Far from the Seine and the Sacre-Coeur, the 20th arrondissement is not the Paris of postcards.
It’s not chic or trendy, or even that clean. It’s a mishmash of architectures, a melting pot of cultures and a mix of classes. I’ve heard middle-class people call it too working class, and working-class people complain of gentrification: “€1.80 for a coffee? We’re not on the Champs-Elysées!”
We’re not, and all the better. This neighborhood is more dynamic, more full of life and variety.
The 20th is constantly changing. In the eight years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen the urban landscape change, and people come and go. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sometimes there are tensions, but often there is a village-like sense of community and solidarity.
In 2010, I happened to find room in a shared flat near the place de la Réunion. An American student, fascinated by other cuisines and cultures, I loved that my new neighborhood was full of people, shops and restaurants from all corners of the world. I also loved that those neighbors, shopkeepers and restaurateurs were generally friendly and created for me a sense of community: my two Breton flatmates, the Moroccan greengrocers at the nearby marché, the Jewish-Tunisian upholsterer whose shop was near my bike rack, the Sri-Lankan family who ran the alimentation génèrale next to my apartment, the Kabyle waiters and Bengali chef at the local café where I waited tables one summer.
From our first hellos to conversations over lunch. From my student visa to my work permit and then my citizenship. From one apartment to another and another. The 20th is the Paris I have come to call home. The Paris I continue to explore and learn from. And the Paris I intend to faithfully portray in this blog. So please join me in my cultural and culinary adventures in my neighborhood.