|Sq St Bernard et St Bernard de la Chapelle|
"Oh, you're in the 18th? That area is so...... um, cosmopolitan!" Yes, my friend's exclamation upon hearing of my new neighborhood in Paris would certainly be the word to describe the 18eme arrondissement. Not quite the 'Sex and the City' type of cosmopolitan (although this side of Paris certainly feels more like New York than down along the Seine), but a true mélange of cultures from across the globe. At the foot of Sacré-Coeur and Montmartre to the East, you will find residents from Senegal, New Delhi, Turkey, Morocco. It's an area that is slowly becoming gentrified and invaded by Parisian hipsters looking for the next creative neighborhood, as well as young professionals and families looking to buy within the Paris Centre without paying 800,000€ for a 60 square meter apartment. But today, it is still a true testament to the real underside of Paris. Of course, up on Montmartre (also part of the 18eme), apartment prices are most likely approaching that range, since the area seems already settled by the young, creative and fabulous. And the views of Paris aren't that bad, either. But it's when you drop down into the valleys of Montmartre that the colorful neighborhoods thrive.
Entry to the Goutte d'Or is off of Metro Line 2, 'La Chapelle', which drops you precisely at the epicenter of India, Africa and the Middle East. Looking for a good Kebab? You'll find about 6 comptoir pour emporter
within a city block. Need a smart-looking weave and an authentic salon that can give you a good design? Head to Rue Myrha, where I counted 8 shops along the 2 block walk up to Montmartre. Craving truly spicy Indian cuisine that exports you directly to the heart of New Delhi? Faubourg Saint Denis running alongside the tracks of the Gare du Nord is your stop. But in between all of this are sights that are truly Parisian: cafés and brasseries scattered along the various rues
filled with men leaning up against the carved wooden bars drinking Kronenberg or 1664 in large goblets. Beautiful tree-filled parks and squares encased in black wrought-iron gates dotted with pigeons and children running merrily about. And the artesian boulangeries
, with lines out the doors at 6:30 pm as residents gather baguettes tradition
for the evening meal. And even here, in this truly 'cosmopolitan' neighborhood hides a trend-setters 'cosmopolitan' hotel, the Murano's Kube Hotel, with it's famous Ice KUBE bar, (interior temperature set at -10°C), whose exclusive parties attract celebrities and rap stars from around the globe.
|Ice KUBE Bar at KUBE Hotel|
|Furniture upholstery at the base of Montmartre|
Venturing west from the KUBE, you'll pass over the tracks of the Gare du Nord and start the climb up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Once you've traveled up Rue Myrha and crossed Rue Cligancourt, the broken and unrepaired asphalt suddenly becomes old stone pavés
beneath your feet, and the lights of the Sacré-Coeur do not have to compete with the glaring neon signage of the international calling salons lining the streets. The romantic appeal of the bohemian in Paris slowly starts to come into focus as you pass tiny boutiques selling artwork and hand designed jewelry, and you spot the streetlights dissecting the various stairways leading up to the basilica. Just at the foot of the hill, running along the stunning Square Louise Michel, is the textile district of Saint Pierre, anchored by Le Halle Saint-Pierre
, where fabrics and other tissus
that form the base of so many smartly-designed Parisian chambres
are produced and sold at wholesale.
Once on top of Montmartre, it's tough to get away from the tourists, and all the brightly lit shops that encourage you to buy several keychains that say 'I Love Paris'. But at night, it's particularly charming, and I find myself wandering the Place du Tertre
examining the faded marquees of the famous eateries that hosted so many Parisian luminaries of the past: La Bonne Franquette
, Le Consulat
, Chez la Mère Catherine
, offering the same comfort to visitors today as they did in the 18th and 19th centuries. A cup of vin chaud
offered by a brasserie on the back side of the basilica makes a perfect accompaniment for a cold and drizzly autumn night.
|Vin chaud for sale up on Montmartre|
|Basilique du Sacré-Coeur amid the tourist traps|
Diverse is just the tip of the iceberg in describing the Goutte d'Or and the 18eme arrondissement. From Pigalle and the Moulin Rouge, to the Basilique du Sacre Coeur and the hilltop art studios of Montmartre, to the Kube Hotel next to the kebab counter on Rue Max Dormy, there is certainly a lot to discover here. It seems that even after 111 years, the spirit of la bohème
is still alive and well in this little corner of Paris.
|Gare du Nord|
|View down into the textile marchés of Saint Pierre|