got to you and you love it. This is a wonderful city. Great photos as always

  16. Louise says:

    Stephen – Aw, thanks! I think I just meant that there’s a lot going on in Belleville and the 20th A in general, and it’s impossible to capture all that in a few days.
    Sue – Merci!
    Indiana – A good wander is sometimes just what a person needs I reckon. So uncomplicated but so satisfying. Glad you feel similarly.
    Wendy – You know, as I was saying to someone a few hours ago, there’s no way I would have ‘got’ Paris if I’d been a tourist here. It’s only because I found, and I know it sounds pretentious and silly, but a ‘real’ Paris, that I now FEEL something about the place. I’d only every THOUGHT it looked beautiful. Now I FEEL. The experiment worked!
    Bron – So happy you enjoyed it!
    Audrey – Coco and I loved meeting you too. We look forward to another lunch in another/same Paris bistro!
    Kylie – Coco is a lucky kid. But I also take my hat off to her. I know kids are adaptable but she just takes it all in her stride. ‘There’s your new school, Coco, off you go.’ ‘Oh, okay, bye’. She’s just a cool kid.
    Wayne – Merci monsieur!
    Evan – I always find it interesting, how people react to different images/posts. Glad you liked this one so much.
    Yeliz – Ah, Istanbul. You know I love it too, always.
    Aime – I was doubtful I’d fall for it but there you go. Still, I could change my tune again, you never know!
    Ellen – Fear not, le schedule is in hand!
    Toni – Sarah has a look doesn’t she? And yes, the baguette – I’m so envious of these gluten-tolerant people!
    Andrew – It was so weird, it sort of crept up on me slowly and then, bam, I was in. You’re lucky, living here. I think the pressure tourists feel to make the most of all the sights really takes the joy out of it. But then I’m a crap tourist. Maybe it’s just an art I never mastered.

  17. matt H says:

    Dear Louise,
    my first post but following you with eagerness and joy! Yes I have to admit this has been a great sub and I was always wondering HOW you couldn’t like/get Paris? Good on you and Coco… what a dynamic pair! ENJOY

  18. katerina says:

    I am so happy i subscribed to u way back when you werethinking about doing this.I followed you aroundSydney.Now around the worldHOW WONDERFUL.!!! You are so generous, thank you.

  19. Myriam says:

    Hi Louise, another beautiful post!! As a Parisian exiled in Sydney for over 5 years, I was a bit sad two posts ago to read that Paris still hadn’t touched you. I’m glad you’re starting to find interesting nuggets there, and that you’re staying a little longer to explore the non-tourist Paris. And hopefully Parisians will stop being so annoyingly camera shy :-)
    Myriam

  20. Katie says:

    Hi Louise,
    Just a very short note to let you know that I think you are capturing Paris beautifully. I’ve been here for about five weeks, after leaving my job as a lawyer in Sydney, and I’ve struggled to find the celebrated beauty (I mean, there is obvious beauty, but in some respects it feels quite shallow).
    Paris is a strange place – so overrun with tourists and ruined by the romantic ideas that have been cultivated about it. The real face of Paris is very different to the classical conception. The faces you are photographing are the real Paris and they are also, I think, what is most beautiful about this city.
    Katie :)

  21. JENNY says:

    Great to see more fascinating parts of Paris. I haven’t been there since the ’70s but still the buildings remain and the characters you keep finding are unique. So glad to see Coco enjoys her Montessori school – it’s an excellent system for early education and we have good ones in Sydney too!

  22. Gay says:

    baquette after bar…my fav this week Louise. He has a wonderful glint in his eye. Nicely captured.
    You sound very chirpy and happy.
    I think yr blog should be compulsory viewing for each of my colleagues in the Travel industry!
    Sorry about yr puddie! GG

  23. Anna says:

    Comme chaque fois, fabuleux! Merci et bisouses xox A,C&M

  24. Nick m says:

    So so love your photos of Paris, a truly enchanting city. But can’t wait for Berlin. Very excited. Please pleaue visit Kreutzberg and Treptow Park.

  25. jeanette says:

    Just saw your photos and enjoyed your perspective. wonder if Coco knows my friend Laura who is a teacher at the Montessori school somewhere in the outskirts of paris. Keep exploring and taking those photos

  26. Kalinda says:

    Finally a dog! Paris is famous for its chiens. And on robert’s birthday too. Love it and love you. K

  27. Sarah says:

    I’m so glad you’ve come to LOVE Paris (cause I too love Paris! and consequently didn’t love Berlin, but then again, each to their own!) I’m sure the rain is making things tough, but it’s been pouring off and on in Sydney, so at least there are pastries for you! It’s wonderful Coco’s had a chance to hang out with people her own age (and you both get some time to yourselves!)

  28. Louise says:

    Matt H – I know, I’m sure there were a lot of people wondering how I could not ‘get’ Paris. But I also suspect there are many who won’t admit to Paris not living up to the fantasy and the incredibly high expectations. The Paris I’ve ‘found’ in the last few weeks is not the Paris advertised on TV. It’s better in a whole different way. But if I’d stayed on the tourist trail, I would never have found that Paris.
    Katerina – Merci madame!
    Myriam – I’m sorry if I offended you by that first post by the way! It could not have been nice, hearing that someone doesn’t get your own city. Anyway, the story had a happy ending!
    Katie – It’s interesting isn’t it? That ‘obvious’ beauty is almost overwhelming and as I said above, there’s so much pressure to love Paris it can be a turn-off. Enjoy your adventure beyond the law office!
    Jenny – Paris in the 70s would have been fun.
    Gay – His name is Akem, and he’s a character alright. Actually, he tried to introduce us to another character, an artist, who was very perturbed that we interrupted him at his studio around the corner – fair enough. So I ended up taking a pic of Akem instead.
    Anna – Merci!
    Nick M – Yeah, the only downside to staying longer here is delaying arriving in Berlin. But we’ll be there soon enough.
    Jeanette – I don’t think Coco met anyone called Laura, no. But then she may have, it was all a bit of a blur for her I think, meeting so many new bods.
    Kalinda – Woof! x
    Sarah – Yes, there are always le macaron when the pluie falls from the heavens. And the rest. We will surely grow fat here.

  29. Megan says:

    Louise, thank you for this wonderful portrait of one of my favourite cities. I am so sad to hear about your cat Jinx (being the carer of a fabulous feline myself), and I hope she shows up soon. Keeping thinking positive, and I look forward to your take on Berlin – I city I definitely didn’t “get”!

    • Louise says:

      Megan – I’m hearing a lot of similar comments about Berlin, I can’t wait to see for myself. And thanks for the well wishes for Jinx. Much appreciated.

  30. Felicity says:

    Love this! I live and work in Belleville and kinda fell into the area by coïncidence – but now! There is love! You should visit the lovely men at the Marché Belleville tuesdays et fridays – never cease to make me feel great and what a bargain!

    • Louise says:

      Felicity – So glad I could provide a portrait of the neighbourhood you love! I’ll try to get to those markets, definitely the way to shop in Paris I agree.

  31. Lisette says:

    Another post to delight in and to make me yearn for a trip to Paris! You can be sure that I will retrace your steps when I do! :)

    Breathlessly awaiting the next one…
    Lisette
    http://cutesuite.wordpress.com

  32. Robert says:

    While I haven’t posted for awhile, I have been following.
    Couldn’t help but notice the Fosters Logo on the glass in the photo with Luna & Her Dad.
    Aussie Beer in Paris well I never !!.
    I knew you would find the “real” Paris, all it takes is a little French language and a lot of walking.
    Plus a few Euros.LOL !
    I would sooner live homeless in Paris than live like a millionaire in Sydney.
    No need to rush to Berlin, I have feeling it will disappoint you after Paris. It ‘s so different.
    BTW how is the camera standing up to the work and weather?

    • Louise says:

      Robert – I noticed the Fosters logo too, after the fact. How funny. You’re right on all counts – the more French you speak, the more you walk and the more you spend, the better Paris gets! And the camera? It’s a trooper I tell you. But then I handle it like a baby.

  33. KATE says:

    We are staying in the Marais right now so I was very excited to see you’d been working your magic here! I’ve even photographed some of the same graffiti but somehow it doesn’t look half as good …. ha ha.
    We’re further north in the 3rd, near Rue de Bretagne and there are loads of boulangeries I’m happy to say with some ordinary bars dotted among the more chic.
    I noticed your comments about Paul Bert, we will definitely try that. Shame we won’t run into you as you’re moving on ….. looking forward to your next suburb. Keep up the good work!!

    • Louise says:

      Kate – Funny about the graffiti! And yes, try Paul Bert for sure.

  34. KATE says:

    Meant to say it must be hard approaching people to photograph them in a different language, but you’ve captured some lovely moments and great faces.
    Well done.

  35. Malou says:

    I knew you would fall in love with Paris! following your posts and feeling homesick ~ rediscovering and reminiscing – your pics are so amazingly beautiful!

  36. Naomi Fletcher says:

    I am a bit slow on the uptake but have just jumped aboard your beautiful adventure Louise. And I’ve been lost in your posts for the last few days. I lived in Belleville for a year in 2010, many a cafe and beer at Aux Folies. In fact I have traveled and lived in many of the cities you have visited so far…and also being a fellow photographer of street life and people I have to say you have captured the magic of each place with such grace and style. You shoot with your heart that’s why your photos are so beautiful and engaging. You see the energy, spark & colour of life. Well done. You are well and truly on your path. Sending you much admiration and respect from Melbourne. Keep on truckin’ :)

    • Louise says:

      Naomi – On a day when my energy is flagging and this marathon project is doing my head in a little you sent me a little bit of loveliness! Thanks so much, you don’t know how much I appreciate it.

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