30.1.13

Walking tour of the 11th arrondissement

Take a little tour! I've asked Thomas Butler,Irish expat and Localers tour guide, to share an itinerary for the 11th arrondissement, the neighborhood I've proudly called home since I moved to Paris. A bit of history, a standout restaurant scene and a host of indie boutiques await......

Vibrant, ethnically diverse, and undeniably trendy - that's the 11th arrondissement. Its boulevards and avenues span out from Place de la République towards the east, like Boulevard Voltaire and Avenue de la République, delineating this wedge of the city into its own distinct parts with their own character and atmosphere. This includes République-Belleville-Oberkampf to the West, Bastille-Popincourt to the South, and Nation-Alexandre Dumas to the East. Historically a blue-collar district, the 11th has evolved a great deal in recent years, due in part to the influx of young professionals seeking lower rents and an active nightlife. Over time, this gave way to a sort of gourmet renaissance, attracting younger chefs and inspiring envy in residents of the more expensive parts of town. This flourishing food scene is reason enough to venture east but there are a number of other attractions worth your time: 


In the morning stop off at La Fée Verte {108 Rue de la Roquette}. This is a café made famous for its absinthe drinkers, “La fée Verte”, or “green fairy,” was the nickname for liquor that was formerly banned in France. One of Paris’s most famous absinthe supporters, Paul Verlaine, lived on the same street at 17 Rue de la Roquette. The retro decor, especially the wonderful tiled floor, is worth seeing on its own.  Resist the temptation to start the day with a glass of Absinthe à la Verlaine and opt instead for a coffee and a croissant.

A few hundred meters up the road is the Père-Lachaise Cemetery. Up until about a century ago, the area around the cemetery offered Parisians a rural retreat. The cemetery opened its gates in the early part of the 19th Century. The incredible tombs, many in gothic-revival, are clustered like miniature chapels under narrow tree-lined avenues. Start at the main gates and wander to the top of the hill and take in the incredible view of Paris just like Rastignac did in Balzac’s book, Le Père Goriot, when he muttered the words: “It’s war between us now!” Incidentally, Balzac is buried here, along with Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Jim Morrison (among others). Set aside several hours to explore the graveyard in its entirety.

After your have sufficiently soaked up the atmosphere of old Paris, you’ll be ready for its modern side.

For chic: LeDauphin, the unbearably cool, marble and glass, Rem Koolhaus-designed avenue Parmentier restaurant , should definitely be a first port of call for any foodie worth their salt. The lunchtime menu at 27euro is pricey for those on a budget, but a good value if you are in search of top-notch experimental cuisine.

Charcuterie

Looking for more bang for your buck? Take a walk to nearby rue Oberkampf for an excellent meal of French style tapas at the retro bar Aux Deux Amis {45 rue Oberkampf}. There’s a great bookshop up the road for browsing at number 88 called Le Livre à Venir.  Crammed with objects and books, like a miniature version of André Breton’s apartment, you will find a great selection of second hand art books and French literature. There is also an intriguing collection of ethnic art that dominates the cramped interior.  

Interested in vintage home decor? A few hundred meters back down rue Oberkamf, past Métro Parmentier, you’ll stumble upon a whole series of side streets collectively known as Popincourt. The charming small alleyways around the rue du Marché Popincourt, rue Neuve Popincourt, and rue Turnaux will reveal a whole hoard of Aladdin’s caves. Perfect for Saturday browsing, spend some time sorting through the many shops that stock oddities and vintage gems from the 1930s right up to the 1980s. When you’ve awakened your appetite, stop for pizza by the slice at Al Taglio {2 bis rue Neuve Popincourt}.

A glass of wine at the nearby organic-natural cave-à-vin, Le Cave Ferveré {16 Rue des Trois Bornes}, is a must if you are eager to discover the new wave of cavistes opening in the district. Meeting the eccentric owner, Olivier Aubert, is in itself worth the visit. Taste the terrific wine on offer and learn why Olivier believes so strongly in natural wines.


After you’ve eaten, drank, shopped and strolled, end the day with dinner at La Pharmacie {22 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud} and a concert at L’Alimentation Générale {64 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud}

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On your next trip to Paris, sign up for a walking tour with Thomas or one of the other local guides in the Localers family! More information HERE
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