Now that I have a couple of weeks under my belt I thought you might be interested in hearing a little more about the area in Paris where we live.
You can see for yourself our proximity to most of the main attractions around the city: we run to the Eiffel Tower, both Notre Dame and the Louvre are within a 15 min walk, there are a multitude of pedestrian zones nearby and we have a Metro stop that goes directly to CDG airport within a 7-10 min walk. We are indeed centrally located yet we don’t have to battle the hordes of tourists one finds in some of the left bank neighbourhoods.
As in most things French however, the technical description does not accurately reflect the mood, personality and nuance of our area. We border both the Marais and the newer “Haut Marais” (“Upper Swamp” literally). For those of you with some familiarity with Paris, you’ll recognize the Marais as one of the coolest and oldest areas of the city – with a name that sounds much better in French than in English. Many of the streets are medieval, some with cobblestones and they wind in all kinds of directions – lost is both an actual and a metaphorical state of being in the Marais. By the way, “Marais” does actually mean swamp in French and that’s what this area was up until the 12th century when it was converted to farmland (see….Gary was drawn to this area naturally!).
Today, according to Fodor’s Travel Guide to Paris, among many other sources, the Marais is one of the hippest and happening areas of the city. It is not to be missed on any visit to Paris. In recent years, as consumer demand to live in the Marais has outstripped supply of affordable housing, the area has seen itself expanding deeper into the 3rd – our neighbourhood: earning the name “Haut Marais”. By current definitions our apartment is within spitting distance of the Haut Marais, well 2 blocks actually, a little further than anyone could spit I guess. In fact, some sources have us in the Haut Marais so I tend to prefer them. Regardless, we are in the largest and most affordable apartment we could find in one of the hottest and coolest (hahaha) neighbourhoods in Paris. Perhaps within a couple of years as development in the area continues we will have full and undisputed membership to the Marais proper.
For those of you who have yet to visit Paris I guess this area is a bit like living along Church St in Toronto, Queen St East or perhaps in the East Village in NYC. For those of you out West, it’s like Osborne Village meets the downtown core entertainment area. When we tell Parisians where we live most of them tell us that our area is “vivant”, meaning lively, happening. But this description also suggests an “edginess”, which we’ve also found to be true. Let me give you a few examples of just how eclectic and vivant our little block is here in the Haut-Haut Marais.
First, we live immediately next door to the largest gay sauna in the city. I didn’t know this when we moved in – I’m guessing that Gary simply didn’t notice when he came apartment hunting because he never mentioned it to me:
See that purple door? Yup, that’s the door to our building – Gary must have missed Sun City because it’s hiding behind that palm tree! At any rate, one of the best things about living right here is that the Sun City patrons are discreet. Plus there seems to be a good supply of big black guys who act as bouncers whenever Sun City is open (which is often and for long periods). This gives me a certain level of confidence that nothing bad will happen while they’re on patrol. The building is quiet and, unlike living next door to a bar or nightclub, there is no pounding music or drunken patrons ruining my sleep late at night. Oh….and two doors down from Sun City we have Eclipse, which labels itself for “couples, groups and single women” – essentially the hetero-romantic and 50 Shades of Grey version:
I’m guessing that you can go here for a romantic/sexual date plus if you’re a swinger or into any type of “group” activity this is the place for you! I don’t know for sure though as we haven’t checked it out yet!
The second “vivant” element of our block is that we sometimes have a homeless family that sleeps in front of the store directly across the street from us. They’re quiet, they come at night and they leave, well, when the shopkeeper shoos them away in the morning. The part that makes me feel sad is that the family consists of a mother, father plus some other male and a young girl around 3 years of age. Children should not be sleeping on the street. Period.
Third, two doors down from us (on the other side of our purple door) we have a fancy Patisserie called mas Moudi as well as an organic store, Naturalia that has just been completely renovated and enlarged:
Although the Patisserie is currently on “August holiday shut-down”, Naturalia, the food store, re-opened yesterday so I stopped by today to check it out. They have lots of great things including fresh fruit and homemade breads and even Kefir (which I’ve had trouble finding). Clearly these merchants believe in the “Haut-Haut Marais-ness” of our block and are doing their best to support and encourage that image!
One of the final really obvious eclectic elements of our immediate neighbourhood is a very large police station half a block away.
While I’ll admit it is a bit of a drag living on a street with so much traffic noise, I can tell you this: at least it gets quieter at night and, because our bedroom is at the back of the apartment we don’t really hear much when we go to bed (except pigeons but that’s a special story for another day). As well, after a while the traffic becomes like white noise that I’m learning to block out and, when we shut our new, double pane windows, we actually hear nothing from outside! I’m adapting well to being on a busy street though: my new favourite pastime is sitting on our little terrace, sipping a Rosé and watching the activity on the street below. Let me tell you – a LOT can happen down there….but I’ll also save that story for later.
So…Bienvenue to our neighbourhood: the “Haut-Haut Marais”. It’s lively, edgy, cool, hip, happening, loaded with good shopping, great restaurants, real people, saunas and we LOVE it!