Thursday, September 3, 2009

Belleville - un autre Paris

My first few days in Paris, I kept waiting for it to hit me that I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with months of discovering all it's winding streets and delicious cuisine. "It" being some undescribable understanding that suddenly I was across the Atlantic and definitly not on my way back to Smith for the year. I was dissappointed when, in the first 36 hours, I didn't have the expected"aha" moment. And, in the 6 days that I've been here, the realization that j'etais bien arrivee didn't come right away or in the way I had expected. Instead, there have been little moments from looking up and seeing beautiful building facades with terraces (where air conditioners are interdit!) to going for a run up Montmartre and ending up looking out over Paris at dusk that hit me as being typically Parisian and absolutly delightful.

A few days ago I went to dinner at a friend's house. He lives in Belleville, a quartier that has historically been a quartier populaire with various waves of immigrants. Now there are little allies covered in colorful grafitti, cafes full of people wearing all types of clothing and restaurants boasting cuisine from all over the world. I arrived early because I still can't seem to get anywhere on time so somewhere between getting lost and exploring the quartier I spent about 30 minutes walking around. It was a very different Paris from that around Reid Hall, where everybody is hyper-dressed up and gardins and buildings are well manicured. This was a somewhat dirtier, significantly less touristy Paris where the streets felt full of people doing daily, life things. It felt good to walk around and not feel somewhat under-dressed in jeans (without heels) as well as to see and hear a much more racially and socio-economically diverse Paris. (Granted, at dinner I heard about how the quartier is being gentrified. And, indeed, guidebooks describe it as a "colorful neighborhood.") For me, it was one of those moments where I realized that I really was in Paris, a city that has all kinds of different neighborhoods to discover and explore!

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