Day 69: My Favorite Neighborhood in Paris (+ a story in Anthology!)
Happy weekend everyone! I must be on some sort of travel kick because last Friday I wrote about Iceland and this week I'm dreaming of Paris. (But honestly, when am I not dreaming of Paris?!) I've lived in Paris several times, and traveled there more times than I can count, and the city mesmerizes me anew each time. Though the center of Paris, with the Seine and its bridges, parks, and monuments is always lovely, I've enjoyed exploring neighborhoods further off the tourist grid my past few visits. But these days, my favorite neighborhood is the gritty-but-fabulous Canal St. Martin, in the 10th arrondissement.
I wrote a story about this neighborhood and its recent transformation for the current issue of Anthology magazine. (You can buy the issue here or subscribe here. Or look at the online edition here!) The area's still a little seedy (though it's rapidly gentrifying) and maintains so much of that old world Parisian charm that is slowly disappearing from other parts of the city. The area is chock full of young entrepreneurs, opening all sorts of businesses from legit coffee bars to locavore flower shops, artisan jewelry workshops to gluten-free bakeries (a rarity in Paris!). Running through the neighborhood is the canal itself – built by order of Napoleon in the early 18th century – with picturesque footbridges and little waterfalls. In the summertime, the banks of the canal are covered with people sunbathing, picnicking, sharing a bottle of wine.
(Above): Here's the magazine you're looking for - Issue 14! (Below): Check out my story - page 72-78.
It was a total dream exploring the neighborhood last June, talking to local business owners like Christophe Vasseur, baker/owner of my favorite bakery Du Pain et des Idees, Sophie Berdah, owner of Le Citizen, the Canal's first boutique hotel, or the eclectic "Tom des Fleurs" the free-spirited florist/owner of Bluet Cocquelicot – all who are passionate advocates of the neighborhood. But most of all, it was a blast working with my friend Beatriz da Costa, an amazingly talented photographer who divides her time between Paris and NYC. We've worked together before – she shot the gorgeous photos for my "Le Prince Jardinier" story in WSJ Magazine – and we have so much fun collaborating. The day we had scheduled to shoot together, it was pouring rain and freezing cold, but we made the best of it, and managed to get some great shots anyway.
Bea shooting Christophe Vasseur outside of his bakery Du Pain et des Idees.
The adorable Ten Belles coffee bar.
An early-summer bouquet from Bluet Cocquelicot.
A few of the Canal's pedestrian bridges.
You'll have to read the full story to get all of the juicy details, but I'll leave you with a few of my favorite Canal St. Martin spots to check out next time you're in Paris...
Du Pain et des Idees: 34 Rue Yves Toudic
Everything is made from top-quality organic (and local when possible) ingredients. The slowly fermented Pain des Amis is served in top restaurants like Frenchie and Alain Ducasse, and their pain aux chocolat is hands-down the best in the city.
Ten Belles: 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles
Finding a good coffee in Paris is harder than you might think. The owners of this tiny two-story coffee bar are passionate about the beans they source and have elevated lattes to an art form. They also bake all sorts of goodies (like scones + pastries) in-house.
BEST WINE BAR
Le Verre Vole: 67 Rue de Lancry
An oldie, but goodie, this was one of the first "destination" spots to open in the neighborhood long before the 'hood became hip. The walls are lined with bottles of wine - just pick the one you want and enjoy it with local charcuterie, excellent baguettes and salted butter, or fresh oysters.
BEST JUICE BAR/VEGETARIAN CAFE
Bob's Juice Bar: 15 Rue Lucien Sampaix
Owner Marc Grossman (formerly a New York-based screenwriter) opened this little juice bar in 2006, serving fresh juices, bagel sandwiches, and vegetarian fare. It was a hit, and now there are several "Bob's" spinoffs throughout Paris.
Philou (no website): 12 Avenue Richerand; +33 (0)1 42 38 00 13
The daily-changing chalkboard menu features whatever's fresh in the market, and their 30 Euro 3-course prix fixe is a steal. Also: a great (reasonably-priced) wine list, cool ambiance, and a perfect people-watching terrace in nice weather.
BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL
Le Citizen: 96 Quai de Jemmapes
This 12-room property opened in 2010 in a formerly dilapidated halfway house, right on the Canal. Today, this eco-friendly hotel has bright, canal-facing rooms with cool amenities like a minibar stocked with free snacks, juices, water, and beer, and an iPad loaded with recommendations for all their favorite neighborhood spots.
BEST FLOWER SHOP
Bluet Cocquelicot: 10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles
Quite honestly, the most beautiful little flower shop I've ever seen. Tom, the owner, arranges his bouquets based on the season, by color, and by whim. He only sources flowers grown on small farms in France.
(All photos taken by me, with my iPhone!)