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"La Butte aux Cailles" part of Paris

2013-07-29

butte-aux-cailles-0.jpgName of the Parisian place "la Butte aux Cailles" - "Quails Mount", ("caille" means quail in French) does not come from a quail, as many would think, but the etymology of the name comes from Pierre Caille who became an owner of this quarter located in the south of Paris in 1543.

This part of Paris is very quiet and calm during the day and its life begins in the evening hours when it becomes very busy and its restaurants and bars are crowded.butte-aux-cailles-1.jpg

In the 16th century Pierre Caille owned a hill with greenery and trees, several water mills on the Bièvre river making its way under the hill.

In the 19th century the river changed to a bad smelling waste water, polluted by tan-yards and dye-yards. Today, although it goes till the Austerlitz station, the river is hidden under the gbutte-aux-cailles-2.jpground because of hygienic reasons.

In order to discover this quarter, looking like a small village in the 13th Parisian arrondisement, the best is to get off from the metro station Corvisart, cross the boulevard Auguste Blanqui, take the street Jonas and then to the right the street Cinq-Diamants, which will take you to the street la Butte-aux-Cailles.

Till 1860 this quarter did not belong to Paris, but to the suburbs town Gentilly. Houses were so modest and poor that people spent most of their time outside, in the coffee places and so a friendly what developed a strong village community. When the inhabitants of this quarter were going to another part of Paris, they used to say they were going to the town. Thanks to the cohesion of the inhabitants, it was one of the first quarters which uprised in the Parisian Commune.

Initially the inhabitants of the quarter were mostly the laborers and craftsmen, today it is a Bohemian style quarter, with people hidden from the noise of a busy Parisbutte-aux-cailles-3.jpg, elderly people who by their slow steps impose the rythm to the quarter during the day and at the same time a young generation of single Parisians who fill in the bars and restaurants till late evening hours.

Since there used to be a sandstone pit here, the soil is quite fragile and that’s why it could not be used for construction of modern high buildings. That’s why you still can find here charming small houses, apple trees, curving narrow streets which will lead you to the highest point of the quarter – the square "La place de la Butte aux Cailles".

On the square Paul Verlaine you can notice two curious things – 600 metres deep Artesian well, a source of good quality drinking water, where many Parisians come daily to fill their jars and bottles. Another curiousity is a swimming pool in the red bricks building, built in 1924, which also uses the water from the well.

One of the streets going down from the Butte aux Cailles mount is rue Daviel, butte-aux-cailles-4.jpgwhere on the number 10 you can see the houses from the year 1912 which are called small Alsace because of their architecture.

Before lunch, on a working day this part of Paris is a balm to the city mind. On 11 a.m. the owners of many restaurants and coffee places get out the chairs on the pavements being transformed to the teraces in the lunch and dinner time, and prepare the tables. Before the opening hour at noon, the owner of a tiny "crêperie" – pancakes place sits outsitde and does her cross words, elderly ladies move slowly with their shopping bags on the wheels. Albanian owner in the coffee place serves my noon capuccino. The coffee place is empty, only one lady in her 70ies, I guess, sitting at the neighbouring table, after half an hour a young man comes swiftly and hugs the lady. It is often this way, old people wait, young people are late, the young chase the time, the older have already caught it, or the time has caught them. Young man, probably the son, takes a seat by the lady, they drink a coffee together, most of the time silent. The purpose of the meetings is to be together, for talking you can use the phone.

M. D. D., Paristep