Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Home Sweet 10th Arrondissement.

Map by © ThePromenader. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0)
T

he city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements municipaux (administrative districts) that are more simply referred to just as arrondissements.

The 20 arrondissements are arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral (often likened to a snail shell), starting from the middle of the city, with the first on the Right Bank (north bank) of the Seine.

In French, notably on street signs, the number of the arrondissement is often given in Roman numerals. For example, the Eiffel tower belongs to the VIIe arrondissement while Gare de l'Est is in the Xe arrondissement. This is useful information to know when you're walking about and trying to figure out, even roughly, where you are without having to open up Google Maps. The arrondissement number is also indicated as the last two digits of most of the zip codes used in Paris - 75001 to 75020.

Each arrondissment also has its own mayor.  I presume it's the Parisian equivalent of a US city council member.

On previous trips to Paris, I've stayed in the 6th, 7th and 16th arrondissements. I loved all those neighborhoods, especially the 6th and the 7th which are on the Left Bank. There were plenty of accommodations available but this time, I wanted to stay someplace different - for a change and so I can also experience life in another part of Paris. For this trip, I've booked us into an apartment in the 10th arrondissement - steps away from the Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin (Photo by © Geoffroy. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0)

In 1802 Napoléon ordered the 4.3 kilometer (2.7 miles) canal dug as a source of clean drinking water after cholera swept through the city. When it finally opened 23 years later, it stretched north from the Seine at Place de la Bastille to the Canal de l'Ourcq, near La Villette. Georges-Eugène Haussmann (aka Baron Haussmann, the famed architect of Paris) later enclosed a 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) stretch of the canal under a vaulted tunnel, creating today's Boulevard Richard Lenoir above.

The canal comprises nine locks, and the oldest parts are those under the Boulevard Morland bridge and the vaults at Bastille and Rue La Fayette. There are several iron footbridges, dating from the latter part of the 19th century, that will take you from one side of the tree lined canal to the other.

In the 19th century, the area was mostly occupied by working-class laborers. Only recently has it started to attract well-to-do professionals eager to snag apartments with views of the canal. Gentrification has brought new life back in to the once dodgy canal area. Former industrial spaces are now homes for trendy art studios and galleries. The bar and restaurant scene is hipster central, and small designers have arrived, setting up boutiques here. The neighborhood is still evolving - it should be an interesting place for Z and I to explore which is why I chose it for our home away from home in Paris.

"Paris 10th" by @ Mark Jaroski. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in the 10th arrondissement. The canal feeds into the Seine River in the South and the Bassin de la Villete and the Canal de l'Ourq in the North. The main streets around the canal are Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire, Rue Bichat.

Like the rest of Paris, the best way to check out the neighborhood is on foot . But this is a canal so boat rides are also an option.

Fodor's has good suggestions on the places to shop, eat and sleep in Canal Saint-Martin. Z and I will definitely have to check out some of the food places - in particular, Du Pain et des Idées, one of the city's top boulangeries (bakeries), Chez Prune, a very popular popular café-bistro, and La Taverne de Zhao which serves up cuisine from Xi'an, China - we might be in need of some Asian food :-) Of course, we can also just do a simple picnic on a spot with a view of the canal.

The more I read about Canal Saint-Martin, the more I think we'll really enjoy our stay here!