A taste of spring

As clocks spring forward, the arrondissement comes alive

It’s Sunday, March 31 and the first day of daylight saving time. The 20th arrondissement, robbed of an hour of sleep, awakens slowly despite the spring sun. Mother nature is already busy; the trees along the avenues unfurl their bright green leaves, and the cherry trees, forsythia, tulips and daffodils are in full show.

At 10 am at Belleville Park, amateur photographers focus their lenses on primroses, cats bathe in the sun, athletes criss-cross the alleys or gather to practice tai-chi. A group of Chinese women is dancing, with white and pink fans this morning. At the top of the park, at Belvédère Willy Ronis, some tourists admire the view of Paris under the sun.

The shops open their blinds, cafés set up their terraces, and florists take out their pots and bouquets. Their first customers return home to put their flowers in the water or to plant their new hydrangeas.

At 10:30 am, at the rue des Pyrénées market, the couscous simmers and chickens turn on their spits. The street peddlers selling newspapers, flowers and herbs are already in place. Behind their stands, greengrocers and butchers chat and joke before the crowd arrives. At this hour, a young couple on a scooter is still zigzagging on the sidewalk, but are scolded by an old man doing his shopping: “You’ll break your heads!” Shortly, the “Yallah! Yallah!” of the vendors will rise in crescendo along with the buzz of the terraces on the place du Guignier and the passage will become narrow.

marche rue des Pyrenees
terrasses place du Guignier
Above, the rue des Pyrenees market. Below, the place du Guignier.

At 12:30 pm, higher up, at 150 rue de Menilmontant, the brunch buffet at Benoît Castel is in full swing, and brunchers are elbow-to-elbow at the long tables. Some prefer to take their pastries and coffee across the street to the Saint-Simoniens square. In this flowery square surrounded by buildings of all styles, conversations on benches and children’s ball games are already underway.

Back down on the rue des Pyrénées, in the direction of 20th’s city hall, people hurry to finish their errands before some shops close for the afternoon. It is almost 1 pm: some return home for a quick lunch, others look for a last terrace seat on the place Gambetta, which full of barricades due to the reorganization of the traffic circle. Still others, picnics in hand, join the small crowd forming around the bus stop 26, direction Gare Saint-Lazare, to be dropped off at the Belleville or Buttes-Chaumont parks.

The 20th hurries to make the most of this beautiful spring Sunday until the sun sets one delicious hour later tonight, at 7:19 p.m.

square des Saint-Simoniens
Saint-Simoniens square