The 19th arrondissement
Chateau Rouge and Montmartre
While Paris is known for its beauty and romantic atmosphere, one of the things I love the most about the city is all the little pieces of street art hidden on the house facades and traffic signs not to mention the areas where stencils and graffiti dominate the area. Here are a few of the pieces I’ve come across.
For the next 6 hours Luis would take us through Chateau Rouge, Montmartre and Pigalle talking about known as well as unknown facts on the way.
‘Hi, I’m Oscar from Barcelona, who are you?’ ‘I’m Erika from Finland’ ‘I’m Gosia from Poland’ awkward silence… ‘So what are you guys doing in France? Are you here for the meeting? Travelling?’ And so on and so on.
Having been abroad as much as I have and having encountered as many people through my travels, I have become quite used to the traditional greetings of backpackers and globetrotters. Thus, arriving at two o’clock at Chateau Rouge Metro station, finding 50 other travellers standing around in a loose formation didn’t really freak me out. However, it always is a bit intimidating to get yourself out there and meet and greet new people.
The reason that we all showed up at Chateau Rouge was because we had received a general invitation through the activity calendar of the CouchSurfing community in Paris. Through a weekend in July, the CS’ers in Paris had organised a long list of events and parties – for free. This Friday afternoon, it was possible to take part in a tour through the 18th arrondissement. As an 18th fanatic, I could hardly let the possibility of hearing someone else’s tales pass me by.
Our guide was named Luis and is originally from Colombia, though he has lived in Paris for a long long time, having fallen in love with the diverse areas and neighbourhoods making up the 18th. A man I can relate to. For the next 6 hours Luis would take us through Chateau Rouge, Montmartre and Pigalle talking about known as well as unknown facts on the way. In this blog, I hope to recount the tour of Luis, which happened entirely in French and Spanish. So as I mentioned, we started at two o’clock on a Friday afternoon at the metro station Chateau Rouge.
The name Chateau Rouge, Red Castle, takes its name from a small manor which was likely build on the spot between 1775 and 1795 and demolished again in 1875. From 1845 and until 1870, it functioned as a very popular dance hall, and afterwards as, headquarters for the National Guard during the Paris Commune in 1871.
The neighbourhood had begun to truly develop in the 1840s and had quickly become an area of diverse socio-economic groups. Before long it also became an ethnically diverse area with first French people from other regions moving in and then Belgians, Italians, Polish and Spanish.
Moving to the 1950s the neighbourhood came to increasingly reflect the different colonial regions of the French Empire. From the 1920s until and particularly during the 1950s, a large North African community grew out of La Goutte D’Or. In the 1960s these were joined by the influx of Yugoslavians, Portuguese, Indians and Chinese. And in the 1980s, many from sub-Saharan Africa came along. Finally there has been an immigration of Pakistanis, Afghanis, and Latin-Americans. With such immigration it can hardly surprise that the proportion of immigrants in the area increased from 11,3% in 1962 to 24,7% in 1975 and to 34,9% in 1982. Today La Goutte D’Or existes of a staggering 41,4% foreigners, which is twice the average of the 18th arrondisement, 20,6%, and three times the average in all of Paris, 15,6%. There are today 143 different nationalities in the neighbourhood.
Such diversity makes the area extremely exotic to wonder around for a transparent Danish girl, and just as Brussels’s Motangé neighbourhood it is a little piece of Africa. See A love manifesto for Brussels. The area is a truly hectic and immensely chaotic place for newcomers. At Rue DeJean there is a huge outdoor African market which is open all days but Monday, from 8h to 19h. Here you can find anything you can dream of from Northern Africa, but also quite a lot of illegal trade of bling bling goods, which means that the police visit the plays every once in a while. Saturday morning the place is particularly crowded, when people come from all over l’Île de France, Luxembourg and Belgium to shop colourful clothes, cheap jewellery, spices and food.
Blv Barbès is the demarcation line in between Chateau Rouge and the Goutte D’Or on the Eastern side and Montmartre on the Western side. Moving down towards Metro Barbès Rouchechouart, both sides light up with huge pink patterned signs saying Tati.
Tati is known as Gallerie Lafayette pour les pauvres. It stretches to several levels both beneath and above ground in the buildings around Blv Barbès, Blv Rouchechouart and Blv de la Chapelle. As a huge bazar where you can buy anything the heart desires, it provides a cheap alternative to Parisian shopping for the poorer parts of the population. It is overcrowded at all times, but particularly on Saturdays. And the surrounding streets are a steady chaos of people with Tati-shopping bags. Personally, I found two very cute summer dresses for a bare 8 euros a piece. It is definitely not a stupid place to go if you are in need of basic kitchenware or an extra tee or towels. And then it is simply an experience on its own. The department store was created by a Tunisian Jew in 1948. He wanted to name it Tita after his aunt, but since the name was already taking he changed it to Tati.
Not far away on 26, Rue de Clignancourt an impressive building hides away. However, it is nothing compared to what it used to be when it was Les Grands Magasins Dufayel.
The department store opened in 1856, and was at that time called Palais de la Nouveauté. When former employee Georges Dufayel took over in 1888, he made massive changes to the place which at its height took up an entire city block in between Blv Barbès and Rue Clignancourt (about a hectare of land). Just as most hyper malls today, the department store housed a theatre, a cinema, a winter garden and a cycling ring. It was the first and biggest of its kind and at the beginning of the 20th century it employed 15.000 people. The place closed in 1930 after a fire had damaged much of the place.
Today only a small part is left standing used by BNP Paris. The statues on the top of the building represent progress as supported by trade and industry. To each side of the old entrance their is a statue representing credit and publicity, respectively.
Behind Les Grands Magasins Dufayel, a street leads towards the Montmartre hill. At the end it is possible to take two ways up to the top. The smaller of the two is a path which takes you through lots of green, yet also lots of foul smells of urine. The larger and more touristic walk to the top are the stairs which spread out in front of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Though the stench of urine is far from as bad here, the bottom of the stairs are occupied by extremely aggressive young guys who force tourists into buying knitted bracelets.
However, with Luis and the rest of the couchsurfers our group of weary globetrotters and backpackers seemed to scare off even the most aggressive of guys, and while many couples on a romantic weekend had to fend off the guys we were left alone. Luis off course began a long and thorough history of the Montmartre hill and the church which adorns the top.
In first French and then Spanish, he told two different tales of how Monthmartre got its name.
The first refers to Montmartre as a variant of Mons Martis, and thus relates to a heathen past, where the Montmartre hill held a temple for Mars, the Roman god of war.
The second and more detailed story explains the name Montmartre as meaning the Mountain of Martyr. In this version, the name is of Christian origin and a part of the central founding myth of Paris itself.
According to legend (or perhaps more befitting to myth) Saint Denis, bishop of Paris around 250 AD, apparently scarred the pagan population by his success in converting people to Christianity. For this reason, he was beheaded on top of Montmartre, which at the time was a holy place for the local Druidic religion.
However, Saint Denis wasn’t completely done yet and as a chicken runs around a bit after beheading, so did he. He took up his head and walked across what is today central Paris while preaching a sermon. After ten kilometres he stopped at the place that today holds the Cathédrale royale de Saint-Denis, where the French kings were buried before the French Revolution.
Which version is true is impossible to say, but personally I think there is more to the idea that Christianity as an invading religion took over the name and reinventing it, in the same way as winter solstice became Christmas and so forth. However, I do like the second story better, and I am certain a creative mind could create a computer game about it.
Reaching the top of the stairs and standing in front of the impressive Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Luis continued his story of how it was build, who were the two statues in front (Jean D’Arc and Louis IX – both sainted) and how it was central in the rebellious events that lead to the rise of the Paris Commune in March 1871.
Apparently, Montmartre was one of several places where the National Guard in Paris had hidden canons from the invading German forces, after the disastrous defeat to Bismarck in September 1870 and when Paris stood against being overrun. However, when the National Assembly with Adolphe Tiers as leader attempted to retrieve the canons from the increasingly revolutionary National Guard at Montmartre, it turned into a mess. The two leading generals of the operation were killed by their own soldiers after ordering them to shoot at the masses which had gathered around the National Guard. The soldiers then joined ranks with the National Guard at Montmartre and from there it turned into a rapidly spreading revolution by the people of Paris against the National Assembly. Voilá, la Commune de Paris était née. Vive la France!
But Montmartre is more than a beheaded bishop and the beginning of a revolution. Leaving behind the basilica, Luis turned to stories of how the many cabaret houses had been witness to anything from the amour of world famous artists to the secret dealings between the Parisian and Corsican mafia families.
We ended up on a small square which seemed nothing more than an increased side walk at the turn of a street. The ‘square’ was adorned with a bust of a woman, whom Luis told us was the famous Dalida and the square was the Parisian gay-communities commemoration of her.
Yolanda Gigliotti was an Egyptian born, Italian descended singer and actress who has received cult status in France after a 30-year career and quite an interesting life.
Today she has received cult-status in homosexual circles due to her disco period. Moreover, she was a good friend of Charles Aznavour, which has made my mum immediately check her out on Youtube (My mum is a major fan of Aznavour, go figure).
But the most interesting part to the story is the alleged relationship between Dalida and French President Francois Mitterand. According to Luis, Mitterand’s decision to construct a glass pyramid in front of Louvre was apparently as a gesture to Dalida, as she had grown up in Egypt. Beat that Dan Brown!
Afterwards, Luis took us to Le Passe-Muraille and told us the story of the short story by Marcel Aymé from 1943. Moreover, as we went through the Passage des Abbesses he pointed out little faces looking down on us – other testimonies to the man who could walk through walls.
Turning to a small green area Luis finally directed our gaze to the Wall of Love, which adorns a small park next to the metro station Abbesses.
After a whole lot of love in a maze of different languages, the trip ended with a visit to the grocery shop and bar from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain as well as the cabaret above all others Moulin Rouge.
Bordeaux is a magnificent city with beautiful limestone houses which dominate the large centre. Yet no two houses are the same for the city is so rich in detail with intricate doorways or artistic balconies.
In this not so little gallery I have attempted to put together a few shots of those details.
I think even I had my dosage of beautiful worn down doors.
So, here I am, in Bordeaux, exploring France beyond the perimeters of île-de-France.
A little while back I decided to go on and explore more of France than just Paris. Only visiting Paris and claim to know France is similar to going to New York and claim to have experienced the US. It is a cosmopolitan centre far away from the rest of the country and closer connected to other similar centres.
Thus, as much as Paris is France, and as much as Parisians in many ways are culturally a part of the baguette-eating and cheek-kissing French, they are also Parisians, homos cosmopolis. Therefore, it has been my plan to discover a bit of France without the ‘bobo’ atmosphere of Paris.
So, here I am, in Bordeaux, exploring France beyond the perimeters of île-de-France.
Bordeaux is an old beauty dating back to 300 BC. For many years, the bordelaises called her La Belle au bois dormant, Sleeping Beauty, because she was hidden beneath dark stone façades, shying away from showing off her beautiful architecture. But those days are long gone. One might say that the prince on the white horse has arrived awakening our sleeping beauty.
The prince was Alain Juppé who became major of Bordeaux in 1995, whereafter he initiated a huge process of renovating the centre ville, including the re-introduction of tramways.
It is in large parts thanks to him that the limestone houses of the inner parts of the city no longer look dark and weary. Due to local conditions in weather and climate, the local limestones used to build most of Bordeaux are highly sensitive and turn dark grey and even black over short periods of time.
However, much has been done since Juppé took up office in order to awaken Sleeping Beauty. Another crucial development has been the restructuring of the embankments of La Garonne embankments.
My own favourite modernisation of Bordeaux is Place de la Bourse and Le Miroir d’Eau.
Thus, Bordeaux is very much worth a visit, even for those who don’t drink wine. Including me…
I arrived with the TGV on Wednesday night. It was my first time on a TGV, as far as I can remember and I was a bit exited about how fast it would go. However, most of the three hours I spent hiding my nose in my scarf, trying to avoid the foul breath of the guy next to me.
In Bordeaux, I had made arrangements with Guillaume, a French couch surfer, to stay with him for the first two nights. As always, couch surfing was quite the pleasure, and I came to know quite a bit about the life of a book translator as well as the French fantasy game Dark Earth.
Guillaume who is an extremely interesting guy with a colossal amount of technological devices in his apartment was for the most time busy finishing the French translation of a light hearted fantasy book. However, he was a very attentive host, and, though stressed by a deadline, he managed to both show me parts of the centre, have lengthy conversations about life and explain how he came up with the idea for Dark Earth .
All of Thursday, I walked around Bordeaux following the walking tours of a French guide book which Guillaume had lent me. It let me through small and, by tourists, unnoticed streets pointing out this and that house or decorative façade.
As always, I took immense amounts of pictures. Bordeaux is a dream city in that regard, with countless details and figurines on the stone façades – even more so than Paris.
However, at Rue Entre-Deux-Murs, I was approached by two women sitting in the shadow outside a house. They were pleasant looking, middle-aged women in latex skirts and high heels. Providers of one of the eldest services in the world.
One of the women politely asked me to delete any pictures I might have taken of them. As I deleted two pictures under the women’s supervision they kindly explained that I was welcome to take pictures of the street and the houses around, and that they would gladly get out of the way. However, having families and children they didn’t want their pictures to end on the internet.
I’ve had run-ins with filles jolies before, one time I even got chased down a street by three transvestites in Istanbul, but it is the first time I’ve met any acting so polite and gracefully.
The following days, I went to check out Bergerac, which is a town 2 hours east of Bordeaux by train. See Bergerac Has More Than a Big Nose.
Returning to Bordeaux, I am staying with Aurore, another couch surfer, and her flatmates. In the centre of Bordeaux, in between the mummies of Saint-Michel and the grocery and meat shopping locals at Marché des Capucins, I am staying in an old and partly functioning apartment full of life and laughter.
It is always great to return to a city. Exiting the train station and knowing which way to go is so comforting. It brings a feeling of peace and makes you feel a tiny bit closer to the place that you are visiting.
These last couple of days have been more relaxation than sightseeing. Yesterday, I joined Aurore and her friends at a local wine bar. Though not normally a wine-lover, I figured that it would be sacrilege to come to Bordeaux and not taste the wine. So, I did. And four glasses later my French was almost fluent.
In truth, Aurore and her friends have been extremely good at getting me to speak French, and my confidence has increased slightly after lengthy conversations about Greek economy, French culture and the always popular ‘I know what you did last night’-topic.
Moreover, I have gained a small arsenal of slang words and expressions as well as learned to use gavé instead of trés as real Bordelaise do. I was quite the object of fascination when I managed to get the word into a normal conversation all casually claiming something to be gavé original or gavé bien.
Though I have spent much more money than I should have, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Bordeaux, exploring the secret corners of the Awakened Beauty, and I wouldn’t mind returning one day, discovering more of Arquitaine.
For some reason the straw bag is extremely famous in Aquitaine. Even the little girls out shopping with their mothers carry around their own straw bags, and the most visited stand at the market is the one selling straw bags.
Going for six days to Bordeaux, I wanted to see something more. Thus, I decided to check out Bergerac two hours train ride from Bordeaux and into the countryside.
Bergerac is perhaps most known for the famous poet Cyrano de Bergerac, who though very adept in the art of poetry himself has become popular culture through Edmond Rostand’s story of him and his big nose. Even more famous after Gerard Depardieu played him in the 1990 movie Cyrano de Bergerac.
But Cyrano de Bergerac’s actual life didn’t really involve the drama of falling in love with his cousin and being embarrassed by the size of his nose, though he might have had an affair with her.
The town of Bergerac is a middle-sized French town with approximately 28,000 inhabitants – many of whom are English.
It is a well known tourist destination and known for its wine and tobacco productions and it has a picturesque town centre on the embankments of the river Dordogne.
However, it is also a town with a huge amount of large and cruel looking dogs and an above the average amount of obese women.
The chef at the hotel where I stayed the night was in that category and reminding me quite a lot of the sister to Aurelia in Love Actually. So much so, that I wouldn’t have been surprised had she spoken Portuguese to me or been standing there kissing Colin Firth.
I spent only a night in Bergerac, but was fortunate enough to hit the town on market day.
I love markets, and this was no different. All the French and British women each with their straw bag full of vegetables, fruits, cheese and confiture.
For some reason the straw bag is extremely famous in Aquitaine. Even the little girls out shopping with their mothers carry around their own straw bags, and the most visited stand at the market is the one selling straw bags. I was so very close at buying one for myself, but I simply couldn’t pick one out of all the different shapes and colours.
So without a straw bag I am heading back to Bordeaux for another few nights before returning to Paris.
You might say that I live at a crossroad in between tourists, old ladies and immigrants. Thus, depending on my direction I will end up in completely different areas, each beautiful and in its own way distinctly Parisian.
I moved to Paris one and a half months ago in order to improve my French and enjoy the Parisian atmosphere. I plan to stay another two and a half months, and hope to add a bit to my blog, because Paris is truly worth writing about.
It seems an endless city of old houses and secret corners, and in four months I will only be able to scratch the surface of what Paris is and means. Thus, I decided to focus on those secret corners which I frequent on a daily basis, and for the first 8 weeks those are the 18e and 19e arrondissements.
I live in the 18e on the non-tourist part of the Montmartre hill. – that is, if you walk further uphill, you’ll run into Swedish families, Spanish students, middle-aged Americans and the strange little white train that drives up to Sacré-Cœur. But down here, everyone speaks French.
The street I live on has everything, and it seems to be a microcosm from which it is not necessary to leave except to buy particular building supplies or other items not commonly used in the daily life of a Parisien (and then you still don’t have to go that far).
The pharmacie is on the other side of the street next to the banque and the boulangerie, which off course is Artisan – whatever that means in the world of bread.
On my side you find the boucherie, the papeterie, the flower store, the fruits and vegetable store, the tabac and the brownish sunshades belonging to the local corner bistro.
There is also a café, a school, a laundromat, a one hour photoshop around the corner, another papeterie, and in the proximity you’ll find several bars, bistros, brasseries including Chez Lucette and Bande A Bon’Eau. And then off course; Franprix, Monoprix, Championnet and Lidl. – A very lively place indeed and taken right out of the pages about direction in any ‘Learn French’ book.
The 18e is in many ways an extremely diverse area, and a few streets apart very different segments of the population are living. My street seems to be full of very old Parisien ladies, made of porcelain, meeting and greeting on the pedestrian paths. In nearby streets are HLM apartments (social housing) and the further North and North East of the Montmartre hill the more it changes into neighbourhoods of mainly immigrants and people descended from French Africa.
You might say that I live at a crossroad in between tourists, old ladies and immigrants. Thus, depending on my direction I will end up in completely different areas, each beautiful and in its own way distinctly Parisian.
One of my favourite destinations is Rue Ordener as it runs from Championnet and all the way to Marcadet Poissonniers, across the train tracks and lands at Marx Dormoy.
It is such a busy street, with so much going on, and once again it seems a crossroad of so many different Parisiens. The best thing is to hit the street on a day of wide-grenier (flea market), where the entire one side of the street is filled with stands selling all sorts of things, including a large variety of plastic horses.
Where Ordener meets Damremont, there is a small square. Here lies Bande a Bon’Eau which I try to frequent every Saturday when the place is filled with locals enjoying lunch and talking to each other on a first name basis.
Out on the small square are two benches. One of them is often filled with old men talking and enjoying the sun (when it comes out), and the other is the residence of the neighbourhoods homeless woman. I think she has decided rather than been forced to live on the bench, and she doesn’t seem to be your ordinary homeless.
Rather, she reads and writes all day long, always wearing her faded red cap. Whatever her reasons for leading the life she does, she is an accepted part of the area. Moreover, it is often possible to distinguish newcomers as they tend to stare while the neighbourhood residents don’t really notice her anymore.
There is so much going on in this small corner of Paris, and I feel lucky to have the chance of becoming a part of it for four months.
Inside, Lucette’s is a bright place with a dominance of lightblue objects and stucco. There is quite a lot of plastic green plants and a homey atmosphere.
Some places and experiences simply stand out
Sometimes we happen upon secret little corners of the world, which in each their unique way seem full of magic. Lucette’s restaurant in the 17th arondissement is such a corner full of magic, and it almost seems a disgrace to tell about it – but then again, this blog itself is a secret little corner of the world full of magic, so the secret will not get far.
I have been in Paris for a month and for the past week I have had the company of my stepfather who owns the appartement in which I reside. Both he and my mother are well acquainted with the area and many of its secrets. This evening he showed me one of them: Restaurant chez Lucette.
Lucette’s restaurant is easily recognisable as a light blue corner on Rue de la Jonquière and Rue des Épinettes with blue christmas ligths in the windows, and yes also in June. It however seems rather closed with laced curtains drawn, and as such it is not possible to comprehend the magic of the place by merely passing by.
Inside, Lucette’s is a bright place with a dominance of lightblue objects and stucco. There is quite a lot of plastic green plants and a homey atmosphere. Though my mother’s Scandinavian minimalism would declare that there is too many knickknacks, the place is in its totality surprisingly cozy and enjoyable. There are however a few items which stand out. In a vitrine on the one side, amongst numerous glasses, Lucette has placed several artifacts from weddings and baptisms. Moreover, the vitrine also shows a grand collection of medium sized model cars, all of which have a small fury model cat on top. Another oddity is how the old bar also functions as the entrance to the wine cellar. In the one end the bar opens up a tiny whole of less then 60 cm in height which leads to stairs entering the cellar.
But the true magic of Lucette’s is the food, or rather how it is prepared. Lucette is an elderly woman from Normandie with blond coloured hair. The restaurant is basically her dining room and the kitchen makes you think of the time before microwaves and prefabricated food. Lucette is alone in the restaurant and acts as both waitress and chef. And everything she makes, she makes from scratch.
At Lucette’s there is no menu. The three options, which she tells you as you are seated, depend on what has been available at the market. As you order, she begins to peel the potatoes and if you are lucky you have a seat so that you can look into her kitchen as she cooks wonderful French food. This is food as grandmother made it, if grandmother was French – nothing fancy, nothing chic, but good well-tasting food for a very reasonable price.
She might have friends or family coming. Some of them act as if they are at home, help out a little, bring their own food and walk behind the bar. They are friendly and some are talkative. This evening my stepfather ended up in a longer talk about the different villages of Lozère. Pictures were shown, stories were told, and villages and towns described.
Visiting Restaurant chez Lucette is an experience as much as a dinner out. It’s a story of France and French cuisine from before it became fancy. Going to Lucette’s is like coming home to a nice home-cooked meal.
There is something about this lady and all her pearls and diamonds and the run down and hard face that tells a story of a life long lived. When I look at her, I think of Paris.
When I think of Paris, there is one image which stands out. And no – it is not the Eiffel tower or Louvre or any other postcard pretty image.
La grandmère des toutes les femmes fatales
In the inter war period when Paris became famous for the bohemian lifestyle of the artistic and intellectual elites, Hungarian photographer George Brassaï made a book called Paris de nuit with photos of the life in Paris at the time.
Now, though I love taking pictures, I have rarely engulfed in studying the big and famous photographers, but Brassaï I know … and love. His photos from the Parisien night life speaks to you in a utterly human and intimate way. I first saw an expo with his pictures a few years back in Copenhagen and have since then many times returned to one particular image of what I consider la grandmère des toutes les femmes fatales.
There is something about this lady and all her pearls and diamonds and the run down and hard face that tells a story of a life long lived. When I look at her, I think of Paris. To me, she and the rest of Brassaï’s captivating photos of the bohemian life of the inter war period, represent Paris. In the midst of all the romantic myths of Paris hides the ugly truth which in my view is even more beautiful.
I feel as if, even though we are writing 2012, the atmosphere of Paris, the smell that is in the air and the lights in the night are a continued echo of what Brassaï immortalised through his camera.
In Paris there are more corner bistros than there are corners.
There is something about the run down yet majestic façades of Parisian houses. The grey and beige stone façades with the rows of black iron wrought balconies. So many details, all of which seem curiously forgotten as they look down upon the people in the streets. Stone faces, and vines. Detailed leaves decorating the top of the street doors. Columns and arches everywhere. All of it misty and dirty and somehow left behind.
Paris is dirty – and smelly on a hot spring day. And yet, because it is Paris we accept it. It is a part of the charm, a part of why we are drawn to this city. But we also accept it, because it only proves that Paris is full of life. It is a city where life is lived in the street as much as in the small and crowded apartments and studios.
On every corner, sunshades in all the brownish colours of the 70’s shade coffee drinking Parisians. Brasseries, bistros, restaus, cafés… places which guarantee the continued life of a vibrant city. These places seem as much a part of Paris as les grandes boulevardes, Le tour Eiffel and le metro.
They often seem to have grown out of the 70’s with colours from dark brown through red to dirty orange, with matching plastic braided chairs and plexi-glass covers. Inside they look dark and cosy, but as corner places they also offer a place in the sun.
On any given day they serve plates du jour, formulas et cafés, and an original atmosphere. Some are more modern and bright, while some are elder with wrought-iron marble tables, but all of them are fora for the local life. They are places with local customers who greet each other across the tables, and make it their regular thing to come at least once a week.
As the old man at La Bande à Bon’Eau the other day, who as he made it to coffee reached across to my table, handing me the accompanying chocolate. The comfortable kindness from a regular customer who feels as if the restaurant offers a second home and a way to get out and meet people on Saturdays.
Everyone knows everyone under the brownish sunshades.