Just ten minutes from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, there lies a relatively unknown quarter of Paris and it feels like you have stepped into another world.
We talk about Saint Germain and the Marais having a neighbourhood feel… but unless you’ve lived there for the last twenty years, chances are that you’re seeing a neighbourhood that’s wearing a full face of make-up for her visitors.
Stand outside the Eglise Notre Dame de la Croix on a Wednesday around midday and you’ll see a true neighbourhood. It’s in the 20th arrondissement; situated near Belleville (known for its large Chinese community) and Ménilmontant (where the number of lively nightlife spots has exploded in recent times) but it is neither one nor the other.
The streets are largely pedestrianised and as such, you’ll have to dodge the kids zooming around on their trottinettes. Wednesday is a particularly good day to stop by because the schools typically finish at midday and so you’ll see many families going about their daily business.
It is very much a residential area. It doesn’t boast the same gastronomic richness as the more central arrondissements but you won’t starve here either. For lunch, I’d suggest fashionable Italian restaurant Dilia (who offer a midday menu of entrée-plat-dessert for 18€) and then in the evening the local dive bar Demain, C’est Loin.
Around this particular square, there are a couple of smaller cafés – perfect for watching the world go by. On a warmer day, you can escape the crowds by winding your way up to the beautiful terraced Parc de Belleville or alternatively, finding a shady spot in the Père Lachaise cemetery.
I generally don’t find boulangeries labelled Festival des Pains or Banette particularly noteworthy, although I admit they can make decent local options. Personally, I believe that if you’re going to make the effort to go to a special bakery, make it an independent one.
That being said, the sheer number of people pushing open the door of this particular boulangerie piqued my interest. It was still fairly early in the day and I hadn’t had anything to eat yet.
It is common knowledge that I have a chronic weakness for a good croissant. Just check out this tag “Croissant Competition” to see the scale of my addiction!
Once again I proved that curiosity and hunger are a wicked combination. A minute later, I have a croissant au beurre – this boulangerie still makes margarine croissants so it’s important to make the distinction – a pain au chocolat and a baguette de tradition, for good measure…
It’s quite possibly the most phallic looking croissant I’ve come across so far. And even though I’m sure no one else was paying even the slightest bit of attention to me, I still decided to tear the croissant in half, before putting it in my mouth.
But whaddyaknow, the croissant was actually surprisingly good! It was flaky and crisp; the layers of pastry were well formed and retained their shape. Unfortunately, it didn’t unravel like yarn around a bobbin – which is a sure-fire way to make me dizzy with excitement – but it was cooked evenly throughout and had a good flavour.
In short, this neighbourhood is a fun, multi-cultural, vibrant area to wander around. It could not be further off the typical tourist track… and now you know that you won’t go hungry!
Essential InformationAddress: 5 rue Julien Lacroix, 75020 Telephone: 01 43 58 65 18 Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 7am til 1.30pm and 4pm until 8pm. Closed Monday.