Not Your Travel Guide's Paris

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Our recent trip to Paris was our fourth visit to the City of Light, and on previous trips, we had stayed in budget hotels or (on the last occasion) a left bank apartment near the Pantheon. This time, we wanted a more “authentic” experience, and we found it in the Tenth Arrondissement, next to the charming under-the-radar Canal Saint-Martin. 

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In this trendy, bustling neighbourhood, we certainly had our fill of quintessential Parisian experiences. We ate twice at Lulu’s, a Breton creperie with delicious galettes and wonderful cider that they served in little ceramic bowls instead of glasses. There was also a takeaway crepe shop on the canal, where our son regularly stopped for folded sucre-citron crepes. At one end of our street was the Place de la Republique, a lovely open square lined with cafés and restaurants (and even a café in the middle); we sat at Café Pierre on the corner, and drank chocolat chaud. At its other end, our street met the canal, and there was Chez Prune, a popular drinking and snacking spot, where the opportunity of snagging a sidewalk table was not one to be bypassed. 


There were many patisseries in our neighbourhood. Probably our favourite was the trendy Du Pain et des Idees, which has a limited selection but really delicious breads, and mouth-wateringly buttery croissants, but the others were all great.

The place for cheese was La Crémerie on rue Lancry, where we almost overdosed on divine chèvre, and bought delightful Normandy cider that we drank every afternoon– low alcohol, bouncy but not overly fizzy, and with just the right apple flavour. The lovely proprietress was very friendly, and as we learned, a vegetarian like us, and interestingly, married to a butcher!

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But the neighbourhood also had its less French aspects. There were bagels, falafel, and takeaway pizza to be had, all delicious. There were many North African restaurants throughout the arrondissement, and a great little Mexican cantina where we had better tacos and quesadillas than most of what we get at home. There were quotidien businesses selling everything from shoes to cell phones, and there were small grocery stores where we bought bottled water, yogurt, and fresh produce.


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A large south Asian neighbourhood near the  Gare du Nord afforded lots of options for vegetarian dining. One evening we visited Passage Brady, where a classic skylight-covered passage was filled with Indian and Pakistani shops and restaurants, and the hosts stood out front hawking their menus for all they were worth. We chose a little hole in the wall called Yasmin, where we sat at a table in the window and enjoyed a delicious Indian meal of all our favourites, with some interesting twists. We had coconut-flavoured naan, interestingly flattened pakoras, and unusually creamy sauces, all flavoured with star anise. 

And there was the delight of strolling along the canal. In the daytime, we observed the locks opening and closing to allow the little cruise boats through, and watched the tourists watching us; in the evening, we enjoyed the lights reflected in the water and shared the scene only with the locals. This neighbourhood, hip and energetic, reminded us of our Main Street neighbourhood at home, and was a delightful base from which to explore the more traditional elements of a vacation in Paris. 

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Photos: Canal Saint-Martin; Place de la Republique; Chez Prune from across the canal; le petit déjeuner; murals on the Quai de Valmy; grocery store; Passage Brady; strolling along the canal

© Leslie Wilkes 2016