mardi 1 mai 2007

Beautiful City Belleville

(Church outside metro Jourdain. Copyright © 2007 by MA Shumin.)

Today I received in the mailbox the latest issue of "Le Paris du 20e - Journal d'Informations Municipales" (Paris 20th arrondissement, Information Journal). I love receiving and reading this free journal that provides information on each arrondissement. In this latest issue, it talks about housing situations, famous people who had lived in this area, music performances, restuarants, a profile of a person who works in the neighborhood and their business. It was interesting to read about this lady by the name of Madame Germaine who has been working in her sewing store for decades. Her drive in life is making shoes for people. I find that when we know more about our neighborhood, its history and its people, we develop a certain intimacy and a close-knit bond with the neighborhood. Buildings are not just buldings. People in stores are not just people. There is more meaning when we are aware and we care more.

I live in the Belleville (meaning Beautiful City) area of Paris. Located at the northeastern end of the city, it is truly a 'beautiful part of the city'. Hills and parks dominate. I have this incredible fondness for hills, it is the reason I fell in love with San Francisco, summer 2000 when I was there. The perspective, the angles, the twist and turn, the elevation where at one point you feel like you are at the top of the world/hill! Observing a hill can be quite analagous to observing one's life. I do not mind the arduous climb to the top either. It only makes the view up top even more triumphant, even more breathtaking.

Belleville used to be and still is somewhat of a village. The cobblestoned streets are narrowed and in this part of town, life is even more lay back. There are an abundance of little markets that sell fresh fruits, vegetables and meat outlining rue de Belleville. Just down the hill is Paris' second Chinatown which the Chinese shares with the Arab and African community. There is a big church right outside the Jourdain metro station. On the three minute walk home I would pass by a Tabac cafe/convenience store, a boulangerie (bakery), two florists, two bookstores, an elementary school, a real estate agency and a small Arab convenience store. And it is all an accident how I ended up in this part of town....

During the summer I had lived in Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement, a very French and homogeneous southern part of Paris. When I had to move in the fall I had wanted to find a place in the same area as I knew it well. I didn't looked into other parts, especially not the Paris northeastern end, the 18th, 19th and 20th arrondissements. I had heard a lot of negatives things and the reputation is as bad as New York City's Harlem. There are too many uncivilized, new, and possibly illegal immigrants. It is rough, disorderly, chaotic and dangerous. That was the impression given to me.

At that time I experienced much of the same agony and frustration that Paris studio-hunters go through. I got desperate (or was it my luck?) and decided to check out this ad for a studette in the 20th arrond. And when I visited it, I knew it was for me! Just like that. It has been some months since I have lived in this area. I find it to be very safe and calm. The neighborhood is convenient and well stocked with all life's necessities. The residents' content attitude reflect the charming neighborhood. I am very happy at how wrong those people were who first told me about this place. As a matter of fact, I am so happy that I hope to become a weekend tourguide and show tourists and even Parisians around this area!

Published in
Paris Kiosque :

I give occasional walks at "
Belleville: ça se visite":

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